Shaking off the last vestiges of its BMW era, the Range Rover has emerged from a mid-life nip-and-tuck more sleek and powerful than ever, and ready to launch a renewed assault on the luxury Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.Shaking off the last vestiges of its BMW era, the Range Rover has emerged from a mid-life nip-and-tuck more sleek and powerful than ever, and ready to launch a renewed assault on rival luxury SUVs.

The latest Range Rover for drops its former BMW engine for two new Jaguar-sourced engines that promise to deliver more power and better fuel economy than the single outgoing V8.

A supercharged 291 kW 4,2-litre V8 heads the line-up and offers 35 per cent more power and 25 per cent more torque than its predecessor, the company claims.

Peak power for the supercharged 4,2-litre is quoted at 291 kW at 5 750 r/min, while torque output peaks at a whopping 560 N.m at 3 500 r/min. Top speed is a claimed 210 km/h, and the SUV can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 7,5 seconds.

The new naturally aspirated 4,4-litre V8 produces 225 kW at 5 750 r/min (a gain of about 15 per cent) and 440 N.m at 4 000 r/min. The acceleration time for the 4,4-litre V8 from standstill to 100 km/h is 8,7 seconds, and its top speed is quoted at 200 km/h.

Both lightweight petrol engines (the 130 kW/390 N.m diesel V6 drivetrain remains unchanged, though it will only become available from 2006) use advanced torque-based engine management systems that, together with drive-by-wire throttle control (and variable camshaft phasing on the naturally aspirated), continually adjust the engine to deliver optimum performance.

According to the manufacturer, this is the quietest model yet, with the new engines offering better NVH qualities than their predecessor. Cabin noise is reduced with laminated front side glass, and the A-pillar has been revised to cut down on wind noise.

The Jaguar engines have been revised for the Range Rover to deliver more low-down torque and to operate at more acute angles to deal with serious off-roading situations. They are better protected from rocks and dust and more waterproof, allowing the luxury SUV to wade in depths of up to 50 cm.

The ride height varies from the standard 225 mm to 275 mm for off-roading. The approach angles are 29 and 34 degrees respectively, and the departure angles vary depending on the ride height and whether the full-sized spare wheel is in use.

The new engines are mated to the latest six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission and use an (electronically controlled) centre differential that adapts to off- and on-road situations. Low range is now also offered for serious off-roaders.

The SUV also uses permanent four-wheel drive with high and low range, air-suspension, Hill Descent Control (HDC), ABS, traction control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). The power steering is speed-sensitive.

The supercharged version gets Brembo performance brakes at the front and a revised suspension (using McPherson struts up front and a double wishbone layout at the rear) for better high-speed performance on the road.

The Range Rover retains its iconic box-like shape, yet receives some subtle changes to its exterior. The revised model has a different bumper design, new headlamps and tail lights and a reworked grille and power vents. New 18- and 19-inch wheels are available across the range.

According to Land Rover's director of design, Geoff Upex, adjustments to the naturally aspirated model have been kept subtle, since no major changes were necessary, conveying the manufacturer’s confidence in the emblematic design.

”But,” Upex said, “for the supercharged model, we wanted clearly to signal to the connoisseur car market that there is now a new flagship Range Rover.”

The supercharged version gets additional styling modifications, which include a mesh-design front grille and 20-inch alloy wheels.

“The current Range Rover, launched in 2002, is a design classic that has been fantastically well received,” Upex continued. “It carried over the original Range Rover design cues – the clamshell bonnet, the split tailgate, and the bold upright front with its simple grille and interplay between the vertical and horizontal lines. It clearly owes its lineage to the original Range Rover.”

The Range Rover’s interior remains unchanged, though the new flagship model does offer two new trim combinations – all black or ivory and black – and black lacquer wood is also now available. The supercharged version also has sports-designed stainless steel pedals.

Additional luxury features on the 4,2-litre V8 include a tyre pressure monitor, adaptive front headlamps, a rear camera for easier parking and a rear seat entertainment system with two headrest mounted 6,5-inch screens.

A new touch-screen is standard on all derivatives, and provides information on the audio, navigation, on-board computer, and 4X4 settings. The new model also features a Bluetooth-enabled in-car ’phone that can be operated by voice command, using the touch-screen display or steering wheel mounted controls.

Prices:

Range Rover 4.4 V8 R885 000

Range Rover 4.2 V8 Supercharged R990 000