I was planning on writing a more topical and heartfelt review of the extremely British, royalty-affiliated Range Rover, and then the Queen actually passed away and … I discovered that many of my friends at home in Canada are secretly more anti-monarchist than the Australians are, and that kinda took the joy out of everything.
But it’s been many months since I actually got to drive this new, fifth-generation Range Rover, so let me try to concentrate on its many regal attributes, some of which are perfectly geared for higher-net-worth Americans in snowy environments such as ours.
As we head into a future, even with a legacy-minded brand such as Range Rover, you may miss the reassuring gurgle of a V-8 engine under the hood, but the partially-electrified, light-hybrid, 3.0-liter, inline-six, turbo engine offers a mostly satisfying motoring experience with 395 horsepower.
This L460 model of the Range Rover, available in both standard and seven-passenger extended wheelbase models, can still be outfitted with a V-8, but that’s largely the realm of the very royal family/prime minister-duty SV model, whose 4.4-liter engine puts out 523 horsepower and also starts at a kingly $193,100. Alternately, you’ll find the same engine in the $164,000 First Edition model, which also comes standard with 23-inch wheels.
The more traditional model I drove was still $104,500 as a starting price, which ought to give you some ideas about the sophistication and largesse involved in the entire model lineup.
The future is coming quickly and while the hybrid power here is used for slightly more efficient driving and the vehicle’s vast electronic tools, a new plug-in, hybrid model is also on the near horizon, with a 51-mile all-electric range.
The increasingly sculpted look of the new model is definitely futuristic, not quite as much as the spaceship-like Land Rover Defender, but it’s certainly distinctive in a show car style, complete with aerodynamic pop-out door handles.
I’m not sure if the late Queen got a chance to tool around in this particular model, which debuted at last year’s L.A. Auto Show, but she likely would have enjoyed its mass of leathery sophistication and the tastefully low-drama application of its high-tech tools and displays.
Fishing around on the multiple settings on the 13.1-inch touchscreen display, not only was I given the most inventive range of gravel roads to bypass stopped traffic near Bailey but, the car also features a setting which will always point the way to Mecca, if your religious needs dictate that. You won’t find that on a Dodge Durango.
While it’s short a few USB ports that you’d find on a standard 2022 (or ’23) vehicle, posh is the name of the game, with deeply carpeted surfaces and all the fine detail of a hand-made attache case — there’s leather everywhere except the ceiling, and I’m sure you could get that too, if you desired.
It’s trimmed with real aluminum panels and real wood, and the cumulative effect is as calming as a spa. You can see that this is the model for the somewhat distant future where cars won’t even have steering wheels, but will instead be luxurious boxes of automated locomotion.
In its more grand VIP-duty configuration, off-roading might not be your first consideration, but I am guessing it’d do a better job than the Maybach SUV. There’s still legit off-road switchgear, including a real low-range mode, terrain and automatic off-road crawling controls, as well as air suspension and a sophisticated 4×4 control screen in the navigation.
Those, plus a slightly hidden central starter button and an undersized shifter, are almost the only physical controls in the entire cabin.
I hate to say that I yearned for that extra 120-something horsepower of the V-8, but the 3.0-liter engine still managed to do the trick, with its 5,500-pound curb weight still stuck firmly in corners and capable of lively uphill work.
You are in a very, very large box — complete with 40.1 cubic feet of cargo space — and it’s a little hard to figure out the Rover’s scale, thanks to those ultra-smoothed external surfaces.
In the back, it’s even more swank, with oversized rear doors and windows, a comprehensive set of shade controls and seat heat all the way back to the third row.