Big miles, big risk – and big love?
By Mike Duff / Saturday, May 22, 2021 / Loading comments
The various Range Rovers that have featured in this column’s past past have proved to be some of the most popular Brave Pills, but also some of the most controversial. Our previous examples have proved better able to divide opinion than Marmite, pineapple on pizza or the tricky question of whether Piers Morgan should be sentenced to death, or merely sentenced to life.
This week marks a very special moment as another member of the clan graduates to Pilldom, in this case the still-current L405 that you can walk into a Land Rover dealer and buy brand new. Stick an ageless private plate on this seven-year old example and all but your best informed neighbours wouldn’t be able to spot the difference. But you would, thanks to what is close to a 75 per cent discount.
Last week’s detailed digression into the history of residual values for the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti attracted some below-the-line criticism, including accusations of verbosity and even the simple summary “unreadable” – although this from somebody who had been able to read it well enough to get frothy. So here’s an executive summary for the least patient: big miles turn expensive cars cheap, quickly.
In the case of this SDV8 L405, the missing bits of that equation are 121,000 miles, seven years and – depending on the exact spec for a Vogue with some option boxes ticked – around £60,000 in lost value. Or about 50p a mile for what the dealer claims to be the single former owner, more than twice as much as they have probably spent on fuel. That represents what most of us would regard as a financial spanking, yet it’s hard not to look at the car in question without a strong sense this money was spent wisely. If you’re going to average 17,000 miles a year, could you think of a more stylish and relaxing way to do it?
There are cheaper L405s out there, usually low-specced V6 diesels, but our Pill is the cheapest with the V8 diesel currently in the classifieds. It is here rather than one of its weedier sisters because the bigger motor suits the Range Rover so much better. And also because our Pill’s combination of dark green metallic and an ebony interior looks much more interesting than the more common L405 palette of grey, black and silver.
While £24,000 is certainly an attractive price and a huge discount, there is the thorny question of whether even a leggy L405 is truly brave. None of this Range Rover’s predecessors reached their seventh birthdays without having developed a reputation for expensive and frequent faults. Yet although there is plentiful anecdotal evidence of L405 owners suffering from niggling issues and – in pre-2015 examples – niggling electrical faults, there is no evidence of the sort of wallet-busting “they all do that, sir” meltdowns common to its ancestors. Moreover, there are plenty of counter-naysayers who claim to have enjoyed L405s for big mileages without encountering issues.
The L405 was a different car from its predecessor, and one that represented a triumph of both engineering and marketing. The BMW-engineered L322 Range Rover had been hugely successful, but the launch of the first L320 Range Rover Sport in 2005 had proved many buyers wanted something more aggressive. So when work began on the next generations of both cars the decision was taken that the new L494 Sport would offer a sharper steer than its porky predecessor, but would also pretty much sit where the L322 had been in terms of size and price. Meaning the L405 could move further upmarket and be bigger, grander and more expensive. The fact this Range Rover’s cabin refinement was benchmarked against that of the Rolls-Royce Ghost gives a good idea of where Land Rover’s aspirations lay.
One thing that wasn’t going to be diluted was the range-topping Rangie’s off-tarmac ability. Against other toff-roaders it had to be seen as the genuine article, and be at least as good as its cheaper sisters. So Land Rover created a more advanced version of the Terrain Response system that had made its debut on the Discovery 3, this removing the need to worry about the minutiae of differential locks, gear ratios or suspension heights by reducing choice to the selection of the icon best representing the task in hand, from muddy ruts to a trackless desert.
The result was something close to magical. Despite its size and bulk the new Range Rover could cross demanding terrain with effortless disdain, fording rivers and scrambling up the sort of muddy trails normally restricted to to battered old-school 4x4s with lift kits and winches. It was just as good on road, too. The decision to send the Range Rover Sport chasing the Cayenne and X5 allowed the L405 to be created without worrying about concrete body control or Nürburgring lap times. The result was a laid-back chassis tune that made for supremely relaxed progress. Standard air suspension was even plusher than it had been in the L322, but damping was more assured and the new car could be hustled along without turning into a bouncy castle. The result was a car capable of compressing and de-stressing pretty much any journey.
The success of the L405’s recipe was proved by how little it has changed over the years, the long-lived V8 diesel only being replaced by JLR’s new six-cylinder diesel at the end of last year. There have been minor design and spec tweaks, but this early example still has many more similarities than differences to the current spec car. Well, beyond the obvious distinction of that six-figure odometer reading.
The dealer selling our Pill is offering the reassurance of a 24-month warranty – study the full T&Cs carefully on that one – and also promises that it comes with a comprehensive service history proving plenty of love from its first owner. The MOT history confirms the mileage, but only goes back as far as 2017, suggesting a change of registration has taken place since then. The official record is pleasingly short of red ink, listing nothing of note beyond advisories for worn brakes and tired tyres. It also confirms the car has been covering impressively consistent mileages between tests. It managed 19,942 between 2017 and 2018, 20,451 the following year and then 18,058 until April 2020 – proof of what seems to have been a very orderly lifestyle, although it has only covered just over 2000 miles since.
Despite its affordability there will be plenty more depreciation ahead of this example; an early L322 TDV8 wearing similar miles would likely be under ten grand. But the worst is definitely behind it, and although there will certainly be a fair amount of non-routine spending for future owners, the cost-per-mile will almost certainly be less scary from this point onwards. For somebody with an appropriately heroic attitude to risk this is a very serious car for a very modest outlay. Just make sure you have enough left in the kitty for that age-defying private reg.
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