Ride Along On An Epic Range Rover Road Trip Through California Wine Country
From San Francisco to Sonoma and back again in the latest super-luxe Range Rover.
The current model full-size Range Rover has been hailed as as the Production Car of the Year, Luxury Car of the Year, and Best Luxury Vehicle among other accolades. The first new Range Rover in nearly a decade, as we reported parent company JLR has loaded up on cutting-edge technology throughout the impressive SUV, from the powertrain to the cockpit, to match its sleek, stealth-luxe design. The result is a ride that makes every owner feel like a celebrity—not just the many A-listers (including various Kardashians, Beckhams, Alessandra Ambrosio etc.) who drive them on the daily.
“Range Rover is the original luxury SUV and a vehicle of peerless distinction,” as Gerry McGovern OBE, JLR’s Chief Creative Officer, puts it. “The new Range Rover’s exceptional form embodies modern luxury, and its elegant proportions and optimized volumes are hallmarks of our Reductive Design philosophy”—that is to say, rugged opulence distilled to its essence.
Hence why we selected a new Range Rover—decked out in our favorite color among the model’s new paint palette, dubbed Belgravia Green in homage to a posh neighborhood of London that is the luxe SUV’s natural habitat—for an epic California wine country road trip, exploring some of our favorite spots in stunning Sonoma County, and meeting up with some key people, including Ashlee McLaughlin, aka The Beer Mama, along the way.
We picked up the vehicle at San Francisco International Airport and immediately noticed its striking appearance; a born aristocrat amongst both flashier vehicles vying for attention, and more quotidian rides with nothing to offer their owners except transportation from Point A to Point B. It’s no wonder that Britain’s Royal Family has long made dark green Range Rovers—as well as some classic Land Rovers in the same color—their utility vehicles of choice.
As the London Sun put it, the Range Rover’s “combination of superb comfort, stability and luxury has made it the default choice” for the Royals for decades. According to the paper, the late Queen is thought to have owned around 30 Range Rovers, all dark green, over the course of her long reign. While inimitably stylish, there is nothing so opulent about the ür-SUV that it is likely to stir one’s subjects to rebellion; rather it is as practical and un-showy as a six-figure ride can get.
For 2024, the full-size Range Rover is offered in three different trims: SE, Autobiography, and SV—ranging in (base) price from $107,400 to $234,300 for the fully-specc’d, fire-breathing SV. And there are four different AWD powertrains to choose from: the P400 MHEV, a 3.0-liter V-6 with 395 hp; the P530 MHEV, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 523 hp; the P550e PHEV, a plug-in hybrid 3.0-liter V-6 plus electric motor with 542 hp; and the new P615 MHEV, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with a whopping 606 horsepower—more than the base-level Bentley Bentayga.
Which is about as technical as the average Range Rover driver cares to get. This isn’t really a car for petrolheads, though the new P615 in SV trim, which can do 0-60 mph in less than 4.3 seconds—no mean feat for a vehicle this size—may change that. Our mission to Sonoma was more about scenery than speed however, so we opted for the plug-in hybrid, which has clear advantages given California gas prices with nothing sacrificed in the way of comfort and style.
Which is exactly what we experienced on our drive to the picturesque The Lodge at Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation and rebrand last year timed to the Lodge’s 50th anniversary, marking a new era for this beloved property. Considering it is just over an hour from San Francisco, this idyllic retreat feels like a world away.
The resort, with its main lodge equipped with a massive stone fireplace, features 83 guest rooms with stunning ocean views. The recent revamp included a complete redesign of the Captain’s Quarters, the property’s apex accommodation; as well as refreshed Coastal Bodega Bay Rooms, which carry over the theme of rugged elegance.
If you’re set on exploring the northern California Coast, in a Range Rover (preferably) or other mode of conveyance, The Lodge at Bodega Bay is as perfect a home base as you can get. Without even leaving the property—from the pool or the hot tub in fact—guests can “spot rare birds prized by the National Audubon Society and migrating whales down the coast throughout winter,” along with panoramic views of four separate bodies of water: the bay, ocean, harbor and marsh.
The Lodge at Bodega Bay also offers two distinct dining options designed to “reflect the rich bounty of local seafood, meats, produce, cheeses and wines of Sonoma County,” Drakes Sonoma Coast and Drakes Fireside Lounge. Drakes Sonoma Coast is an award-winning restaurant with Instagram-worthy interior design, a large stone fireplace, and views for days. “Our food and beverage team has established deep relationships with farmers, ranchers, and other artisan producers of Sonoma County to create an innovative menu,” as the venue puts it.
Drakes Fireside Lounge meanwhile has one of the best outdoor setups in all of Sonoma, with fire pits complementing a cozy indoor bar, made from a 300-year-old elm tree, with nautical vibes, offering up cocktails, small bites, bar food, oysters, and, of course, a wine list worthy of a sequel to Sideways. It doesn’t get much better than this, and we were glad to plug in the Range Rover for the night and enjoy all it had to offer.
From there we drove to Kenwood Inn & Spa—another Sonoma wine country retreat, this time inland, that also got a recent multimillion-dollar reno as part of the hospitality renaissance the county is currently experiencing. Read more on that property here, and stay tuned for Part II of our epic Range Rover wine country road trip…..