What is it?
We’re all familiar with the Range Rover – it’s one of the most iconic luxury off-roaders you can buy and competes just as effortlessly off-road with hardcore mud-pluggers such as the Toyota Land Cruiser as it does on-road with limousines such as the Mercedes S-Class. It’s a big part of British motoring history, and one of our best-loved exports.
We’re testing it here in its SDV8 form – that’s Land Rover parlance for a 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine. It’s the biggest and most powerful diesel the company fits and sits above the entry-level V6 diesel but below the four-cylinder plug-in hybrid models in the range.
The Range Rover was facelifted last year to bring it in line with the recently-introduced and smaller Velar. There’s a new grille, flanked by sharp-edged headlights – smart Matrix LED units on this car. New taillights also feature, while the exhaust pipes are integrated into the rear bumper.
Inside, there’s a dual-screen infotainment and control set up that Land Rover calls Touch Pro Duo. You’ll find it on most of the brand’s new cars, where it controls most of the car’s major functions – everything from its Terrain Response system to the electric rear seats.
What’s under the bonnet?
This SDV8 model uses a 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine, which is something of a rarity in this day and age. That said, it’s certainly a powerful beast that’s perfectly suited to the car’s huge bulk. Though peak power of 335bhp is nothing like the 400+bhp you’d find in the equivalent V8 petrol, it’s torque where the SDV8 excels. 740Nm of it ensures that this car has performance that belies its size. 0-60mph takes just 6.5 seconds – making it almost as quick as a VW Golf GTI.
The combination is a fantastic one – the smooth, torquey diesel unit is perfectly suited to the Range Rover, moreso than the slightly strained V6 diesels that sit below it. There’s always power where you need it, and if you put your foot down the engine’s throaty warble gives the car a character somewhat missing from other models.
Fuel economy is surprisingly good, too – we were actually able to beat its supposed combined figure of 33.6 on more than one occasion. Combined with an enormous 86-litre fuel tank, this is a car you’d be very happy to cross continents in.
What’s it like to drive?
Make no mistake – this nearly three-tonne beast does not handle like a small car. However, flip the drive selector into Dynamic mode and it will deal with corners amazingly well. You can carry a surprising amount of speed through the bends, though your passengers may not thank you for it.
Standard-fit air suspension makes for an amazingly cushioned ride, though, and the vast wheels barely notice the majority of road imperfections. And, despite the car’s size, it’s a surprisingly easy thing to pilot around a tight city thanks to unparalleled visibility and a quick, accurate steering rack hiding behind the thin-rimmed steering wheel.
One also can’t overlook this car’s off-road ability. Though most owners will never use it, the Range Rover remains one of the most capable mud-pluggers on the market, effortlessly dealing with just about anything that’s put in its way.
How does it look?
Range Rovers are very spec-dependent – and vastly customisable, so it’s very easy to turn a classy car into a rather vulgar one. Choose your colours and wheels carefully, though, and the effect is smart.
There’s no hiding the car’s bulk, but sharp detailing in the head and taillights gives a modern aesthetic, while the flanks are broken up by contrasting detailing. It’s also unmistakeably a Range Rover thanks to the bold daytime running light signature.
Wheel choices range from 20 to 22 inches, though we’re not huge fans of any of the designs on offer. Still, Land Rover will happily perform most bespoke work if you pay them enough, so there’s no reason your Range Rover has to look like anybody else’s.
What’s it like inside?
The Range Rover’s always felt like a top-end premium product inside – the SDV8 is obviously no exception, featuring the same combination of sumptuous materials, straight-edged design and palatial space.
Space for front-seat occupants, that is… the rear seats in this standard-wheelbase model are surprisingly cramped, and those who want the full limousine effect would be better served by the long-wheelbase model.
There’s rather a lot of electrics, too – our Autobiography car had electrically operated rear seats, which worked very well until they gave up the ghost and refused to move further. And, though it’s possible to sit a third passenger on the middle seat, we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s high-set, slippery, and not especially comfortable.
What’s the spec like?
All Range Rovers are well equipped, as you might expect for the price – the cheapest SDV8 model is nearly £90,000. Entry-level Vogue models get 20-inch wheels, a heated windscreen, Matrix LED headlights, triple-zone climate control, leather seats, keyless entry, the full suite of infotainment goodies and a rear camera. However, our range-topping Autobiography (long-wheelbase models can step up further to SVAutobiography) came with 21-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, heated, cooled and massaging front seats, a suede headlining, surround cameras and adaptive cruise control.
Of course, there are myriad opportunities to personalise your Range Rover – numerous finishes for the exterior plus a wide selection of colours for the interior mean you won’t have to worry about seeing someone in the same one.
The V8 diesel is a wonderful fit for the full-sized Range Rover – it makes the car truly superb for crossing vast distances in incredible comfort. That being said, the V6 diesel does most of this as well, for a lower price, so you’d have to value the extra performance to opt for this higher-powered engine. Outside the engine bay, things are as they’ve always been and this remains one of the most premium, luxurious options on the market. A wonderful car, while it works – and if you can afford it.