Like any sensible Floridian at this time of the year, we’re heading north to beat the heat.
A week in and around Lake George up in the Adirondacks, with Windex-blue skies, 75 degrees during the day, with a hint of a chill at night. Perfection.
It’s work and play. Seriously. An opportunity to not sweat for a week, and the chance to share a few miles with the new benchmark in hedonistic SUV luxury: Land Rover’s brand new 2022 Range Rover.
Seeing it parked outside a garage in Midtown Manhattan, looking majestic in its stunning Sunset Gold Satin matte paint, black roof, and blacked-out 23-inch rims, it looked worth every dollar of its $164,000 sticker.
Ours is the so-called First Edition model, with more bells and whistles than a Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. The line-up kicks off with the $104,500 SE, steps up to the $157,600 Autobiography, and goes all out with the $193,100 SV flagship.
Take your pick, too, from either a standard or long wheelbase, with the latter giving the option, for the first time, of three-row, genuine seven-passenger seating.
And there’s one more choice to make; mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbo inline-6 power with 395-hp, or the delicious BMW-sourced, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 packing 523-hp, like the one motivating our tester.
Time to take a deep breath, say three Hail Marys, and ease gently into the crazy, all-honking New York traffic, and pray we don’t have to switch lanes. Too late, there’s the sign for the Holland Tunnel, which means crossing four taxi-filled lanes.
Squeeze the throttle, feel the V8’s Learjet-like thrust, and we’re safely across. And while this new Range Rover looks huge, the mile-high driving position, the deep windows, and terrific all-round visibility make it feel half the size from behind the wheel.
Now we’re on winding I-87 for the 204-mile, three-and-a-bit-hour cruise up to Lake George. Time to crank-up the ear-bleeding 1,600-watt Meridian surround sound system.
Prefer the sound of silence? The Meridian set-up also comes with active noise cancellation technology that neutralizes any engine noise or tire roar using the speakers mounted in the front headrest. There are bank vaults that are louder.
On the way north, it’s a joy to see mountains—well, biggish hills—flanking the Interstate. And hills covered with spruce, pine, and maples, rather than palms. And towns with funky names, like Plattekill, Saugerties, Coxsackie, and Schenectady.
Lake George— the lake rather than the town—runs 32 miles north to Ticonderoga and is blessed with Highway 9N that clings to its western shoreline. This asphalt rollercoaster showcases the Range Rover’s nimble, athletic handling and Teflon-smooth ride.
Dynamic features of this newcomer include an all-new, super-stiff chassis, reckoned to be as much as 50 percent stiffer than the outgoing models. Add to this new, rear-wheel steering, and roll-quelling air-sprung adaptive suspension.
The surprise and delight come with the feel, weighting, and directness of the steering, which heightens confidence through the curves, and helps shrink the size and bulk of this near 6,000-pound 4×4.
Talking of 4×4-ing, one day we decide a little hiking was in order, so pick the challenging trail up Sleeping Beauty Mountain on the east side of the lake. Getting to the trailhead requires a three-mile drive down a pinch-narrow dirt trail with lots of lumps, bumps, and potholes that could swallow a Prius.
The track was almost an insult to the Range Rover’s offroad capability; its long-travel suspension, high ground clearance, and Terrain Response technology allowed it to take, with consummate ease, this road less traveled.
With the dust hosed off, it was then ready to whisk us to dinner at the century-old Sagamore Resort on the shores of the lake in cutesy Bolton Landing. And the next day, let us fit right in with the horsey set in Saratoga.
This latest Range Rover, with its high quality and pampering creature comforts, is now as luxurious as any Bentley—and much more capable.
And with it, Land Rover has set an impressive new benchmark in SUV luxury, capability, and sophistication. It is simply the best four-by-four by far. Like the weather here, it’s just too “cool.”