The Range Rover First Edition. Photo / Supplied

We Trialled A Very Nice Car, Succession-Style

Amanda Linnell lives the dream as she gets behind the wheel of the all-new luxurious Range Rover in Northern California

We’re in an underground bar and the place is jumping. Hips are shaking, the drinks are flowing. This is The Black Cat, San Francisco’s hottest supper and jazz club, and tonight the aficionados are soaking up the bebop tingle.

From the stage, so close you can almost touch the band, the lead singer calls out, “Make enough noise and you’ll make it onto our next album.”

It’s a recording session as well as a sold-out Tuesday night — this calls for another round of margaritas and the toes keep tapping. It’s kind of cool to be heading off on a road trip (we’re here for the launch of the luxurious new Range Rover) in a city where the voice of the ultimate America road trip, Jack Kerouac, has such an affinity.

There’s an alley named after him, and around the corner a pub and the creaky floored City Lights Bookstore that published many Beat Generation writers.

Our night swings on, as my newfound friends toast (again) the shared vibe of the evening and the anticipation of what lies ahead tomorrow when we will head out to explore Napa Valley and Sonoma. It’s safe to say our version of being on the road will be as far removed from Kerouac’s story as you can possibly get.

The following morning, it’s not the blow of the trumpet I’m hearing. Instead, in my head, it is the distinctive dissonant piano chords that make up the theme tune of the dramatic television show Succession that is playing out.

"Range Rover’s design philosophy is based on a modernist and reductive approach." Photo / Supplied

As the fleet of Range Rovers carrying our group of journalists glides across the tarmac at San Francisco Airport to our waiting helicopters, I feel like I’ve walked onto the set where the powerful Roy family are ushered from dramatic scene to dramatic scene.

The drama here, however, isn’t about domination and sibling rivalry. Instead we’re all giggling with nervous anticipation as our choppers take off, turn in unison and swoop over the city, past the soaring Golden Gate Bridge, and glide over the hills towards Napa.

It’s an impressive sight. As we come into land you can’t miss the line-up of 12 fifth-generation Range Rovers — the brand’s most evolved, most powerful and luxurious — waiting for us. All matching in their understated but regal Sunset Gold Satin finish. All sparkling in the Californian sunshine.

Truth be told, no one on this trip could be described as a specialist automotive journalist. The serious petrol heads have already road-tested these cars. This group of luxury lifestyle writers is just as at home in the front row of fashion week, at art gallery openings, dining at the finest restaurants... They’re discerning scribes, experts in quality. They like not just the good things in life, they like the very best. But even the hardest nosed among us is oohing with delight, seduced by this SUV's impressive proportions and stunning clean lines.

Range Rover’s design philosophy is based on a modernist and reductive approach. It’s about removing the unnecessary for a more streamlined and refined aesthetic, while elevating the key ingredients. This car draws on 50 years of evolution and it doesn’t cease to impress. This is next level.

As I slide into the driver’s seat, I fall instantly for the leathery smell of the interior. The seats, which also come in a premium wool-blend textile, have not just heating but also cooling functions and there is even the option to be gently massaged while you drive.

Thanks to the noise-cancelling headrest speakers, any distracting outdoor noise disappears. In our cocoon of luxury, we glide off, along the roads that cut through rolling farmland and luscious green vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Napa Valley wine country, Northern California. Photo / Supplied

I very quickly forget I am driving a large SUV, it is so agile and moulds with the road so effortlessly, scanning ahead and feeding information to the electronic air suspension.

Everything is heightened, from the colours of the surrounding landscape to the ease with which I am able to navigate these undulating roads, thanks to the perfectly integrated internal touchpoints — from the large display control panel to the ergonomic ceramic controls, everything is so light to the touch and responsive, it all feels so comfortable and natural.

For a bit of fun, I flick the car from automatic to sport. The sense of power and acceleration is intoxicating.

We swing off the main road and wind up a narrow, tree-lined driveway that weaves through a valley of vines and into the cobbled courtyard of Bond Winery — a place so exclusive it’s not open to the public, and if you want to drink their wine, you may have to join the waiting list and be prepared to shell out $US1000 for a bottle.

READ: Discover The New Generation Of Luxury Eco-Cars

Over a delicious farm-to-fork lunch served around a long table in the elegant winery, chief winemaker Cory Empting shares the secrets of the grapes that are grown on the surrounding small hillside vineyards. We work our way through a tasting of five wines from the 2012 vintage — an incredibly dry year — before heading underground to explore the barrel-lined cellar tunnels.

Let’s just say, having a driver, Hank, take the wheel after lunch was a good call. We settle back into the executive class rear seats that almost stretch right out but, thanks to the touchscreen controller, we’re too busy adjusting the lighting and air conditioning in the back, admiring the table rising gently between the seats and pivoting so you can set up your laptop on it, should you need, and being distracted by the fridge which is the perfect size for a bottle of Champagne and two glasses.

We’re heading for Montage Healdsburg in Sonoma County — the luxury eco-resort where we will stay for the night. The resort is a popular escape for those who want to make the most of the luxury spa and state-of-the-art gym, take part in yoga classes, learn about beekeeping, winemaking, go for bike rides, try archery... Or simply relax in one of the 130 spacious bungalows that are scattered among the eucalyptus trees and native bushes of the 104ha property.

First-class luxury in the Range Rover First Edition's interior. Photo / Supplied

For our group, however, there’s little time to try everything. We gather for a drink at Scout Field Bar before being ushered into our chauffeur-driven cars — I could get used to this — and head into downtown Healdsburg 6km away.

We have dinner at The Matheson where we eat our way through a menu that includes California burrata, fava and mushroom risotto (divine) and 48-hour sous vide short rib with asparagus and leek salsa verde, and drink our way through some more local wines.

I sit next to Jaguar Land Rover’s chief creative officer, Professor Gerry McGovern, OBE, and he discusses the balance of respecting DNA while still being able to push a project forward. He talks about a design philosophy that leads and doesn’t follow fashion or trends; of a product that, while crammed with tech innovations and under-the-bonnet proficiency, is also full of charm and evokes emotional engagement. At times, I forget we’re talking about a car.

The party moves up to the rooftop bar before heading back to the hotel bar and I collapse into my super-soft bed in the wee small hours.

The next morning everyone is up and raring to drive to our brunch destination, the Robert Young Winery situated in the Alexander Valley. I am reminded how spacious the interior is with the generous sunroof providing a light and airy ambience.

This really is like travelling in First Class. Rolling in Succession-style convoy up the long driveway is fun, the car’s impressively large 23-inch, 10-spoke wheels crunching through the metal. There’s the chance to go off-roading and the car effortlessly slips into its 4x4 roots as it veers around the vineyard tracks. The last stop, our waiting helicopters that will wing us back to San Francisco.

It’s been a dream, not quite the American dream of Kerouac’s Sal Paradise (more Scott Fitzgerald), but this New Range Rover is definitely a vehicle for those who’ve made it, who understand the importance of innovation and modernity, while respecting heritage and all that's gone before. It’s for those seeking ultimate luxury.

This story was originally published in volume eight of Viva Magazine.

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