BY ANDY ENRIGHT
After two generations that hinted at the potential locked into it, the Range Rover really came good in its third generation. In fact it didn't just come good, it became a car in a class of one. We've now got the fourth generation Range Rover which has moved significantly upmarket, so for used car buyers one of the late facelifted third-generation cars makes a fantastic buy, just new enough to still feel reassuring yet with enough on its clock to look temptingly affordable. Here's what to look for when shopping used.
The Range Rover single-handedly laid the foundations for the modern luxury 4x4 sector back in 1970 and has stood astride it like a colossus ever since. Rivals have tried to topple the icon but while some have experienced success in certain areas, none have truly eclipsed this car's unique blend of capability and class. This is the third generation version, launched in 2002, a model that moved the game on further still by establishing a new super luxury sector for SUV ownership.
But times are changing and Land Rover's flagship must change with them. Forty years on from its original launch, probably its biggest threat comes less from rival models and more from social acceptance and environmental pressures. And accordingly, just as this car can adapt to meet almost any kind of challenge, from cross-continental cruising to trans-Siberian deserts, it's also evolved to offer a greener, more efficient demeanour. Or at least it has in the diesel form that almost all customers choose. Boring out the old 3.6-litre TDV8 to 4.4-litres in 2011 and upping its power to a potent 308bhp might sound like a strange approach to eco-friendliness, but the figures suggest substantial improvements in both economy and emissions. Which should mean you can enjoy this car's unrivalled go-anywhere luxury with a clear conscience. February 2012 saw the old TDV8 Vogue and Vogue SE trims replaced by the TDV8 Westminster run-out trim designation, while TDV8 Autobiography and 5.0 Supercharged Autobiography models were also introduced.
The Ultimate Autobiography limited edition Range Rover was launched in February 2011, featuring two stand alone electric rear seats to enhance space and comfort for the rear passengers, making the Ultimate Edition an excellent chauffeur vehicle. The addition of a rear console extension, including a machined aluminium laptop table and drinks chiller and two Apple iPads as standard (the first car to do so), took the Range Rover rear seat experience to new levels of luxury. The model could be ordered in 2 unique colours, had unique 20-inch wheels, body coloured door handles and smoked grilles and gills. 500 cars were produced.
What You Get
The more a Range Rover changes, the more it stays the same. So while this improved model features small enhancements to the grilles and side vents of diesel models, it's still as instantly recognisable and classy as ever. Taking pride of place at the front end is a deep grille with crisp metal louvres in front of a heavy duty aluminium mesh.
The 5-seater cabin looks as classy and cosseting as ever with its clean, elegant controls and even higher quality materials that see leather extended to cover the full dash and roof lining. The big seats are the ideal place to sit out big journeys and there's a host of technological gadgetry built in. At the back, you enter through rather narrow door openings to find that though this generation model certainly offers more head and legroom than previous ones, it's still not as spacious back here as you'd expect from the kind of luxury saloon that would cost much the same. Still, Sheikhs could specify laminated privacy glass and reclining rear seats, plus a button that electrically pushes the front passenger chair forward to increase rear legroom, should it not be in use.
No complaints about the boot size though, big enough surely to accommodate the 7-seat option that Land Rover still refuses to offer on this car. You get between 994 and 2099-litres of space, depending on the position of the seats. Plus there's that lovely split tailgate so you can watch field sports in comfort.
At the wheel, the instruments are in the usual place but they aren't real instruments in the manner that we're used to. This Range Rover replaces the traditional speedo and rev-counter clocks with digital facsimiles projected on a 12" wide TFT screen. In normal mode, you'd have to look twice to verify that anything was amiss as the display looks conventional but off road, the rev counter moves aside in favour of a graphical drivetrain that shows which wheels are being driven, which diffs are locked and much more. In fact, the virtual screen can be customised to show anything from the outside temperature to navigation information, telephone system settings or wheel articulation. Controls on the steering wheel like those of a games console controller can be used to adjust the various functions without recourse to the main 8-inch touch screen display at the centre of the dash. For this screen, Land Rover's engineers have developed clever Dual View technology, enabling it to simultaneously display a different image to driver and passenger. So at the wheel, you can, say, view the navigation display while your passenger watches a video. Neat.
What to Look For
Although there's little doubt that the Range Rover is still mighty off road, you'll need to check that the previous owner, perhaps buoyed by that feeling of being bulletproof, hasn't been a little overconfident. Damage to the alloy wheels and exhaust through overenthusiastic off roading can be an expensive fix and even relatively trivial bodywork scrapes can put a sizeable dent in the car's resale value. Check the headlamps for stone chips as this is a very expensive part. Both the petrol and diesel engines have proved paragons of reliability and owners have reported good experiences with Land Rover dealers.
(approx based on a 4.4TDV8 - ex Vat) A clutch assembly will be around £300, a full exhaust about £575, a starter motor should be close to £270 and a headlamp £275. Front brake pads are about £80 and a rear set £50.
On the Road
There's still nothing quite like the feeling that you get sitting throne-like above it all at the wheel of a Range Rover. Luxury, comfort, refinement, craftsmanship and outright performance: all fuse together in its imperious progress, whether that be on-turf or on-tarmac. Fire the engine and, in this diesel model, the rotary gear selector glides up into the palm of your hand. Twist it to Drive and the car glides away, unless you've the need to hurl it at the horizon, in which case the supercharged petrol model will make sixty from rest in under six seconds on the way to a top speed limited to 140mph. That car comes complete with a mighty 503bhp 5.0-litre V8 borrowed from Jaguar developing an astonishing 625Nm of torque, accessible through a 6-speed auto gearbox.
Then there's the 308bhp 4.4-litre TDV8, replacing the previous 3.6-litre unit with an increase of over 15% in power and nearly 10% in torque. The latter figure is now a thumping 700Nm, just what you need when you're trying to shift nearly three tonnes of automotive real estate, but a figure that has necessitated a meatier 8-speed automatic gearbox to cope, now more driver-orientated with the addition of neat steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. If you're quick with them, sixty is just 7.8s away from rest, but perhaps a more telling statistic is the 20% improvement in mid-range overtaking urge delivered by the Parallel Sequential twin-turbocharging system. In real world driving, it's enough to make the difference between dispatching one straggler or dealing with a whole queue of them. Just as well then, that this diesel now has the same powerful Brembo brakes as the supercharged petrol model.
The Range Rover has long been a master when it comes to getting its occupants across their chosen terrain with consummate assurance and comfort. Its Adaptive Dynamics system uses sensors to monitor the dampers on each wheel 500 times per second to predict the optimum body and ride control settings for the driver's style and the terrain. The cleverest aspect of this car though, remains its Terrain Response off-road driving system, selectable via this control just in front of the rotary gear knob. You simply select the setting for the terrain you're covering, crank up the stereo and glide over terrain you would even walk across: it's brilliant.
The Range Rover established itself as a luxury 4x4 without peer in its third generation guise. Now that used prices have softened a little, you can get yourself into one of the excellent run-out editions for not much more than an entry level version of something a whole lot more proletarian. The latest fourth generation car takes the Range Rover ever further upmarket but doesn't change the aesthetic too much. Suddenly this facelift third generation model looks a conspicuous used bargain. Make mine a TDV8 Autobiography.