• Range Rover D350 LWB Autobiography : First Drive Review

The OG luxury SUV pushes the concept of grandeur in its fifth-generation avatar

I still remember the first time I drove a Range Rover. It was the third-generation example owned by my previous publisher and in my eyes, the coolest Range Rover iteration. In fact, despite being more luxurious, the fourth-generation Range Rover seemed unable to match the presence of its predecessor and felt underwhelming in comparison. I am glad to note that the fifth-generation Range Rover brings back that Brit elegance. And it brings in a lot more than that. Based on the new MLAFlex architecture, the new Range Rover has new everything and is dynamically more competent, more luxurious and tech-savvy and like the original, remains a true offroader at heart. That said, it has quite a bit of competition now, what with luxury carmakers like Rolls Royce and Bentley entering the fray with the Cullinan and the Bentayga or even the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. So, does the new Range Rover have what it takes to remain the staple of footballers and celebrities?

One thing you can’t get away from is the Range Rover’s massive dimensions. It is larger than any other SUV sold here and in fact, as large as a minibus. This one is the long-wheelbase version which further releases acres of legroom for the middle-row seat (you can now even get one with seven seats!). The design is more of an evolution, taking the best bits from previous Range Rover models. The timeless slab-sided bodywork now feels cleaner with virtually non-existent shut lines and the glasshouse is seemingly styled like a single glass slab making the Range Rover look like it has been carved from a single piece of granite. The front end too takes the clean approach with not one edge or crease visible. It is surprising how simple lines can lead to such elegance in design. Everything looks well-proportioned, even the massive 22-inch wheels that sit just right in the wheel wells. Even the door handles sit flush in the bodywork and pop out when needed. Did you know that the new Range Rover has a drag coefficient of just 0.30? Talk about clever design! The distinctive bit at the rear, besides the split tailgate has to be the vertically positioned tail lamps which are neatly integrated into the rear fenders.

It’s a unique world inside the cabin. One that feels new and fresh yet with hints of familiarity. The Brits have been pioneers in handcrafted interiors and this one offers the same emotion. It seems the interior department over at Solihull makes yacht interiors as well. Cue the leather and wood-lined interiors and that massive steering that wouldn’t look out of place in a yacht. I am glad that there is no massive touchscreen dominating the dashboard, just two floating glass panels running the latest Pivi Pro infotainment interface. The rear can be optioned with touchscreens and that’s beside a slick eight-inch tablet embedded in the electrically retractable centre armrest (even the cup holders are electrically retractable!) that controls seat heating and massage functions and much more.

There is no expense spared in cosseting the occupants in first-class comfort and goes beyond the traditional acres of space and plush seats. The Range Rover gets a massive 1600-watt Meridian sound system comprising 35 speakers spread throughout the SUV including speakers inside the headrests with active voice cancellation that do a brilliant job of cutting off ambient exterior noise and letting you soak in the spa-like ambience after a hard day’s work. I loved the fact that you can adjust the seat in every way possible, even the headrests in multiple configurations, allowing for a highly personalised experience. If I were to nitpick, I’d say climbing into a high-set cabin is a task even with the air suspension lowered. But that’s an easy fix with the optional electrically-retractable footboard.

The electronics are on another level altogether with over-the-air updates and 69 ECUs providing enough computing power to probably launch the Apollo 11.  Features extend beyond Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, A useful one is the 360-degree view camera with augmented reality and the rear axle steering that has the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front thus reducing the turning radius significantly and makes manoeuvring the behemoth as easy as a mid-size SUV. It can even park itself provided you find enough space.

The D350 LWB Autobiography variant we are driving uses Land Rover’s Ingenium diesel powerplant. This 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six motor is an impressive unit that delivers 351PS and 700Nm to all four wheels. It features a mild-hybrid system which helps offer the 2.5-tonne SUV brisk acceleration. In fact, with a claimed 0-100kmph acceleration time of 6.3 seconds, this is one quick freightliner. The wave of torque is effortless and the eight-speed gearbox does a fine job of evenly distributing it in a seamless manner and ensuring that you are not lacking in performance. Refinement is quite impressive and it is only at higher revs that you can hear a subdued diesel drone from behind the steering wheel. If you are one of those who crave thoroughbred performance and own multiple petrol pumps, Land Rover also offers a BMW-sourced 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 powertrain. For all other intents and purposes, the diesel powertrain fits the bill.

While I did not expect the Range Rover to change the laws of physics, it impressed nevertheless on twisties with its immense grip and well-controlled body roll. That’s possible thanks to a 48-volt active roll bar system that does a fantastic job of countering the immense weight transfer, every time you chuck this 2.5-tonne behemoth into a corner. The rear axle steering also helps by having the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front at high speeds making the Range Rover seem more agile than its size and weight would suggest. The ride quality is just short of exceptional and I reckon it is down to the 22-inch wheels with low-profile tyres that rob the air suspension of its magic carpet ride quality. I reckon higher-profile tyres is the answer if you prefer plushness over style.

The Range Rover’s USP has been its ability to deliver luxury and off-roadability in equal measures. This one does not disappoint either. It runs Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system which reads road conditions and seamlessly adapts itself to the terrain making off-road driving feel an autonomous affair. Then there is the air suspension which at full height raises ground clearance to a lofty 294mm, and water wading ability to 900mm. So heading to your coffee plantation or farmhouse should be effortless.

With prices starting at rupees 2.38 crores, there are a lot of variants of the Range Rover to choose from and you can easily end up spending an extra premium of more than a crore rupees just speccing up your individual Rangie. Besides offering excellent value to the lucky few, the Range Rover offers the best of everything with hardly anything to fault. It is the definition of a pedigree luxury SUV and delivers one of the best sensory experiences money can buy. The Range Rover makes a compelling argument if you own a ranch or a factory in the middle of nowhere and are on the lookout for your next ride.

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