Project Beast: Introduction

To quote the inspired words of the noughties pop sensation Britney Spears “oops, I did it again!”

Yup, following in the muddy, beast V8 footsteps of the older Project P38 Range Rover (and having now just recently said a fond farewell to the loyal and superb Project S4 Audi), we’ve only gone and done it again and bought another V8 Land Rover Range Rover… and this one’s got 400bhp and is Supercharged!

Welcome to Project Beast! A proper, full-fat, T-bone steak of an SUV. Yum-yum!

This L322 model, BMW-bred, uber-luxurious, fully-loaded Supercharged Range Rover is a car I’ve long hankered after owning, pining and making strange sounds to myself whenever I see one. It’s the ultimate in, well, everything – as comfortable, happy and in habitat parked up outside The Goring as it is wading through, well, gorges. Deep mud, sandy beaches, rocky river beds, or the King’s Road… it’s all fair game for this cracking motor.

And being a country petrol head of a man, partial to the odd bit of luxury lunching, fine hotels, green laning, “tailgating” picnics, fresh air, parking ringside at country shows and serious performance and long-distance comfort on the road, the Range Rover Supercharger is the ideal car for me and my “middle-aged-shout-out” of a lifestyle (BBC6 Music Shaun Keaveny fans!). And of course for the wonderful wife and Road Magazine baby… both V8 “Rangey” fans, as luck would have it!

The third generation Range Rover (launched in 2002) is a huge step forward from the unreliable, fine, but flawed P38 – with its super stiff unibody, incredible choice of sublime BMW (V8 & diesel) and Jaguar (S/C V8) engines, superior CAN electronics, upgraded air suspension, up-market and fully loaded C21st interiors and timeless interior and exterior design (a point proved by how subtle the aesthetic changes were from the L322 to the new 4th Generation cars released last year).

It looks bloody amazing. It drives absolutely incredibly, on and off road. And it’s specced-up to the hilt – with its excellent infotainment touch screen, rear-DVD, off-roading Venture cam and that rarest of modern car accessories, a sunroof. Basically, it’s better in every conceivable way from the P38 Gen II… a real paradigm shift, mainly, because it’s built properly and is a whole heap more reliable, and therefore enjoyable to own as a result.

In fact, the only thing this stately home on 20-inch wheels is missing is a roaring log fire and wood-panelled library with a globe drinks trolley to recline with (I guess I’ll have to make do with the big V8, acres of cow hide and cup holders!)

Of course, the L322 is not without it’s Range Rovery idiosyncrasies – namely a penchant for eating the slick six-speed transmission up (and front differentials) and of course, crazed electronics (mainly down to water ingress in the boot getting into the wiring looms) – so I had to buy a good one, from the right person, with the right history.

And that right person turned out to be the very experienced, very friendly, Richard Calne of Calne Vehicle Management (CVM). He runs a tidy Land Rover servicing and vehicle sourcing (and Mr Cambelt and Black Circle Tyres and van hire actually!) business in the fine open countryside of Cambridgeshire, in the village of Sawston.

Advertised (on what had become my internet home page) Auto Trader, Richard was selling this Java Black, range-topping Range Rover for a long-standing customer and real V8 and car enthusiast – who’d owned the car from new in 2006, when it cost an eye-watering, but understandable (if unjustifiable) £92,000! Perfect.

All rationality to one side, I knew I had to have it when I first saw it really and 99% of my car buying know-how disappeared as I uncontrollably let my heart rule my head – especially after I drove it and first heard that supercharger boost into life and felt the physics-defying pace of the 400bhp & 413lb ft, 4,197cc DOHC AJ-Jaguar V8: An awesome motoring nirvana moment.

Then, being slightly more sensible, once I’d discovered the local East Anglian car had obviously been loved, had a full service history at Land Rover dealers and with specialists CVM – crucially including a full gearbox overhaul and replacement (still under warranty) – and that everything bar the reversing camera was working, a deal had to be done.

Richard made the whole process a real pleasure. As he put it: “Buying a car is supposed to be a fun experience, right?” Indeed. And how true it was in the case of Project Beast.

CVM gave me a full MOT, professionally touched up a bit of worn paintwork on the driver’s door sill, fitted new front discs and pads (a regular, costly service item in these 2.5T monsters), gave me a bloody generous discount on the asking price (after some typical scouse haggling from me) and even threw in a full valet and a quarter of a tank full of fuel (25-litres+ in this beast!). Christ, Richard even picked me up from the train station… talk about quality customer service! I can’t recommend the services of CVM enough: Fabulous.

As is Road Magazine’s new “Rangey” – imperious on the road, with its effortless sense of style, class, opulence, occasion and downright insane turn of speed. This is a vehicle that makes every mile of every journey fun, whilst being beautifully comfortable and feeling outrageously cool.

In the year or so since I said goodbye to Project P38, I’d forgotten just how awesome the Range Rover driving perspective is – peering (nosily) over fences and hedge rows and (safely) across the tops of cars at the road ahead, staring (rudely) down your nose at folk at the lights and generally acting like you own the bloody place wherever you go. Awesome!

I’m pretty sure if God drove, he’d have a Supercharged Range Rover, in Java Black, with black leather, just like Project Beast!!

We love it. And we can’t wait to enjoy many a road trip – on and off road – in the latest addition to the Road Magazine stables, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, below is a few iPhone snaps for now. Keen Roadies, Range Rover-ists and readers can expect a proper pic or two up here and on Facebook & Twitter & on the Blog soon – when I can be bothered to get out of the soft, heated, multi-adjustable driver’s armchair, stop enjoying the rich driving experience and take some, then write a story… not just sit in there, heated seat on, wafting along majestically with the roar of that 400bhp Jaaaaag V8 and the wonderful whine of the supercharger for company. Heaven.

Maybe when I run out of money filling up the huge V8’s £130 tank (with its dreadful 20mpg average and woeful 500-mile range – its only, inevitable downside with a 400bhp S/C V8!) I will get around to doing more articles. Maybe. For now, I’m off to enjoy another magnificent waft in Project Beast, looking down on all the “regular people” in their dull “sensible cars!” 😉

(Oh, and as a footnote to any environmentalists who might be reading… get stuffed! My other car, Project Ecowagon, is a new VW Golf Bluemotion and does 70-80+mpg, so that means both cars I own average c45-55mpg and that’s perfectly reasonable, goddit?!).

image3-3

400bhp and still capable of 25mpg!

image4-1

Quite a common sight now.

image1-2

Iconic badge best with light spattering of dirt

image1-1

Not just a grille upgrade. The real Mcoy!

image2-3

Never tire of seeing that word on rpm gauge

image2-2

Leather anyone? Enough buttons to press?

image2-1

Read it. And weep…!

image3

CVM purchase experience was a rich one.

image3-2

What lies beneath… is a gem of an engine!

image3-1

Yup. It really IS super!