Thanks to a U.S. tour for loyalists, we got our first up-close look this week at the newly redesigned 2013 Land Rover Range Rover introduced overseas. As we previously reported, this is the model's fourth generation, but you might not know it at a glance.
If you thought the new Range Rover would follow the lead of the dramatically styled Range Rover Evoque, a smaller model altogether, you'll be disappointed. It looks a lot like the previous Range Rover, though both the nose and windshield have been swept back to improve aerodynamics. The rear also is more rounded. The once-functional fender vents are now merely hinted at by vertical creases in the front doors. Hidden air intakes have migrated up into the hood itself, which Rover says improves deep-water wading capability by almost 8 inches to 35.4 inches.
We checked out a Range Rover HSE as well as a top Autobiography Edition. Both had black tops with integrated panoramic glass, which kills the floating-roof effect that usually comes with blacked-out pillars, but you can also order body- or contrast-colored roofs to exploit the floating illusion seen on the Range Rover Evoque.
On the inside, the changes are less subtle. The Range Rover was always the pinnacle of the Land Rover line — and of all luxury off-road vehicles, for that matter — but the LR4 and Range Rover Sport have been dolled up so much in the past couple of years that the third-generation Range Rover no longer distinguished itself as much as it needed to.
The 2013 version ups the ante through the quality of its materials and premium little touches here and there. Needless to say, the wood and metal accents are genuine and meticulously executed. The HSE had a majestic piano-black lacquer finish throughout (above), and the Autobiography Edition had more conservative warm wood trim with lush rust-colored leather (below).
The 2013 Range Rover adopts the brand's rotary gear selector knob. As in other models, it stores flush but rises when you start the car. Now the smaller knob for the Terrain Response 2 system also springs into action.
Rover keeps the technology and information overload at bay with a new steering-wheel design that's less overwhelmed by buttons. I'm glad to see the signature seat-mounted armrests return, complete with the knob height adjustment. If you don't like them, they swing up and out of the way.
Rear visibility is quite poor. The head restraints are enormous, and in the backseat, they don't collapse into their backrests as many do nowadays. Thankfully there's a backup camera, sonar sensors and a new automated parking feature I look forward to trying someday, along with the blind spot warning system for when you're in motion.
One of the most dramatic improvements is a 4.7-inch increase in backseat legroom. I tried it after sitting in a 2012 model (photo 1), and the difference is unmistakable. The Autobiography Edition (photo 2) took it further with a power fore/aft adjustment for the backseat. (The HSE had power recline and lumbar.)
It's increasingly difficult for automakers to justify high-priced models when the more affordable stuff has adopted onetime-exclusive features. In the Range Rover, the solution seems to come partly from adding more: In addition to more backseat adjustments, there are more optional cold boxes — you can get a little refrigerator in the front center console as well as the rear. You can also get features Land Rover was slow to adopt: power-folding rear seats and power operation of the liftgate/tailgate combo.
I understand the gripes about the 2013 looking too much like the previous generation (and the other large Land Rovers), but it won't matter. This thing can't lose.