Lifestyle: Motoring – Range Rover v Bentley; Autogas; Oliver Sweeney

SINCE its launch 45 years ago the Range Rover has remained supreme as the ultimate luxury off-roader.

Porsche and BMW may have vehicles capable of challenging its performance on-road and Volvo and Audi closest to it off-road, but there is still no one that has come up with the complete package capable of lifting the crown from the head of Solihull’s finest.

There are rumours that Rolls-Royce may eventually commit to a 4×4 and if it does then it may be able to mount a significant challenge so far as luxury goes but as yet, that proposal is still on the drawing board – or perhaps I should say, the computer graphic.

More advanced is Bentley’s new Bentayga SUV; now even with the parent company’s (VW) tarnished image, this new kid on the block may be the first to give Jaguar Land Rover pause for thought.

Bentley claims the new vehicle combines unparalleled luxury with effortless performance and everyday usability, and fitted with an all-new twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 powertrain, the Bentayga is said to be the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world.

It is said to offer “a true Bentley driving experience” allied to a range of innovative technology features.

Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors, said: “The Bentayga is truly the Bentley of SUVs. It redefines luxury in the SUV sector and offers a genuine Bentley experience in any environment, thanks to a combination of unparalleled attention to detail, go-anywhere ability and cutting-edge technology. With this extraordinary car we are looking forward to an exciting period of strong growth and sales success for Bentley. The Bentayga is the next step in our brand’s bold future.”

However, these days JLR is used to such challenges and in its new Special Vehicle Operations unit has a division capable of producing something pretty spicy itself.

SVO managing director John Edwards has already hinted that a £200,000 range-topping off-roader could soon be joining the canon of elite models being produced by JLR’s highly skilled engineers.

Quoted in Auto Express, he said: “I’ve never been worried about the Bentley threat – I have always thought it brings an opportunity to grow the segment.
“It recognises we have created a segment and it is flattery that Bentley and Rolls-Royce soon want to join in. If you look at what we have done to Range Rover over the last five years, we have stretched the breadth of the product, the commercial footprint.

“Five years ago we knew we could stretch it, but I am not sure we knew how far and we have surpassed our expectations. So I think it could stretch a bit further.

“Our ceiling price is certainly higher than £160,000. It will definitely go further. Range Rover is the original luxury SUV and everyone accepts that.”

Jaguar Land RoverEarlier this year the company unveiled its new Range Rover SV Autobiography (left), which it described as the most powerful production Range Rover ever, with a 550PS V8 supercharged engine specially tuned for the model.

Land Rover’s design director and chief creative officer Gerry McGovern said at the time of the launch in March: “With the SV Autobiography we have taken the opportunity to optimise the Range Rover’s luxury execution and precision while delivering beautiful detailing that considerably enhances the customer’s experience of our flagship vehicle.”

Priced from £148,900, the Range Rover SV Autobiography stretches to more than £164,000 for the long wheelbase version, the SV12 Autobiography.
The Bentayga starts at £160,200.

So, the gauntlet is well and truly thrown down.

Emissions fallout prompts new calls from alternative fuel lobby

An Autogas stationTHE fallout (if such a term is not too derogatory) from VW’s emissions scandal continues to rock the industry – and is likely to do so for some time to come.

Perhaps not surprisingly the alternative fuel lobby has been quick to pounce and promote the advantages of less polluting cars, whether they be electric or not.

One campaign is proposing the re-introduction of autogas LPG powered models.

Cars running on autogas LPG are significantly cleaner than their diesel and petrol counterparts, emitting 80% less NO2 emissions and 98% fewer particulates than diesels. These harmful pollutants are a key contributor to the current air quality problems in the UK.

In mainland Europe, more than 17 vehicle manufacturers offer autogas LPG powered models directly from their showroom, of which some are even manufactured in the UK. However, despite the technology being fully developed and widely embraced across the rest of Europe, no vehicle manufacturers currently offer LPG variants within their UK range.

“For some time we’ve been calling upon vehicle manufacturers to offer UK motorists the same level of choice as those in mainland Europe with the re-introduction of LPG variants into their range,” said Linda Gomersall, general manager, Autogas.

“It’s clear from the latest revelations about the emissions that UK businesses and individuals want a credible, cleaner alternative immediately. LPG is a proven, cleaner solution with an established refuelling and servicing infrastructure already in place. We simply need vehicle manufacturers to make LPG ready cars available in the UK and together we can help make a significant improvement to the UK’s air quality.”

The autogas lobby claims the environmental credentials of the product have been proven in a series of independent laboratory and real-world tests. The most recent study conducted by Dr Eric Johnson, of Atlantic Consulting, across nearly 9,000 cars and vans between 2011-13 showed that autogas LPG offered significantly greater environmental benefits than the other fuel types under consideration, which included diesel, petrol and CNG.

Due to its better environmental performance, LPG also attracts a lower duty meaning that not only can users improve their environmental performance, but they also save money too.

Around 150,000 motorists in the UK who currently use LPG, pay an average of 54.7p per litre to fill their tanks, compared to around 109.38p for diesel.

“The LPG solution is cleaner, proven and readily available so we’d urge car makers to make them available at their earliest opportunity,” added Gomersall.

Autogas is a joint venture between Shell and Calor. Established in 2000 with the sole aim of making automotive LPG more readily available to fleet and private motorists, the company now has LPG refuelling installations on more than 215 petrol forecourts throughout the UK.

Jaguar puts its best foot forward

Jaguar and Oliver SweeneyTHE association between automotive manufacturers and lifestyle brands stretches back almost as far as the invention of the car itself.

The association is a simple but effective marketing tool. If a manufacturer wants to enhance the appeal of its product, all it has to do is team it up with an exclusive designer label and instantly its status is transformed.

Some cars of course sell themselves and therefore gimmicks are superfluous. However, it’s always nice to add a touch of glamour.

Jaguar Land Rover has recently demonstrated this by showcasing the special vehicles which will feature in the forthcoming Bond film, Spectre.

However, not content with that, the manufacturer is now teaming up with Oliver Sweeney for a special range of co-developed shoes.

Named Weslake and Sayer, the two new styles of formal driving shoe are said to be “celebrations of the company’s design and engineering heritage”.

Malcolm Sayer was one of the company’s most famous designers, the man credited with the C-type, D-type, E-type, XJ-S and the unique XJ13; whilst Harry Weslake was Jaguar’s legendary engine designer.

Julian Thomson, Jaguar’s Advanced Design Director, said: “This is a great relationship as both Jaguar and Oliver Sweeney have much in common: British craftsmanship, artistry and a love of the creative process.  Above all we’re all very proud of this latest collection that we’ve created together.”

Designed and developed using similar processes to those adopted by Jaguar design, the shoe styles were sculpted and refined in clay first, before 3-D printing using composite plastics for pre-production sign off.  The prototypes were then sent as an approved design to the Oliver Sweeney factory in Italy to be hand crafted and stitched in to finished shoes.

Unique construction features of the shoes include a super-flexible yet firm sole to maximise driving comfort and to maintain the flowing lines of the upper’s style.  A special heel profile, chamfered to create a pivot point for better pedal control, and a waist-less finish ensure a fluid driving experience without the shoes catching on pedals.

The upper design is intended to echo some of the design cues from Jaguar’s latest range of vehicles, with the curved sewn panel on the shoe taking a similar line to that of the distinctive D-pillar of the XJ, while the chisel toe profile recalls the signature squared-off grille, used on every current Jaguar, including the all-new F-Pace crossover and F-type sports car.

Oliver Sweeney Cobbler-in-Chief (which has to be one of the best job titles ever), Tim Cooper, said:“We’re absolutely thrilled to build on our partnership with Jaguar.  Collaborating with another great British brand has been really inspiring, and we’ve truly worked together on these shoes to create something that reflects what both of our brands represent: a luxurious, modern take on traditional craftsmanship.  As a result, the shoes are not only beautiful objects, but ideal for driving in too.”

The new Jaguar by Oliver Sweeney range of formal driving shoes goes on sale from October 1, priced at £325 from Oliver Sweeney retail stores and online at