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2022 Land Rover Range Rover.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

It’s a scene straight out of Succession, the HBO family drama about bratty billionaires. We’re at the Sonoma County Airport, which is something of a gateway to Northern California’s secluded wine-country estates, and off in the distance, a couple disembark from a private jet and head straight into a waiting Range Rover – what else? – parked on the tarmac next to the plane.

There are many substitutes and copycats, but the Range Rover (alongside the Jeep Wagoneer) pioneered the booming luxury SUV market. The posh British four-by-four made its debut in 1970. Today, it’s still the benchmark, despite the fact that Cadillac, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Lincoln, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Jeep, Tesla and others are all gunning for it.

When it came time for Land Rover to design the all-new 2022 Range Rover, customers essentially told the company to make it the same, but better. Nigel Blenkinsop, the executive director for quality and customer satisfaction at Jaguar Land Rover, which brings together both storied brands under India’s Tata Motors Group, explained that the highly profitable flagship SUV is important for the company’s bottom line as well as the brand’s image.

Image counts for a lot in the luxury car market, and so the biggest problem facing the new Range Rover – apart from continuing parts shortages – is that glitzy, gas-guzzling SUVs have never been less socially acceptable than they are right now.

The lack of a fully electric model or even a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) seems like a mistake for a six-figure SUV in 2022. Thankfully, it’s a mistake Land Rover will correct later this year with a new Range Rover PHEV model. The first all-electric Range Rover is slated to arrive in 2024.

For now, prices start at $126,400 for the six-cylinder 2022 Range Rover SE, and climb way up to $250,100 for the long-wheelbase Range Rover SV. (Confusingly, both the previous-generation Range Rover and this new model are available for the 2022 model year.) Long-wheelbase models get a new seven-seat option, which is one less reason to buy a Cadillac Escalade.

Gleaming in gold-tinged satin paint, the fifth-generation Range Rover looks nearly the same as its predecessor, only more sleek and streamlined, like it’s had a bit of Botox.

It takes only a few kilometres to realize Land Rover nailed its new flagship. Winding through the region’s densely forested hills, the Range Rover feels as solid as the giant Redwood trees towering above it. You sit up high in the driver’s seat, looking down at the road through tall slabs of glass, as per Range Rover tradition. The cabin is so spacious, it makes a grown adult feel small.

I wish all luxury cars floated down the road like the Range Rover. In corners, you’d expect such a tall thing to tilt like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it doesn’t. Mid-corner – just as you expect understeer – the torque vectoring and rear-wheel steering systems kick in and help this behemoth hold its line. It starts to wilt when really hustled, as you’d expect, but cruising at any sensible pace, the Range Rover is sublime. The car’s engineers chalk the pillowy ride up to air suspension with dampers that offer more adjustability, paired with a 48-volt active anti-roll system and a stiffer overall body structure.

It’s all the more impressive, given that Land Rover is a relatively small brand. It sold just 334,586 vehicles globally last year, down from a prepandemic total of nearly 400,000 in 2019. (BMW and Mercedes each sold around two million vehicles in 2021.)

Land Rover’s Achilles’ heel is its poor reputation for reliability. Industry-analysis firm J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study – which tracks issues in the first 90 days of ownership – rated the brand sixth last out of 33 brands. In the latest Vehicle Dependability Study, which tracks 2019 model-year vehicles, Land Rover is dead last.

Problems with the infotainment system are a big part of the reason why the brand rates where it does in these surveys, said Nigel Blenkinsop. He is responsible for driving quality improvement, a role he took on in October, 2020. The company now links incentives to vehicle quality, which will help, he said. And, last year, the firm invested heavily in new equipment to test and validate electronic systems in tough, real-world scenarios. “We are definitely going in the right direction,” Blenkinsop said.

Nevertheless, the Range Rover is still desired, as evidenced by overflowing order books for the new model. Blenkinsop estimated some customers could be waiting up to a year to take delivery. It’ll be a hit with the private-jet set, no doubt. If you’re looking for a plush SUV that won’t turn heads like a Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini, the Range Rover is what you want. But do yourself and the planet a favour and wait until the plug-in hybrid or fully electric models are available.

Tech specs

2022 Land Rover Range Rover

  • Base price/as tested: $126,400/$145,000 to $250,100
  • Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8; 3.0-litre turbo straight-six mild-hybrid. Mild hybrid systems reduce emissions by harvesting energy under braking and providing an electric boost to the engine as needed, but they can’t propel the car on battery-power alone.
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
  • Fuel consumption (litres/100 kilometres): TBD
  • Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz G-Class, GLS, BMW X7 Alpina XB7, Bentley Bentayga, Audi SQ8, Lamborghini Urus, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Looks

The 2022 Range Rover's tall front bumper poses a threat to pedestrians.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Unmistakably a Range Rover. Tall front bumper poses a threat to pedestrians, as do all large SUVs and pickups.

Interior

The front seats in the 2022 Land Rover Range Rover.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Serene, airy and quiet. The body structure was designed to transmit less noise, while speakers in the headrests work like noise-cancelling headphones to block unwanted sounds.

Performance

Climbs mountains like a goat. The handling is tuned for comfort, not “sportiness,” thankfully. Rather than get its old supercharged V8 to meet new emissions regulations, the company sourced a 523-horsepower twin-turbo V8 from BMW. It’s excellent, but the 395-horsepower six-cylinder is more than adequate.

Technology

Amazon Alexa voice control is built in.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

It lacks some advanced driver-assistance systems, such as automated lane-centring. Amazon Alexa voice control is built in.

Cargo

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The spacious back seats in the 2022 Land Rover Range Rover.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Four, five, or seven-seat configurations are available. The long-wheelbase four-seater offers a limo-like rear lounge to rival the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

The verdict

The new Range Rover still sets the benchmark.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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