Though you can say that the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and the Mercedes-Benz GLS are worthy rivals to the Range Rover, there are no vehicles to actually challenge the Rangie, which sits high up on the pyramid when it comes to sophisticated blend of sheer luxury, effortless performance, enormous road presence, off-road prowess and even looks. Call me biased but I have always found Range Rovers to be brilliant to look at. The sheer bulk of the Brit SUV is such that it dwarfs everything around it. But for all its bulk it isn’t loud in its presence. There’s a quiet dignity about it. There’s something about that hewn-from-solid-stance that attracts me tremendously and in the later years Range Rover designers have somehow managed to add an impossible dose of cool without losing an ounce of class. There’s no doubt about its modernity and yet you’re absolutely sure of its lineage. From the boardroom, to the ball, to the banquet and the off-road jamboree, the Range Rover looks effortlessly at ease everywhere.
But far beyond the impact of its exterior, what strikes you like a hammerblow to the solar plexus is the sense of space inside the Range Rover. I’ve never seen anything like it. Up front, that butcher’s slab design that had looked like a slab in the Velar feels like a banquet table here.There’s just acres and acres of room, and thanks to the window sills being much below your shoulder and the panoramic sun roof, the sense of space is even more with all the light streaming in from the large glass sheets that surround you. The rear windows, I think they are the longest on any production car. No matter what seat you choose to sit in, in the Range Rover you feel like a monarch in a throne room. An incredibly cool and new age monarch at that for there’s more than a ton of gadgets here to keep your highness busy. And happy. Besides if you think your attention span is shorter than that of a toddler and you need a lot more gadgets than can be fitted into a car, just bring your stash of gizmos along. The Range Rover has a USB power outlet in every corner of its voluminous self. Even in places you wouldn’t dream of (in the hidden bin below the cupholders that slide out of the way!). Hell, this beast could put a fancy power bank to shame really.
“No matter what seat you choose to sit in, in the Range Rover you feel like a monarch in a throne room”
Hit the engine start button and the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 diesel fires up with just a hint of a rumble before settling into a deep hum at idle. It’s rather like the engines on a cruise liner. You don’t really hear them but there’s just enough of a hum to reassure you that all is well. In spite of the Range Rover’s two and a half tonne heft, the SDV8 unit’s 335bhp and tarmac tearing 740Nm of peak torque means this LWB version will tear through the 100kmph barrier from a standing start in just 7.2 seconds. Top speed is 218kmph – there’s an aerodynamic limit here. The rush of torque when you step on it is like a hand at the small of your back that makes you surge ahead. Yet, it’s not the violent shove of an aggressive guard. It’s the relentless push from a coach intent on getting the best out of you in a sporting arena. There’s urgency but never any haste.
“The rush of torque when you step on it is like a hand at the small of your back that makes you surge ahead”
They don’t even feel comfortable with the Range Rover’s softly set air suspension feeling a little wallowy over undulating roads at speed. In this space, the S-Class with much less bulk to cart around and being much closer to the tarmac outshines the Range Rover. On the twists and turns of Lonavala, the Range Rover feels like the cruiseliner it really is, on a choppy ocean. There’s plenty of roll as you switch from one turn to the next. Switch directions too quickly and you’ll feel the weight of the vehicle shift far more significantly than you would have in any other vehicle. You’re more of a spectator as the scenery rushes by those huge windows.
“There’s just no end to where it can go. In the Range Rover you can do some proper off road sh#t “
There’s the gentle sway of the body to let you know that you’re sitting high up inside a bloody tall SUV and that height adjustable air suspension doesn’t let you feel a thing. And that is exactly when your eyes find the controls for the Terrain Response 2 on the huge touchscreen on the dash. You realise that the Range Rover is unstoppable. There’s just no end to where it can go. We’re not talking the kind of soft roading that most crossovers and SUVs are capable of these days. In the Range Rover you can do some proper off road sh#t. This after all is at the core of its DNA and lineage and the makers of this magnificent SUV haven’t diluted that ability. Not one bit, and Sirish’s drive in the same car in the UK a few months ago is ample proof of that.
I wish I could have said something more about the physical experience of going off road in the mighty Range Rover but with the price tag of Rs 2.27 crore, hovering somewhere at the back, and very often at the front, of my head, I simply didn’t have the b#lls to venture off the safety of the black sinewy ribbon that cut through the hills of Lonavala. In fact, on price alone I would see no argument that I, or anybody, could put forth to justify the numbers attached to the Range Rover. The Range Rover makes you feel like an absolute monarch. How does one fix the value of that?