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JUST FLAWLESSThe new Range Rover is everything you want in a family car, writes IAN MALLON

ONE of the great mysteries of long-distance driving in Ireland is the lack of service stations on any of the major road networks.

You can drive from the Red Cow to Naas and you will be presented with four service stations, which is lovely if you happen to live in Kildare and have a poor bladder or share the eating habits of the clinically obese.

But once you pass 'The Ball' at Nas na Riogh, nothing. If you're cruising to Cork, whisking your way to Waterford, or lumbering to Limerick and you need to use the loo, rehydrate or feed the family, forget it.

Heading west and north it's the same, whether you're going to Galway, speeding to Sligo or driving towards Donegal, nada, nowt, nothing.

I believe the problem is down to planning issues. Of course, this is Ireland and we have more layers of bureaucracy than an Italian bank, but for the love of God, let's build some feeding and fuelling stations for the hard-pressed motorist.

THROWBACK

If you do have to eat, then usually you find yourself taking the exit and finding some godforsaken hamlet which had been advertised several kilometres back as a service station, which is a throwback to a Third World feeding station.

Whatever fuel you put in the car is used getting back on to the M-whatever and your journey has been disrupted by more than half-an-hour.

Anyway, the only plus side of not having convenient stops on our primary roads is that I got to spend more time behind the wheel of my new favourite car ever.

I recently declared the new BMW X5 the best family car in the world, and I stand over that.

But is it my favourite car on the press fleet today?

I'm not so sure. Yes, it's one of the nicest, one of the most exhilarating, the most all-round car on the road.

But having spent more than a week and 800km behind the wheel of a car that really is the stuff of dreams, I would like to declare a brand new rival to the X5, and one of the most eagerly anticipated releases this year.

The brand new Range Rover has everything that the Beamer has, and is even better looking.

Just look at it, for God's sake, it is utterly incredible, and when you see her in the flesh, well, there are no words in the style guide to describe such a feat of loveliness.

I took the Range Rover on the Easter holidays, taking it to the south east for a few days, and then onwards to Kenmare, Co Kerry, for another few.

The whole experience leaves you with a warm glow in all of the senses. It drives like a dream, looks like a fantasy and is about as worldly a car as you can get.

The interior is breathtaking, the seats are all like comfy armchairs and the on-board entertainment is high end state of the art.

The whole thing is powered by a lovely 3.0-litre V6 diesel which barks out a yummy 292bhp.

It's not bad on juice considering the massive bulk the oil burner has to drag around.

In fact, its quite frugal, returning an average of 32.5mpg (8.7 litres/100kms).

The emissions are still sky high, though, and with a CO2 count of 229g/km it costs a whopping €2,258 a year in road tax.

It's not cheap either, and you won't have much change out of €120,000.

But then again, if you can afford a bus like this, the road tax won't keep you awake at night.


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