Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2

In this concluding part, we delve further into the Range Rover’s dynamics.

All images: Driven to Write

One could be excused for expecting the Range Rover’s road behaviour to be ponderous and unresponsive, and while one never loses the sensation of driving something quite vast, the RR can cover ground with an alacrity and poise that is both satisfying and deeply impressive. Even on the narrow, meandering and frost-scarred roads of West Cork’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, the air suspension’s ability to flatten rugations allied with a resistance to body roll and accurate steering, allows the driver to cover ground with considerable verve, should one be so disposed.

But HMS Rangie is no corvette so one shouldn’t expect sportscar responses. The steering; a system which is required to combine road-car agility with off-road capability, suffers from an almost imperceptible off-centre vagueness. This manifests itself in a very slight delay from the initial input on the handwheel to the response from the Pirellis at road level. It’s a characteristic the driver quickly acclimatises to and soon forgets about entirely. For its size and bulk, the RR steers faithfully, albeit one is never in any real doubt about the kinematic forces at play. The turning circle however is in the cruiseliner class.

Comfort is something of a mixed bag. The Range Rover’s air suspension provides a Citroënesque magic carpet sense of isolation, particularly for those on the bridge. Aft-mounted passengers however are exposed to a surprising level of road shock owing to their proximity to the rear axle. So while rear seat comfort is good – the tall body allowing a comfortable seating position for most shapes and sizes and plentiful legroom, it isn’t as cosseting back there as one might expect. Front seat occupants however travel first class.

The luggage compartment is accessed in time-honoured fashion by a two piece tailgate. The lower section hinges outward, which is fine if you want a perch to sit on while you’re changing into your walking boots, but otherwise makes loading a bit of a chore. The boot itself isn’t massive – (in either sense of the word), being somewhat shallow, if reasonably deep, but the rear seats do fold down and as I’ve discovered, bulky loads can be accommodated. Disappointingly, both upper and lower portions of the tailgate shut with an downmarket clang – the former in particular. I’d have expected better for the money.

The beating heart of this machine is the 3.6 litre AJD-V8 32 valve twin turbocharged power unit developed by LR and Ford in 2006 to replace the underpowered BMW M57 3.0 litre turbodiesel. Developing 272 bhp and an ocean-going 472 lb/ft (640Nm to you) of torque at 2,000 rpm, RMS Rangie tops out at 124 mph, whilst 0-60 can (reputedly) be induced in 8.6 seconds – not too shabby for a vehicle with a kerb weight of 2.7 tons unladen.

Of course what these figures don’t illustrate is the V8’s character; one which underpins and defines the RR’s manners and bearing. For a compression ignition unit, the AJD-V8 has characteristics that are more reminiscent of the reciprocating engines of steam era. Slow revving, with a metallic undercurrent to its languid multi-cylinder beat, its a creamy, emollient powerplant, utterly suited to the Range’s upper-class demeanour. Coming from someone with a fervent loathing of diesel, this has been quite the Damascene revelation. It’s a magnificent (and remarkably compact) powerplant which suits the car admirably.

With power of course, comes responsibility, so while Rangie Mac Rangeface can be made to lift its prow and hurl itself towards the far horizon, one can’t help feeling it’s slightly beneath its dignity. Given the banket 100KM/H speed limit on non-motorway Irish roads (that’s most of them then…), outright speed is somewhat academic anyway. And while vehicles such as these often lend themselves to pretty lamentable examples of bad road manners, I find myself conducting Rangie in a positively Victorian fashion – ‘No sir, I insist – After you…’

These vehicles have gained a well-documented reputation for unreliability, one which quite frankly hasn’t really manifested itself here. Over three years of ownership, the only significant failures have been the alternator – easily and relatively cheaply reconditioned, and a damaged air-conditioning water pipe – a labour intensive, but not uncomplicated fix. On a number of occasions random, panic-laden warning messages have flashed up, usually relating to the Terrain response or suspension ride-levelling, but applying the standard IT (have you tried turning it off and on again?) hard reboot quickly returned matters to normal.

A Range Rover is not nor ever shall be an austerity choice. If running costs are your concern, it’s definitely not the vehicle for you. The RR gets through a tankful of the black stuff with the sort of giddy abandon that would have seen the late Richard Harris in rehab. Apart from a voracious appetite for hydrocarbons, RMS Range gets through tyres and brake components with eye-watering regularity, which shouldn’t be too surprising given the forces acting upon them, to say nothing of the weight.

I came to the Range Rover with a healthy dose of negative bias, expecting a vast unwieldy Downton Abbey of a vehicle only to be charmed by a car which offers perhaps an unrivalled balance of abilities, combined with a sense of occasion few others can match at any price. Flaws it has aplenty, but what it also has in abundance is character – the latter as much a factor of that magnificent V8 engine. Don’t even consider one without it.

As you can now possibly gather the Rangie has me charmed. It should have been awful. Profligate, vast, overweight and overbearing, and yet it’s possessed of such an engaging, such a strong yet benign personality, that driving it isn’t simply an occasion, it’s a positive pleasure. The Range Rover is irresistible, so even if my proletarian roots still show, I can on occasion at least, assume the high life. Don’t judge me too harshly.

My thanks to MMD for the use of the RR featured here.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

12 thoughts on “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2”

  1. I can see a case for the Range Rover in the pictured surroundings in this article but “not” where the majority of them are seen.

  2. Not my cup of tea at all, although the interiors are beautiful. That engine is superb though, a real shame it never found it’s way into the Jaguar XJ.

  3. This is another loather of so-called ‘utility vehicles’ admitting to having fallen for the Range Rover. Here’s a vehicle that’s as close to a practical Rolls-Royce Phantom as it gets.

  4. A terrific summation of a genre defining car. The full fat Range Rover is probably the only 4×4 I would ever consider owning. The contemporary Sport was too hamstrung by its split remit to ever be truely successful. And the Discovery, whilst a great car, is so very heavy. No, the third generation Rangie was a nail hit squarely on the head. I suspect history will judge it kindly.

  5. I drove my first Range Rover a few weeks ago – a current 4.4tdi SDV8 Autobiography. Must confess I wasn’t overly impressed! Bit wallowy and tramlined badly over bumps. Probably good on the motorway and, by reputation, off-road but possibly not on stuff in between. Maybe the generation of Range you drove is the better bet.

    1. Interesting that you mention this. This is exactly how I would describe the ride of the only Range Rover I ever drove. It was one of the 2nd generation (late 90s). So should exactly the generation between the one you drove and the one I drove behave much better? I really doubt this. I rather suspect that the Range may ride well for this sort of car, but will ever dissatisfy someone who is used to real cars with a good suspension.

      Having said that, I still have to admit that this RR here is about the only vehicle of this class I’d ever consider – like Kris and Chris say. This one is just spot on. The ungainly additions of the following generation (in terms of volume as well as adornments) don’t do anything to make it a better car.

    2. Simon, the only RR I ever actually got to drive was a P38A, which had a steering wheel made of salami and wasn’t any more delicate in any other regard (still, a Mercedes G is far worse). I only ever experience the L322 from a passenger’s perspective, and from that angle it’s simply a revelation – as well as the complete opposite of almost any other SUV in terms of cabin ambience (it’s a conservatory among vaults).

      I actually don’t mind its successor, particularly as far as its cabin is concerned, but would always prefer the older car by some margin, particularly in pre-2010 guise.

    3. Yes, P38A, that was also the generation I drove. 4.6 litre HSE. You could see the fuel needle moving with your bare eye. The interior was actually the biggest letdown – tacky plastic all over the place. It wasn’t a very pampered example, though, maybe with a little more care it would have looked better.

  6. Just driven a diesel Bentayga today – 120 motorway miles. Amazingly quiet (well silent basically) and supremely comfortable. Shame I never drove the Range Rover on the motorway to compare but I cannot believe the Range Rover would have been that quiet.

    1. Considering the price premium of the Bentayga over the RR, I should expect it to be more refined. There has to be some justification for such a gaudy trinket. Normally, I’d imagine it’s quite fun to pretend the cars you’re delivering are your own, but in the Bentayga’s case I think I’d die a thousand deaths at the prospect of anyone imagining I’d paid my own money for one of these devices.

      Regarding the current RR, I suppose it’s inevitable. As the vehicle gets increasingly larger and (despite the aluminium shell) heavier – (you’re still carrying around very heavy masses) the conflicting demands of chassis dynamics, ride comfort and body control get much more difficult to reconcile.

      I haven’t driven any other RR, so can only comment on the L322 I have driven and one or two reservations aside, that car drives very well indeed, considering its size and bulk. I get the sense that the L322 was pretty much the sweet spot in the Range Rover lexicon. The current car is too big and has lost its predecessor’s visual restraint. Even the RR Sport is now too large and suffers from an even more declasse image. I suspect the new Velar will hitherto represent the pivot point for the RR range, being a similar size to the older car but a little more agile and (potentially at least) wieldy.

    2. The good thing about being IN the Bentayga is that I didn’t have to look at the outside! The first one I ever saw was a black one coming up behind me on the motorway. With all the very shiny stuff it looked like a hearse on stilts.

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