This new Range Rover is 1.8 inches taller and 9.3 inches longer than the old one, with 5.3 inches more wheelbase. Maximum ground clearance is greater than before (11.0 inches), it will tow more (7700 pounds), and it can snatch-recover a 12,000-pound load.
By late afternoon, the wind was howling badly enough across the barren hillsides that we switched on the heaters for seats and steering wheel and began the downhill battle. At the shore of Loch Glass, Land Rover had neatly parked a toilet trailer (with art on the walls and running water in the sinks) and a large, temporary glass house with wooden floor, cushy furniture, halogen lights, classical music, and an attendant who served tea and cookies.
"It wouldn't be nearly as useful without the hidden bank of generators," quipped Dover as he sipped his tea. Out of the woods at the property's edge, we were hailed by three guys with Land Rover Defenders and power washers who hosed down our Range Rover, checked its tires for gashes, and sent us on our way to town. Tough luxury, indeed.
And then tough was all finished. We arrived at our quarters, imposing Skibo Castle, built at the turn of the twentieth century by the world's richest man, Andrew Carnegie. Many stories surround this fabulous 7500-acre estate (down from 250,000 acres). But let me just say that you need to know a member (Dover) to stay there; a butler named James met us in the circular drive with a tray of single malts; a bagpiper played us awake each morning; black pudding (made of blood) was on my breakfast plate; there was a Burberry store in the dungeon, and they take American Express; and I got Madonna's bridal suite. There were no lost diamond studs under the bed; I checked.
The last thrashing we would give the Range Rover was the most obvious one, the test that has tripped it up for the past thirty years. We would drive it fast and hard, mostly on a single-track paved path through the wild Beinn Eighe national nature preserve along the 12.5-mile shore of Loch Maree, to quaint Gairloch and Poolewe on the western shore.
We set the navigation system (nice, but not as nice as the systems from Acura and Lexus) so photographer Tim Andrew wouldn't have to guide me. I was really looking forward to this day and not just for the six hours of mouth-gaping scenery.
Dover's boys had broken his golden rule: "Be modest. Under-promise and over-deliver." Not only did they claim the obvious high-dollar SUVs from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus for competition, but they got carried away and insisted that a Range Rover would kick Mercedes S-class booty as well. A beautiful, controlled ride at highway speeds on pavement has never been the Range Rover's forte, so this would be some feat.