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Review: The 2020 Range Rover is the pinnacle of luxury off-roading

If you have to own a vehicle during a pandemic, a Range Rover is a pretty good choice. It’s very expensive, so people might be impressed that you’re not hurting for cash (although you may well be). It’s very comfortable and luxuriously appointed, so you can sit in it and find a happy place when your family is driving you nuts. And if the world ends, or the Americans invade or the zombies take over, it’s about as capable off-road as any vehicle can be.

There are smaller and less expensive vehicles in the Range Rover lineup – the Sport, the Velar and the Evoque – but the top-of-the-line doesn’t bother with additional names. It’s just called Range Rover, and it offers a plethora of choice for engines, options and even wheelbase. The cheapest, if that term can be applied here, starts at $114,000, and it rises to more than twice that.

There are five different engines for the Range Rover: a 3.0-litre mild hybrid, which is the least expensive, a 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid, a 3.0-litre diesel and then two supercharged V-8s. The test vehicle here was equipped with the 518-hp V-8. The over-the-top 557 hp V-8 is available in the SVR range and begins at $203,000.

The Range Rover stands out from its luxury off-road competition by being exceptionally capable off-road. This is almost certainly wasted on most owners, but the bragging rights are unbeatable. The only other production vehicles that can really match it are Jeep Wranglers, which are far less luxurious, other Land Rovers and the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, which is smaller with a sloppier drive and even more expensive.

It’s a distinctive vehicle with that vertical dark slash at the front door. For a while, the pre-production BMW X7 also had a vertical slash just ahead of its front door, but somebody probably noticed the similarity and killed that idea. Otherwise, the Range Rover is a squared-off boxy vehicle, unlike its sleeker and smaller siblings. It’s always been boxy, though – that’s part of its appeal.

For $123,000, the Range Rover had better be comfortable, and it doesn’t disappoint, though plenty of other vehicles will pamper you just as well for half the price. There’s real leather, real wood accents, yadda yadda, but at this price, that’s a given. The tester was equipped with super-duper front seats that adjust 22 different ways and massage your back and butt, available as a $2,090 option. Trust me: Massage seats never grow old.

The true party trick for all Range Rovers is the glass instrumentation, in which almost the entire panel of the dash and steering wheel and centre console is a multifaceted touch screen. It’s very clear, even in sunshine, and very attractive. You’ll probably tire of it when you wait for it to fire up before you can activate most of the vehicle’s controls. Adjustable ambient lighting adds to the feel-good factor, but you can get this in a Ford for a quarter of the price.

For such a large vehicle, there’s not much space for small storage. There’s the glove box, a centre-console cubby and a couple of cup-holders, but that’s about it. There is at least plenty of space in the back for cargo, with 639 litres of room in the boxy area behind the rear seats, which expands to 1,943 litres with those seats flat.

One gripe is that when those rear seats are flat, the headrest needs to be removed from the left-side seat to provide enough leg room for my 32-inch inseam in the driver’s seat. One way around this is to just spend more money and buy the extended wheelbase version for an extra $4,000. This adds an extra 20 cm to the overall length, almost all in second-row legroom, which also adds about 200 litres of space in the back. Hey – it’s only money.

I only drove the 518 hp version of the Range Rover, which accelerates from zero-to-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. The 395 hp 3.0-litre version is almost a second slower, and the diesel is slowest of all, at 8 seconds. The point is, whatever level of performance you’re looking for, the Range Rover can provide it – if you want to pay enough money.

On-road handling, however, is just okay – those long air-adjustable shock absorbers that give such a cushy ride over rocks and sand and mud don’t firm up quite as much as you would want on a tight, curvy road, even when the drive mode is set to “highway,” and the ride wallows a little around corners. Not much though, and nothing like the Mercedes G-Wagen, but if you really want a performance SUV, then Porsche is your brand.

There’s a cost in fuel consumption, of course, and the Range Rover is a thirsty beast. Officially, this V-8 consumes a combined average of 12.9 L/100 km, though my own observed average was a lead-footed 15.8. Ouch! Premium fuel is recommended but not required – just as well when you’re searching for a Petro Canada station in the jungles of the Congo or Borneo.

The Range Rover is very clever, but many of the features that are starting to become mainstream are optional, which is inexcusable on a vehicle at this price. The tester was equipped with the $4,030 Driver Assistance Package, which added active cruise control (standard on a $20,000 Toyota Corolla), blind-spot assistance and parking assistance.

The optional heads-up display (an extra $1,830 that also throws in automatic high-beam assistance and fog lights) is at least clear through polarized lenses, unlike in the German vehicles. Active rear locking differential, pretty much a must for any vehicle that claims off-road bragging rights, is an extra $1,120.

There are some clever features, though, including the “activity key” that you wear like a Fitbit and which opens the vehicle without the key. This is handy when you want to lock your things inside the Range Rover because you’re surfing or hiking or whatever. The camera system, which will show you the terrain under the front wheels, is also particularly smart.

You can pay a lot less for a vehicle and get almost everything the Range Rover offers, including in slightly smaller Range Rover editions. You won’t quite get everything, though, and you won’t get the extra extremes of off-road ability that you’ll almost certainly never need to use. If you don’t mind paying a premium for not having to compromise, there’s a Range Rover waiting for you.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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