Like its predecessor, the redesigned 2013 Land Rover Range Rover is a plush, powerful SUV that offers more off-road capability than most owners will ever need. It remains the ultraluxury SUV benchmark.
The name "Range Rover" has permeated much of Land Rover's lineup with the addition of the Range Rover Evoque small crossover and Range Rover Sport SUV. The redesigned 2014 Range Rover Sport shares its platform with the Range Rover, but is considerably less expensive.
As Land Rover's top-of-the-line model, the Range Rover carries a premium price tag: The 2013 starts at $83,545 including an $895 destination charge, but the Supercharged model, which we tested, starts at $99,995 including destination. To see the Range Rover's specs compared with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Porsche Cayenne and Lexus LX 570, click here.
Despite being all-new, the Range Rover's styling doesn't veer far from the prior version. The classic proportions are familiar, and the SUV's appearance has a certain timelessness. When you look at a Range Rover — this one or any of its predecessors — you know what it is without needing to see a badge.
Land Rover has worked a number of aerodynamic improvements into the design to improve its efficiency. Both the grille and windshield are less upright, and the body narrows at the rear. Underbody panels are designed to smooth airflow below the vehicle. These changes and more result in a drag coefficient of .34. Land Rover says that's a 10 percent improvement over the prior Range Rover.
In Supercharged form, the Range Rover plays tricks with your mind; it's hard to get your head around how quickly and effortlessly this big SUV gains speed. It's unrelentingly ferocious, and Land Rover cites a zero-to-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds, which is 0.8 seconds quicker than the prior Supercharged version. Chalk another one up for lower vehicle weight. (The new Range Rover uses an all-aluminum unibody that shaves more than 700 pounds from the previous model's curb weight, which was around 5,700 to 5,900 pounds, depending on trim level.)
The supercharged 5.0-liter V-8's massive output — 510 horsepower and 461 pounds-feet of torque — is fully experienced on the highway. Pin the gas pedal to the floor when cruising at 50 mph and you'll hit 70 mph in just a few seconds.
Both the base normally aspirated V-8 and the supercharged V-8 team with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The transmission listens well, performing part-throttle kickdowns immediately. It also responds quickly when you floor the gas pedal, dropping a few gears before the SUV lunges forward and sends the front of the hood skyward as it squats on its rear wheels.
Fuel economy has improved, though the increase is more modest than the SUV's big weight loss might lead you to believe. Gas mileage is up just 1 to 2 mpg, depending on the model, with the most efficient version rated 14/20 mpg city/highway. During a 31-mile stretch of highway and suburban driving, I averaged 17 mpg, according to the trip computer (Supercharged versions get an EPA-estimated 13/19 mpg). Bigger gains should come in the 2014 model year, as Land Rover plans to downsize the SUV's base engine to a supercharged V-6 and debut auto stop/start technology.
In addition to its on-road quickness, the Range Rover is a legitimate off-road SUV with a full-time four-wheel-drive system that incorporates a low range. There's around 12 inches of ground clearance in the suspension's off-road mode and wading depth is up to 35.4 inches, according to Land Rover.
A newly available Terrain Response 2 Auto system builds on the standard Terrain Response technology by adding an automatic mode. It switches among the five system modes — General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl — as conditions dictate, rather than relying exclusively on the driver to do so, as in the previous iteration. Terrain Response 2 Auto can also recommend when low range or the air suspension's off-road mode should be activated.
Ride & Handling
The 2013 Range Rover retains some classic SUV characteristics, like a tendency to dive when coming to a stop, but it also feels secure and confident on the highway, and the Range Rover handles well for a large SUV. In Supercharged form, the Range Rover has an active air suspension system that keeps body roll in check when cornering — much more so than many large SUVs. Comfort-oriented ride tuning, a quiet cabin and commanding forward visibility enhance the driving experience.
The Range Rover floats easily over big dips in the road, but it still reacts to a lot of small imperfections; I'm surprised the air suspension doesn't do a better job minimizing them. The steering system is especially good at insulating you from road shocks, but it comes at the expense of steering feedback, which is nonexistent.
As is Range Rover tradition, the interior is richly appointed in leather, aluminum and wood trim. The design theme is reminiscent of the prior Range Rover's, but the center controls look less cluttered. Land Rover says there are half as many switches as the prior model, and it's evident.
Technology now has a greater role in the Range Rover's cabin, starting with the instrument panel, which uses a 12.3-inch screen to simulate conventional analog gauges. Audio and navigation features are among those consolidated to an 8-inch touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard. The screen responds quickly to most commands, but it slows down when you enter an address into the navigation system.
Comfortable front bucket seats incorporate infinitely adjustable inboard armrests, a signature Land Rover feature. Like the front seats, the three-passenger rear seat has comfortable, firm cushioning. There's good legroom for taller adults, and the backrest reclines a little if desired. Both the recline and fold functions are operated by a lever on the side of the seat cushion. Lift it, and the backrest folds forward, though it's not completely flat with the cargo floor. It takes some effort to put the larger of the two backrest sections back in place for passenger use.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash-tested the 2013 Range Rover. Standard safety features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and Roll Stability Control. RSC uses sensors to detect a possible rollover and can cut engine power and apply the brakes to bring the SUV under control.
Optional features include a collision-warning system with an auto-braking function, adaptive cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if traffic necessitates, a blind spot warning system, rear cross-path detection and automatic high-beam headlights.
Range Rover in the Market
Automakers may be keenly focused on building more efficient cars, but the effort probably doesn't matter all that much to shoppers considering high-priced luxury SUVs. It's not as though they're demanding lighter, more efficient models, and anyone who can afford a Range Rover is unlikely to be concerned by daily price fluctuations at the pump — or this SUV's incremental fuel economy improvements.
The 2013 Range Rover is at the beginning of the road to better fuel economy because the federal government says it must be. Still, it delivers the things that truly matter in this class: stately design, incredible performance and a luxurious cabin. Among ultraluxury SUVs, its diverse skill set is unparalleled.
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