I have always wondered what discussion would be like in studios where cars of exclusive calibre are designed. They’re crafted to be luxurious, with creature comforts demonstrated and included in nearly every nook and cranny. They’ve also got to be roomy and perform efficiently.
But often, they’re destined to be chauffeur-driven automobiles. Do designers, hunched over the early blueprints, ever feel that tinge of angst while developing machines that are big on performance, a performance that would only be tested by someone who will never own the car? Do they develop a natural bias towards making the back seats more comfortable than the front ones? Is there this passive-aggressive stance to weigh in heavily on luxury versus performance?
I've been dealing with these nagging questions, and got answers to most of them when I stepped into the primly-decorated world of the 2018 Range Rover. First thing first: It’s grand. Grand in size, in comfort and performance as well. It’s bigger on the inside than one would imagine, based on the exteriors. It’s probably the fruit of realisation that hey, maybe there’s this gazillionaire who loves throwing his weight around hired hands at the wheel, but he could well take matters (read: wheel) into his own hands someday. Which is why the front dash is loaded with the goodness of technology.
The entire instrument cluster is collapsed into an attractive display, while two 10-inch touchscreens handle the other important controls such as climate, navigation, communication and infotainment. The Touch Pro Duo system is great to use and similar to the one on Range Rover Sport.
Least we forget the importance of the folks who’ll be driven around, this Range Rover has two screens at the back as well. The powerful Meridian Surround Sound system will ensure that no matter what tunes you belt out, you’re going to feel the punch of the bass resonating from the leather seats. Once you manage to take your eyes off the screens, you’ll notice the elegantly upholstered interiors of the car in sharp contrast and soothing colour. The front seats offer 20-way adjustments to pamper the man at the wheel while the rear ones recline by up to 40 degrees, thanks to the ample space in the car. The seats are leather-clad, which makes sitting on them feel like you’re in an opulent lounge. The seats offer both heating and cooling options, which is ideal for Indian weather conditions. The car is designed in such a way that it insulates you from all the bumps and sounds that plague the world outside its tranquil confines.
Looking up at the roof, there’s a sunblind that can open with a mere gesture. JLR throws in some cool ambient lighting options within the car as well as a helpful new air purification system. The one thing that I could live with, in the 2018 Range Rover, is the missing massage function. I say so, because if a company decides to go to town with luxury (and the price tag), then this feature is something that’s generally included in the must-have list. The doors are smart and can be opened without you reaching for the keys in your pocket. This is made possible with the remote smart key. The Soft Door Close feature improves the latching on all doors.
Stepping out, the exteriors of this benevolent beast speak dominance and grace, all moulded into one epic machine. It carries the Range Rover design that we’ve all come to love. The front grille has received a bit of a facelift, as has the bumper. Above this, there are the signature Range Rover LED headlamps to peer through the night. The rear is relatively unchanged, but we’d like to go with what’s becoming a classic design. The floating roof above and lower accents now rest on a Long Wheelbase design. The Range Rover’s Vogue SE variant employs 21-inch 7 Split-Spoke wheels with a silver finish. Speaking of variants, this one’s available in the SE model, as well as a standard Vogue variant, the Autobiography with exclusive seating features and vital design accents on the outside and finally the SVAutobiography Dynamic variant that focuses more on the luxury specs.
We finally come to that part of the review where we address our friends from the design desk at JLR. The driving experience of the 2018 Range Rover. Available in petrol and diesel options, the car comes with both V6 and V8 variations. We drove the 3 -litre V6 that offered 600Nm of torque. The best part was navigating the 8-speed automatic transmission on Indian roads at peak hours. It’s that time of the day when the map highlights go from red to blue to dark maroon, within the stretch of a kilometre. The engine and gearbox were the same as the ones I experienced while driving the Sport, but there’s definitely a different tinge of driving feel when you’re with the former’s elder sibling. The engines are silent in comparison to the size of the behemoth you’re driving. You may not expect this one to be the quickest among its contemporaries, but it can touch 100kmph in under eight seconds.
One of the best features the Range Rover (true to its name) brings to the table is the Terrain Response 2. This can be controlled via the touchscreen on the dash. It’s here that you can switch between some specially configured driving modes. The Auto function configures the transmission, suspension, and traction, of the car to offer perfect control in most driving conditions. If you’re driving through inconsistent surfaces, then the ‘Rock Crawl’ mode will be just right, as the ‘General Driving’ mode would take you effortlessly through muddy or water-clogged conditions.
If you’re dune-bashing, the Sand mode would work well, while the Grass, Gravel and Snow mode would get you through all that remains to be trodden upon.
What I did find lacking, for a car of this size, was a 360-degree parking assistant in all variants. With Mumbai’s cramped parking zones and the constant struggle for parking space, this could come in more than handy.
Overall, the 2018 Range Rover is a big-hearted car for the big-wallet kind. There is a lot of almost everything it has to offer. Which is probably what made it easy for those on the design table to work with. They just had to make it one large suite-on-wheels. The kind that plays to the whims of its owner. Whether he’s sitting comfortably in the back seat, engrossed in his business daily, or whether he has his sleeves rolled up and ready to challenge the vertical limits of Maharashtra’s Western Ghats.