A COUPLE of months ago I was given a sneak preview of the new Range Rover in the UK so was eager to see just how all the advancements I had been told about translated into the real thing.
That opportunity came when I travelled to the north of our great continent to test the latest Rangie in Morocco.
I have always been a fan of this king of SUVs. In fact chief designer Gerry McGovern referred to it on the launch as the "911 of SUVs", which is quite a claim.
Like the 911, the Range Rover has always evolved rather than being revolutionary, at least in design anyway.
My favourite remains the 1990s model with a boot full of tools, but at the launch in Morocco I also got to see the very first prototype produced 65 years ago.
Interestingly it was badged as a Velar, a name derived from Alvis and Rover which it was hoped would confuse any would be spy photographers that may have happened to be hiding out in the Sahara desert.
Today the Range Rover is a far different animal, but it still has the same heart when it comes to its desire for off-road exploration.
Unfortunately the majority of people will simply never know the capabilities of the vehicle, but at least it will be good for climbing up the side of the school field.
Externally the design is very much evolutionary, but items such as the new headlights with their camera lens style surrounds, the more tapered rear end and the new aluminium inlay down the side certainly stand out.
The interior has received a significant makeover with a reduction in the number of switches, a digital instrument panel and the option of two "executive class" rear seats which recline and massage.
The luxurious leather comes from Bridge of Weir and is apparently the most environmentally friendly leather on the planet.
The leather is not the only thing that is environmentally friendly and quite frankly I never thought I would be discussing the environmental credentials of a Range Rover.
However, the new model weighs in at up to 420kg less than that of the last generation, courtesy of a move to aluminium in the bodywork of the new D7u platform and the use of more lightweight components.
This translates into a massive reduction in the CO2 emission figure and in the TDV6 model we drove on launch the consumption figure was in the low ten s. A hybrid is planned for next year that aims to cut this even further.
There was some confusion about whether that TDV6 model would come to SA, but chatting with one of the Land Rover SA chaps on the launch it seems he was convinced enough about its ability to decide it will be here later next year.
If you cannot wait that long then the TDV8 and the supercharged V8 petrol go on sale in January.
I am not going to go into details on the engine figures here, because ultimately it is all about ability and I was not disappointed.
The new model features four corner independent air suspension and has wheel travel of up to 260mm at the front and 310mm at the rear.
It also has a massive wading depth ability of 900mm, thanks to the clamshell bonnet and affectionately named "Queen Mary funnels" situated beneath it.
All of this came in very handy while driving along a stretch of river at the entrance to the Atlas Mountains.
There really is nothing quite like doing some proper off-roading and river wading while cosseted in sumptuous leather and listening to tunes on a 29-speaker Meridian sound system. This is after all, a Range Rover.
Then there is the new Terrain Response 2 system, which has an auto setting that takes care of most situations but could be switched to sand as we tackled some average dunes, to gravel for a rather narrow stretch of single track road carved out of the side of the mountains and to rock crawl as we travelled through a ravine along the side of a compound in Marrakech.
Off-road is not the only area of improvement though. Opt for one of the V8 models and you get a Dynamic Response System too, which dramatically reduced the level of body roll on some nice tarmac mountain passes and should see you keeping up with your mate in a Porsche Cayenne instead of having to pull over onto the side of the road to deal with your sea sickness.
Now I know everyone is going to ask me if it really is the king of off-roaders and my answer is simple – who cares, it’s a Range Rover. Yes it will only ever be used for wafting around the urban jungle, and no one is concerned if they scratch their Toyota Land Cruiser out in the bush, but if you really want to appreciate what decades of off-road heritage combined with luxury feels like, then you can’t beat it.
Given the chance I would go back to Morocco and drive it all the way back to Joburg, but of course with all those electronics I would probably need a nerd with a laptop to come along too.
The new model features four corner independent air suspension and has wheel travel of up to 260mm at the front and 310mm at the rear