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Expert Reviews 1 of 5
By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2002
Vehicle Overview For only the third time in the past 31 years, Land Rover has redesigned its posh Range Rover. Longer, taller and narrower than its predecessor, the 2003 model has an all-new, stiffer monocoque body with an integrated chassis. Land Rover calls it the most capable vehicle in the world.
First seen in London in the fall of 2001, the 2003 Range Rover made its North American debut at Detroits North American International Auto Show in January 2002. A Range Rover can compete with any luxury car in terms of on-road refinement, yet it is one of the worlds great off-roaders, said Wolfgang Reitzle, former vice president of Fords Premier Automotive Group, which included Land Rover. Since that presentation, the group has been replaced by a new Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover North America organization.
The Range Rovers curb weight has grown from 4,894 pounds to 5,379 pounds, but the manufacturer claims the SUV can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds. Huge all-disc brakes with Dynamic Stability Control help bring it to a halt with similar dispatch. Independent front and rear suspensions employ interconnected air springs.
A BMW-derived, all-aluminum, 4.4-liter V-8 engine teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates CommandShift control, which allows manual shifting up and down when desired. The two-speed electronically actuated transfer case can be shifted from Low to High while on the move. A new torque-sensing center differential automatically alters the torque bias between the front and rear axles according to available traction.
Improved approach and departure angles make the new model even more capable off-road than its illustrious predecessor. Land Rover claims more interior space and ground clearance than that in the previous model. The new Range Rover promises the greatest breadth of ability of any vehicle ever made, says Chairman and CEO Bob Dover.
On sale in early June 2002, the 2003 Range Rover stickers for $69,330, plus a $665 destination charge. The only options are bi-xenon headlights at $750 and a Heated Accessories Package for $1,300. Land Rover expects to sell 7,000 Range Rovers in the United States during the first year and will eventually produce 35,000 units a year. Like the smaller Freelander and Discovery, the Range Rover is manufactured in Solihull, England.
Exterior Many traditional, iconic design features are evident on the 2003 model. Such characteristics include a clamshell hood with castellations, a horizontally split tailgate, a floating roof and a simple grille on a bold, upright front end. Theres an almost rectangular interplay between the horizontal and vertical body lines. The headlights and taillights have been restyled. Distinctive power vents at the front-fender edges are new, which are intended to help increase the volume of air fed to the engine.
Interior The Range Rover seats five occupants and comes with several choices of interior styles that emphasize the use of luxury woods and leathers and are inspired by the cabins of Riva speedboats and ocean-racing yachts. Special features include a video entertainment system and a voice-activated audio, phone and navigation system.
Interiors may be trimmed in cherry wood, burr walnut or an alloy-metal look called foundry. Three seat fabrics are offered: cloth, traditional Blenheim leather or Oxford leather. The front and rear armrests fold down. Optional contour front seats have an electrically adjustable split backrest, while the 60/40-split, folding rear seats jackknife forward to increase cargo space. Luggage loops in the cargo area securely fasten loads. A ski hatch and bag go in the center of the rear seat. Heating for all seats and the steering wheel is optional.
Under the Hood Manufactured by BMW, the 4.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 engine produces 282 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 325 pounds-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm. The engine has been adapted to meet unique Range Rover requirements, which include the vehicles ability to wade through water, cope with steep offroad angles and handle the strain of heavy-duty towing. A new ZF five-speed-automatic transmission with CommandShift also stems from BMW.
Safety Six airbags are installed to protect both front and rear passengers. These devices come in the form of front, side-impact and curtain-type airbags. Land Rover says that crash-test protection is comparable to that of a luxury sedan, and the Range Rovers extra-stiff body aids in this effort. The front seat belts have pretensioners. All three rear seats have three-point inertia reel belts, and ISOFIX points ensure that child-safety seats may be securely fitted.