BY JAMES CAMPBELL
As one of the grandees of this magazine remarked lately, “one should always drive a Range Rover model at least one version older than Her Majesty’s”.
There may be something sound in this. There may not. Nonetheless I often wondered which Range Rover was best suited to 2016 and driving around Britain’s countryside.
I was chatting with the owner of a small private prep school in Somerset who said he always became worried by those parents of pupils who showed up in the latest Range Rovers and other Chelsea tractors because “they had clearly bought them on the never-never (finance) and they were always the ones who he ended up having problems with when it came to paying the school fees.”
Certainly, a tour around Basildon and it’s not the landed gentry driving the latest Range Rovers. It’s the novi homines, who most likely buy their own furniture. It’s the city yuppies and the property landlords with their buy-to-lets and ice-dispensing fridges from Smeg. They’ve picked up their shiny brand new Range Rovers for £799 a month on Egg cards.
Let’s be clear here. I am not talking about the Range Rover Evoque, which is a mere nanny’s car to be parked in the shadow of a Vogue or Autobiography. Nor am I talking about the Range Rover Sport with its sleek lines and go-faster stripes, as driven by players of wendyball and tennis coaches.
I am talking about the chosen wheels of Prince William and Her Majesty herself – the Autobiographies and Vogues that are seen as quintessentially British and the vehicles of choice for those who could buy a Bentayga if they wanted but wouldn’t be seen dead in one because they find them, well, rather louche.
The Vogues and Autobiographies are brilliant cars. They are not the same as they used to be when you’d need two of them; as one would always be out of action at the mechanics. They are the vehicles you’d want to tour France in or eat out of at Twickenham for one of those wonderful car park barbecues. They are the one car that generates quality respect at mini rugby on a Sunday. You can take them to the beach and, when it rains, you have a comfortable leather lounge at your disposal in the car park.
Personally, I prefer the second generation to the current fourth generation of Range Rover.
Yes, the first generation produced the iconic model which became copied into Sindy cars and even a convertible model featured complete with stunning actress with Roger Moore as Bond in Octopussy.
But the second generation with its large box lights brings back good memories for me. The third generation (2002–2012) just seemed rather small – a kind of half-way house between first and second. The Fourth is a bold evolution and it has overcome its original back-wheel clumsiness with sleeker lines and fins which make it exude modernity and radiate class.
So, in answer to those who suggest that one should drive a model of Range Rover which is older than the Queen’s, I say no. Drive whatever model you wish in the countryside.
The Range Rover is a beast. Inside it, the rest of the world suddenly becomes a whole lot less relevant.