A night in a Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson costs a staggering $65,000, which makes the $195,100 Range Rover Vogue SDV8 seem like positively good value. Each is as palatial – and large – as the other, really, the first all-new Rangie in ten years arguably even more so.
Acres of supple, twin-stitched leather cover virtually every surface of the fourth-generation Vogue, from the seats and console to the doors and headlining. Everywhere else is either polished alloy or lacquered wood veneer.
The seats themselves are sumptuous, with front and rear appointed in soft – you guessed it – leather and properly bolstered for each morning pursuit to the Double Bay or Toorak school drop off point.
The switchgear on the steering wheel is housed in two beautifully designed metal turrets, and the centre console is superbly crafted and completely uncluttered. The switchgear count has been halved in the new Range Rover, thanks to the intuitive (but not particularly high-resolution) eight-inch touchscreen system that manages all of vehicles infotainment functions.
Land Rover has also done away with traditional instrument dials in the latest Range Rover and has been replaced by a super-size graphic screen (similar to that in the Jaguar XJ).
Interior ambience is just about perfect, but for the out-of-place plastic paddle shifters, which seem to have no business appearing in these luxury surrounds.
The standard fit 380-Watt Meridian audio system, though, is exceptional, producing a superb high-fidelity sound that’s bound to satisfy the most demanding audiophiles. But if you want more, there’s an optional 825-Watt system with a staggering array of 29 speakers.
It’s the kind of bespoke-style opulence you’d expect to find in a Rolls Royce Ghost or Bentley Continental Flying Spur (Land Rover benchmarked them both) rather than lining one of the world’s most accomplished off-roaders.
What’s more, the SDV8 Vogue tested here is one of the lower-spec models in the new Range Rover line-up. The top-shelf Autobiography versions take the luxury thing to another level altogether.
It might be the world’s first all-aluminium SUV and the most focused engineered project Land Rover has undertaken, but the new car is clearly a Range Rover, though lower, wider and more aerodynamic than it’s predecessor.
All the traditional styling cues are there, such as the ‘floating’ roof, clamshell bonnet and familiar upright grille. The upswept rear-end is there too, in keeping with the Range Rover’s proper off-road departure angle.
And it wouldn’t be a Range Rover with the trademark ‘command’ driving position, which feels more throne-like than ever before.
It’s just as comfy in the back seats, with room to stretch now that the legroom has been increased – and that’s before the long-wheelbase version arrives.
While there’s a tonne of space in the boot area and a huge aperture for easy loading, there is one rather annoying glitch – the rear seatbacks don’t fold completely flat.
Range Rover’s keyless entry is faultless – just touch the door handle and climb aboard, before hitting the slightly hidden start button to the left of the steering wheel. The key fob itself, though, is frustratingly fiddly, should you need to pry it open and access the ‘key only’ feature.
Fire up the 4.4-litre SDV8’s super-diesel and a subdued clatter masks the sheer potential of 250kW of power, and more importantly, a truck-like 700Nm of torque – higher than the V8 Supercharged, which makes 625Nm.
Forward progress is effortless. Simply brush the throttle and this 2360kg stately behemoth moves off the line with noticeably more urgency that the previous model.
Reducing weight was a key engineering goal for the new Range Rover, which has resulted in the new SDV8 shedding a whopping 350kg off the weight of the previous model.
The results are spectacular. Punch the throttle from almost anywhere in the rev range and the Range Rover accelerates with commitment.
Even from a standing start the big Rangie doesn’t exactly hang around. Sheer grunt allows the SDV8 to reach 100km/h in 6.9 seconds (a second quicker than the previous model), but there’s no commotion as it’s all so refined. That’s about as brisk as a manual Golf GTI.
As expected, stopping power is huge and brake pedal feel is progressive and rock solid.
The eight-speed transmission is so smooth and quick in its operation as to be imperceptible, regardless of throttle loads. Even in Sport mode and hard on the throttle you’ll be hard pressed noticing the shifts, let alone picking what gear you’re in.
There’s a non-diesel sounding V8 growl in the background, too, but that’s about all you’ll hear in this cockpit, bar the sound system if you’ve got that dialled up.
In fact, noise insulation in the Vogue is simply astounding thanks in part to the double glazed windows. Listening to music inside the all-new Range rover is more akin sitting at home in your favourite lounge chair with a pair of high-end noise-cancelling headphones on – you can see the cars and trucks all around, but you can’t hear them – just the music. It’s almost surreal.
Fuel-economy is even more impressive. Over several days of mostly city driving our average consumption was 11.8L/100km – just over the official urban figure of 11.5L/100km.
The handling, too, is vastly improved.
The pitch and yaw the old model suffered on turn in has all but vanished, thanks to the successful weight loss program, adaptive damping and the Dynamic Response active lean control system (standard on the SDV8) that successfully reins in body roll.
It doesn’t seem to matter how aggressively the Range Rover tackles a corner, the big off-roader rolls, but remains utterly composed and balanced.
The steering is typically light in weight and mostly devoid of feel, but response to input is quick, allowing for more pace to be carried through corners.
Tackling jumbo-size speed bumps in the latest Range Rover presents no more of an obstacle than brushing over an expansion joint on the freeway; such is the vehicle’s ability to absorb the largest impediments.
Overall ride quality as supple, even on the SDV8’s standard 20-inch rims. Only occasionally did we experience any unsettling of the chassis through the cabin – over the sharp ridges of poorly maintained roads.
The all-new Range Rover has effectively outdone its own high standards, taking an already class-leading SUV and revamping it with better performance, more luxury and significantly improved fuel-economy.
What we have now is something quite astounding – an SUV that sets the bar so high that absolutely nothing in the same segment can match it for quality and breadth of ability.