'Why a Range Rover could help you avoid a run-in with Espace man – and your ex'
I just liked the Rover 75. It was calming and comfortable. It also earned absolutely zero respect from other road users
A few weeks ago I spent some time driving the latest Range Rover. It was very pleasant. Range Rovers are incredibly relaxing, they have a tremendous view out and they loom over faux-by-four crossovers as if to remind them who’s the daddy. Which is, in turn, another part of their appeal; Range Rovers are alpha cars. You might think the driver is a total arse, but you can’t deny they’re probably important and influential. A Range Rover driver might own anything from half of Shropshire to a chain of betting shops, but either way you wouldn’t mess with them because they’ve probably got a gun in the boot.
This makes the Range Rover the very opposite of the Rover 75. In fact, the Rover 75 is the least alpha car I’ve ever bought. It was many years ago, I’d just run a Smart Roadster and then a Fiesta ST as evo Fast Fleet cars and what I needed was some respite from rock-hard ride quality. The Fiesta was pretty firm. The Smart was so stiff it made your brain bounce off the inside of your skull like a squash ball. Short of finding a ’70s Rolls Shadow, the Rover 75 seemed to promise the highest level of buttery bump absorption for my budget. Also, I was just shy of my 30th birthday so I thought it was amusing to roll in the most geriatric car since the Allegro Vanden Plas. And I’m not going to lie, I just liked the Rover 75. So I bought one, in Dorchester Red (brown) with an Aubergine interior (purple). After the frenzied stylings of the Smart and the Fiesta, it was calming and comfortable. It also earned absolutely zero respect from other road users.
When you drive a Rover 75 you get used to many things, aside from class-leading ride quality and a dashboard like your great aunt’s sideboard. People don’t let you out of side turnings, cruelly assuming that you’re palpably close to death, or at least the day when your relatives need to have that ‘difficult’ conversation that ends with your house being sold and your dinner being brought to you at 4pm by someone in a smock. You also learn to live with another car being right up your bum, and again I presume it’s because other drivers think you’re well into the outer suburbs of senility and are driving too slowly. You could be streaking down the M1 at 120mph and there’d still be an Audi A4 about 14mm from your back bumper with the driver’s hand hovering over the high beams. After a while it gets a bit wearing.
This came to a head one rainy Sunday afternoon when I was returning home in the company of the woman who had recently become my ex-girlfriend and, as such, could legitimately claim to hate me more than anyone else in the world. Although this title was shortly to be challenged by a man in a Renault Espace. We were driving down a narrow road near my house, one of those London streets with cars parked either side which means traffic can pass between in only one direction at a time. The path seemed clear until Espace man pulled out of a side turning and, rather than waiting by the junction, decided to carry on driving straight towards me. ‘It’s some piss-sodden pensioner,’ I presume he thought, ‘they’ll back up out of my way.’
But I didn’t. I stopped. Espace man kept coming and then, baffled that he wasn’t able to muscle an oncoming octogenarian into a befuddled retreat, switched to plan B, which was to start squeezing his practical Renault through the narrow gap between my Rover and the parked cars. As he inched level with my car I dropped the window. Rain plopped onto the Aubergine leather. His window slid down too. ‘Why didn’t you wait?’ I asked politely. ‘Why didn’t you wait?’ he hissed. ‘Because I was already coming down here,’ I replied, ‘and you could have waited.’ The man visibly bristled. His tone edged into aggression, like the surprisingly sporty engine note of a Rover 75’s V6 when you really wind it up. ‘YOU SHOULD HAVE LOOKED, YOU STUPID BASTARD!’ he shouted.
Unprepared for hostilities to escalate so quickly I had no robust comeback pre-loaded in my brain. Espace man had been edging forward this whole time and now there was enough gap for me to unleash a fierce burn and then scarper. In a panic my mental Rolodex span round to the section marked ‘swears’ and I grabbed at the first thing that appeared. ‘SHIT OFF!’ I yelped, and then surged the 75 out of range of his reply. My recently ex-girlfriend looked at me with such withering disdain it puckered the cream piping on the seats. ‘Shit off?’ she said with utter disgust.
This was my life in Britain’s least alpha car. In retrospect, I wish I’d bought a Range Rover.