So when Land Rover announced its Start Off-Road Experience for 11-17-year- olds, it was something I was pestered into trying. With prices starting from just £43 for 30 minutes, it’s more affordable and arguably more fun than many of the other car park-based young driver programmes. And with me being me, I couldn’t resist taking my Range Rover along for good measure. Gemma’s a bit of an old hand at driving already, but this was 13-year-old Harry and Jack’s first time behind the wheel. Beginning your driving career in a Range Rover Evoque is a pretty good place to start.
What pleased the kids most was the relaxed way the instructors taught them – it felt as far away from the classroom as possible, even though the venue, the West London Shooting School near Northolt, Middlesex, is only 10 miles from home. After a short safety briefing and gentle initiation on the flat, it was on to the rough stuff.
I rode in the back of an Evoque during the initial training, but afterwards I followed in my Range Rover. The air-suspension and raised ride height made what was a bumpy ride in the Evoque silky smooth in my car.
Even during a downpour and over the roughest stuff, my Range Rover just clambered over the seriously horrible terrain on standard road tyres, without having to adjust the Terrain Response system into any of the manual modes – I left it in automatic and let the car’s brain work everything out for me.
And this is one of the wonders of Range Rover ownership – you have this juxtaposition of inhospitable terrain the car just rolls over, while you sit in a cabin trimmed like the finest drawing room.
Back in everyday use, the whole Fowler family appreciates the space and comfort in the Range Rover. As for me up front, I’m really enjoying the power, refinement and quick reactions of the V6 diesel (why would you need the V8?). Plus, fuel economy has gone up to a highly reasonable 32.2mpg – in spite of a daily commute into central London.
After a couple of early electronic blips, my car is behaving well, too, and the Meridian audio system just gets better. So all is good with the Range Rover experience, although my kids will have to learn that life for them as first car owners will be very different…
Such is the way of the world these days that going home, delving into my vinyl record collection and sitting back and listening to some music just doesn’t happen any more. My love of music and quality audio systems remains, though, which is why a decent stereo in my car is an absolute must – as it is for most of today’s car buyers.
Thanks to those clever folk at Apple, pretty much my entire music collection comes everywhere with me these days – and plugs perfectly into the audio system in our Range Rover TDV6.
I opted for the rather extravagant, but utterly astonishing, Meridian Signature Reference System in my car for £4,000. So I decided to visit Meridian headquarters in England’s hi-fi valley in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, to find out more about what makes my car’s system so special.
Meridian has been producing top-end audio systems for 37 years, combining clever engineering with innovative design – not unlike Land Rover. I was treated to a
demo of the £65,000 home audio system and a personal performance inside the company’s own cinema room – not unlike the Meridian theatre I’d experienced at Land Rover’s handover centre at the Solihull factory.
Meridian systems have been used by musicians and movie makers around the world, and I can understand why. Whether it’s in the cinema, in front of the home audio system or in my car, I’d describe the sound as natural – just as the artist intended.
The Range Rover features an incredible 1,700 watts of power and 29 speakers everywhere from under the driver’s seat to the rooflining. Plus, as is the Meridian way, numerous clever electronics control the sound, upscale the compressed music from my iPhone and direct it around the car.
Some surround systems can sound false with sonic gaps as different musical elements are sent to the different speakers. But using Meridian’s Trifield 3D tech, it sounds smoother, richer and more enveloping. It’s very clever and very enjoyable.
As art director Darren Wilson said when he borrowed the car recently, you discover bits in music tracks you’ve never heard before. While the sound is faultless, the bit Land Rover does – the touchscreen interface – lets the side down. It’s dated, fiddly to use and doesn’t look as premium as the rest of the car.
I’ve also had a warning light appear on the dash claiming there was a charging system fault. The car seemed fine, but it’s taken two software updates to cure the problem. Other than that, my Range Rover has behaved perfectly. The quality of the fixtures and fittings is first rate, the comfort is incredible – especially the sumptuous head restraints – and refinement is top-notch.
This is one seriously pampering car. While my car was having its second software update, it was swapped for the V8 version. Good though that is, I’d always recommend the more frugal and sweeter V6. It may lack some of the oomph of the V8, but is certainly swift enough and has better throttle response, too.The engine also sounds pretty good, although that’s when I haven’t got the stereo system turned up – the Meridian system really is one to experience and enjoy very loud!
There are plenty of luxury cars out there, but how many really give you the full red carpet experience? Here’s a test for you: imagine you’re a movie star leaving your latest premiere and outside the cinema is a line-up comprising the new S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ and a Range Rover. Which one do you jump in to get to the after-show party?
If it was me in the dark glasses with light bulbs popping, I’d head for the Range Rover. Yes, I know the S-Class beat it in our luxury car test in Issue 1,290, and I can’t argue that the magnificent Merc is a technological tour de force. But as a car to be seen in (or getting out of), the latest Range Rover has its rivals licked.
Two months into ownership and with nearly 5,000 miles on the clock, I’ve still got that new car buzz. Looks are subjective, but I love the Range Rover’s smooth, minimalist lines inside and out – as well as the gentle, unfussed way it gets me from A to B.
This is one seriously comfortable car – smooth riding even when I forget to swerve around one particular pothole on my journey into work. I’ve even programmed the car to automatically give me a massage five minutes into my journey – something of a shock for colleagues when they grab the keys.
It’s a car that makes every journey an occasion – especially for family and friends who get a lift. The big topic of conversation among four of us on the Range Rover’s first trip from London to Liverpool to watch the football wasn’t whether we’d hit nine past Crystal Palace again, but the pillow-like headrests.
I’m sure they’d do their job in a rear impact, but they also do quite a job at pampering. I have one minor and one major frustration with the car, though. With dark evenings upon us, I must get a dealer to adjust the headlamps – I’m fed-up with drivers ahead of me at the lights gesturing or oncoming cars flashing.
More annoying is the infotainment system – it’s way behind the times with its dated displays and myriad menus. It doesn’t even show album artwork from my iPhone. Shame,
as the Meridian Audio system stands out – a little bass heavy, but with beautifully detailed sound. It deserves a better interface. Still, I’m not complaining about fuel economy.
The 253bhp V6 diesel is delightfully smooth yet with a decent turn of speed, and I’ll put my current average of 28.5mpg down to our road test team having some fun with the car at the test track. It should soon creep back up above 30mpg, which is a decent return for a large 4x4 with such potential. I’ve some serious off-roading planned soon, so we’ll see what effect that has on economy, too.
But it’s the combination of comfort, refinement and a great stereo that makes the Range Rover a real pleasure to be in. So don’t be surprised if the red carpet has to wait – life’s too good inside to get out.
If proof were needed that the new Range Rover is now more luxury car than 4x4, the new handover centre at Land Rover’s factory in Solihull, West Midlands, does the trick.
This is no ordinary showroom – a visit is by invitation only, through dealers and reserved for customers ordering Autobiography models. Luckily, that includes us. The imposing new glass-walled building is slightly at odds with the forties industrial scene behind it – a sign of just how far the company has come. We’re met by customer service manager Richard Alun Jones and concierge Michael King, both immaculately dressed and ready to lead us through an incredible experience that will end with us driving off in our new car.
So what are we to expect? “We were tasked with creating the very best handover in the world,” explains Richard. “No two experiences are the same – we tailor them to each individual customer.”
The whole place is a cross between a top- class boutique hotel and an art gallery – with pieces of Range Rover hung on the walls as art. We skirt the offer of refreshments, have no need for the office facilities on hand and head straight to the Meridian Digital Theatre to watch a film on the history of Range Rover. Meridian is the company’s audio partner, and with pyramid-shaped speakers around the room, the surround system whets our appetite for the 29-speaker set-up added to our car.
Next stop is the highlight of the handover: a spectacular sound and light show, projected on to a tightly wrapped Range Rover. As the show ends, the car’s outline becomes more visible, and video of it being created is beamed on to the covers. Like liquid metal, the car gradually appears, then the lights go out, there’s a rustle as the covers come off, the lights go up, and there’s our brand new car.
It’s pure theatre – but it’s not over yet. While the car is prepared for the handover, customers can embark on a tour of the factory and an off-road experience on Land Rover’s legendary jungle course.
Back at the handover centre, Michael takes us through the myriad features of our new Autobiography. “We’ll cover as much or as little as the customer wants,” he says. For us, that means pairing our phone, showing us the powered tow hook and how you can lower and raise the car using the key fob when hooking up to a trailer – clever stuff.
Then it’s out through the factory gates and off on a year-long journey with our current Luxury Car of the Year. As it has a total price of £93,910, we were expecting a fair degree of pampering, and the handover centre is the perfect start.
With a couple of thousand miles on the clock already, we’re impressed by the fit and finish inside the car. The refinement and comfort on the road are superlative – it seems to glide effortlessly whatever the surface – while the 3.0-litre TDV6 engine provides just enough power
to haul this sizeable SUV quite quickly.
And then there’s the style – this is a car that makes you feel a million dollars every time you go out for a ride in it. That’s a rare feat, even in vehicles of this price.
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