The new Range Rover
It's hard to understate the importance of this car. The fourth generation Range Rover marks the brand's irreversible shift into high gear and high style, finally cementing the iconic car's status as a true piece of luxury design.
The original Range Rover, launched in 1970, wasn't the world's first upmarket 4x4. However, it was the most influential, evolving slowly and graceful over three iterations to a position of unassailable superiority. Imitators came in their droves but it wasn't until the 90s that the market for luxury SUVs really started to take off as car-makers saw the serious profits to be made in building high and mighty. With popularity came a backlash, however, and the sheer size and inefficiency of the 4x4 made the vehicles a target for any number of grievances.
Designers and engineers have learnt fast. To make any kind of major impact, a new SUV needs to represent a quantum leap forward from its predecessor, slashing weight and improving efficiency, all without sacrificing the qualities of space, high-riding driving position and - in some cases - off-road ability.
The new Range Rover comes wrapped in a swathe of weight-saving data, so eager are its creators to demonstrate the many and varied ways it improves upon the past. The most critical stat is kilograms shed; this is not a small car, and the sybaritic stylings of its increasingly upper class clientele aren't exactly light on the pocket. So in order to up the ante on interior quality while also cutting curb weight, Land-Rover's engineers started with a clean sheet of aluminium, fashioning the bluff, architectural bodywork into a machine with solidity and strength while also saving an incredible 420kg over the outgoing model.
The design team, led by Gerry McGovern, have done a fine job of continuing the Range Rover line, retaining and refining the elements that made the car so recognisable while adding a modicum of sleekness.
The car is more rakish than Range Rovers of old, with a shallower glasshouse and swept-back front and rear lights. Inside, the cabin also builds upon the firm groundwork of the third generation machine to create a solid, almost nautical, appearance, defined by high quality materials, simple switchgear and a renewed focus on the space and amenities in the rear cabin.
Range Rover is now a truly luxurious car. While the original was never a strict utilitarian vehicle like contemporary Land-Rovers, the decades have seen the model march relentlessly upmarket, culminating in the latest machine.
It's highly likely the top spec cars will crest six figures when sales start in the new year, taking Land-Rover into uncharted territory, head to head with new rivals like Rolls-Royce. It goes without saying, however, that even with an abundance of leather, wood and craftsmanship, the Range Rover will still be a consummate off-road performer. We'll report back in due course once we've sampled the car.