The 2011 Range Rover brings with it a wealth of new-fangled technology. This model acquires a new rear-seat entertainment package, a cleaner, more powerful, more efficient engine, and subtle tweaks to its bodywork, including a new grille, wheels and vents. But in its quest to become more civilised, has it lost its off-roading pedigree?
Watch your back
Land Rover would have you believe this car is an ideal candidate for trundling across inhospitable deserts or expeditions in the arctic, but you wouldn't think so to look inside. The top of the range Autobiography model we drove was ludicrously luxurious -- particularly in the back, where it has one of the best rear-seat entertainment systems we've seen.
A pair of rear-facing 5-inch TFT displays are mounted into the front headsets, on which passengers can watch DVDs and digital Freeview telly, or even enjoy devices such as games consoles, which can be connected via twin composite inputs and juiced from a dedicated power point. Audio can be played over the car's superb Harmon Kardon speaker system, or -- if Mummy and Daddy don't want to hear what's going on back there -- channelled directly to a set of wireless headphones.
A bespoke touch-sensitive remote control unit has been developed specifically for the Range Rover. The 64mm (2.5-inch) display, which uses resistive touch technology, allows you to choose video and audio sources independently for each display. It's extremely clever, but we won't go as far as to say it's perfect. It doesn't show you artist, playlist or video information and its graphical user interface takes some getting used to. We're not complaining though -- it beats the hell out of standard rear-seat remotes, so well done Land Rover.
Check out the twins up front
The 2011 Range Rover has a dash-mounted entertainment system designed to keep those up front captivated and informed. It uses the same dual-view technology we saw in the Jaguar XJ, meaning what you see on screen depends entirely on which seat you're sitting in.
Half the display's pixel columns are angled towards the driver, while the other half are angled towards the passenger. Hit the dual-view button and the screen divides the picture, showing the driver only the satellite-navigation or general system menu, while the passenger enjoys a DVD or a spot of Freeview -- even while the vehicle is in motion.
Traffic lights, camera, action
Understandably, it's not possible to watch DVDs or TV in the driver's seat. We were a tad disappointed we couldn't watch some Cloudy from the driver's seat, but that's not to say there aren't
plenty of toys to distract you. We particularly liked the virtual instruments -- a 12-inch display that replaces the old-school speedometer and rev counter -- but we got most of our kicks from the Range Rover's Surround Camera system.
Five cameras mounted around the car (one on the underside of each wing mirror, two in the front bumper and one in the tailgate lift handle) provide a 360-degree view of what's happening around the car -- regardless of which direction you're travelling in.
It comes in particularly useful during off-roading, when the cameras can tell you how close you are to a precipice. On normal roads, the front-mounted cameras can show you whether it's safe to pull out of a junction. All camera views can be shown simultaneously as large thumbnails on the central display, or up to two cameras can be shown side by side in larger format, where the user can zoom or pan to get a closer look at objects outside.
The big engine that will
One of the most impressive features in the 2011 Range Rover is its new engine. Land Rover's replaced the old 3.6-litre lump with a futuristic new 4.4-litre TDV8 (eight-cylinder turbo diesel) that produces better performance while emitting less CO2. Total power is now rated at 309bhp (up from 267bhp), while torque increases to 516lb ft (up from 472lb ft). That translates to a theoretical 0-60mph improvement of 1.1 seconds to 7.5 seconds.
In practice, the engine is a real gem. It has plenty of torque and is surprisingly refined, sounding more like a petrol V8 than a dirty oil-burning diesel.
Kinder to the environment
Cars of the Range Rover's ilk tend to get a bad rap for guzzling fuel and polluting the environment. The 2011 model is unlikely to escape criticism, but Land Rover's taken positive steps to make the 2011 Range Rover a cleaner, more efficient car. This is the first Range Rover to break through the 30mpg barrier -- clocking 30.1mpg. This edition's CO2 output drops from 294g/km to 253g/km too, making it even kinder to the environment.
What's more, every new Range Rover comes with a £140 subscription to Land Rover's Carbon Offset Programme, run by independent CO2 offset provider Climate Care, included in the price of the car. You'll still be dumping quite a lot of CO2 in the air, but CO2 emissions elsewhere are theoretically being reduced by an equal or greater amount, meaning you can rove ranges guilt-free.
Reliably roving ranges
People often make the mistake of believing that, because it's so comfortable and well-equipped, the Range Rover isn't a proper off-road vehicle. Those people are idiots -- this car will go absolutely anywhere you point it.
We've experienced first-hand its ability to go from tarmac to mud to four feet of river water without so much as batting a vehicular eyelid. Got a mountain to climb? No problem -- just enable the rock-crawl mode, switch on the 360-degree cameras so you don't fall to your doom and hit the accelerator. The Range Rover will do the rest.
The Range Rover is an incredible piece of engineering. Drive it like a normal car, and it'll waft you from A to B in so much comfort, you'll be hard pressed to stay awake. Drive it off-road -- as a consequence of falling asleep, perhaps -- and its staggering all-terrain ability will stand you in good stead.
2011 Range Rover Autobiography stats
- Top speed: 130mph
- Acceleration: 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds
- Max power: 309bhp
- Economy: 30.1mpg (combined cycle)
- Price: £81,395