You (probably) can't afford one. We certainly never will. But if you can swing the massive price tag, you'll be greeted by a vehicle that has thought up all the ways it could make your drive more comfortable and then executed them almost perfectly.
Let’s get this out of the way right up front. The vast majority of people reading this review will never, ever own a Range Rover First Edition. If we’d known what it cost before we’d started driving it, we’d have spent a week looking nervously at every other bit of traffic and parking lot obstacle we’d encountered. It’s THAT expensive.
At this point you’re looking at the header image and saying to yourself, ‘Surely it can’t cost that much.’ Oh yes, it bloody well can. Our review vehicle turned up at the Stuff offices with absolutely no optional extras installed. That might be cause they’re mostly included in the purchase price. The Range Rover First Edition, without any extras at all, will set you back a substantial R3.53 million.
It’s all there
You’re not getting ripped off, as it happens. The tricky bit is affording it. The surprisingly bulky vehicle sports 23in rims, an oddly-sedate design that still manages to be eye-catching, and a generally smooth outer shape that doesn’t look like it’s worth spending the price of an actual (used) supercar on. There’s no denying that loads of thought has gone into the design but Land Rover has saved its value for the First Edition’s interior.
Still, worth noting are the running boards. This vehicle is higher off the ground than it looks. It’ll automatically lower suspension to let you clamber in but that’s hardly dignified. There’s an automatically-retracting running board the length of the body (between the tyres, obviously) that pops out when the door is opened. Close the doors and start up and it disappears back to its place of concealment.
This is just one of many little touches Land Rover uses to make drivers feel like they’ve got value for money. The company’s door lights make sure you always know where you’re stepping in the dark but, like we said, you really need to spend time inside it to appreciate just what the company’s done here.
Slipping into the cabin envelopes you in the most comfortable car seat you’ve ever been in. It’s no bucket seat with a five-point harness. You won’t be driving that fast. It’s more like the sort of chair you’d buy if you were planning to watch Netflix while remaining seated for as long as possible. The headrest is extremely soft and seat adjustment is a breeze. If it’s uncomfortable, it’s entirely your fault.
The space between the driver’s and passenger’s seats is equally lush. There’s a cooled container for soft drinks (beer is probably a terrible idea). The gearshift occupies an island between two sections that’ll hold your detritus. If you want to conceal their contents from the world at large, tasteful panels can be shifted over them. Wireless charging and USB ports are, of course, included.
Above is what the Range Rover First Edition calls a sliding panoramic roof. Want some actual sunlight on your pasty body? It’s as simple as touching a switch on the ceiling. It’s possible to remove just the cover or the entire panel, to let a little fresh air into the cabin.
The driver gets one of the better digital clock screens we’ve seen in a car, along with Range Rover’s heads-up display projected onto the windscreen. In the centre is a 13.1in touchscreen display with Land Rover’s trademark OS running. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are both takeover options if you feel the need. But it’s the folks in the back who get the better part of the deal.
Both rear seats are fitting with an 11.4in touchscreen display. In case you’re left in any doubt about what those screens are for, a set of over-ear headphones is included in each rear passenger door. It’s possible to connect to these screens (Bluetooth), charge your devices (USB), and generally entertain yourself while the driver gets on with driving you to your exclusive housing estate somewhere that included a helicopter landing pad.
You’d expect a R3.5 million Range Rover to handle the road like some sort of fluffy daydream and you’d be entirely correct. It’s incredibly easy to forget that you’re driving. Despite its bulk, the Range Rover First Edition is incredibly easy to navigate. Camera- and sensor-assisted features let us cram it into spaces that we were really unsure about. It’s surprisingly nimble too. Something this size usually comes across as top-heavy, slewing around corners rather than traversing them smoothly. That’s not the case here. The First Edition handles like a vehicle that weighs somewhat less than 3.3 tons.
It’s also surprisingly economical. It’ll suck up 11 litres per 100km, which isn’t bad for a 3.0-litre petrol engine. It’s almost nippy, too. It’ll hit 100km/h in about 6.1 seconds (according to Land Rover — we were too busy being comfy to set a timer). It’s also got a top speed of 234km/h. But while there’s a Dynamic mode for that speedy takeoff, you really don’t have to use it. It’s really no hardship being behind the wheel of the First Edition, which means you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere. Presumably, that changes if you can actually afford to buy one (you’ve probably got quite the schedule). Speaking as folks who will never have that kind of cash, we really, really wish we did. It’s a dream to drive, especially when the lights and wipers are fully automated and all you have to do is flex your ankle and twitch your forearm a little to get home.
Range Rover First Edition (2023) verdict
The Range Rover First Edition is a tremendously expensive car for most South Africans. You’ll need some serious stock market chops, Mafia connections, or lucrative tenders in order to afford one. But if you can, you won’t be sorry that you slipped behind the wheel of one of these. But if you can afford the R3.5 million price tag, why not go all the way and just cram in the rest of Land Rover’s extras? They can’t bump the price up by that much, surely?