1995 Land Rover Range Rover

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1995 Land Rover Range Rover
Available in 3 styles:  RangeRover 4dr SUV shown
Asking Price Range
$1,476–$6,688
Estimated MPG

12 city / 15–16 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

By 

Orlando Sentinel

Beginning in 1997, a new class of luxury sport-utility vehicles, led by Mercedes-Benz, will be nipping at Land Rover's wheels.

This is a development that the Land Rover division of Great Britain's Rover Group has expected and prepared for, as evidenced by the fresh lines and technical excellence of the totally new 1995 Range Rover, this week's test vehicle.

For the past decade in the United States, Rover has had a virtual monopoly on the upper end of the luxury sport-utility market, a segment created by the British company.

During its first eight years here, Rover was selling about3,000 sport-utility vehicles a year, and Ford, General Motors and Toyota regarded the British company as a minor nuisance. They could afford to look away then, but they can't now. In 1994, Rover's U.S. sales - mostly because of the mid-size upscale Discovery model - quadrupled to more than 12,000 vehicles.

Two surprisingly strong trends have caught the attention of automakers. First, sales of sport-utilities in every price range are booming, so much so that nearly 40 percent of all new vehicles sold are either trucks or off-road vehicles. And second, expensive, fully equipped sport-utility vehicles are luring well-heeled buyers out of their luxury cars.

Last year Bill Baker, one of Land Rover's top dogs, was showing me around the Defender 90, an Americanized version of a British Army jeep, when I asked him about rumors of Lexus invading Rover's turf. His response caught me by surprise.

''I don't care what Lexus does. I know what we have coming,'' he said. He was referring to the 1995 Range Rover, the first all-new Range Rover since the vehicle was introduced in 1970. After driving the new Rover for a week, I understand why Baker could so casually brush off Lexus.

Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes and others have their work cut out for them if they intend to dethrone Rover as the maker of the world's finest all-terrain vehicles.

PERFORMANCE

The docile, eager-to-please aluminum V-8 engine is about the only thing that isn't new in the 1995 Range Rover. But one could sensibly argue that no changes were needed to this strong, smooth and quiet workhorse.

Rover's 4.0-liter V-8 engine is a direct descendent of the innovative lightweight 3.5-liter V-8 engine used by General Motors in Buicks, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles in the early 1960s. Rover bought the rights to the engine from GM in 1966 and has immensely improved the power plant since. This year, for instance, it has an up-to-date distributorless ignition system.

The 4.0-liter, 190-horsepower V-8 delivers pleasing - though not necessarily quick - performance. That is mostly because it has got a lot to move around - the Range Rover weighs a hefty 4,960 pounds. When Rover's engine is used in the low-slung British-made MG RV8, TVR and Morgan sports cars, it delivers blistering performance. But those cars weigh about half of what the Rover does.

Th e Rover's acceleration is neither crisp nor spritely. And if it has a weak point, this is it. For a sport-utility that costs more than $54,000, you would expect a little better performance.

To coax it to accelerate faster you must press a switch in the wood-trimmed shifter that puts the transmission into ''Sport'' mode; you also must drive with a heavy foot. In the ''Sport'' mode, the engine is allowed to rev faster before shifting.

Driving this vehicle takes a bit of getting used to. For one thing, the accelerator goes down about twice as far as in most other vehicles. You put your foot on the gas pedal and press and press and press. For another, you have a commanding view of the road because the Range Rover sits high off the ground. All Range Rovers come with a smooth-shifting computer-controlled four-speed automatic and permanent full-time four-wheel drive.

A new shifter design has two parallel slots with a passage in the middle. Pulling straight down on the s iftermoves the transmission through the normal P-R-N-D-L sequence. However, if you pull the shifter down halfway and move it to the right, the transfer case will shift into low range. This is a much neater and easier arrangement than most other sport-utility vehicles, which usually have a separate shifter on the floor for low range.

The shifter, which could be moved from side to side, felt a bit loose. Also, the button that allows the driver to switch into the ''Sport'' mode is buried under the emergency brake lever, which protrudes over the shifter housing.

Fuel mileage averaged 13.8 mpg in mostly city driving using the air conditioner.

HANDLING

Despite such trappings as an interior trimmed in wood and leather and a full load of luxury and convenience items, it's really the super-sophisticated air suspension system that defines the Range Rover's appeal.

If it rode like a truck, no one in their right mind would shell out $54,000 for it. Instead, the Rover rides like a luxury car, on the road and off.

The Range Rover's suspension system provides a soft and soothing ride on the street, which is where most Rovers live. But if you do take it off the road you can slog through mud, sand, over hills and shallow streams and hardly notice you aren't on pavement.

The heart of the Rover's suspension system is an air compressor that feeds air springs at each wheel. A button on the dash allows you to raise the vehicle 4.9 inches. That comes in handy when you are driving off-road, where you can raise the vehicle to its maximum height if you are driving over large rocks or through deep water.

On the road, the cushion of air in the springs and the Rover's stiff steel frame combine to almost eliminate noise, vibration and harshness caused by bad pavement. Bumps are erased in most situations, and the body leans ever so slightly in sharp turns, just like a Jaguar sedan.

One of the big problems with the original Range Rover - whichdates to the '70s and continues today as the Range Rover Classic - was that it had a tendency to be a real dog on the highway. The steering was unresponsive and crosswinds would cause it to wander all over the road.

Those problems are rectified in the new Rover.

The power-assisted steering is tighter and crisper, but a bit sluggish; the steering wheel doesn't return quickly to center after a turn. However, I loved the meaty feel of the thickly padded steering wheel.

All Range Rovers come with a strong set of four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and electronic traction control, which helps to prevent the wheels from spinning on slick roads. Yet I wonder how useful a feature it is on the Rover. Nothing I did could make the wheels lose traction. I floored the accelerator on a wet road and in soft sand off-road. The engine just doesn't make enough power to spin the wheels.

When it comes to driving off the road and on, the Range Rover has no peer in its cla ss.

FIT AND FINISH

This is the first product from the Rover Group - car or sport-utility - that is assembled to world-class standards of fit and finish.

The 1995 Range Rover also is the first totally new product to come from Rover since BMW took over last year.

Previous Rovers have been noted for sloppy assembly, but the new Range Rover breaks from that tradition. I logged more than 500 miles on our bright red test vehicle and did not find any loose trim or hear any rattles or squeaks.

Further,the makeup of the materials used for the dash and the interior trim panels seems thicker and of higher quality.

The Range Rover has a long list of standard features: cruise control, electric sunroof, power windows, door locks, mirrors, heated seats with position memory, automatic dual zone air conditioning system, AM/FM cassette CD player, front and rear fog lights and radio-controlled door locks. There's only one option: Beluga Black clearcoat paint for $300.

There are several nice touches inside. For instance, each window can be raised or lowered by two quick touches of its particular switch. Same with the sunroof. And if a window is blocked while it is automatically closing, it will stop and go down.

The center console lid flips up and over to expose a cup holder. And the steering wheel has buttons that operate the radio and cruise control.

The firm brown leather seats looked classy and stylish and were excellent for long drives. The split rear seats fold forward and -surprise - exposes a flat cargo area. The spare tire has been moved to a compartment underneath the cargo area; in the old Rover it was propped up against the side of the cargo bay.

The tailgate also is new. Press a big black button on the outside of the tailgate and the tailgate window swings up. Press it again and the bottom half swings down. This arrangement makes loading and unloading easier.

I encountered older Rovers several times while driving the new model. You can really see the differences in the vehicles when they are side by side.

For instance, the gaps between the fenders and doors are very tight on the new Rover. On the old model, the gaps were about the width of my index finger. The new model is much smoother around the corners, with the headlights and taillights blending cleanly into the bodywork. The old Rover was about as aerodynamic as a brick, and its boxy appearance made it look like one, too.

The 1995 Rover is more aerodynamic in appearance and with a personality all its own.

The Land Rover people like to say the Range Rover is ''The best 4 by 4 by far.''

I believe that it is - for now.

Specifications:

1995 Range Rover 4.0 SE Base price: $54,000 EPA rating: 12 mpg city/16 mpg highway Price as tested: $54,815 Incentives: None

Truett's tip: In performance, technology, handling, style and value, the new-from-the-ground-up Range Rover sets the standard for luxury sport-utility vehicles. It is the benchmark for the coming armada of luxury off-road vehicles from Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Infiniti.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

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