The hooligan and the gentleman!

It’s time for an update on my personal garage and the 16 cylinders and some 960 hp in total I have standing there, split between the all-weather family, full-size Range Rover 5.0 SC and the summer and good-weather BMW 650 Xi Convertible. Due to too much work they unfortunately spend a bit too much time in the garage this year, but then again given current prices at the pump, that’s probably all the better… The Beamer has been with me a couple of years by now, the Range for about half a year, and the combination of them has led to something that’s never happened to me before: a lack of urge to buy another car. You’ll tell me I haven’t had them for very long, but that’s not knowing me… Of course I still look and imagine this and that, but I only do so for various, wonderful classic cars. The urge for anything new(er) is no longer there. I guess I’m quite content, probably partly due to age, but partly obviously also to how excellent both cars have been.

I’m very pleased with the 650i which for me at 20% of the price as new is really exceptional value!

As a small reminder, none of the two are new, being production years 2014 (BMW) and 2015 (RR). Both were bought through dealers (as guarantees are very useful…) but had in both cases only had one previous owner who must have had a love affair with their automobiles as both were in mint condition – and of course still are! The BMW has been a summer car all its life and shared a garage with 4-5 other cars at its previous owner’s, making you wonder why he bought the 4-wheel drive version (I would have preferred the rear-wheel drive, but it’s very hard to find one). The Range lived the first part of its life in Ticino in southern Switzerland and was according to the GPS history used in a mix of business trips to Italian cities and skiing trips to the Swiss Alps, two areas where the car excels. That’s by the way a good place to look – most owners don’t bother or forget to empty the GPS when they trade in their car, and it can give you a good indication of what kind of trips it has been used for.

Of a completely different character, the RR is very much master of its game!

The logic behind the 650Xi was to have a convertible that offered enough space both for holidays for two, cabin space for four on the occasions the children are with us, and put a smile on your face when you floor it. It delivers on all three. Room in the back seat isn’t huge (given the total size of the car it’s actually pretty pathetic), but on somewhat longer trips it’s less the room and more the fact that you sit where you sit and cannot easily change position that makes it a bit less comfortable. The boot is all you need both with the roof down but obviously even more so when the top is up, when it’s also by far the most quiet convertible I’ve ever been in. It’s especially impressive how little wind noise there is even at higher speeds. Those higher speeds are a bit too easy to reach with the double-turbo, 450 hp V8, which is a real hooligan that keeps pushing you to do things you shouldn’t. There’s an ever so slight delay before the first turbo kicks in but it’s less than on my old E63, and gear changes are also far more immediate and extremely discrete. The exhaust popping is just magnificent and makes you wonder why anyone would bother with an aftermarket exhaust, which many owners do.

You can improve the legroom in the back and still drive the car when you need to…

If there’s one car I’ve always looked at with desiring eyes through the years, it’s the full-size Range. The Sport is nice and the Velar is trendy, but it’s the big boy that in my eyes has the class and is the real thing. Now I have one in my garage, and it’s so far been absolutely great! The quality of the build and the materials continues to impress, and the Range is the first car that has really made me realize the difference between standard and high-quality leather. The seats are oh so soft to the touch as well as to your butt and you can of course enjoy them in any position you want, with more adjustments than anyone needs. Some people wonder why there are extra armrests on the front seats between the seats and the center armrest, but once you’ve driven it a while you no longer ask why – it’s there since it’s where your arm sits the most comfortably, not 10 cm further away. The whole car is full of such small attentions to detail that I love. Altough being a V8 of similar size and power, the engine couldn’t be more different to the BMW. It’s quick to respond but then a wonder of discretion unless you really misbehave, in which case you’ll hear a discrete roar at most. That also goes for other sounds, of which there are basically none, and the few remaining are easily handled by the 29-loudspeaker Meridian sound system.

No one in the Solihull factory confuses armrests with the center console!

Are the cars perfect? Of course not, but funnily (and I guess this is indeed age-related) what I have remarks on or think could be improved has very little to do with the latest technology. First and foremost, I’d like a bit more configurable driving settings, especially on the BMW, which of course became the case in the years thereafter. Here, it’s still Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus, without individual adjustments. Ventilated seats would also have been useful in a convertible, even if the interior is beige. For the Range, a more direct steering is probably top of the list and I get it in Sport, but then the gear change tries to be sporty as well, which I don’t like. Otherwise it’s really small things here and there.

The BMW generally has better tech than the Range but the latter has more stuff, much of which I don’t use anyway. The auto-parking is great, but so are the gigantic rear view mirrors that tilt down when the car is in reverse and supported by plenty of cameras, it’s really not difficult to park yourself. And so it goes. I certainly don’t need augmented reality on a screen in front of me as long as I can look out the window. I don’t need to talk to my car, and certainly not to wave my arms in strange gesture rather than pressing a button. And the few times I need better navigation than the cars offer, I have a great holder in both for my iPhone. Call me grumpy if you want, but I’d bet you there’s quite a large group of owners out there who don’t know how to use much of what their new car is fitted with…

Is this really what we want?

Before buying the Range I read and heard lots of people, usually not owners, talking about the bad quality and the astronomical fuel consumption. Time will tell for the quality, but how the now seven-year old car feels, and the dealer’s willingness without blinking to extend a two-year full warranty are very reassuring. As for the fuel consumption, I’m still averaging at around 12.5 litres per 100 km – about 1 1/2 litre more than the boring, four-cylinder with 200hp less in my old XC90. That’s well done Land Rover and not so well done Volvo! Of course it wouldn’t be a problem to get that number up to 20 litres, but that’s not the way to drive the car, nor is it what the car encourages you to do. Consumption also increases at (above legal) motorway speeds which is quite normal – unfortunately not even the Range can escape the laws of physics. As for the 650, I actually don’t know and I’ve made a point of not finding out – I don’t want consumption numbers to ruin the fun!

For now, all is thus as it should be down in the family garage and when it’s time for a drive, it’s a wonderful feeling to choose between the cars, knowing that whichever one I take, it will be a special ride. That was really my goal and I hope you have the same feeling, whatever your dream pair is. With the risk of being reminded of writing this at some point in the future, I suspect the BMW and the Range could be the last cars of this type in my garage. What I mean is that is that there’s a clear risk as things stand that in a year’s time we fondly remember the days when oil was “only” $100 a barrel, or that our great political leaders force us down the avenue of electrification, in spite of a lack of rationality, as illustrated last week. Before that happens though, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve reached “peak screen”, and that over the coming years, we return to more physical switches and buttons. Time will tell, but along with most, I obviously hope for that rather than peak oil!

An English lord has moved in!

Regular readers of this blog may remember my somewhat confused reflections around what is the perfect family car from back in October, after I had sold my XC90 and was looking to replace it. In that post I made a pretty clear case for the superiority of a station wagon over an SUV except for those living in a snowy place or otherwise needing real offroad capabilities. I also pointed out that buying a 500 hp SUV doesn’t make much sense at all given such an engine comes more to its right in a car with a lower center of gravity – i.e. a station wagon. Well, what can I say? I’ve replaced the XC90, that much is true, but somehow I forgot the rest of what I wrote back then…

To be honest, I was really set on buying a station wagon. Those that felt a bit special and that were on my list did however all have the racing attributes of my old E63 AMG that I didn’t want. I’d also point out that I haven’t changed my mind on the “M” or “AMG”-like SUV’s out there, they really don’t make much sense. Finally I also decided not to break the bank this time, at least not at the point of purchase. As all enthusiasts know running costs are less painful, and also less visible to those that may have differing opinions on how family money is to be spent… So within those parameters, I finally found something that felt very special indeed. It’s not a station wagon but rather the most famous SUV of them all. It’s also not built in Stuttgart but rather in Solihull, in the middle of the UK. Since a couple of months, I’m the happy owner of a Range Rover L405, more exactly a 2015 5.0 V8 SC Autobiography in black on black. And so far, I absolutely love it!

It’s big, black and bloody nice!

I’ve never really had Range on my real list of candidates but every time I experienced one (and I’ve actually driven all generations of the Range), I remember it to this day as something quite unique and special, with many positive memories and associations. As things happen, it was by coincidence that I saw a big Range on the road and realized I didn’t know what they were trading at (which is rare for this writer). The very same day the snow fell heavily and my son landed a job as ski instructor in the Alps, meaning I would need to drive him there with a bed and some other stuff. After all we do live in Switzerland, so maybe an SUV wasn’t too bad after all, and maybe, just maybe, it could be a Range? The plan took shape as I realized that budget-wise, it would be possible to find “the” car within what I had set as limit.

In terms of models it could never be anything else than the big Range for me, meaning the L405, built since 2012 and not replaced by a new model until this year (the new Range being rolled out as I write this but the waiting list is apparently at least two years because of the delivery issues of components we all know of by now). I guess a good testament to the design of the L405 is that although the new model is a brand new car, it’s also immediately recognizable. The L405 only received some very minor face-lifts through its life, the most important being the introduction of a more digital cockpit in 2017 and the new engine line-up with a hybrid solution a couple of years later. I didn’t feel the premium these model years command were worth it, and the hybrid solution around a four-cylinder petrol engine didn’t feel very convincing. Speaking to people who know, it also didn’t sound like it was the right engine for the car. 2015 was a good compromise as initial hickups had been sorted by then without any price premium over previous model years.

Those turbine wheels are 22″ and nothing for the handyman…

The design has thus held for more than a decade and is both elegant and timeless with a presence like few other cars (and none of its smaller siblings), and the engines have also been around a while. I disregarded the petrol-six straight away as everyone with experience seem to agree it’s too small for the car and because of that is the most issue-prone, notably with a cambelt rather than a chain as on the larger engines. That left the 8-cylinder, 4.4 litre diesel with 340 hp and all the torque you could wish for, and the 5-litre petrol, supercharged V8 with 510 hp. In Europe the diesel probably makes up around 70-80% of production with the petrol V8 taking perhaps 10%. Of course that petrol V8 is also a representative of the club of fabulous engines that will never be built again…

I drove both and although the diesel certainly makes sense for the car type, and especially for those towing regularly, the petrol makes the car feel much lighter and dynamic. Its instantaneous response is much more attractive than the inevitable initial lag of the diesel and if you push it, the petrol exhibits quite a sporty character. Obviously that’s not the proper way to drive a Range, and this is also why this is not another 500 hp sporty SUV. The car basically incites you to proceed with grace, meaning the engine will most of the time the engine humm between 2′-2.5′ rpm and not be pushing you to floor it. The power is always there should you need it and when you do, both the sound and the acceleration are all you could ever ask for. To me, that’s the perfect combination and exactly what I was looking for. And yes, you pay a price for this at the pump but not as high as some would have you believe. In a mix of city, country and motorway at legal speed + inflation, I’m currently averaging around 13 litres. It wasn’t less in my E63 AMG.

A wonderful engine of a type we’ll never see again!

Size of engine is one thing, size of the whole car another. No doubt the Range is a big car, but appearances are also treacherous. At just under 5 metres it’s not longer than most full-sized SUV’s, and it’s not more than 3-4 cms wider. The difference is in the height of 183 cm which also makes it look big. The flip side of that is of course next to space also the unequalled seating position and visibility. The inside also illustrates quite well that the priority has been put on passenger comfort over maximum luggage space. Sure, the car has a large boot, but the emphasis has clearly been on cabin space and creating a luxury transport for four. The space up front is great, the comfort in the electrically-adjustable back seats even better. Range Rover have perfectioned this art ever since the first Range in the early 70’s, and today’s result is nothing but sensational.

The higher seating position combined with large glass areas means your visibility is unequalled. The suspension comfort is sublime, as is the 29-loudspeaker Meridien sound system. And then there’s the materials which make it very clear that plastic isn’t something the guys up in Solihull think should be used in the interior of a car unless strictly necessary. I’ve driven most and probably sat in all premium SUV’s on the market and without exagerrating I can say that the quality of materials and solidity in every detail puts a Range somewhere between the Germans and the other “RR” brand over in Crewe. It really is that good.

The best interior I’ve been in this side of Crewe!

Driving-wise I was also positively surprised. The handling, without being sporty in any way, is more neutral and less understeered than many other SUV’s around corners and sublime on longer stretches. The steering is a tad too light but surprisingly precise. And then there’s obviously the off-road capabilities that I won’t be using, but where as a small example the virgin drive to the Alps with my son’s stuff happened in the middle of a heavy snowfall with people parked on the roadside putting on chains. Of course the Range couldn’t be bothered less. On the downside, it’s clear that if a modern infotainment unit and 37.000 nuances of interior lightning is your thing, you should look elsehwere. I find Google Maps on my phone all I need in terms of navigation, and the Range still offers five interior colours which in my book is plenty.

Slightly suprisingly, finding the right car was complicated by many candidates not having some options I didn’t want to live without, like an adaptive cruise control and head-up display which apparently isn’t stuff most Range owners find useful. The colour was also important to me, the car is elegant in many colours but I wanted a bit of a sporty feel which in my view only comes in grey or black. With this in mind I managed to locate the car you see in the pictures, a 2015 model with one previous owner, a perfect service history and a 2-year warranty from a garage really specializing in supercars and with a very strong reputation. That I think is the right way to go about it.

On this day early December, only a G-wagon and me didn’t use chains

What I also noticed during the buying process was firstly that most cars are in really good condition even with high mileage, a testament both the quality but also to the fact that first-time buyers of these usually are a bit elder (no comments here please) with enough money to service the cars properly. Secondly it’s really nice to see that there are a number of owners’ clubs that you can turn to and where you find very engaged and dedicated people who know far more about Ranges than I do and are very happy to help. It was such an owners’ club that helped me in choosing the engine option and, given the car’s somewhat mixed quality reputation, it was also the owners of Range Rovers that convinced me that this seems to be more an issue for people who actually don’t own a Range. I can of course only hope I’m right here, but a 2-year warranty is very helpful in this regard.

A diesel or petrol Range in perfect condition from model years 2014-2016 (to me the sweet spot) and with a mileage of 50.000-100.000 km will be yours for EUR 60′-70′ in Europe, a bit less than half the price as new. The problem can be finding a low mileage car as these tend to be driven long distances, but with a proper service history and a guarantee, a higher mileage isn’t really a worry. From 2017 onwards there’s at least an EUR 20′ jump in price which I don’t think is warranted all else equal (although it does get you a more modern infotainment unit). As you’ve understood by now, so far I’m really happy with my choice and it feels like the Range is the perfect complement to my 650 convertible and will stay with me a long time. Could it be that I’ve found the perfect combination? Time will tell!