The last thing the much-vilified Chelsea tractor set needs right now, you'd think, is the temptation of a new behemoth with more power, more performance and a bigger engine. But that's just what Land Rover is offering in the 2007 Range Rover. If this seems ecologically insensitive, at least the engine is a diesel, and it's as economical as the unit it replaces. The V6 2.7 turbodiesel struggled with the vehicle's great bulk. The new engine is a V8 of 3.6 litres, 272 bhp and a substantial 474 lb ft of torque that bestows effort- lessness on the Range Rover. This less stressed powerplant achieves an official 25.1 mpg and, Land Rover reckons, about 27 mpg in use.
Pretty good for a 2.7-tonne vehicle that's one of the world's best off-roaders besides being a
superb five-seater estate - which is mainly what your tractoriste is buying the car for. The versatile interior has a folding rear bench, the high position of which is liked by kids because they can see out and owners because they feel more secure. And it keeps all its occupants out of range of militant city cyclists who slap protest stickers on off-roaders that never go off-road.
No question that the TDV8 is the best Range Rover yet and the finest interpretation of a vehicle that has been around for 36 years. The lofty seating, glassy cabin and fine fittings have always conferred an imperious aura on occupants, and this diesel V8 now has the performance to match but without a wallet-savaging at the pumps.
The new engine's subdued idle betrays its diesel diet but only just, and once on the move you'll experience a cultured V8 throb that only adds to the enjoyment of driving it. So does the performance. No longer must you think twice about overtaking manoeuvres or lack the muscle to get up a hill. There's abundant grunt now. Few mechanical makeovers are as empha-tic: power rises by 54%, torque by 64% and 0-60mph falls 32% to a brisk 8.5 seconds. Sadly, there's a price penalty: up £9,450 for this version.
Many interior improvements were prompted by customer feedback. Two gloveboxes provide more storage space, and there's extra dumping ground in a centre console, whose finish has been upgraded. The door-trims look more luxu-r--ious, the relocated airbags deploy more effec- tively and there's an electronic park brake. The four-wheel drive gear has been upgraded too, with Land Rover's acclaimed Terrain Response system - burnishing the capabilities of one of the most ingenious and versatile cars you can buy.
Land Rover now pays for the carbon neutralisation of building its vehicles, and for a modest fee offers buyers the chance to offset the effects of 45,000 miles of motoring through Climate Care - an initiative acknow-ledged by Greenpeace. Otherwise, there's only that price hike between you and the finest 4x4 you can buy.
Max power 272 bhp
Max torque 472 lb ft
Max speed 124 mph
0-60 mph 8.5 sec
Fuel consumption 25.1mpg
CO2 emissions n/a
Lexus RX400-h Se-L £45,258
Achieves similar economy through hybrid means. Handsome and pleasant to drive, but not as able or as richly appointed.
Mercedes ML 420 CDi £50,435
Stylish and now much better finished. Quicker and just as economical, but less appealingly furnished.