I love the new Range Rover. And I hate most SUVs. I'm not in love with the price, or the thirst of the supercharged V8 engine, or the long history of Rangie horror stories, but I love the idea of a full-sized luxury limousine that can turn left at any time and head out for Kakadu.
And, make no mistake, the all-new Range Rover is really a luxury car that's only dressed up like an SUV. It can easily tackle the worst off-road conditions in the world, but would you honestly go bush in a car that costs more than $200,000 and has a cabin as plush as a five-star hotel?
These days, the cabin of the Range Rover is as comfortable and cosseting as any Benz S-Class or BMW 7-Series, although you might need a step ladder to climb aboard if you forget to lower the air suspension to the loading level.
"It's the halo. The flagship. It's what people look at when they think of Land Rover," says the brand's boss in Australia, David Blackhall. "The money we put into this car, which is about $1.5 billion, tells you how important the car is. It's the one people look for, and our owners come back time and again."
A couple of hundred wealthy Australians will take delivery of a Range Rover this year, with around a four-month wait from placing an order. The Vogue with a 4.4-litre diesel engine is expected to be the most popular choice.
A new Range Rover has never been cheap, but you can get at least get one now - an HSE with 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine - from `only' $168,900.
Blackhall describes the starting point as "pretty much unassailable", but there are cheaper quality choices including a fully-loaded and lovely Porsche Cayenne GTS from $164,400.
For perspective, a Benz ML now starts below $100,000 but go for the GL that really runs against the Range Rover - arriving in April with claimed quietness to beat an S-Class - and you'll be spending at least $130,000. A BMW 7 Series also stickers from $204,700.
The Carsguide test car is towards the top of the Range Rover line, priced at $234,960 thanks to a bunch of extra equipment added to the $224,200 base of the supercharged V8 Vogue SE. But there is incredible value in everything from the sumptuous leather to the safety systems, cracking infotainment package and a suspension and driveline system that sets the benchmark.
Ultimately, though, the price and thirst are the worst things about the Range Rover. And the things that cost it a five-star Carsguide rating.
A full aluminium body, eight-speed automatic gearbox, an updated and automatic terrain response system for four-wheel drive work, radar cruise control, air suspension, a classy touch-screen infotainment package with rear displays, remotely-adjustable electric rear seats, and even a night light that projects a Range Rover logo onto the ground beisde the doors. The Range Rover has it all.
There is more and more and more, but the key things are the alloy construction that slashes more than 400 kilograms from the Rangie's heft, a modern and techno-loaded cabin, adaptive dynamics to match the drive feel to the conditions, and the safety and driver-assist systems.
For perspective, the new Range Rover still runs to five metres in length, but its drag is down with a roofline that is 20 millimetres lower, fuel economy is better by as much as 22 per cent on the diesel V6.
The chassis package means the car can still handle the toughest off-road conditions - perhaps not with the optional 22-inch alloys - that means it is still a paid-up member of the Land Rover crew. Horse people will be happy to know it has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.
There is no disguising the sheer mass of the new Range Rover but, for an SUV, it's not bad looking. It's not as svelte as the Cayenne GTS, but definitely nicer than a Lexus LX. Design chief Gerry McGovern says he needed to maintain a historical link to the three earlier generations of Range Rover, but developed a package with considerably more interior legroom.
It's the cabin that shines, with lovely seats, lots of technology and a logical layout. It takes time to learn your way around the controls - even with voice activation for the infotainment - but even back-seat passengers are pampered and the signature clamshell tailgate is fully electric.
ANCAP is not going to be slapping a Range Rover into a wall, but it's sure to be a five-star car thanks to everything from the rigid body structure to emergency braking as part of the radar cruis control system.
Apart from the regulation ABS braking and ESP stability control, it comes with eveything from a roll stability control and trailer stability assist to blind-spot monitoring and hill-descent control for off-road work. There are also a variety of operating heights to match the terrain, together with the latest Terrain Response system to make any dummy into an off-road winner.
The Range Rover won me in less than a kilometre. I was captivated by the cabin and the sumptuous ride, which is such a contrast to the thumping and wallowing of lesser SUVs. And then I began to pick up the sound system, and the steering feel, and the impressive brakes, and all the rest.
I confess that I did not go seriously off-road, barely away from the bitumen at all, but I just know what a Range Rover can do from plenty of previous experiences with Land Rovers of all sizes and prices. And Craig Duff, who drove for Carsguide in Morocco, reports that the new Rangie is just about unstoppable and superb at speeds well beyond Australia's 110 limit.
The supercharged V8 in the test car is thumping and impressive, with massie torque for towing, but not so good with economy running at 17.4 litres/100km in a mix of conditions. I'd definitely take the 4.4 diesel V8.
Even passenger who rides in the Rangie is impressed by the equipment and the comfort and quietness, although they are often shocked by the price. And every day I spend with the car I find something new to enjoy, like the Range Rover logo that's projected onto the ground at night like some sort of corporate Batman callout.
As I said at the beginning, I'm not a fan of SUVs. I like the new Cayenne GTS a lot, the Benz GL is plush and enjoyable, but even X5s and MLs feel bulky and I'd much prefer a station wagon to the vast majority of affordable SUVs. But I don't think of the Range Rover as an SUV. For me, it's a luxury car with the works.
When the end of the world is coming, I want to be driving the new Range Rover.
RANGE ROVER VOGUE SE
Price: $234,960(as tested)
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 74 per cent
Service interval: 20-26,000km/12 months
Safety rating: Five star (predicted)
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8 375kW/625Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto; 4WD
Body: 4.99m (L); 1.98m (w); 1.83m (h)
Weight: from 2330kg
Thirst: 13.8L/100km (17.4L/100km on test) ; 322g/km Co2