I’ve never been a fan of the saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. But then again I’ve never been in a Range Rover.
Who knew being stuck in traffic or driving past endless fields for three hours straight could be so enjoyable?
The Range Rover is the daddy of the luxury SUV market and has always been. When Land Rover launched the vehicle more than 45 years ago, it was met with critical acclaim. After all, it ticked two of the most important things you could ever want in a car: form and function. It was also the first vehicle to deliver permanent four-wheel-drive and feature a clamshell bonnet, split tailgate, and an eye-catching, continuous waistline.
Today, it counts prominent figures like rappers and royalty as fans, but it’s more than a fancy car that — if necessary — could oblige steep slopes with ease. It represents Land Rover’s dedication to class, quality, and brilliant engineering. It’s inarguably the most famous SUV of them all, and is perhaps the only SUV you’d ever feel comfortable driving from a five-star hotel in the middle of a city to an off-road alpine trail in.
On the cusp of the latest fifth generation hitting the road, I took the last of the line fourth generation D350 Autobiography across England — its home ground — in the winter. Read on for the full review.
A drive to remember
The SUV we were given was pretty much loaded with all the bells and whistles you could ever want. Yes, these are not features typical of an off-roading, get-dirty vehicle but you never fully understand how much you need these features until you’re thick in the middle of one of England’s dreariest winters.
The heated seats are a godsend after a day out in the cold rain, but turn on the massaging function and you’ll understand what true luxury is. A heated steering wheel breathes life back into your numb, frozen fingers, and a sliding panoramic roof adds some much-needed light (you’ll want to enjoy all the light you can get in England, trust us) back into the car. There was a mini fridge nestled between the front seats, ready to keep any beverage perfectly chilled (not frozen, mind you) and an air purification system to ensure that we were well protected from city pollution.
To say that this vehicle ate up the miles would be an understatement. The front captain’s chair puts you in a commanding view of your surroundings — perfect for manoeuvring around the trickiest of London’s city roads and for, of course, the comfort and empowering feeling of owning the road.
Inside, an inline-six diesel engine with a mild hybrid produces 345bhp and 700Nm of torque, and is plenty generous in performance whether you’re in town, off-road, or hurtling down the motorway. The drive is remarkably smooth (and this is coming from someone with an injured back), and acceleration was effortless. Fuel economy was also surprisingly good for such a large vehicle, and there was cruise control for long motorway journeys, which takes a load of you by helping the car maintain a steady speed for hundreds of miles.
Having the Range Rover for more than three weeks meant the rare opportunity to explore some of Britain’s prettiest nooks and crannies. Our journey began in the city of Lincoln in Lincolnshire, home to two of the most famous landmarks in the UK: the Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle.
When completed in 1311, the grandiose cathedral surpassed the Great Pyramid of Giza to take the title as the tallest structure in the world, and held the record for over two centuries. Today, the Early Gothic-styled cathedral is the fourth largest in the UK, and is an iconic landmark worth visiting. It sits next to a historic castle that was completed in the 11th century, and till today is home to one of only four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta.
Of course, the obligatory Range Rover photos were taken in and around the city and its magnificent architecture, but it’s off the beaten path that we really wanted to see how the vehicle would perform. Lincolnshire, being fairly flat and with plenty of trails to tackle, offered the perfect opportunity.
Range Rovers come equipped with four-wheel drive for maximum on- and off-road traction, as well as air suspension that allows you to raise and lower the vehicle — especially useful for off-roading when you need extra ground clearance to transverse an obstacle. There is also a low-range transfer case and multiple locking differentials. The advanced All-Terrain Response traction control system also allows you to choose which type of terrain you’re on, otherwise leave it in auto to let its very intelligent computers decide. Basically, the only thing that could potentially hold the mighty Range Rover back off-road are its street tyres, or — if you’re going through narrow trails — it’s rather large size.
From cobbled streets to the many green lanes (unsealed public highways) dotted around the country, the Range Rover managed driving across several different surfaces with complete ease. Its next true test was to come though; a 217-mile motorway journey from Lincoln to Broadstairs on the far south eastern tip of the UK.
After a quick fill up at the pump on a chilly morning with temperatures well into the single digits, we set off south. The Range Rover has adaptive cruise control which not only allows you to set the vehicle at a specific speed, but also the distance you’d like to maintain from the vehicle in front, making long drives a lot more relaxing. There is also a lane assist function that keeps the vehicle within lanes. The technology is just one of the many safety features the Range Rover has to offer to ensure a smooth and less stressful journey.
After countless miles and a couple of quick coffee stops, we arrived at the coast. The Range Rover still had more than half a tank of diesel remaining, which was surprising fuel efficiency for such a huge vehicle. Broadstairs is a picturesque seaside town on the Isle of Thanet in east Kent, and offers spectacular coastlines for miles. Margate sits right next door, an eclectic coastal town that’s now a popular holiday destination brimming with vintage clothing and antique furniture stores.
It’s also home to the Turner Contemporary Gallery, which sits right on the waterfront and offers room after room of contemporary art exhibitions. If you ever have the opportunity to head there, be sure to walk out onto Fulsam Rock and meet Antony Gormley’s iron man statue.
As darkness set in (we’re talking 4pm), it was once again time to hit the road, this time west to the Cotswolds and the town of Chipping Norton. Again, the drive was effortless and the SUV felt completely at ease; there is, after all, a reason there are countless fellow Range Rover drivers in the UK. After a late dinner upon arrival at a very quaint little B&B above a pub in the town centre, it was time for bed. We had an early day planned.
Chipping Norton has always been a popular destination for both tourists and the English, but the market town has enjoyed a little bit of a renaissance thanks to (some say the best) motoring journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, and his latest endeavour, Diddly Squat Farm, which you’ll probably recognise from his new Amazon Prime series, Clarkson’s Farm.
Here, the ex-Top Gear presenter’s farm, which is located only a few minutes from the town centre, offers a little glimpse into his life as as a novice farmer, and offers goods such as Clarkson’s Cow Juice (milk) and Bee Juice (honey), as well as many branded home items at his farm store.
A little tip though, you won’t be the only Clarkson fan and motoring enthusiast hoping to catch a glimpse of the man here (he’s actually not there 24/7), so you’ll want to head there early even if to only purchase the fresh produce his farm shop has to offer like milk, fruit, and vegetables. Ignore this warning and you’ll find yourself thick in a mile-long queue of cars from both sides of the small road.
Your drive there, however, is a highlight in itself and promises to be just as memorable. In the Range Rover, you’ll glide past the neighbourhood’s rustic rural charm, rolling hills, vibrant market towns, and picture-perfect villages with plenty of ease, and — because you’re sitting up high — the best views of all.
After all the waiting around for the food in the farm shop, it was now time for a quick drive through the beautiful Cotswolds and on to another village for lunch and a catch up with some old friends who had escaped London at the start of the pandemic.
The Range Rover was a class-act on highways but it also performed effortlessly down the country lanes. It tackled the twisting roads and hill climbs with athletic prowess, even as it rained endlessly. But this was exactly what the Range Rover was designed to do: for cruising over country lanes and traversing between chic upmarket villages to driving on rugged farmland in any weather condition. We weren’t alone with this sentiment either; with the countless numbers of Range Rovers we saw during our trip there, we knew we were in Range Rover country.
We then arrived in Stow-on-the-Wold, and you would’ve thought it was summertime with the sheer number of people visiting the historic town. After a failed attempt to get into England’s oldest inn, The Porch House —which opened in 947AD (!) — we settled for lunch at a quaint café next door. The market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England, sits atop an 800-foot hill at the junction of main roads through the Cotswolds, and is perhaps the best known of the small Cotswolds towns, with Instagramable views and food everywhere.
After a short walk back to the Range Rover it was time to drive back to Lincoln. Our journey home would take us past the Jaguar Land Rover factory, where we were lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of the new Range Rover at a petrol station nearby. We’re all waiting with bated breaths to see it up close, but all we can say is that it looks spectacular even from afar — think a mix of classic Range Rover with a touch of modernity with its boat tail rear end. We’ll have to wait and see how the new iteration drives, but the updated design looks like a promising start.
Space and comfort
The Range Rover fits five adults comfortably along with several large suitcases, so you can start planning that long road trip you’ve always wanted. If 900 litres of boot space isn’t enough, all you’ll have to do is lower one of the rear seats.
Thankfully, unlike the wrestling you’ll typically have to do to get one of those to fold, Range Rover makes it easy, like everything else. Simply open the split folding tailgate, put down some covers to protect the rear, and then lower the rear end, which can be done with a button in the boot thanks to the air suspension.
After that, hit a button to lower the seat in the boot, and what you’ll see is a perfectly choreographed dance that moves the driver seat slightly forward to make room for the rear seat to flatten, before it moves back automatically. This creates a sizeable space for even more stuff at the back.
The journey continues
After several days exploring the Lincolnshire countryside, it was time to put the Range Rover through its paces once again, this time at the Peak District. Located in central part of England between Sheffield and Manchester, the Peak District is a magnificent part of the country with rivers, mountains, and picturesque villages. Part of it includes the Peak District National Park, which you can drive through for a proper countryside experience.
After a quick stop in the village of Castleton for lunch, we drove through what was inarguably the highlight of the journey, Winnats Pass, which sits in a site of Special Scientific Interest. The valley is made of limestone and is full of preserved fossils from sea creatures that lived here over 350 million years ago when it was once under a tropical sea.
On our way back to Lincoln we passed through the scenic villages of Buxton, Bakewell (where the famous Bakewell Tart comes from), and Matlock. It’s not often you can say that you still feel refreshed after spending a day in a car that has tackled mostly small twisting roads with traffic, but we did step out of the Range Rover feeling quite rejuvenated.
Perhaps it’s the massaging seats or the gentle warmth that emanates from it on a cold winter’s day, or perhaps it’s the clean fresh air from its advanced air purification system; either way, you won’t go wrong picking this SUV as your cross country ride.
Back to the capital
Our final journey would tell us how the Range Rover performed in its other natural habitat: Central London. After a few hours’ drive down to the capital, we’d put the Range Rover to the test in some of the worst traffic and parking conditions, as well as its wow factor in the cosmopolitan city.
We won’t lie, the Range Rover does feel massive on the narrow streets of Central London. That hasn’t stopped residents from buying the SUV in droves though because you’ll still see the car and its fellow Land Rover stablemates everywhere, but we’ll admit that finding big enough parking spaces in the city were an issue if you didn’t know where to look.
But does it have that wow factor? It has plenty. Even with the numerous other luxury SUVs that have come to market in recent years, the Range Rover still manages to stand out by offering the perfect balance of luxury and functionality. Unlike many other vehicles in this class, it’s not just a status symbol that’s to be shown off, but a vehicle that you actually want to take off-road and get muddy. Most owners never will, but knowing that it can take on just about any terrain when you want it to really does make all the difference.
Spending this much time with the Range Rover, we were able to understand the Land Rover culture in the UK so much better. It’s luxurious and comfortable, but it’s also designed to go anywhere. Jaguar Land Rover builds vehicles that are just at home in cities and on your local high street, as they are in the mountains, deserts, cobbled country lanes, and frozen tundra — and, somehow manage to make it a joy to drive on each on them. If anything, we’re already missing the Range Rover and can’t wait for the next Land Rover adventure.
Find out more about the Range Rover D350 Autobiography or experience the car for yourself via a test drive here.
(Hero and featured image credit: Shatricia/Lifestyle Asia)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore