2015 Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE review – The Best Just Got Even Better

The best of every luxury car & SUV going rolled into one, beautifully finished cabin, SDV8 more economical than you’d think, incredible off-roading prowess

Touchscreen would benefit from higher resolution display

Range Rover?

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Putting a question mark next to the Range Rover title above is a bit like putting one next to the words ‘man’, ‘dog’ and ‘moon’ – we know exactly what they are the moment you say the word, without any hesitation whatsoever, and with the Range Rover it’s the same thing: ‘big, luxurious, 4×4’ will be probably be what your brain will associate those words with.

And there’s a reason for that, as since its launch back in 1970, the Range Rover has always perfectly exuded class alongside its reputation as a tough, solidly-built and highly capable 4×4.

With every passing model and update, the Range Rover continues to become more luxurious, more adept off-road, with more accomplished on-road handling, and sales grow with it. We were sent the updated 2015 Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE to review and find out exactly what’s so good, and why it continues to be the classiest SUV currently on sale.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

 

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Up until the last of the third generation models in 2012, Range Rover still had its square-edged design, and there was zero wrong with that. In fact I personally loved that version, and although admittedly by the end of its run it did need an update, moving away from that now-familiar Rangey shape could have put noses out and lost sales, if it wasn’t done right.

Fortunately, the fourth-gen was utterly stunning and managed to take the Range Rover from simply being an SUV people wanted, to one they desired. A huge fan of the 3rd-generation Rangey, even I was won over immediately by the newer model, and in fact it made that one look positively old in comparison, such was the stark difference in styling.

While this current 2015 Range Rover retains the mammoth-sizing and huge proportions (just under 5 metres/16 feet long), it’s much more rounded, flowing and aerodynamic than its predecessor. Although there’s quite a difference, it’s still very unmistakably a Range Rover.

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The RR always seems to somehow make an entrance wherever it goes, and though its bulk is undeniable, it’s not done in an intimidating or brash manner, but rather with all the class you expect from a Range Rover.

You can’t help but stare at this 4th generation version, so brilliant is its design, and indeed during my week or so with the RR it had many a person staring in admiration. I must admit, I do enjoy gauging reactions to the various cars we get on test. For example the insanely loud Jaguar F-Type V8S Convertible got mainly huge grins as it popped and banged its way down the road, the cute Alfa Romeo MiTo drew interested glances and people tended to check out the front carefully, and the aggressive Subaru BRZ got a fair amount of heads whipping around from drivers in other sports cars.

The Range Rover though, tended to get an affixed gaze, almost like the viewers couldn’t take their eyes off it. Rather than a quick glance, they’d look at it approaching, take in the flanks as it slid past, and then keep on looking as it as it drove away. I can see why – I do the same myself.

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Up front, the sleek, contemporary headlights (and the cool LED running lights within) are styled so nicely that they can be counted as a design feature in themselves. Viewing the RR from side-on, I love the straight line which starts at the edge of the lights and then runs right the way down the side of the car before meeting the tip of the rear lights.

This central line sits almost exactly halfway between the straight roof edge, and the lower silver trim piece on the doors, and somehow makes the Rangey look narrower than it actually is. Noticeable are the ‘shark gills’ just behind the front wings, a fine bit of design work and something fairly simple that adds hugely to the overall appearance.

An angle where the Range Rover does show its considerable size is from a dead-on rear view, and as it widens from the roof downwards it ends up looking fairly hefty by the time your eyes reach its widest point at the centre height of the rear light clusters.

In summary, I believe it is a triumph of design. Whilst its solidity as a terrain-wrestling, full-fat SUV is conspicuous, there’s also a distinct style, elegance and classiness that only a Range Rover can offer.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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For the past few decades, the Range Rover has had interiors that look beautiful, and last the test of time well. Indeed, just a few thousand pounds will buy you a decent mid Nineties Rangey with deep, supple leather seating, acres of forestry trim, and lots of nice powered equipment to ease your travels further. And if looked after, it’ll still be in good condition, as they’re built to nuclear-explosion proof levels. What I love most about Range Rovers though, is the ‘homey’ feel you get when you climb aboard.

For all its luxury at an almost opulent level, even now the Range Rover exudes the aforementioned feeling in a way that few cars can. Slip into any of the seats, pull shut the weighty door, and there’s an immediate sensation that it’s a safe, welcoming place, with heaps of character and warmth. A bit like one of those traditional British country pubs you walk into, which has two foot thick walls, a couple of wingback chairs in front of a permanently-burning fire, and your favourite brand of peanuts behind the bar. Cozy.

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While this is the case though, the Range Rover is still thoroughly modern and in keeping with the times. A bit like the pub now having WiFi and a high-end coffee machine.

For example, in the drivers’s binnacle, there’s a full TFT/LCD instrument cluster featuring virtual dials in place of traditional ones. There’s also (depending on which model you spec and option boxes you tick) a 8-inch high resolution touchscreen with Dual-View technology (the passenger can watch TV whist the driver on sees a normal screen), Digital TV, a surround camera system, park assist, rear-seat entertainment, a thoroughly brilliant Meridian surround sound system, four-zone climate control, InControl Apps and InControl WiFi (which allows up to 8 devices to be used simultaneously) so you can sync your smartphone apps to the touchscreen.

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There are touches to make your Rangey more individual too, such as colour-selectable ambient lighting throughout, and Exclusive-Class individual rear seating.

All that modern tech is great but when it comes down to it, first impressions last when it comes to car interiors. There’s no need to be worried on that front though, as the Range Rover’s cabin is quite stunning.

Before I go into this section though, I’ll point out one thing: as standard the RR comes with full black leather and interior trim with only the occasional flash of aluminium to brighten things and it, in fact, looks decidedly underwhelming in this guise. Thankfully, there are a good few ‘no extra charge’ interior choices to add back the elegance and warmth.

Back on topic. The Range Rover’s cabin is a lesson in how to do it right. There’s an almost simplistic layout, thanks to the touchscreen controlling the majority of things. The designers have been clever though, and include switchgear on the centre console and steering wheel for the things you need to adjust most often. These are ergonomic and also sizeable enough to be easily used with gloved hands.

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Don’t take the fact that I’ve said it’s a simplistic design to mean there’s a lack of style though – quite the opposite. It’s a truly prepossessing place to be, and no matter where your eyes glance it’s aesthetically pleasing. The doors have the type of design and styling that you’ll see on-board an expensive yacht: beautifully soft leather meets perfectly finished wood trim, with satin aluminium pieces for the handles and surrounds, plus high-end-feel rubberised controls – all fixed in place to an extremely high standard.

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Land Rover have done a lot to make sure even the more minor points impress: a panel which has the humble job of hiding the cup holders has a wonderfully slick action as it slides back into place, as does the main central armrest which drops into place in a controlled and silent manner rather than simply banging heavily down, and the ‘hidden’ storage spaces in the front doors are lined with soft felt. The more time I spent in the Range Rover, the more I was impressed by the attention to detail, and that’s always a good thing.

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Seating-wise, the 18-way adjustable heated & cooled fronts are some of the comfiest I’ve ever sat in, and while you’ll sink into the deep leather, the sheer amount of adjustment allows all the support you need. Passengers in the rear will enjoy the fully adjustable heating, 3-stage heated and power-reclining seats (at the sides), and a centre armrest which is about the size of a city car’s seat. Our test Vogue SE had the Rear Seat Entertainment option (£1,500), meaning each side gets a TV, wireless headphones, and chauffeur mode so they can control the media via a remote control.

One option I definitely recommend getting is the the Front & Rear Winged Headrests (£400), which are like settling your head onto a comfortable pillow, and take the comfort to a whole new level. Personally, if I was paying £80,000+ for a new Range Rover, I would splash out £3,860 on the Executive Class rear seat package, which gives you two individual seats which are heated, cooled and with a massage function, and you’ll also then get massaging front seats thrown in too. Bargain!

Luggage space in the Range Rover is ample, with 909 litres behind the rear seats (550 with cover in place), and a gigantic 2030 litres with those folded. On that, the rear seats are folded/lifted via controls in the boot. It’s actually a very clever system, for as the seats fold the fronts detect of they’re going to touch, and move forward to allow them to drop. Once they’re folded, the fronts then move backwards to meet the rear headrests. Hugely impressive and handy bit of tech that.

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If you’re not impressed by that, then the large fridge hidden in the front armrest should do it. It’s roomy enough for a two-pint size milk carton, a couple of pork pies, and a 500ml bottle of water or two. Or if, unlike me, you’re loaded, a couple of small bottles of champagne and some caviar.

To go with that, the power tailgate has a small split section which folds down to make a bench-like seat for two people, and there’s also a power tow-bar which appears and clicks into place at the push of a button.

All said, the Range Rover’s cabin is absolutely exceptional. It’s very nearly an automotive work of art, such is the quality of attention to detail. It’s an expensive vehicle, yes, but it feels like you’re getting exactly what you’ve paid for, and more besides.

I tried hard to find fault with the Range Rover’s cabin: perhaps the seats could be comfier? Nope. Okay, they could do with a massage function. Option it then. Surely somewhere there are a few parts with underwhelming fit and finish? No, it’s all beautifully done. The touchscreen system could be better? Yes, but mainly no. The menus are simple and easy, and it’s a nicely done system overall, but Land Rover have been using it for a while now and high-definition screens are starting to arrive in cars, so in the graphics department there’s room for improvement. That’s all I’ve got in the way of a minus point.

Engine & gearbox

There are four engines available for the Range Rover, depending on which spec you go for: a 3.0 litre turbo-diesel TDV6, a 3.0 litre hybrid diesel SDV6, a 4.4 litre turbo-diesel SDV8, and a 5.0 litre V8 Supercharged petrol.

Our tester had the 4.4 SDV8 diesel, V8 with 32 valves, and two stage parallel-sequential turbocharging. For 2015 there’s a slight hike in torque – an extra 30 lb ft (40Nm). With 334 horsepower (339 PS) and 546 lb ft (740 Nm) of torque produced between 1,750 – 3,000 rpm, you can imagine it isn’t exactly going to be a slouch.

And it isn’t, with a 0 – 60 mph time seen in an incredible 6.5 seconds plus 135 mph at the top end, you’ll have no problem seeing off a fair amount of other – much small and much lighter – cars. Not bad for something with a minimum kerb weight of around 2,410 kilograms (5,313 lbs).

4.4 SDV8 diesel V8 with 32 valves

The range Rover’s 4.4L SDV8 diesel V8 with 32 valves, and two stage parallel-sequential turbocharging.

According to Land Rover, the SDV8 now has a “fuller torque curve from 1700 to 3300rpm thanks to detailed calibration changes. This improves in-gear acceleration by up to 6.5% from fifth to eighth gear, ensuring effortless overtaking ability and enhanced towing capability.”

For 2015, the 8-speed automatic transmission (ZF 8HP70) has also been re-engineered with a “revised torque converter incorporating a twin-spring damper.”

Official UK fuel consumption is: urban: 24.6, extra urban: 37.2, combined: 32.5. CO2 emissions are rated as 229 g/km.

I managed to get a return of just over 32 miles per gallon on a motorway run at around the limit (70 mph), and around 24 mpg on a mix of town and country driving, which I thought was excellent for such a big-engined beast.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

 

Driving a Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE in ice

From the moment I settle into the Range Rover’s incredibly comfortable driver’s seat, it feels like a special vehicle to be in. Even the leather-clad (heated) steering wheel is pleasant to hold, with beautifully soft stitched leather on both the steering wheel and centre section and thus, before I’ve even started the engine,it looks like the week ahead with this Rangey will be a rather good one.

Pressing the starter button, the 4.4 litre twin-turbocharged diesel V8 fires into life with a reassuring immediacy, quickly settling into a smooth and surprisingly quiet rhythm. It’s certainly a well-balanced and silky motor, and a hefty shove of the accelerator provides an un-diesel-like muffled roar, the twin turbo’s spooling up to provide satisfactory whining hiss, the motor flexing its grunt in aural form. Push aside your thoughts on noisy, clattering diesels – for the Range Rover’s is absolutely nothing like those.

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I select drive from the dial selector, and the RR pulls away so sleekly that it can only be likened to as ‘velvety’. The car seems to iron out any harsh prods of the throttle by simply turning them into a waft forward, rather than a jolted sling, which makes for an extraordinarily smooth experience for both the driver and passengers.

Changes from the 8-speed automatic transmission are barely noticeable and, to quote from my write-up of the Land Rover Discovery 4 ‘the 8-speed automatic ‘box changes gear in 200 milliseconds (two-tenths of a second) [and while] it’s not a dual-clutch transmission Land Rover reckons their transmission is as smooth, but provides “a more sophisticated driving experience”. It’s certainly an advanced gearbox as it monitors your driving habits and makes changes for the best performance or fuel economy, depending on how you drive.”

The Range Rover gets 4-corner air suspension plus Adaptive Dynamics which monitors uneven road surfaces and adapts for the most comfortable ride, and there’s also Dynamic Response active lean control, which firms up on the outer edge when cornering to minimise body roll. All this adds up to a ride which is as refined as you’ll get on any car, and there’s an almost surreality to the way it glides down the road.

That doesn’t mean it’s wallowy or overly soft either, and thanks to the lean control the RR will go round corners far better than its large dimensions would suggest. Sure, it’s no sports car of course but you’d have to be mad to buy one thinking it would handle like that, but for such a big thing it’s actually rather composed through the twisties, and a tremendous improvement over previous generations.

Probably most impressive was just how good the SDV8 engine is. Whilst it is refined and smooth should you use it through urban traffic, really it’s wasted if that’s where you’ll use it the majority of time, and you’d be better going for the 3.0 litre TDV6 instead.

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The SDV8 packs some serious punch, and when you want it to go, it’ll go… and fast. There’s an ever-present feeling that you’re tickling a monster when you’re driving at lower speeds, and once you get bored and decide to prod it, the SDV8 wakes and immediately shows you that its size and weight matters little when it has this much torque.

The torque figure of 546 lb ft (740 Nm) I mentioned earlier – let’s put that into perspective so you know this Range Rover doesn’t mess about when it comes to acceleration: a Ferrari 458 Italia has 398 lbs/ft (540 Nm) of torque. Piffling amount. A Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4: 412 lb ft (560 Nm). Pah. Okay, they have way more power than they Rangey and they’re much faster obviously, but it demonstrates well the sheer clout this SUV produces, even next to supercars.

All that torque means that, should you plant the accelerator, the Range Rover SDV8 will happily accelerate mightily. I got the distinct feeling that the Range Rover bounded along almost effortlessly; a bit like a big cat which even at full pelt never looks like it’s really trying hard to do so. Up steep sections of road, the SDV8 Rangey doesn’t let up in the slightest, tackling them with a verve-like spirit and concealing its weight and size amazingly well.

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Overtaking at motorway speeds is undertaken so easily – yet swiftly – that the Rangey has an almost relaxed manner about it even under hard acceleration, and it often got me grinning as it surged forward on that immense wave of torque. This is possibly why 95% of Range Rover drivers come flying past on the outside motorway lane – they don’t notice how fast they’re going, due to its long-striding gait. That, and they can afford the fuel bill.

Stopping power from the brakes is adequate, and I never felt it needed or could do with more, and even on steep and winding downhill sections of road the Rangey gave confidence in its braking capability. A small point, but the Range Rover’s surround camera system is very useful, especially the front wide-angle view which allows you to see out of blind T-junctions or driveways thanks to the camera being in the nose of the car.

The Vogue SE which Land Rover sent also had the self-parking assist system, for both parallel and in supermarket-type spaces. While physically it parked the RR fine for both of these, on parallel manoeuvres I found it just slightly too fussy in that it’d tell you to stop when it found a suitable space, then drive forwards (for whatever reason) and then… carry on until you’re about a 50 yards away and wondering why it’s not giving more instructions.

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I tried this a few times, and each time it either wouldn’t give me the instruction to stop and select reverse, or I’d have to drive forward so far before the next instruction came that the car behind me though I was carrying on driving. I believe it’s because the road was narrow and it was trying to make enough room to angle in properly, but if that is the case the system is flawed. I still think that Kia’s excellent Park Assist system has it nailed, and maybe LR would be wise to have a look how they do it.

When it comes to safety tech the 2015 Range Rover has much and just in case you’re wondering exactly what it has, here’s the (extensive) list: Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic stability program, Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Roll Stability Control (RSC),  Intelligent Emergency Braking, and active seat belts.

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Going back to the drive, the SDV8 has the speed chapter sorted, but more admirable is the Range Rover’s ability to make every journey an enjoyable one, for all in the the car. Small touches, such as the winged headrests and soft-closing doors (they pull and seal shut for the last inch or so), make the Range Rover feel like you’re riding in something extra special.

There are absolutely zero rattles, squeaks or clunking to be heard inside the cabin from trim or the undercarriage, and tyre and wind noise is kept to a minimum, thanks partly to acoustic lamination of the windscreen and side door glass, and dual-isolated engine mounts.

Those points, plus the 4-zone climate control, sumptuous front and rear heated leather seats, and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, make travelling in the Range Rover a remarkably tranquil and relaxed experience – so much so that during the test period, on wintery days with leaden skies full of snow and bitterly cold winds, the Range Rover was like a haven, cocooning its passengers in warmth and comfort, and a few times I noticed those in the rear quickly nodding off, even on short 30-minute motorway runs – always the sign of a comfortable and refined ride. And that’s what the Range Rover is all about. But what about off the road?

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

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Let’s face it, most of the owners who drive a Range Rover will have never, ever, taken it off-road. If you’re one of those that actually do use theirs to the full, then you are a rarity and need applauding. For the majority the most water their Rangey will have seen is at a car wash, the only time the suspension is raised to the highest point is when they accidentally pressed the button and then panicked as it lifted up, the only stone the tyres make contact with is on gravel driveways or bumping up kerbs, and mud is an entirely foreign entity.

That they are exceptionally underused is a shame, because what many owners don’t realise is that the Range Rover is one of, if not the most capable off-road SUVs, and has been for a long time. When you buy one, I believe you are offered a free course on how to use the 4×4 system, and to be shown its capabilities. I implore you to take the opportunity to do this, because once you do you’ll see your Range Rover in a whole new light, and suddenly you’ve not just bought it for its comfortable ride and spacious cabin, but because it’ll just about tackle anything you throw at it.

In brief: the Range Rover has a simple-to-use Terrain Response 2 four-wheel-drive system. While it’s ‘simple’ to use, what’s going on behind the scenes for it to take you places you wouldn’t think possible is absolutely incredible.

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For 2015, the Range Rover now has an Auto mode on the Terrain Response dial. This uses sensors and internal algorithms to read the terrain and select the most suitable off-road mode to fit the driving conditions, making decisions changes in less than half a second. If you decide to use the system yourself, there are several self-explanatory modes available: ‘Grass, Gravel, Snow’, ‘Mud & Ruts’, ‘Sand’, ‘Rock Crawl’. Beyond that, you can buy the option of a rear-differential and a wade-depth monitor to make it even more capable.

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One thing I would point out is that if you are going to actually use your Range Rover off-road frequently, it’s well worth remembering that, like any 4×4, the system is only good to a certain point when you’re just running on road tyres, so fitting all-season or proper all-terrain rubber is essential.

Specs are: 310 mm (12.2″) maximum ground clearance, a wading depth of 900mm (35.4″) which is 200mm more than the last version, and it’ll tow a gross weight of up to 3,500 kgs (7,716 lbs).

The thing that makes the Range Rover stand out is not just its amazing off-road ability, but just how easily it accomplishes what it needs to, with minimal stress or effort from those it’s carrying, and again, it is in absolute comfort too. Not just a pretty face then eh!

Price

(figures correct Feb. 2015) The Range Rover costs from £73,950 for the ‘base’ Vogue TDV6 standard wheelbase, right up to a rather hefty £146,900 for the long wheelbase new-for-2015 Autobiography Black in either 5.0 V8 Supercharged or SDV6 Hybrid 3.0 litre diesel guise. That’s a big ol’ lump of cash for the top model, and I reckon you could add a few more grand onto that by ticking a few expensive option boxes.

The Vogue SE SDV8 loaner sent was £87,550, and with the added options was over £94k, and in fact one of the first questions I was usually asked was about the price, and bulging eyes were almost always the reaction when told. However, I absolutely believe the Range Rover Vogue SE SDV8 is worth the asking price, as it genuinely looks, feels, rides and drives like you’d imagine it would for that kind of money.

If you want personalisation, the Range Rover has a prodigious list of options, but the Autobiography Black is the ultimate for exclusivity, with interior and exterior trim signature details, a special interior colour combination and unique alloys, amongst other things.

2015 Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE verdict & score

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I simply cannot express enough how much I love and admire this forth generation Range Rover. I can’t explain so without being thoroughly gushing about the thing, in fact, so here goes anyway. Almost everything about the Range Rover is exemplary, from the finer interior details, to way the console is laid-out, to the fit and finish of the trim. The exterior design is sheer class to the very core, it drives and rides as nicely as it looks, and there are very few vehicles that can compete with it for the presence it commands.

The SDV8 is an excellent engine too: quiet, refined, powerful, immensely torquey, and much more economical than I’d have guessed at, and it makes sense if you want all that speed and torque without having to pay the extra money for either the 5.0 litre V8 Supercharged or the SDV6 Hybrid.

To have a vehicle as good as this, and then add an off-road ability that competes with the very best 4x4s in the world is the killer punch to other SUVs trying to compete with the Range Rover. Sure, it’s expensive, but you’re paying that to get the very best of everything, and you do.

Clearly, the designers at Land Rover poured their hearts and souls into this fourth generation Range Rover, for that’s exactly what it has – heart, and soul.

Do you own a 4th generation Range Rover, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  10
Interior  9.5
Engine  9.5
Gearbox  9
Price  9
Handling  9
Drive & Ride  10
 Off-Road ability  9.5
Overall Score  9.5 / 10

Read more of our Land Rover reviews here

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE
Spec includes  Xenon & LED headlamps, rear LED lights, panoramic roof, 20″ alloys, adjustable air suspension, Terrain Response 2®, safety: trailer stability assist, CBC, DSC, EBD, Electronic stability program, ETC, EBA, HDC, Roll Stability Control, Intelligent Emergency Braking, active seat belts. 18-way cooled & heated adjust driver/front passenger seats, heated rear seats, 3-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, configurable mood lighting, active cruise control with Queue Assist, 8″ touchscreen with digital TV, sat nav & 825W Meridian surround sound. See website for more detail.
Options you should spec  Surround Camera system: £700, Front & rear Winged Headrests: £400, Electric Deployable Tow  Bar: £950, Wade Sensing: £250.
The Competition Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, fully-loaded Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Toyota Land Cruiser, Cadillac Escalade or GMC Yukon Denali,
Price  (Feb. ’15) £73,950 – £146,900. As tested: £87,550 + options: £94,000
Engine  4.4 litre SDV8 diesel, V8 with 32 valves, two stage parallel-sequential turbocharging
Power, Torque  Engine: Power: 334 hp (339 PS) | Torque: 546 lb ft (740 Nm) between 1,750 – 3,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Permanent All-Wheel-Drive with Terrain Response 2® | 8-speed automatic (ZF 8HP70)
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity Clearance: 310 mm (12.2 inches) | Wading: 900 mm (35.4″) | Braked towing: 3,500 kgs (7,716 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 135 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 6.5 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5/5 stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 24.6, Extra urban: 37.2, Combined: 32.5 | CO2: 229 g/km
Weight (Min. kerb)  2,410 kilograms (5,313 lbs)
Websites  Land Rover UK, Land Rover USA, Land Rover Global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Joel May, Matthew Davies

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