We take the new L405 Range Rover and see how it compared to its predecessor, the L322, on road in the UAE.[Not a valid template]
“Behold!” screamed Land Rover towards the tail end of last year. “Behold the saviour of all cars!” A flash of lights, an excited clapping from celebrities, and the new Range Rover was thrust upon the world, causing oohs and aahs to emanate from all that beheld it.
We went on the international launch test drive event in Morocco earlier this year, and confirmed that it was pretty blooming good, demolishing most of the Moroccan countryside under its stylish wheels. However, that event consisted mostly of yomping across plains and powering up mountains. There was precious little road time, which means we learned little about how the new Rangie behaves on the surface upon which 99 percent of owners will spend 99 percent of their time.
Now is our chance to find out. The new Range Rover has arrived in the Middle East, and we’ve got one for the day. It’s a chance to find out just what it can do. For reference though, we’ve brought along the benchmark it needs to beat – the previous generation Range Rover. This is still, in our eyes, the best large luxury SUV, and we want to see what aspects the new car retains, improves upon or fails to live up to.
This is a 2006 model, from halfway through the L322 third generation that was introduced way back in 2002. It’s got just shy of 149,000km on it, and comes with the older 4.2-litre supercharged V8 producing 395bhp. Various different iterations of L322 fiddled with the details – lights, grilles, etc – but the general shape and presence of the car changed little, and this is still what I think of when the words Range Rover are mentioned. It’s solid but suave, rugged but rakish, and looks like it could thrash across the Empty Quarter before depositing its occupants for dinner at the best hotel in town.
Climbing in feels like settling in to a well-kept but long lived-in front room. The blue leather seats still maintain their lustre, although they’re slightly creased around the edges. The leather on the steering wheel has worn smooth after enough distance to take the Rangie several times around the globe, but that adds a certain character to it. Some of the plastic panels are chipped and worn too. The technology seems outdated by today’s standard, but considering it’s seven years old there’s plenty that’s familiar. The sat nav maps are way out of date, but there’s a touch screen, cruise control and switches on the centre console to flick between high and low ratio in the transmission. It looks out of date compared to the terrain response systems of recent years, but as this is a tarmac-focused test I won’t be needing them today. Put it into reverse and a (low-res) reversing camera image fills the screen.
My colleague James Gent pulls up alongside me in a shiny white example of the new L405 Range Rover, and we get our first chance to compare the two side by side. I never really noticed it before, but compared to the new car the L322 looks somewhat boxy and upright, much more reminiscent of the original of the 1970s. The new car is sleeker, more streamlined and looks good, but so far it doesn’t really strike me as a Range Rover. From the back, the rear lights in particular make the car look like a Ford Explorer. I’ll have to give it time for the new looks to settle into the Range Rover partition of my consciousness.
Our plan today is to mosey around Dubai for a bit before heading out of town, along the wide motorway north towards Ras Al Khaimah, and then to a more winding stretch of road. These three separate play areas will let us get a good feel for how the Range Rovers compare in different environments. Sure, they’re built to take on dunes, but in the UAE in particular you can’t go anywhere in town without seeing them. Indeed, my wife and I have a traffic light game that you might wish to try – next time you’re sat at a red in Dubai, have a look at the cars around you and try to spot a Range Rover, a Toyota Camry and a Land Cruiser Prado. Such is their ubiquity that you’ll succeed every time.
Anyway, the Range has to be usable in an urban environment and comfortable on a cruise. And as Land Rover is making a big noise about how much weight it’s removed from the new aluminium-bodied L405, we want to see how much better it is when seriously dynamically challenged.
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