The supercharged Range Rover V8 gets a mesh-design grille
Recently Greenpeace invaded the Range Rover plant in the British Midlands and even managed to shut down production. The group was seeking a pledge from parent company Ford to stop making and marketing 4x4 vehicles such as the Range Rover, which was originally intended for overland use.
However, on the launch of the 2006 Range Rover, this luxury SUV actually proved that it is great for overland use and in terms of 4x4 capabilities it is a true Landy.
This is in fact an SUV that feels more at home in the veld than on tarmac. Even Land Rover executives say the Range Rover "is a vehicle which is close to what its rivals can do on-road - but its rivals are far from what the Range Rover can do off-road".
This is a perfect summary of the Range Rover, as its on-road capabilities are great but not yet as good as that of an BMW X5 or VW Touareg. However, as a true 4x4 few comes close to it...
In the Koue Bokkeveld, close to Sutherland, and on a gruelling 4x4 trail at Perdeberg in the Malmesbury area, the Range Rover proved that it is really tough no matter how rough the terrain.
At first sight one can't spot what is new to the Range Rover, but there are a few minor detail changes such as redesigned front and rear lights. Land Rover also freshened up the car's grille, bumpers and power vents. New 18 and 19 inch wheels are also available.
However, it is more about the under the skin improvements and the 2005 Range Rover gains two powerful Jaguar-derived petrol engines. The 3-litre TD6 Range Rover remains available.
Now heading the line-up is a potent 4.2-litre supercharged model with a power output of 291 kW with maximum torque of 560 Nm. This model also gets a distinctive look with additional styling modifications such as a mesh-design front grille and power vents. It also comes with 20 inch alloy wheels.
Land Rover also replaced the naturally aspirated V8 model and it now kicks out 225 kW of power and 440 Nm of torque.
Both these engines are lightweight and use advanced torque-based engine management systems.
The new engines are mated to a new six-speed automatic electronically controlled transmission, offering outstanding smoothness. It uses a centre differential (now electronically controlled) that improved both off and on-road handling. Low range and hill descent control is also available for extreme off-roading. Then of course there is air suspension too.
Land Rover claims the updated Range Rover is quieter than before and that the new engines offer better NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness levels. Furthermore cabin noise is also much lower thanks to laminated front side glass windows and modifications to the profile of the A-pillar.
During our test drives on various kinds of terrain the Range Rover really came across as super quiet and the sounds from the engine, wind and road were mere whispers. This means one can appreciate the ambience the Range Rover's cabin more, which offers plush leather fit and finish, a 14-speaker sound system and other exciting gizmos.
Standard features on the Range Rover include satellite navigation that provides on and off-road guidance and Bluetooth settings for your cellphone.
Options include a rear camera for easier reverse parking, a tyre pressure monitoring system and adaptive front headlamps that swivel when cornering, to improve illumination.
A rear seat entertainment system is now available, with two headrest-mounted 6.5-inch screens, a six-disc DVD auto-changer, infra-red remote control, wireless headphones and sockets for auxiliary media sources (such as an MP3 player or games console).
The Range Rover is a big vehicle and it can be intimidating at first sight - there is a lot of metal -but looks can be deceiving. Land Rover has managed to engineer the Range Rover in such a way that it is easy to manoeuvre and it is easy to pilot the car.
Although it is no sports sedan, the supercharged model feels quite nimble on the road and it is a joy if you manage to ignore its fuel consumption figures. Land Rover claims a combined fuel usage of 16 litres/100 km but drivers could find that it is closer to 17 or even 18.
Off-road, the Range Rover is superb and it tackles the toughest inclines, no matter how rough the terrain, with ease, while hill-descent control takes care of declines. It is hard to believe that this R800k+ vehicle can actually proceed with ease over rocks, rivers and almost any possible angle or terrain.
It is sad, therefore, that very few Range Rover drivers will ever venture into true off-road terrain, as it is an incredible 4x4 vehicle
The car's flagship status is well deserved and it isn't just another luxury SUV - it is one of the most able off-roaders available. The addition of Jaguar's excellent supercharged V8 will also quieten those critics who say the Range Rover lacks some decent power.
Range Rover 4.4 V8 - R885 000.
Range Rover 4.2 V8 Supercharged - R990 000.
No price was given for the diesel version that will only reach South Africa later