So, Bentley Will launch its 200mps SUV in 2016 , (read our previous article about 200 mph SUV), And the Range Rover is the elephant in the errrr, road, the 4x4 it has to beat. After a year running a Range Rover Vogue SE TDV6, we know its strengths and weaknesses inside out. And its standout strength is civility.
All Range Rovers come with standard air suspension, generous body travel and a rebuttal of the premium German doctrine that customers value sportiness above comfort. The body lopes over bumps like a lilo on waves, pitching under braking, leaning into corners. It’ll be tough for Bentley to match that pillowy ride, given the conflicting goals of phenomenal power and speed.
My fellow editor at sister magazine Auto Zeitung can’t abide the Rangie’s wallow: sure, it doesn’t handle like a Cayenne, but mechanical grip is strong, and the steering stately but supremely accurate. Drivers like Volker need the effective Dynamic Response switchable anti-roll bars, only fitted to V8s.
The 254bhp V6 diesel echoes the ride refinement, murmuring at 2200rpm on the motorway, smooth under hard acceleration. Kick down and the weight rocks backwards, before surging forward like a Mississippi steamboat: with 443lb ft, it feels quick enough, punchier than its 7.9sec 0-62mph time, your instincts saying that this leviathan couldn’t, shouldn’t, be hammering along so quickly. At motorway speeds, the wind gently rushes along the sides, tyre noise is a murmur not a roar. It’s a very civilised way to travel, not unlike how I’d imagine a Rolls or Bentley SUV.
Trunk roads are where the Rangie
accumulated most of its 27,885 miles, being the default choice for long family trips. The Range Rover attended the Belgian grand prix, holidayed in Devon, the Lake District and the Dordogne, and slogged through eight months of my 130-mile daily round trip. Fuel economy improved as time wore on, with the Rangie often surpassing 500 miles on a tank and returning 31mpg, though that’s 21%
off the official figure. And, contrary to Land Rover perception, it proved a reliable, robust companion, though some things niggled. The centre console developed a muted creak, and the dual-view screen designed to allow passengers to watch TV on the move once or twice displayed nothing but darkness.
The over-zealous fuel tank cut-off made refuelling infuriatingly slow, until I dug out a plastic rod from the boot, prodded around in the tank neck and reset the flow. And the unresponsive front parking sensors typically needed manual activation. We marked two pieces of trim: cramming a heavy box onto the front seat scuffed the leather-clad dash (our fault), but getting the solid parcel shelf in and out of its unyielding moorings is awkward, causing black marks on the inner door plastic.
The boot is a mixed blessing: it’s vast but hard to access without Inspector Gadget extendable arms, due to the drop-down door keeping you at bay. The rear seats can be powered flat with in-boot buttons; a fold-up boot divider would be equally welcome.
A gashed sidewall did for one of the 275/40 R22 Continental tyres, costing £270 for the rubber alone: that – and the challenge of finding such a vast tyre in stock – is the risk of upgrading to the £3000 split-spoke alloys. The first service cost £425+VAT.
Must-have options included the £1500 glass roof and £400 headrests with fold-out wings like a business class airline seat’s. Those with kids swore by the £1500 rear- seat entertainment system, those using the clunky infotainment system just swore. In my view, the clean but bland dashboard is a step backwards over the previous generation’s, with its architectural wood: the cabin’s design is a weak spot for opulent Bentley to exploit.
But it won’t be able to match the Range Rover’s aluminium monocoque construction, of which I proudly bragged to Chelsea tractor-haters and which is 420kg lighter than the last TDV8 Rangie. And can Bentley’s pedigree beat the renowned off-road ability and blue-chip image built by 44 years of Range Rovers? It won’t be easy. Because the past 12 months have confirmed the Range Rover is the finest luxury SUV on the planet.