New car review

Range Rover SDV8 test drive

We get behind the wheel of the iconic Range Rover, fitted with a massive 4.4-litre diesel V8 engine

We’re all familiar with the Range Rover – it’s one of the most prestigious off-roaders you can buy and competes just as effortlessly off-road with hardcore mud-pluggers such as the Toyota Land Cruiser as it does on-road with limousines such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The Range Rover is a big part of British motoring history, and one of our most successful automotive exports.

We’re testing it here in its Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography form – that’s Land Rover parlance for a 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine with lots of kit. It’s the biggest and most powerful diesel the company fits and sits above the entry-level V6 diesel but below the four-cylinder plug-in hybrid models in the range.

What’s new about the latest Range Rover?

Although the current Range Rover went on sale in late 2012, it has recently been facelifted to mimic the recently-introduced and smaller Range Rover Velar. There’s a new grille, flanked by sharp-edged headlights – wit smart Matrix LED units on this car. New tail lights also feature, while the exhaust pipes are integrated into the rear bumper.

Inside, there’s a dual-screen infotainment and control set up that Land Rover calls Touch Pro Duo. You’ll find it on most of the brand’s new cars, where it controls most of the car’s major functions – everything from its Terrain Response system to the electric rear seats.

How does it look?

Range Rovers are very spec-dependent – and vastly customisable, so it’s very easy to turn a subtly elegant car into a rather vulgar one. Choose your colours and wheels carefully, though, and the effect is smart.

There’s no hiding the car’s bulk, but sharp detailing in the head and taillights gives a modern aesthetic, while the flanks are broken up by contrasting detailing. It’s also unmistakeably a Range Rover thanks to the bold daytime running light signature.

Wheel choices range from 20 to 22 inches, though we’re not huge fans of any of the designs on offer. Still, Land Rover will happily perform most bespoke work if you pay them enough, so there’s no reason your Range Rover has to look like anybody else’s.

What’s the spec like?

All Range Rovers are well equipped, as you might expect for the price – the cheapest SDV8 model is nearly £90,000. Entry-level Vogue models get 20-inch wheels, a heated windscreen, Matrix LED headlights, triple-zone climate control, leather seats, keyless entry, the full suite of infotainment goodies and a rear camera.

However, our range-topping Autobiography (long-wheelbase models can step up further to SVAutobiography) was fitted out with 21-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, heated, cooled and massaging front seats, a suede headlining, surround cameras and adaptive cruise control.

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Of course, there are myriad opportunities to personalise your Range Rover – numerous finishes for the exterior plus a wide selection of colours for the interior mean you won’t have to worry about seeing someone in the same one.

The Range Rover did get a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, but that was way back in 2012 and the rating expired earlier this year. That doesn’t mean it’s not a safe car, but it doesn’t match up to the best in its class anymore.

What’s the Range Rover SDV8 like inside?

The Range Rover’s always felt like a top-end premium product inside – the SDV8 is obviously no exception, featuring the same combination of sumptuous materials, straight-edged design and palatial space.

Range Rover SDV8 (2019) interior and dashboard | The Car Expert

Space for front-seat occupants, that is… the rear seats in this standard-wheelbase model are surprisingly cramped, and those who want the full limousine effect would be better served by the long-wheelbase model.

There’s rather a lot of electrics, too – our Autobiography-spec car had electrically operated rear seats, which worked very well until they gave up the ghost and refused to move further. And, though it’s possible to sit a third passenger on the middle seat, we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s high-set, slippery, and not especially comfortable.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Range Rover SDV8 model uses a 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine, which is something of a rarity in this day and age. That said, it’s certainly a powerful beast that’s perfectly suited to the car’s huge bulk.

Though peak power of 340hp is nothing like the 400+bhp you’d find in the equivalent V8 petrol, it’s torque where the SDV8 excels. 740Nm of it ensures that this car has performance that belies its size. 0-60mph takes just 6.5 seconds – making it almost as quick as a Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The combination is a fantastic one – the smooth, torquey diesel unit is perfectly suited to the Range Rover, moreso than the slightly strained V6 diesels that sit below it. There’s always power where you need it, and if you put your foot down the engine’s throaty warble gives the car a character somewhat missing from other models.

Fuel economy is surprisingly good, too – we were actually able to beat its supposed combined figure of 33.6 on more than one occasion. Combined with an enormous 86-litre fuel tank, this is a car you’d be very happy to cross continents in.

What’s the Range Rover SDV8 like to drive?

Make no mistake – this nearly three-tonne beast does not handle like a small car. However, flip the drive selector into Dynamic mode and it will deal with corners amazingly well. You can carry a surprising amount of speed through the bends, though your passengers may not thank you for it.

Range Rover SDV8 (2019) road test | The Car Expert

Standard-fit air suspension makes for an amazingly cushioned ride, though, and the vast wheels barely notice the majority of road imperfections. And, despite the car’s size, it’s a surprisingly easy thing to pilot around a tight city thanks to unparalleled visibility and a quick, accurate steering rack hiding behind the thin-rimmed steering wheel.

One also can’t overlook this car’s off-road ability. Though most owners will never use it, the Range Rover SDV8 remains one of the most capable mud-pluggers on the market, effortlessly dealing with just about anything that’s put in its way.

Verdict

The V8 diesel is a wonderful fit for the full-sized Range Rover – it makes the car truly superb for crossing vast distances in incredible comfort.

That being said, the V6 diesel does most of this as well, for a lower price, so you’d have to value the extra performance to opt for this higher-powered engine. Outside the engine bay, things are as they’ve always been and this remains one of the most premium, luxurious options on the market.

So the Range Rover SDV8 is a wonderful car while it works – which is always a concern with any Land Rover, even when it costs more than £100,000. But if you have the money (and a solid relationship with your nearest AA mechanic), it’s a lovely way to travel.

Similar cars

Bentley Bentayga | BMW X7 | Mercedes-Benz GLS | Porsche Cayenne

Tom Wiltshire
Tom Wiltshire
Articles by Tom Wiltshire are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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