Outside, it’s cold, dark and miserable – another early start to a very long day behind the wheel. But – and it’s a very big but – I’m being propelled by a gloriously boisterous 4.4-litre TDV8 engine.
This magnificent combination of artistry and alchemy transmits power through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, perfectly complementing my surroundings – the spectacularly appointed Range Rover Autobiography.
Launching into ill-tempered, jostling commuter traffic is effortless and easy. So easy, in fact, that it feels like I’m barely moving at all, even though a glance at the speedo conforms I’m gliding along at the legal limit.
The engine is turning over at a little over 1200rpm, even though I’m doing 70mph. That’s the beauty of having Herculean power and strength – it doesn’t need to be wound up and is always ready to deliver when you need it.
I haven’t driven a Range Rover with adaptive cruise control for some time, so it’s almost like rediscovering an old friend. Basically, I like cruise control. It takes all the hassle out of a long motorway journey and you can almost feel your pulse rate drop to tickover as you settle back and just steer.
The downside to ‘ordinary’ cruise control is that you need to come out of it if the space in front of you is taken up by a lane-swapper or by slowing traffic. Enter adaptive cruise control. This great development uses radar to detect any vehicle that enters the safety zone in front of you, in which case it slows your vehicle gently to maintain a suitable gap. When the road is clear again, the cruise control accelerates to the previously selected velocity. The distance at which the radar spots traffic ahead is adjusted by using the buttons below the cruise control switches on the steering wheel.
The damp, soggy miles roll by in complete comfort, aided and abetted by the beautifully stitched leather seats. Until now, I haven’t really explored the Range Rover’s hidden character. The A1 is simply a conveyor belt journey to a better place – the Yorkshire Dales.
Once we get clear of Knaresborough, the twisting road to Pateley Bridge invites the use of the F1-style paddleshift gearchanges and the dialling in of Sport mode from the new rotary dial.
The sound of the 4.4 TDV8 singing its melodious way across the Dales is a joy. Even though the weather is horrible, with strong winds tearing at the trees and hedges, the Range Rover remains firmly planted to the damp, slippery road. On the motorway, I had been aware of the tiniest amount of wind noise from somewhere behind my head. But on the road towards Grassington, with the engine striding up Greenhow Hill as though it were a plain, I can’t hear anything but the utterly irresistible sound of the V8.
As the roads become increasingly narrow, the dry stone walls begin to pin me in some what, curbing some of my enthusiasm; I adopt the ‘point-and-squirt’ style of driving rather than take any risks with the £82k Range Rover. Even so, using the flappy-paddles to flip between S2 and S3, the engine note always entertains. It’s great fun but unnecessary – the Range Rover is perfectly capable of picking precisely
the right gear at the right time.
On the road between Kettlewell and Middleham, I make an important discovery. A herd of cows, complete with calves and a very large, well-endowed bull, can comfortably keep ahead of a 4.4 TDV8 Range Rover in first gear at tickover, provided that the road is sufficiently narrow and they’ve had their breakfast. They can keep up this level of performance for at least 10 minutes, too. So, now you know.
Eventually, I get the chance to open up the taps and enjoy a brief burst of acceleration, at least until the flood waters begin to encroach on the road to Hawes. Time to head for higher ground and the greenlanes.
I pull up, switch to neutral, select low range, raise the vehicle’s height, choose Grass/Gravel/Snow on Terrain Response and, finally, turn the dial back to Drive. The ‘virtual’ dials on the dash rearrange themselves to show the 4x4 graphic to let me know what the diffs are doing, which way the wheels are pointing and if they’re all on the ground or not.
The Range Rover’s ride over the bumpy track is as smooth as you’d expect. Pootling along at about 10mph, Hill Descent Control cuts in occasionally if it thinks I need to be slowed down.
The seats are still supremely comfortable, the engine still sounds splendid and I still can’t think of anything I would change.
The weather is throwing everything it can at the Range Rover. The far end of the track is deeply flooded, but I’m driving through a swirling, freezing cloud in complete comfort. The track has recently been repaired and huge stone blocks have been strategically placed on the corners of the step section in an attempt to stop people cutting across. It’s good to see that the track’s being so well cared-for these days.
The road through Buckden has been tranformed into a river. About a foot of water is racing along its length, too excited to stay within its traditionally accepted banks. Even taking things steadily, huge plumes of water are thrown up as the Range Rover ploughs on relentlessly.
Back up in the hills, the low cloud has reduced visibility to under 50 feet, making it very difficult to see the entrance to the second greenlane. I’m relieved to finally arrive at the Wensleydale Creamery for a cuppa.
It’s now dark, the wind is even stronger and the snaking road to Skipton is challenging – but not for the Range Rover. The powerful, adaptive headlights pick out the road, swivelling around the corners as though I have a helper sitting on each wing, shining a powerful torch onto the verges. Ahead lies the log-jammed jungle of Bradford in rush-hour on a wet Thursday. Normally, this would be a real chore but, cosseted in my mobile drawing room, enjoying the hi-fi-quality stereo as the auto ’box silently selects the best gear for the circumstances, all is well.
Creeping through the stop-start traffic reveals just how good this vehicle is. The drive is taken up without the merest hint of clunk, shunt and bang; light years away from the TDV8’s more humble and, by comparison, agricultural stablemates of yesteryear. Eventually, I escape the M62 and I’m reunited with the A1 for the final leg of the journey. It’s back to adaptive cruise control and relaxation.
The miles roll by almost unnoticed – this is the epitome of effortless driving. Filling up back at the start point of Bloody Oaks garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire, there’s more reason to be impressed. Despite some enthusiastic driving in the Dales, appalling weather conditions and heavy traffic around Bradford, this amazing vehicle has achieved 22.03mpg. The official combined fuel consumption figure for this vehicle is 30.1mpg, which would be hard to achieve, but somewhere in the mid-20s is realistic.
What's the point?
LRO’s Real World Test gives an independent, ‘real world’ fuel economy figure based on a varied and enjoyable 380-mile route, rather than sitting on a dyno.
It’s a big drive to do in one day, so we get up early and start by brimming the fuel tank at a garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
By doing the same at the end, it’s easy to get a precise ‘combined mpg’ figure – meaning a blend of motorways, fast A-roads, country roads, a couple of long greenlanes and a rush-hour city crawl. And, we find out more along the way!
Our test route
Bloody Oaks services, Stamford > A1 north Knaresborough > Arncliffe > Kettlewell > Middleham > Bainbridge > Stalling Busk (byway) > Hubberholme > Cam High Road (byway) > Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes > Settle > Silsden > Bradford > M62 east > Ferrybridge > A1 south > Bloody Oaks services, Stamford