Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 26, 2020
The road trip from Toronto to Montreal is a mundane five-hour journey on Highway 401, made even worse by dreary landscapes, a neverending horizon, and regular snowstorms that slow down its two-lane traffic to a creeping halt. We made such a trip a few weeks ago during the Family Day long weekend, and while we prepared for the worst, we actually lucked out, not only with beautiful sunny weather, but with our choice of chariot.
The vehicle we took was a 2020 Range Rover P525 HSE in short wheelbase form, loaded up to the brim with nearly every option in the book. That meant 22-way massaging seats with heated and ventilated functions, winged headrests, and a potent 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine that allowed us to overtake, overcome, and turn our five-hour journey into four-and-a-half. All it was missing was a center cooler box to keep our drinks cold, and for that Gibeau Orange Julep. What’s a trip to Montreal without visiting the big orange? The adept all-wheel drive system and flurry of off-road modes also gave us enough confidence to traverse any kind of snowy, slushy terrain, though we were fortunate enough not to encounter any.
I’ve made this journey before in many vehicles: Honda Civic, Mazda CX-9, and even an Infiniti QX80. But none of them made the journey as comfortable, tolerable, or gave us the kind of confidence as this Range Rover. It carried with it an aura of affluent road presence, even more so with the Fuji White paint with blacked out accents on the front grill and side fender panel. With what seemed like miles thick of cabin insulation, the heavy winds grazed the double-paned windows and barely made a noise. We were in our own little bubble cruising down the highway. On the downside, whenever we turned the banging Meridian speakers off, we could hear our own thoughts perhaps just a little too clearly.
The seats were fantastic. Well bolstered, and situated high up, they gave us a commanding view of the road ahead, clearly one of the biggest advantages of this full-size Rover. You become king of the highway. Those flat door sills also act as throne-like armrests too, along with the center fold-down armrest like they have on minivans, doing their best to mimic your living room couch. Land Rover has also listened to customer feedback and has upgraded the massaging seats. Before they were more of a slight inflation and deflation of the bolsters - most of the time you forgot they were even there. But now it’s a full-on kneading massage that you can actually feel through your spine. There are a few different massage modes to choose from too, each of them potent enough to prevent deep vein thrombosis - okay maybe an exaggeration. Still, you can set the system to automatically turn on within five minute intervals of vehicle ignition as well - talk about first-class service.
Storage was plentiful, though the new Rovers with the seat controls relocated to the side door panels, have forced the removal of the side fold-out pockets that I used to use for glasses and small items. There are two cupholders in the center next to the rotary dial, and the whole panel can be shifted forward to reveal a larger cubby underneath. Though, if you have actual cups in those cupholders, you won’t be able to access it. The center glove box was spacious, and we sorely missed the optional cooler box that we could have truly taken advantage of with water bottles and transporting our frozen smoked meat packages. Without any passengers in the rear compartment, we had ample room for our bags and suitcases. The trunk was cavernous with a split tailgate that made accessing items even easier, as did the air suspension that automatically lowers on engine shut-off for easier ingress.
Now onto some ergonomic quibbles. The Range Rover adopts all those capacitive-touch glossy buttons from the Velar, which are integrated into the steering wheel, memory seat buttons, and door mirror buttons. They are fancy, sleek, and definitely more modern looking, but they no longer have grooves for me to feel where the buttons are. That means every time I want to change the song, I have to take my eyes off the road and look. That goes for the new dual 10-inch touchscreens as well. They are about the size of a Nintendo Switch and again, distract the driver from the road when needing to input commands. They did leave a physical volume and temperature dial (when clicked, it also commands the heated and massage seats) though, so there’s that. The head-up display was large and displayed crisp graphics too, making it easy to follow navigation prompts. Voice command further remedied these complaints.
Our ideal road trip powerplant would be the 3.0-litre turbodiesel but alas, beggars can’t be choosers. The plug-in hybrid variant wouldn’t make a difference with all the highway driving either. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 was a welcome partner, dishing out a valuable 518 hp and 461 lb-ft, enough to sprint from 0-100 km/h in an easy 5.4 seconds. Despite its gargantuan size, overtaking with this prodigious power was effortless. The instant thrust from the supercharger meant we could sprint down quickly enough so the neighbouring lorry wouldn’t try to overtake that other lorry, which we all know takes hours with their speed limiters. Though, the one caveat with the larger displacement engine is its fuel consumption. We averaged 13.3 L/100km over our entire 1,500 km round-trip journey, and it requires 91-octane fuel too so our final fuel bill ended up being quite expensive.
The adaptive cruise control with steering assist was a godsend and allowed me to focus less on following the car in front of me, and more on situational awareness of the surrounding cars. This made a huge difference in arriving at our destination with energy to spare. The controls were all located within the steering wheel spokes and within easy reach. Though, it wasn’t always the smoothest example, especially when the car in front would suddenly zip into the neighbouring lane. Rather than gradually accelerating, the Range would hammer the throttle and quickly catch up to the set speed limit, disturbing the body’s flat and level balance. Positively, it would always stay in the center of its lane, and never see-saw back and forth between the white markings.
We have been officially spoiled. No other vehicle has made the humdrum round-trip to Montreal that effortless, that easy, or that homey. The full-size Rover with the V8 was a proud and effective partner, and it’s going to be hard to top. Sure the turbodiesel would have been the better option, but the V8 offered limitless torque and enough horsepower to pass every speed limit in the country without breaking a sweat. Furthermore, the cosseting massage seats, excessive cargo space, and commanding driving position, made this Range Rover the ideal chariot for long distance adventures. Until the next one.
Model: 2020 Range Rover P525 HSE SWB
Paint Type: Fuji White
Base Price: $123,000
Price as Tested: $139,870
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,000 / 2,073 / 1,835
Curb weight (kg): 2,374
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Horsepower: 518 hp @ 6,000 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 461 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 5,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 14.4 / 11.2 / 12.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.3 (two-thirds highway driving)