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375-kW Range Rover driven

2009-09-17 08:38
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Land Rover
Model Range Rover
Engine 5l supercharged V8, 3.6L TDV8
Power 375kW @ 6 000r/min, 200kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 625Nm @ 2 500-5 500r/min, 640Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission ZF six-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 6.2 sec, 9.2 sec
Top Speed 225km/h, 200km/h
Fuel Tank 104l
Fuel Consumption 14.9l/100km, 11.10l/100km
Weight 2 710-, 2744kg
Boot Size 535l
Airbags Eight
Price Vogue TDV8 R1 164 000, Supercharged R1 204 000
Rivals BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GL, Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Land-Cruiser 200VX, VW Touareg

Lance Branquinho

Solihull’s Range Rover. It’s the vehicle which germinated the entire SUV segment. To many it’s unchallenged as the only SUV capable of blending authentic all-terrain ability and luxury saloon cabin comfort with matchless grace.

Although Mercedes-Benz’s GL and Toyota’s 200 VX offer low-range, lockable differentials and a host of luxury interior appointments, Range Rover remains the class standard in terms of image and heritage.

Range Rover customers usually sport double-barrel surnames while, in their minds, the Olde World English charm of these vehicles can never be usurped by Japanese digitisation or superior German engineering.

They're loyal too. Despite the vacillating service quality from Land Rover in recent years, which the company says has now been redressed with an 85% fix-right-first-time ratio).

So, what is new for the 2010 model year Rangey?

Bloodline is impeccable. Styling has not changed much in proportion over the last four decades.

Looks the same

Styling remains classic two-box Range-Rover, with a large rear glasshouse area, and is practically identical to the outgoing model.

Grille and light-cluster detailing are the only discernable exterior changes. LED and xenon illumination are slightly tweaked and they now analyse ambient light and oncoming beam intensity to automatic illuminate or dim brights, pretty cool for those late night N1 sojourns through the Karoo.

Unless you’re an absolute Range Rover acolyte, it's impossible to tell the 2009 and 2010 model year Range Rovers apart.

Where then, you must be wondering, has all that new Tata money been spent?

Well, a host of mechanical running changes (benefiting dynamics) and some rather crafty interior digitisation (enhancing ergonomics) tally the value proposition for this new Range Rover.

Hugely sophisticated supercharging

The major mechanical upgrade is the use of a superlative 5l supercharged V8 – courtesy of sister company Jaguar.

Internal coding for this engine (if you’re a Jaguar/Land Rover engineer or accountant) is AJ133. Employing direct-injection (a first for petrol powered Land Rovers), the new V8 features nearly square engine architecture - with a slight stroke bias of 0.5mm.

Despite being 800cc larger in terms of swept capacity over the engine it replaces, the new V8 is 25mm shorter, thanks to clever relocation of the oil-pump within the engine architecture.

This V8’s fueling and gas-exchange regimen is the stuff of pure genius.

The camshaft operation contains traces of jolly clever British lateral thinking too. Kinetic energy is recycled from the cam-lobe operation to power the variable-camshaft system’s range of adjustability – resulting in dramatically reduced oil-flow requirements.

Direct injection, augmented by centrally positioned multiple outlet injectors (running at 150 bar), ensures optimal air-fuel mixing and lower charge temperatures.

New V8 is a technological marvel. Borg-Warner kinetically driven variable camshaft technology with sixth generation Eaton supercharging renders crushing mid-range power delivery. Exposed wire loom in the top right of the image a bit quizzical...

Supercar power versus off-road demands?

At this stage, allow me to pre-empt. You’re right, a 375-kW XFR/XKR sourced V8 is not going to be happy off-road.

Seriously, how are you going to crawl up murderous mountainsides at sloth-like speeds in low-range without severe heat/friction induced mechanical attrition?

For one, viscous coupling for the cooling system simply won't suffice under hardcore off-road conditions.

Consequently the AJ133 blown V8 features electric actuation for the cooling system. This means even if ambient airflow is low (when crawling over obstacles) and demand high, the cooling system adapts fan-speed accordingly.

The other issue is sub-assembly lubrication.

Jaguar’s XFRs and XKRs were never designed to attack corners at severe angles of inclination or declination. The AJ133 V8's oil-flow path is good working against strong lateral forces, not vertical ones.

To this end Land Rover attached a deeper sump to counter lubrication flow issues due to extreme vehicle tilting angles when negotiating severely broken terrain.

Additional drivetrain toughening is provided for by waterproofing of the alternator, belt drives, air-conditioning compressor, power-steering pump and, perhaps most importantly, the starter motor.

So, what you have then, is a 2.7 ton, low-range capable SUV with 380kW and 625Nm of rotational force at play.

It does rather sound like an accident waiting to happen, doesn’t it?

TFT instrumentation an affront to analogue traditionalists. Having real time wheel articulation and direction diagrams in your field of view are awfully handy though.

Dynamically able

Fortunately Land Rover's engineers have shored up stability by employing the latest German-sourced adaptive dampers at each wheel corner.

Tailored to suit Range Rover’s specific mass distribution profile, Bilstein’s DampTronic Valve Technology, is able to process 500 calculations per second (adapting damper oil-flow and bypass viscosity accordingly) keeps bodyroll to a minimum – in theory.

Apart from the XFR-sourced V8 and upgraded Bilstein dampers, brakes have also been improved too.

Vogue models (effectively the euphemism for diesel Range Rovers these days) inherit the outgoing Supercharged’s ventilated 360-/350mm front/rear disc combination, actuated by dual and single piston sliding calipers respectively.

To contain the new Supercharged's additional performance, Brembo was tasked to supply a decelerative solution.

The Italian company’s answer is 380mm discs actuated by six-piston calipers behind the front wheels, with 365mm rotors clamped via single piston sliding calipers at the rear wheels.

Steering wheel features more satellite controls than NASA headquarters. Radar guided cruise control a boon for dusty/misty secondary roads. Lack of paddle shift gear override functionality questionable - especially on the TDV8, which needs some coaxing to overtake at times.

Smile - camera

Beyond mechanical upgrades, the cabin, especially its instrumentation binnacle and centre console display arrangement, hosts the most radical changes to 2010 model year Range Rover.

Traditionalists will be aghast at the lack of analogue road- and engine-speed instrumentation dials.

The entire instrument binnacle is now a 300mm TFT (thin film transistor) screen, which means full digitisation and a range of diffuse display properties.

On a practical level the terrain response configuration has migrated to a display space between the digital engine- and road-speed dials, whilst a very handy wheel-articulation and direction indicator joins it when broken terrain is engaged.

Thanks to the migration of these terrain response displays to the instrument binnacle, the Range Rover’s party piece is enabled on the centre console display – a stunningly useful series of 360-degree field of view driving cameras.

You might think it’s an awfully contrived gimmick, yet the five cameras (dual front bumper, one under each side mirror, and one aft) yield a hugely practical field of view. This, in turn, enables one to pilot the Range Rover’s substantial dimensions over broken terrain (and around claustrophobic underground parking garages) with aplomb.

Canvas sheeting is a rudimentary construction, but it simulates edging into a busy CBD street. You can’t see around the corners, yet those two front bumper cameras yield a full left and right angle field of view.

Two particular features of the camera system are worth mentioning.

Firstly, if you manage to nose the Range Rover beyond an entrance, you’ll have a full 180-degree field of view to gauge traffic hazards from both sides, even though all you’ll be able to see from the cabin are entrance walls on each side. Very clever.

Secondly, considering the Range Rover’s military logistics 3.5t towing ability, you’d expect Rangey owners to hitch up the horse-box quite often for equestrian pursuits.

If you’ve ever attempted to reverse out of a muddied car park with a dual-axle trailer, you know exactly how confounding the counterintuitive steering actions necessary to correctly guide the trailers path, can be.

To correct this, when reverse is engaged with a trailer hitched up, the reversing camera not only displays yellow vehicle path guidelines (which are kind of useless on their own with a trailer blocking the terrain in view), but an overlaid red guideline set – indicating the trailer path.

Reverse camera technology is the envy of many long-haul truckers. No more excuses for slipway slip-ups with a boat on trailer...

Still the Daddy?

Land Rover had the presence of mind to showcase new Range Rover in the Eastern Free State, which meant plenty of dead-straight highways, mixed up with some treacherous dirt roads and rock surface off-road work.

Suffice to say the Supercharged Range Rover is now a properly quick car, although the 2.7t kerb weight makes it feel slower off the line than its claimed 6.2 sec 0-100km/h statistics would suggest.

Top speed is 225km/h, yet the accelerative verve around the legal highway limit is its forte – enabling truly seamless overtaking, even if you’re attempting to pass a dozen cars at a time.

Handling at speed (despite the steering still being too vague) is fine, with the adaptive damping guaranteeing a reassuringly stable body position.

On dirt roads, with the grass/gravel/snow terrain response selected, progress can be highway-speed swift without a sense alarm.

X5s don't really enjoy doing this kind of stuff. Portable camera can be externally mounted for full wheel contact view. Hopefully this encourages more Rangey owners to actually take their cars off-road...

Off-road ability remains peerless, despite the fully independent suspension.

Jacked up to maximum ride height Range Rover boasts 283mm of ground clearance.

The terrain response is generally impeccable in its control of the drivetrain, yet you still see it (via the TFT display) locking and unlocking the rear differential at odd times. Perhaps the engineering algorithms governing this behaviour are beyond the cognitive ability of mere journalists like me, which is quite likely.

Tyres are essentially the only thing hampering the Range Rover’s all-terrain ability. You can’t expect to have a 225km/h speed rating, low NVH and balloon like sidewalls (enabling tread-elongating deflation properties) now can you?

Both cars retail at over the 1 bar mark (Vogue R1 164 000, Supercharged R1 204 000), with no options – they’re comprehensively equipped off the showroom floor. If you’d like personalisation (like bespoke seat embossing bearing your name and other celebrity-like trinkets) the Autobiography range starts at R1 300 000.

They’re expensive – no question – yet there is nothing else which traverses our local terrain with such aplomb and style. Land-Cruiser’s 200 VW comes off as too ungainly when parked next to a Rangey, and the X5s, Q7s and MLs of this world will trail it – badly – off-road.

Truth be told, VW's Touareg is probably the most credible adversary…

Thanks to some digital (and direct-injection) upgrades, the original SUV remains the best.


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