I'll be honest. I wanted a german luxury car to chauffeur my midwestern aunt and uncle around New York but ended up with a large silverish blue Range Rover. I was clearly wrong in my desires as the Range Rover, for many reasons, is the superior way to be driven (or drive others around in).
(Full Disclosure: With folks from Iowa in town I hoped to give them a bit of a show and ferry them around New York in proper style. Range Rover provided the car, the gasoline, and nearly every option in their larger book of offerings.)
Most livery cars make a distinction: Good for the passenger or good for the driver. A lot of people have sold the line that you're to drive a Bentley but be driven in a Rolls Royce. That’s some dijon-flavored bullshit right there. Your pleated ass will be plenty happy in the back seat of a Bentley Continental Flying Spur and no one behind the wheel of Rolls Royce Wraith will do anything but smile.
What this dubious maxim presents is the idea that you can't do both. You're either happy as a driver and unhappy as a passenger, or both. This comes from an outdated mode of luxury where the driver would literally sit outside the car, unprotected, doing all sorts of complex maneuvers to keep the oligarch glassed in behind him comfortable.
That's not the world we live in now. The Mercedes S65 AMG is both fine to drive and fine to be driven around in and that's what I'd hoped to get. You see the Mercedes S550 or its AMG twin everywhere in New York carting around, I don't know, dumbass rich kids waiting to collect on their trust funds. I know a CEO of a major food company who drives his own S-Class around NYC because, why not, it's comfortable?
And yet I ended up with a massive Aleutian Silver Range Rover Autobiography L; a wagon in the English style whose subtle, slightly more feminine touches mask the fact that it's an absolute beast that could drive over one of those Toyota Camry Hybrid cabs faster than you can say "crumpets!"
New York is the best place to test a car's mettle as a sort of magic carpet for the wealthy. There are events all over town and so the city has provided one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to get human flesh from place-to-place. It's called the subway and there's a class of people bent on avoiding it. For those who want to get around without risking human touch (or worse, cabs) there's the car.
But driving in New York can be terrible, as can parking and just generally having a car here, so outsourcing those problems to someone else makes perfect sense. How'd I do as a driver?
The Range Rover From The Driver's Seat
The Ranger Rover was always the choice of a certain kind of mom in the suburb where I grew up. Not quite afraid of the world (that's why God invented the Tahoe) as sort of aggressively against it. The kind of person who, if she found out one of the other kids in the study group wasn't vaccinated because some mom gave into the trumped up Autism panic, would vaccinate the kid herself.
I've driven enough Range Rovers now to get it. You feel like you're in command from behind the wheel of an RR. Your seating position is high and, with a few inputs, you can raise the truck high enough to put you at eye level with passing truckers. There's information. Lots of information. Maybe too much information. Yet, it's still comfortable, especially when covered in Range Rover's softest leather seats.
And all the gear designed to help you off-road works perfectly within Manhattan. While you won't need locking diffs, it's of great help to know where you've put that wheel or for climbing through one of the city's many gracer-sized potholes (that's an actual pic above of the flex you get driving through one).
The cameras also let you see where the sides of the car are, which is helpful when having to drive backwards out of a parking garage backwards and uphill (which I had to do twice) or crossing a narrow "two lane" bridge that in reality could barely fit the Olsen twins side-by-side on bikes.
It also commands respect from other drivers in a way that the now commonplace luxury sedan does not. A biker might choose to cutoff an A8, but they seem to think twice when a Rangie pulls up and, yet, it's not as standoffish. Rolling around in a bright blue Bentley I definitely got some looks, but not so in the light blue Rover. At most I'd get an appreciative nod, otherwise the vehicle is delightfully stealthy.
Power is also reasonable and the handling is predictable with steering feel that isn't overpowered or as marshmallowy as you'd probably guess. Does it feel like a vintage 911? No, but neither does a vintage 911. It feels like a taller S-Class, which is what it might as well be. Besides, it's New York, you don't really want to feel the roads.
The Range Rover From The Back Seat
As if by magic the vehicle lowers to the street, but it's so gentle it's almost as if the street was raised on pneumatics to meet the vehicle. Being wealthy means not having to make the same choices other people make, and being able to tower of the crowd while also being able to meet it on your terms is a choice Range Rover owners don't have to make.
The backseat of the RR Sport can feel a touch narrow, but a regular Range Rover has always felt spacious. With the extra long wheelbase version you're essentially driving around in a living room, albeit one fitted with a pair of televisions, adjustable shades, adjustable seat, and one of the best views you can imagine.
I assume somewhere there's a penthouse where the roof folds back to reveal the taller buildings around, but for seeing New York you're not going to do much better unless you can somehow fit the East River Ferry on Park Avenue or, dare you, climb aboard a double decker bus.
Best of all is the way it feels. In a 7-Series BMW or an Escalade you're making a statement about who you are. About your values. It telegraphs a certain discontent for humanity. The Range Rover, especially in this color, is somehow elegant but friendly like Princess Ann from Roman Holliday or Olivia Wilde.
Sometimes no statement is the best statement you can make, although it doesn't feel like you're being entirely anonymous inside. My in-laws let out a series of "Oh geez" comments as I ferried them back to their van, and not just at the price (a reasonable $140K).
If you had to choose a car where you'd drive some of the time but also, on occasion, need to be ferried around to a film premiere or a big event you could hardly do better and, in New York, that's actually a thing people do. This place is crazy.
Photos And Modeling By Nicholas Stango, Gizmodo