The current Range Rover has been with us since 2012, and will taken some replacing; here's how to buy one
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, December 27, 2020
- Available for £24,000
- 4.4 diesel V8 most desirable engine
- Deliciously growly high-torque engine
- Fantastically able on just about any surface
- Wonderfully serene
- Some electrical and body issues on pre-2015 cars
- You won't be able to skimp on maintenance
Search for a used Range Rover here
Just for a change, we're going to start this buying guide with a PHer's post made in 2015 in response to a query from another PHer on the reliability of the fourth-generation L405 Range Rover.
'My L405 15.5MY has been MORE unreliable than my L322 11.5MY. Since delivery in March, it has had EIGHT campaigns to address various issues… from incorrect wiring harnesses to wrong fuel cap filler through to doors which may unlatch themselves during motion. It has spent circa 6 weeks off the road. The build quality is shoddy as ever – there is a lot more cheap and nasty plastic IMO hidden from the eye. Steering column cowling coming unclipped, rattles etc. Lovely car but so complex and so many niggles. Good luck!!!'
Okay, stop right there. Any L405 buying plans you may have been harbouring shouldn't be binned on the strength of that post, because the subsequent posts on that same forum were all singing the car's praises. Then there were a few more posts slagging it off, followed by some more folk leaping to its defence.
That's the thing about Range Rovers. Right from the start back in 1970 (wow) they've always aroused strong reactions. The positive ones generally extol the extraordinary class-straddling mix of on-road imperiousness and eye-popping off-road ability, while those against have usually had some sort of financially ruinous experience with one and would never touch another even with the longest commercially available bargepole.
At this point in the proceedings we're going to assume that you know what Range Rovers are about in a general sense and that you like the idea of owning one. You want to know specifically what you might be in for with the L405, which made its debut at the 2012 Paris show. We're here to help.
The big change over the L322 was the adoption of aluminium for the monocoque body. For the UK market there was a 5.0-litre, 510hp supercharged petrol V8 – the non-blown version wasn't sold here – and two diesels, a 3.0-litre TDV6 producing 255hp, and a 4.4-litre SDV8 with 335hp. A 3.0-litre diesel hybrid with 333hp joined the range in 2015 (along with some mid-term refreshments and a long-wheelbase model with a 200mm longer body), but by far the most popular – and by extension the most numerous model on the used market – was the TDV8 diesel.
In the (claimed) 420kg lighter L405 iteration the big Ford-derived 4.4-litre diesel was able to free up its attractive mix of mighty torque (more than 50lb ft than that of the supercharged 5.0-litre petrol), good power, and surprising fuel economy for its size. The agility argument for buying the smaller and 200kg lighter V6 diesel was all but knocked on the head and, at least as importantly, the V8 made a better noise than the admittedly smooth and highly refined V6.
Both diesels had adaptive air suspension but the V8 also had a Dynamic Response active lean control system to keep the car flatter through corners, a useful if not essential attribute in such a high and heavy vehicle. For these reasons and more, the pre-2018 upgrade 4.4 of 2012-2017 is the L405 we'll be concentrating on today.
You'll see 3.0-litre TDV6 L405s on sale for £22,000 or less, but for the TDV8s that we're looking at here £24,000 is a more realistic starting point. That gets you into something really special, magisterial almost. More than one first-time buyer has expressed the odd-sounding but understandable view that they somehow don't feel quite worthy of its magnificence. There is a darker side too, mind. Someone once said that you don't buy a Range Rover, you lease a Range Rover, but is that a fair comment? Surely, 43 years after the birth of the amazing gen-one RR there should have been enough development time to create something that's out of this world not just in ability but also in reliability? Let's take a squint.
SPECIFICATION | RANGE ROVER SDV8 4.4 (L405)
Engine: 4,367cc V8 diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500rpm
0-62mph: 6.5 secs
Top speed: 135mph
MPG (official combined): 29,2
On sale: 2012 – now
Price new: Vogue 4.4 £90,000, SE £96,600, Autobiography £109,500
Price now: from £24,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
As noted, we're focusing on the attractively grumbly 4.4 turbo V8 diesel model, but before we get into that – and to partly answer the reliability question posed at the end of the intro – the first thing to say about the L405 is that most of its problems were restricted to early (pre-2015) cars. These were mainly in the electrical and body fit departments. One PH owner reckoned the electrical glitches were to do with procurement, quality control and inspection issues when the source of components was changed.
In the 4.4 you could just about tell you were in a diesel when stationary, with a little vibration coming through the steering wheel. You may have seen journalists drag racing L405s against other cars and complaining about them not being as quick as (say) a BMW X5. That sort of test is about as relevant to a Range Rover owner as a pair of specs is to a heavyweight boxer. A Range Rover delivers a different experience, creating an oasis of refinement and peace on the inside of the double-glazed windows. Plus, a six-second 0-62 time is hardly slow and should be more than ample for even the most demanding driver, especially in the context of how enormous these things are.
The 4.4 beats the TDV6 in a couple of key areas other than its performance advantage: it's not prone to the smaller engine's crankshaft bearing issues, nor does it need a pricey timing belt. EGR valves are the bane of many a car and the L405 doesn't escape. Turbos can give trouble with breather oil leaks. Depending on where you have the work carried out, having a new modified breather pipe fitted could cost you up to £850. At least one owner has reported exhaust fumes entering the cabin when the aircon was put into auto mode, and fuel tank sensors can develop faults. Overall, though, this is a good and reliable engine.
Sometimes the rotary shift knob didn't pop up. As with the L322, there's a full-time Intelligent 4WD system with a two-speed transfer box 'get-out-of-muck-free card' that can be engaged on the fly at any speed up to 37mph. Those 'in the know' (i.e. with a hotline to JLR insiders) and who are planning on keeping their L405s for a while recommend carrying out a transfer box and diff oil change at 30,000 miles. Keep on top of this sort of thing, along with the filters, and the net result should be that you'll be helping your bank balance by safeguarding the car's long-term health.
Fuel consumption? Well, anything displacing 4.4 litres isn't going to be winning any economy awards, but 24mpg or so around town, mid 30s on the motorway (irrespective of how much load you're carrying) and a real-world average of 30mpg are by no means bad figures for a vehicle of this size and ability. The numbers you would get from the 3.0 diesel wouldn't be much different, if at all. The 4.4's 700 mile-plus motorway range will at least give you more time between fill-ups to help you forget the pain of laying out up to £110 if you let the 105-litre tank run dry. Note that 65-plate cars and on should have AdBlue. 15-plate and earlier cars won't, which will be important if you're motoring in an emissions-controlled environment.
Road tax on the 4.4 is £565 a year, which is about a tenner less than on the 5.0 petrol but £235 more than on the 3.0 diesel. Servicing costs will range between £450 and £700 every year or 18,000 miles. Not everyone has enjoyed great service from LR dealerships, with reports of service books not being stamped up or the indicator not being reset. There have also been mixed reports about the quality of the Land Rover Assistance service provided to L405 owners.
Relative to the contemporary opposition, the ride quality on a Range Rover has been awesome right through its fifty-year history. Some owners who have had both the L322 and the L405 have ventured the opinion that the earlier car is maybe a little better at cushioning shocks, but whatever you think about that there's no debate about the L405's ability to smash terrible tracks into whimpering submission with 300mm of ground clearance and 900mm wading depth, up by 200mm on the L322, or to convert just about any road into a velvet blanket covered in syrup. That last simile might not have worked.
L405s could come with a range of wheel sizes from 19in to 22in. Some say that the L405's handsome 22s provide a nobblier ride than the 21s, but the difference is marginal. A bigger problem with the 22s is the apparent softness of the metal which makes them more susceptible to buckling by potholes. Faulty compressors and blown bags for the air suspension are known things.
The L405's revised Terrain Response 2 system constantly monitored the road ahead and could be left to adjust the car's multiple settings itself, or you could choose your own preset from a selection of five settings. You also had a list of other aids like Hill Start Assist, Gradient Acceleration Control, Gradient Release Control, Hill Descent Control, and Hill Gradient Release Acceleration Descent Control, along with the usual ability to alter the ride height via console buttons.
Speed-sensitive steering is fast enough to reassure on B-roads, but braking is 'different' in a car as big as this. Until you get used to it, retardation can feel inadequate, but that can be more about you not realising just how fast you're going when you're perched so far up in the air.
Despite the use of aluminium these are still heavy cars that will severely test their suspension components. A knocking noise will very likely mean that the front track control arms and the bottom arms at the rear are worn. Get your local LR dealer to replace these all at once and you'll be looking at a total bill including labour and VAT of around £700.
First thing to be sure of when buying an early L405 is that you don't accidentally buy a late L322. Although the L405 was launched in 2012, the changeover year was 2013 and L322s were still being registered in that year. This is important as late model low-mileage L322s can go for the same sort of money as early high-mile L405s. Dealers tend not to mention it when it's an L322.
In profile you can tell an L405 from the L322 by the top tail-light repeater lens that extends into the rear wing, the lower position of the fuel filler cap and the above-sill 'hockey stick' trim line that runs forward from the bottom of the rear light assembly and through the rear wheelarch to a point just behind the front wheelarch, where it does a 90 degree flick up into three vertical trim bands.
The other thing to say about L405s is they are not just long – at one centimetre less than five metres, they are also wide. If you live out in the sticks where the roads are narrow or you use car parks a lot and you don't enjoy having your doors banged, you might want to think carefully before taking the plunge. Check the underneath of any car you're thinking of buying just in case the previous owner actually was someone who defied convention and went off road in his Range Rover.
The headlights were modelled on camera lenses, the doors were soft-close and we think that both parts of the split tailgate could be activated on the plipper, though that could be model dependent. There have been problems with panel fit, especially on the rear doors, tailgate and bonnet. In the latter case squiffy sensors could throw up 'not closed' warnings when the car was on a sloping piece of ground. If you opened and closed the bonnet on a flatter surface that normally cleared the alert. Rubber door seals might not be that well fitted.
In terms of desirable extras, the panoramic roof is well liked and so are the deployable side steps. You can buy electric side steps from any number of aftermarket suppliers, but they'll be more than £2k a pair. Fixed ones will be around £300.
These are serious cars bought by serious people so you might want to avoid lairy colours, which in RR terms means anything brighter than dark grey. Obviously that's meant to be a joke, but you know what we mean. The gloss black finish on the pillars was supposed to suggest a 'floating roof' look, an effect you lose on black cars. Annoyingly the RANGE ROVER bonnet lettering has a reputation for tarnishing. You can give LR £200 for sorting that out, or do it yourself for a tenner.
Some reports at the time of the L405 launch noted that the cabin was beginning to feel slightly dated. This is a critical area, as a big part of the appeal of an L405 Range Rover is the high degree of luxury it affords its users. From the get-go the L405 had more room in the back than the L322, thanks to the extra 42mm in the wheelbase and the extra width. A lower 'Access' height on the air suspension plus wider door apertures made it easier to get aboard. In the back there was the option of a three-seat bench or two 'executive class' seats. There was never an option for a third row. Huge adjustability makes it impossible not to find a brilliant driving position, and the visibility is peerless.
Even the base spec Vogue (an annoying name if you don't like Madonna) has a great kit list, and the materials feel expensive apart from those used for the start/stop and steering wheel buttons, which degrade on older cars. The hides are soft and plush, although there have been complaints about bagginess of fit. At the top of the L405 range is the Autobiography, which is another odd name for a car trim level, but in RR terms it stands for everything short of the kitchen sink. Whether you'd actually want all the Autobiography toys is another matter, though once you've grown accustomed to standard AB items like the remote controlled pre-heater, massage seats, banging 1700 watt Meridian Signature Reference sound system, raft of cameras and electric tow bar, you'll miss them when they're gone.
The good thing is that highly specced L405s make a lot more sense to the secondhand buyer as they won't be paying anything like the premiums that new buyers paid. A used Autobiography will generally cost you £2,000-£3,000 more than an SE, somewhat less than the £13,000 gap between them when they were new. In reality most will find that the mid-spec Vogue SE gives them more or less everything they could want or find useful in a car, including (but not limited to) an opening panoramic roof, heated/cooled front seats, heated/reclining rear seats, heated windscreen, heated steering wheel, fridge, keyless entry/start, radar cruise control and LR's clever dual-view screen that allows the driver to look at the sat-nav while the passenger watches other content, harrumph.
There are plenty of storage opportunities and there's a nicer ambience in the SE than the straight Vogue as a result of some plastic trim parts being replaced by classier metal pieces. Shame they didn't extend that enhancement to the plastic gearshifter paddles though. It's comically easy to get the window and door unlocking controls mixed up. Interior door release mechanisms can play up.
The main instrumentation is presented on a 12in TFT screen ahead of the driver, the tacho giving way to a diff status graphic when the road gets bumpy. Sadly they didn't incorporate a full sat-nav display there in best Virtual Cockpit style, but you did get basic geo information.
The central 8in touchscreen is a bit of a reach unless your name is Stretch Armstrong, and even then, when you get your rubbery digits on it the inputting process can be frustrating on the move. This can be a problem because around half of the physical buttons controlling various functions were removed from the new car, though in its defence some functions were voice operated. Another annoyance is the absence (on older cars at least, not sure about the newer ones) of the old-fashioned 'accessories' position which would allow you to listen to the radio while you sat waiting for your other half to come out of the shops. Unless you're happy to keep the engine running you had to resort to your phone for entertainment. Random warning lights can appear.
Cars with unusual interior colours should be cheaper to buy because they will certainly be harder to sell. Boot space might not look as generous as you might think given the size of the beast, though at 909 litres it's actually pretty big and roomier than the L322's. Lowering the rear backrests lifts that figure to well over 2,000 litres.
As Matt noted in his Spotted piece on the L405 5.0 Supercharged earlier this year, the market in posh SUVs has changed quite a bit since the L405 made its debut in 2012. Nowadays the Range Rover has to do battle with luxury brands like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Lamborghini as well as with the usual premium rivals from the likes of Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Audi, so the next model is going to have to be very special indeed when it comes out in 2022.
You feel that in specialness at least the L405 (which was benchmarked on the Rolls-Royce Ghost) already sits above the premium German offerings. Hopefully the 2022 replacement – which on the petrol side at least looks like it will have a 4.4 BMW engine – won't spend its first few years being plagued by teething troubles, or else you'd have to fear for the future of a vehicle that genuinely qualifies for the overused term 'iconic'. In fairness to the L405 its record isn't bad.
Avoiding an L405 because you've heard that all Land Rovers are rubbish would be daft in the extreme. It's worth noting some of the reservations spelled out in this article – never has the phrase 'get a warranty' carried more weight, especially on pre-2015 cars – but we have to accept that modern cars are saddled with a high degree of complexity and can break down. In the case of the L405, preventative maintenance will go a long way towards smoothing your path. Buying one when they're cheap and then expecting to get away with a cheapskate programme of care will bite you in the bum.
Build a little extra money into your budget so that you'll be ready if something goes wrong. Even the first L405s from 2012 are still eligible for a 'proper' LR warranty which will cost around £1,400 a year, payable in instalments. To qualify for that, your car will have to undergo a (free) inspection, which always has the potential to throw up some stuff you might not have known about.
Range Rovers have always been attractive to that section of society referred to as 'thieving scum'. Early L405s were very vulnerable to theft, to the extent that it became next to impossible to get insurance for one if you lived in London. The security issue was addressed on L405s after that critical 2015 point with a fix that could be retrofitted to older vehicles.
In the meantime the current model sails on. It's not as accomplished on tarmac as, say, a Cayenne, but it's a fabulous multi-purpose used car choice that you could and, if you can, should happily experience at prices starting from around £24k.
Right, with all that in mind here are three choice L405 picks from the PH Classifieds. At the entry end, £25,995 gets you this 103,000-mile 2014 SE in Azure Blue with 21in wheels, five seats and a full service history. At the other end of the scale, you'll need £85,995 for this striking two-tone four-seat Autobiography from 2017. It's got 27,000 miles and the sort of spec you'd recognise in any first-class plane compartment. Finally, bang in the middle of those two how about this jolly suave Autobiography from 2017 with 22in turbine alloys, 41,000 miles and a very precise £52,948 price tag?
Search for a used Range Rover here
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