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|Range Rover Diesel V8
Yes You Can Have It All
V8 Diesel Gives Quiet, Silky Perambulation, Or Pounding Performance
In The Unlikely Event You Should Want To, It Goes Anywhere Too
“to avoid a ghastly, destructive and expensive mistake at the refuelling pump there’s a device which will reject petrol”
BARCELONA, Spain Love him or loathe him, it is impossible to avoid Jeremy Clarkson’s opinion on cars, or just about anything under the sun. If he’s not grinning at you from BBC TV’s Top Gear, he’ll be opining in various national newspapers. If you seek refuge in cable TV, you can’t avoid endless reruns of clapped out Top Gear programmes and long-demised chat shows. Leaving the country won’t help. I once turned on the TV in Scottsdale, Arizona, and there’s was the ubiquitous Clarkson, in my face, insisting on being heard.
Personally, you can count me in the plus column when it comes to the man’s journalism. He’s a witty writer, and his BBC TV programme on a shared hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was fabulous. But I’m a loather when it comes to his political opinions, even though I share many of his views on politicised issues like global warming and mad environMENTALists, as he calls them.
What sticks in my craw is Clarkson’s infantile, cheap, ignorant, grand-standing views on America, which he regularly insults from a know-nothing position. Sadly, his clichéd view of American and Americans is common among British journalists who cover the Great Satan.
During my seven years as a journalist for Reuters in New York, there was always a coterie of British reporters for the national newspapers who only ever met other British journalists and their families. They met in the same bar most days, watched the same TV news programmes, and relied on each other to build on the prejudices that they’d been primed with before setting off across the Atlantic.
Nothing further from the truth
The main area that I find myself in disagreement with Clarkson though is his views on cars. I loathe all the cars he loves. A recent column in the Sunday Times, in which he lambasted the Range Rover Sport, coincided with my return from a trip driving the new Range Rover V8 diesel. I had been mightily impressed with Range Rovers in general and this new engine in particular, and seeing the headline “I’m sorry this is absolutely gross” grabbed my attention. A sentence in the story also leapt from the page.
“I simply cannot remember driving any car that provoked so much mirth from other road users. All the way round the M25 people were slowing down for a better look and all gave the same verdict. A resounding, open-mouthed thumbs down,” said Clarkson.
My first thought was that the derision (which came before the terrible accident to his pet hamster) was probably aimed at Clarkson rather than the car. But that doesn’t seem to have entered the great man’s head. Secondly, it is unlikely that he would have driven all the way around the M25.
In fact, it didn’t become apparent until about half way through the article that Clarkson was actually talking about an Overfinch Range Rover Sport, a special bespoke version which costs about £30,000 more than the regular one, and which is certainly an embarrassing, look-at-me, I’ve got loadsamoney, chav dream car.
Restrained, sophisticated, responsible
The new diesel will allow Range Rover to compete with much more authority in important markets like Germany, where Mercedes and Audi/VW already have big capacity oil-burners. You could say that without a diesel, big SUVs like the Range Rover were doomed to die because of the pressure from politicians to insist on more frugal use of scarce resources. Unfortunately, Range Rover seems a bit behind the curve in diesel technology compared with the Germans, particularly when you think about the VW V10 diesel, or the new Audi V12 TDI which will be launched at the Paris Car Show in October. This V12 is a direct descendent of the Le Mans winning race car.
Range Rover has added more standard equipment, making the Terrain Response system standard across the range, and an electronic parking brake. It has improved the cabin with extra stowage, enhanced finishes, better air conditioning, and added the option of cooled front seats.
The V8 diesel is eerily quiet, and to avoid the possibility of a ghastly, destructive and expensive mistake at the refuelling pump, Land Rover has developed a new, patented device which will reject any attempts at filling the tank with petrol.
It provided superlative punch when required, and effortless, quiet cruising on the highways. The Dynamic Response technology reduces roll and improves handling, although not surprisingly, this big, high SUV does feel a bit disconcerting on fast corners compared with regular saloons.
Off-road, the Range Rover was as tenacious and sure-footed as you’d expect. The standard Terrain Response system allows the driver to choose one of five settings using a pop-up rotary control on the centre console when venturing off road. If you can’t figure out the hieroglyphics, there’s a set of prompts on the sat-nav screen to help you out.
The settings general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl adjust things like ride height, engine torque, hill descent control, electronic traction control and transmission settings. In short, most of the skills involved in traversing alien off- road conditions are taken care of by the computer. The Range Rover handled all this with aplomb. In the hills north-west of Barcelona, the car crept down scary inclines, forded rivers, and picked its way over alarming-looking rock formations. No one could doubt the supreme capability of the vehicle. Cynics might wonder just how often this capability, gained with some very expensive, and heavy, technology would be required.
Not just a mud-plugger
Land Rover says the new diesel exceeds European Union Euro 4 emission standards, but this won’t herald an onslaught on the U.S. market, where diesel power is set to take-off. Disappointingly, the new engine won’t meet the extremely tough clean air standards in the U.S.
Mercedes Benz is about to make a big impression in America when it starts to sell its BlueTec diesel powered E class cars next month. The Bluetec system undercuts Euro 4 standards for smog producing nitrogen oxides (NOx) by more than 70 per cent. The U.S. has extremely stringent NOx limits, and is about to introduce much tougher sulphur content rules for diesel fuel to 15 parts per million from 500 ppm. This is the first step on the road to the acceptance of diesel power in America.
J.D.Power has said that by 2012 almost twice as many diesels as hybrid cars will be sold in America 4.2 per cent hybrid market share versus 7.6 per cent diesel. In 2004, hybrids powered about 0.5 per cent of cars, with 3 per cent diesel. Mercedes reckons that diesel market share in the U.S. will increase fourfold from the current 3.4 per cent over the next 10 years.
Diesels will be a must in America too
Meanwhile, reading that article from Clarkson again it really does seem that he loves regular Range Rovers as much as I do. He just hated the jazzed up, tacky Overfinch. Now that is worrying.
Neil Winton September 20, 2006
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