I’ve only been driving Land Rover’s new Range Rover for five minutes and already I have had to swerve to avoid a man running down the motorway. Not across the motorway you understand but down it, as if he is pretending to be a car.
Driving the new Range Rover in Morocco is challenging. Pedestrians (and here you can include sheep and goats) seem to consider themselves equal to road transport. Add scooters, bicycles and donkeys with carts to the mix and the roads are unpredictable and chaotic.
Not that any of this feels stressful from where I’m sitting. The imperious driving position of the latest, fourth-generation Range Rover affords an exceptional view and I can barely hear any exterior noise.
And take a look at it. When did an SUV ever look so good? The new Range Rover still has its familiar, utilitarian shape but now comes with a more elegant tapering, floating roof and beautiful LED headlamps.
Inside it is calm, comfortable and luxurious. Trimmed wood veneer, chrome and leather ensure all of the interior surfaces are clean and uncluttered. There are less than half the switches in here than there used to be. The build quality really is exceptional and the interior, quite beautiful.
First stop is the beach and we’re off driving along the Moroccan Atlantic coast before turning towards the sand dunes and away from the sea. And these sand dunes – by nature of the fact that this is where the Sahara Desert meets the sea – are big. Yet we power up and down them with no problems, even in very deep sand. The trick? To travel across them very quickly. Luckily, the side effect of doing so is uncontrollable laughter. What fun.
As a display of the new Range Rover’s abilities it’s impressive, because all of this off-road hard work has occurred while I’ve remained cosseted in sumptuous interior comfort. We drive 450km in total and at the end of a very long day, I am in no hurry to get out of the car. Buyers can choose between two diesel models – a 3.0-litre 255bhp TDV6 or a 4.4-litre 313bhp SDV8 engine – or the flagship 5.0-litre supercharged 503bhp V8 petrol engine. All have eight-speed automatic transmission. I drove all three models. The cheaper V6 will be a big seller in the UK and is more than enough for most drivers. But the powerful flagship V8 is also fiendishly fast and absurdly agile, if expensive.
So how does a car so big get to be so agile? Well the latest Range Rover has lost as much as 420kg compared to the outgoing model. It’s the first SUV with an all-aluminium body structure so it is lighter, cleaner and drinks less fuel. It has an adaptive dynamics system, which monitors the vehicle to minimise body roll. In practice this means it stays flat in the corners. And the 5.0-litre V8 version is blisteringly quick, yet limousine-like in terms of comfort. It’s unnecessary of course, even the slowest V6 diesel feels quick enough, but that’s not the point – this one is the most expensive and some people will want it for that reason alone.
And it can go anywhere. Later we crawl up through the rivers and trails of the Atlas Mountains. At times, the drop is terrifyingly steep and we’re so high we’d have time to phone home to say goodbye should we plunge off the edge.
Yet the Range Rover dependably climbs through these goat tracks with ease. We don’t even need to tell it what to do: its latest off-road terrain response technology analyses the driving conditions and switches automatically between different vehicle settings. Amazing.
So what have I discovered at the end of a long couple of days? Well, neither its road-going credentials nor its off-road ability feels compromised by the other. The new Range Rover doesn’t feel schizophrenic, just astonishingly capable. In fact, it’s the most complete and versatile car I’ve ever driven. What’s more, I bet you can get at least four fully-grown goats in the boot.
2013 RANGE ROVER
0-62MPH: 5.4 SECS
TOP SPEED: 140MPH
CO2 G/KM: 322G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 20.5MPG
VALUE FOR MONEY ****