Our Range Rover has been busy for the past month, getting back into top shape. A trip to the dealer was in order, especially since the 100,000 km service was due as soon as we bought the car. That in itself made for a good story.
But first, a little background on our Range Rooney. Our 2005 example is the Vogue trim, which makes it almost a Bentley-level 4×4 rather than just a Mercedes-Benz rival. Our Vogue has things like a stitched-leather dashboard, colour-matched to the seats as well as the exterior paint, along with stitched-leather door armrests and larger 20-inch wheels, compared to simpler materials and smaller wheels on an HSE trim. It also came with touchscreen navigation, TV and surprisingly even Bluetooth, considering that era. Buy an older model than this, and you’ll be stuck with a relatively crappy older-generation BMW multimedia system. This is the only model-year with the old BMW engine and the new fibre-optic computer.
For its age and mileage, our car is pretty darn good, despite having several previous owners. The original paint, wood and leather are in excellent condition, a testament to the saying “you get what you pay for”. While shopping, we checked out a Cadillac of the same era and it was literally wearing away due to the use of poor-quality materials.
Of course, Land Rover took some stupid steps as well. While most of the interior is soft-touch materials, the few hard-plastic bits are coloured with matte paint, which is chipping off in parts by now. Also, the headliner is a bit loose near the back, which is apparently an age-old problem with Range Rovers.
The previous owner admitted to a minor front-end accident while parking, so the front bumper is repainted. Normally we’d skip such a car, but the respray seems to be limited to the bumper, and the owner also somehow got the air-suspension compressor and front air springs replaced under insurance, so we don’t have to worry about that. Air springs can pretty much be expected to fail every few years, and it’s weird that Land Rover never managed to fix this issue in two decades.
Four other common problems afflicted our car, all of which we initially thought were going to be cheap fixes when we bought the car, but aren’t. A few leaky engine gaskets needed changing due to age, an instrument-gauge light was out, one headlight kept flickering, and the power-adjustable steering-wheel liked to adjust itself to the lowest setting on starting the car. So we took it in to the dealer service-centre in Dubai.
Once the initial buzz of having your car serviced alongside Ferraris wears off, you are left with the bill. A normal service every 10,000 km costs Dhs 2100, and that too using mineral oil, not synthetic. And diagnosing each of those issues we pointed out tacks on several hundred bucks more, refunded if we chose to repair. Simply changing a bulb in the gauge cluster cost Dhs 400! That’s all we elected to do at this point, and the total bill came to Dhs 3070.
As we suspected, the engine needed some new gaskets (not the head gasket, mind you) here and there, and that’d cost more than Dhs 4000. But the real doozy was that for the small steering-wheel adjustment issue, the entire motor had to be changed, and that costs as much as an iPhone 5. They also said we need a new headlight because the not-sold-separately HID ignitor was dying, and that’d cost as much as two iPhones! We were also asked to change the brakes for around three grand, but we decided to take their diagnosis and do it all elsewhere.
Later, we went to an independent workshop called A2B Garage for the engine and brake job. They advised us to do the engine work, which was to replace the camshaft-cover gaskets and timing-cover gaskets, at the dealer itself as the latter could do it more efficiently. And they told us that our brake-pads were nearly new already. That last bit annoyed us enough to post a rant online about how the dealer tried to extract money from us for brakes that were already fine.
It turned out someone actually read the online rant, and I got a call from the dealer’s area service manager the next day, who courteously offered to meet and discuss any issues. So I took the car back and met the manager who, as it turns out, was a classmate of mine for a year in high-school. Wait, what?
After chatting for hours about the good old days, we discussed the issues with the Rooney. It turns out the brake recommendation was to change the worn-thin rotors, and they replace the pads by default, which is what the service advisor had failed to communicate clearly. He said I can keep using the brakes, and can bring it in for a rotor change only if they warp later. I also asked for a discount on the steering-column motor, which wasn’t an essential job, but I didn’t want any hotel valets getting confused by its odd behaviour. I agreed to pay for the engine job in full. However, my new-found buddy gave us a heftier discount than that, and the bill for the steering-motor and the engine jobs came up to a more palatable Dhs 4910.
Interestingly, we read somewhere that the headlights may act wonky if the car is left sitting for weeks, which is what it was doing under the previous owner’s building. The lights don’t flicker any more, now that it is being driven more regularly.
We’d say we are satisfied with the service we’ve received. The earlier miscommunication was cleared up. They showed initiative by contacting me after my online rant, as well as contacting other disgruntled customers who commented on my rant. We later discovered a minor scratch on a door after we got the car back, and they offered to clean it up for me at their body shop, although I declined as I knew it’ll be fixed after a polish-detailing job anyway, which is where the Rooney was headed next. And we aren’t holding the high prices against them because it is a Range Rover after all, not a Mitsubishi Pajero. We’ll continue to use the dealer for scheduled maintenance and certain other jobs, just like all the previous owners before. And we’ll likely go to independent garages for minor replacement works, such as wiper blades and such.
Let’s see how it goes, but Dhs 8000 and 1000 km later, the car is running perfectly fine, and it remains totally worth it.
Original Mileage When Bought: 99,980 km
Latest Mileage To Date: 101,000 km
Latest Average Fuel Economy: 18.8 litres/100 km
Cost of Latest Problems: Dhs 5880
Cost of Latest Maintenance: Dhs 2100
Total Non-Fuel Running Cost Since Bought: Dhs 7980