On four days out of five this week, I drove an interesting variety of four wheel drive cars:-
Monday: Range Rover SDV8 4.4 Autobiography (2014), Range Rover Evoque 2.0TD4 (180hp) SE manual and Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2.0TD4 HSE Dynamics auto, all Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire to Leicester
Tuesday: Bentley Continental GT Supersports, Leicester to The Belfry Golf Club, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands; Audi A6 S-Line Quattro 2.0TDI estate (auto), The Belfry to Leicester
Wednesday: Bentley Continental GT V8S, Leicester to Swansea, second Bentley Continental GT V8S, Swansea to Leicester
Thursday: Volvo S60 Business Edition D3 2.0td (136hp) (2013) and
Audi A1 Sport 1.6TDI (2015), both Rugby, Warwickshire to Telford, Shropshire
Friday: Range Rover Velar D180 R-Dynamics S auto, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire to Basildon, Essex
All wheel drive cars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes these days, don’t they? You can even get a four wheel drive pram (Land Rover call it the Range Rover Evoque Convertible). So Mum can drop little Darcy and Rupert at Chelsea primary school in the normal Evoque (using all of its 4×4 capabilities to negotiate any speed bumps on the way) while Dad takes Darcy’s and Rupert’s baby sister to the Chelsea Fluffy Bunny Day Nursery in the Range Rover pram (again, using the all wheel drive to indulge in some extreme kerb mounting when parking as close as humanly possible to the nursery to avoid an exhausting twenty yard walk). As the owner of an open top car, I am a big fan of topless motoring. It’s wonderful feeling the wind in your hair and flies in your teeth. So Land Rover should be applauded for bringing a high rise option for open air driving. Problem is, it just looks a bit odd but that shouldn’t put you off because when you are in a car and enjoying the driving experience you can’t see its exterior.
It probably goes without saying that the two most interesting four wheel drive cars I drove this week were the Range Rover Velar and the Bentley Continental GT Supersports. The Velar because it’s a brand new model and the Supersports because it is utterly, utterly bonkers in a still-luxurious way. SEVEN HUNDRED HORSEPOWER!!! And a huge dollop of torque. Bentley have beefed up the 6.0 litre W12 engine and stuck it in their 2.3 tonne GT car to create a luxury inter-continental ballistic missile capable of doing a lot of damage. 0-60mph in 3.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 209mph. Only 710 are being made so most parts of the world will be safe. Some brashness has been added to the outside in the form of very large black wheels and a rear wing but inside was proper Bentley without any shouty boy racer accoutrements (sporty diamond-stitched seats but nothing silly). Yes, inside it had carbon fibre panels instead of tree but dark carbon fibre is less conspicuous than highly polished wood. So, the all-black dashboard with the usual shiny trinkets was very smart.
Apparently, the Bentley boys have not done anything to the standard Continental Speed chassis so a lot of what I have said previously about driving the Continental GT (click here!) applies EXCEPT it’s obviously faster and makes a ridiculously fabulous noise. In my earlier post I said that I thought the V8 Continental GT made a better noise than the W12. I still believe that is the case in relation to the “ordinary” W12 (ordinary – ha!) but in the Supersports, the 700hp version sounds much, much more lively. Blip the throttle at a stand still and, in addition to a mighty roar from the front end, there’s a big thudding crackle from the exhaust. It’s the same on the move when changing down manually leads to more crackling from the back end. Even when bumbling along at 30 or 40mph, the engine is burbling and grumbling in an unsubtle manner, letting you know that it’s getting impatient to stretch its legs. I had the pleasure of taking the Supersports for an early morning, forty mile run across country (in addition to a quick 10 mile run on a dual carriageway the evening before). I didn’t bother putting the radio on.
The Range Rover Velar is interesting because it’s more or less hot off the press. It shares the latest Land Rover look – very rounded but it is much sleeker and really futuristic compared to its siblings. The futuristic theme continues inside with not one but two central touch screens so, for example, you can keep the satnav on the top screen while you tinker with other functions on the lower screen. After you have crashed your Velar once while playing with the screens, you probably won’t do it again and will learn to use the voice commands (provided you and/or your Velar are not write-offs). That’s not a criticism of the Velar specifically but modern cars in general – don’t they have too much stuff to play with?
On a more positive note, the Velar is very much a step up from other Jaguar Land Rover products whose on-board systems look a little clunky and dated. Overall, the interior of the Velar really does feel like a baby Range Rover. On the road, the 180hp diesel Velar is no fireball but this is the least powerful engine option in the range. However, it cruises more quietly and more comfortably than the similarly-engined (and cheaper) Evoque and Discovery Sport. It is also slightly soft and squishy compared to its firmer riding stable-mates. For my motorway journey (mostly in heavy rain), I just left the Velar in default Comfort mode. I don’t know what difference Dynamic mode would have made but What Car magazine says that the Velar is “the most road-biased Range Rover ever”. There you go. Nice car whatever.