Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE (2015) Review

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How does one review a vehicle such as the Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE? Does the target consumer even bother researching the capabilities of such a machine? Or is it bought simply because of its desirability? Indeed, we found it takes only one drive to make normal motoring considerations such as fuel economy, handling, quality and standard specification seem comically irrelevant.

Certainly, even after one week of testing, we were finding the full-fat Range Rover experience such a beguiling one that we could forgive this incredible car almost anything, even at the eye-popping price. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to base your dreams in reality rather than fantasy… this is how the Range Rover SDV8 shaped up.

Presence by the bucket load

Measuring in at more than 5 metres long and riding on glitzy 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, the Range Rover is a bulky machine that casts a big shadow. But ultimately the Rangey’s imposing presence is not merely a consequence of its sheer size – the detailing of the exterior aesthetics play a big role, too.

Compared with its blocky predecessors, the current model – first introduced in 2013 – is a more rounded offering, but still carries instant brand recognition.

High-tech lounge interior

Step up into the cabin and you enter a world of first-class accommodation. Given the vast range of optional extras that are on offer, it is hard to figure out what is standard and what is not, but the attention to detail is such that even sitting in a “bare-boned” Range Rover is unlikely to leave you feeling short-changed.

It is the happy co-existence of traditional materials such as leather and wood and high-tech equipment (such as all-digital instrumentation and flush-fitting drivetrain control interfaces) that really grabs the attention. More old-fashioned owners will still feel welcomed by the charm of the cabin, while the tech fans will appreciate the bang-up-to-date tech toys.

One of the core attractions of a Range Rover drive has always been the driving position. You sit high, of course, and the rest of the cabin appears to be structured around that very positioning. You can rest your elbow on the windowsill, for example. You can see all the corners of the car, easily. And you can look lorry drivers straight in the eye as you glide past. It is the type of steering position that, subconsciously, make the driver feel successful. Superior, even. And that’s kinda the point of a Range Rover, isn’t it?

To delve into all the tech will take up far too many kilobytes of copy, so let’s just say this. Whatever is not standard, is available as an option. There are lots of toys to play with too. Range Rover’s Dual-View centre display screen remains a stunner – it allows the driver to view navigation or other important information, while the front passenger can watch a movie… on the same screen, and listen on earphones. There’s also a chilled storage box between the front seats. The steering wheel is heated. The seats are adjustable every which way (electronically, of course) and offer heating/cooling functionality, too. And the headrests are exquisitely soft and supportive like a proper pillow… Nodding off is a very real danger.

Those seated in the rear also have little reason for complaint. Our test unit was fitted a rear DVD entertainment system, so they could watch movies, too.

And what of boot space? We’re quite sure a large proportion of Range Rovers will go on holiday towing boats etc, so packing space is important. Access to the luggage compartment is via a split tailgate that opens electrically (both parts). The boot itself is large (505 L with the cover in place) and finished in very plush carpeting.

Torque… lots of it…

Tipping the scales at well over two tonnes, the Range Rover needs plenty of horses under that large bonnet. Fitted to this model is a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 diesel that delivers 250 kW and a mammoth 740 Nm of torque, from as low as 1 700 rpm all the way to 3 000. The engine is mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to all four wheels.

First debuted on the Jaguar XF, the Range Rover also features the smart rotary “Drive Select” transmission controller. This stunning piece of design sits flush with a large piece of aluminium trim that stretches all the way back to the electronic park brake. In between there are the controls for the Terrain Response system, which now includes an Automatic mode, which scans the road surface and selects the appropriate off-road suspension and drivetrain settings.

Push the starter button and you’ll firstly be struck by the cool factor of the digital instrumentation panel, before you realise there’s a surprising lack of diesel clatter. Due in part to great cabin insulation, but also due to the inherently refined nature of the SDV8 powerplant, there is an almost eerie lack of engine noise.

Nevertheless, push your foot down on the throttle and the big Range responds with verve. It will reach 100 kph in just under seven seconds and has a top speed of 215 kph. But that’s almost laughably unimportant. It is the responsiveness that is most endearing, along with the silence in which the performance is delivered. The transmission does, of course, offer a Sport mode which sharpens things up even further.

Although there’s an advanced turbodiesel engine under the bonnet, this is still not a vehicle that one would buy when fuel economy is top of mind. That said, we found the Range Rover SDV8 quite economical, all things considered. The claimed combined cycle consumption is 8.7 L/100, and we averaged around 10.4 L/100, which is impressive. The fuel tank can take 105 L so stops at the gas station will not be frequent.

Don't think you can. Know you can.

As mentioned before, the Range Rover features the latest version of Terrain Response which features all the expected modes such as “Sand” and “Mud and Ruts” etc., but now also an automated setting which does all the thinking for you. Coupled with a maximum ground clearance of 310 mm and 900 mm of wading depth, it goes without saying that this is a seriously capable off-roader. The reality is, however, that not many owners are likely to take these near-R2 million machines onto punishing terrain. But they can rest safe with the knowledge that they can. This is, again, core to the Range Rover appeal. Those of you who do intend going off-road, please mind the tyres…

On the road, where a Range Rover is likely to find itself nearly 100% of the time, this model is incredibly hard to fault. We’ve already mentioned the high-and-mighty driving position and superb comfort, but something else that needs to be highlighted is the quietness of the cocooned cabin and the sterling ride comfort. Not many vehicles manage to pull the combination of large wheels and air suspension off so impressively as this Range Rover. It simply glides over troubled surfaces. And yet it’s not all roly-poly in the corners. There are lots of electronic support systems in action and they deliver quite astonishing body control for a vehicle with such a high centre of gravity.

Conclusion and Summary

How do you judge a machine such as the Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE? The question is made all the more difficult by the fact that it doesn’t appear to have any direct rivals. Does that, in itself, mean it is the ultimate? Think of it this way… When you put a Rolls-Royce Phantom next to the current (and excellent in every way) Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the price difference seems ludicrous and unjustifiable.

But… this is only because you are trying to measure a Rolls-Royce by what is measureable. Factor in the immeasurables, such as class, status and desire, and the comparison suddenly appears pointless. The Range Rover is the same. It is truly the Rolls-Royce of SUVs. Nothing else comes close.

Compare the Range Rover SDV8 Vogue with a Mercedes-Benz GL350 and Infiniti QX80 here

Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE Price in South Africa

The Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE costs R1 820 683 and comes with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and five-year/100 000 km Maintenance plan.

Team Opinion

Combining luxury and prestige with superior off-road ability, the Range Rover SDV8 can easily be called one of the world's ultimate vehicles. Not only is it simple to drive, but it oozes charm and sophistication that few cars can match.-David Taylor

This is the one car to rule them all. There's nothing the Range Rover can't do and if you have the money there isn't a competitor that can match it. Teamed with a diesel auto it makes driving a no hassle, nearly guilt-free adventure at every turn. -Ashley Oldfield

We Like: Status, Luxury, Off-road ability

We don’t Like: Slow infotainment system

Also consider: Mercedes-Benz GL, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX80

Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE Specs