A train of thought surrounds the art of creating attention, when all else is falling about, recalls Iain Robertson, and with the parlous state of affairs occurring within the palaces of Jaguar-Land-Rover, let alone the wilder outside world, you might have imagined that the Indian-owned carmaker could cutback on the enjoyment factor…not a bit of it!
The launch of an all-new…well, mostly new Range Rover Sport is a celebratory factor to its manufacturer, of course it is, and I am not about to dump on its cake for the sake of being the ‘bad boy’ around these parts, except that had the festivities surrounded simply a cake, I would have elected to ignore them. Yet, in what is now being termed ‘typical Range Rover style’, another world defying driving stunt has taken place, this time up a water-course in Iceland, about which I could not have been less livid had it been around the freezer comestibles shop.
It would be fair to suggest in these troubled times that the vast majority of us even remotely interested in a new Rangie Sport would possess a modicum of knowledge about its uncanny off-road qualities. After all, the firm has driven up volcanoes, 999 Chinese steps and water dams before…another Icelandic water spill zone should be a doddle, except that such events take planning and big budgets, wherein lies my problem. It is unlikely that the uncreative team within JLR’s West Midlands’ offices would have the nous to arrive at the ‘next best stunt’, after all, it has the task of managing the PR, Media and Marketing for the marques that occupy its every other waking hours. Rest assured, seeking original-ish events is the task of one of several London-based agencies and, so, the selection process begins.
Meetings for both strategy and meetings about meetings take place, followed by acceptance of a new gig, for which an available star turn (of sorts) may be required, in this case a sometime Bond 007 stunt girl. Next is the production team and it is a corker, from producer and director to special effects, stunt support, cameras, sound, location management, graphics, make-up, costumes and runners, each a little diva in their own lunchtimes…around 100 personnel in total, of which 50 will travel via private jet to Iceland on more than one occasion, all around one year ahead of product launch. You can guarantee that several members of the JLR team will already have their seats booked, as the production budget climbs into and eats a seven figure sum that will skirt eight by its conclusion. The final production will have enough mastery to win awards that will be attributed invariably to the awards-winning status of the new model. Then begins the horrendously costly task of buying media (advertising, advertorial and features) internationally.
While some of these aspects are (by habit) unavoidable, very few attempts are made to cut the cloth to suit circumstances. JLR is not in the healthiest of conditions, its slow but inexorable moves into electrification are helping it to a position it should have been occupying at least five years ago and sales have been hampered not least in the vitally perceived Chinese new car scene, where recovery has been interminably sluggish. The new Rangie Sport is emphatically NOT a new car, as it relies too heavily on the model that preceded it for such a definition. It is an improved and enhanced model, as it should be, with certain aspects of its technology hiked upwards for the next generation but including a thumpingly potent 530bhp V8 in the mix and heralding its 0-60mph pitch in the 4.3s arena is ever so slightly specious at a time when even Richard Branson might be finding the cost per gallon a tad exorbitant.
While also not new, a 48-volt electronic active roll control system, now capable of applying up to 1,400Nm of torque across each axle, for a confidence-inspiring driving experience, new levels of body control and cornering composure, is laudable technology that started with the semi-active suspension control introduced on the Land Rover Discovery 3. I remain on the fence for All-Wheel Steering, which Range Rover believes can help to achieve unrivalled agility and manoeuvrability at low speeds, with superior stability at high speeds. The Dynamic Air Suspension introduces switchable-volume air springs for the first time and is fitted to every new Range Rover Sport. An intelligent system, it enhances the bandwidth of the suspension by varying the pressure within the airbags to deliver traditional Range Rover comfort with the more engaging handling envelope expected from the Range Rover Sport. To optimise responses, the vehicle monitors the road ahead using eHorizon navigation data that primes the car pre-emptively for upcoming road deflections.
Conclusion: Although the exterior styling has been tidied up a little, the inside is more minimalist and free of clutter, which is good news. The revised Sport will retail for a smaller price tag than its full-size big brother, a factor that assures its relative popularity in the high-end SUV sector, although the final details are not available as yet. However, the company must continue in its battle to overcome unreliability issues, which might all too readily consume it. Finally, partying like it is 1999 ought to be removed from its masturbatory list of requirements, until there is a genuine sales peak to celebrate!