A 2,505kg SUV is never going to move off the line with genuine alacrity, even with 350PS (257kW) and 700Nm (516lb ft) of torque from the twin-turbocharged Ingenium straight-six diesel, not helped by the expected slow response from the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic. The gearbox also displays its typical confusion in stop-start traffic, occasionally thumping between ratios as you come on and off the throttle. Once you’re on the move however, the Range Rover picks up pace from around town to motorway speeds smoothly and effortlessly quickly. It lacks the surprising low-key savagery of the same engine in the previous generation car but does a much better job of disguising the inherent diesel gruffness.
Sepulchral quiet and comfort is the order of the day; reducing Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) was a key engineering focus when creating the L460, even extending to an active noise cancelling system using speakers mounted in the headrests. Our car lacked these but by every measure it significantly bests the previous model. This is thanks mostly to the significant attention paid to isolating road noise literally from the ground up and preventing it from resonating through the floor of the car.
The same applies to the suspension; the L405 rides better than anything this side of a Rolls-Royce but larger bumps can still cause the structure to shudder. Not so the new car; you will be aware that the suspension is working hard but it is well isolated from the cabin. The pitching and rolling that are, by and large, simply down to the physics of accelerating, braking and turning in a large, heavy and upright car are much reduced, although not entirely absent. Even on 22-inch wheels the ride is comparable to the Rolls-Royce Black Badge we drove a couple of weeks ago.
The steering is noticeably improved from the L405, there is no longer any slack around dead centre and overall, the system is more faithful and precise. Big wheels, big weight and a lot of assistance means little in the way of feedback but you can feel confident in knowing exactly how the car will respond, making it easy to hold a tight line on narrow roads which the Range Rover is easily capable of filling. The brakes are also deserving of a special mention, striking perfect balance between the power to rein in a 2.5-tonne car and the smooth modulation required to make chauffeur-style stops.
And then there’s the fact that Land Rover has, remarkably, managed to move the on-road manners so far forward without compromising the car’s ability when you leave the tarmac. Automatic terrain response is carried over from the previous model, along with a triple camera system to show the driver the terrain in front of the car and where each front wheel is. At Land Rover’s off-road testing and experience centre at Eastnor Castle, we tackled slopes steep enough to make the ground disappear beneath the bonnet and mud thick enough to make even a Labrador give it a wide berth with an ease that made me check the team hadn’t sneakily swapped the car onto all-terrain tyres while we had coffee.