Editor's note: This review was written in April 2016 about the 2016 Range Rover. The 2017 adds lane departure prevention and a larger touchscreen display, but little else of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2017, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
Once the clear top of the Land Rover lineup, the Range Rover now is the unclear top of the lineup due to two lesser models with Range Rover in their name: One is the Range Rover Evoque, a small SUV not easily mistaken for the Range Rover. The other is the Range Rover Sport - a model indistinguishable to most onlookers yet priced $20,000 lower than the "full" Range Rover. The Sport also offers an optional third row for a total of seven seats; the Range Rover comes only with five seats, even in the long-wheelbase version, which adds $5,000 to the cost of the comparable short-wheelbase Range Rover V8 Supercharged and $24,240 over the base trim level.
In addition to the diesel engine, badged Td6, 2016 brings stronger V-6 and V-8 gasoline engines and more standard features including a backup-camera washer, hands-free power liftgate and automatic suspension lowering. All-Terrain Progress Control is a new option. See the 2015 and 2016 models compared side-by-side here.
The Range Rover has no direct competitors based on size and price together, though some come close - most notably the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which also offers a diesel engine. (This model is soon to be replaced by the 2017 GLS-Class, early specifications for which reflect dimensions and capacities very close to the GL figures cited throughout this review.) The 2016 Porsche Cayenne, arguably a better match for the sport-oriented Range Rover Sport rather than the Range Rover, has a broad engine range including a diesel. For comfort and even more size, the 2016 Cadillac Escalade is another option. All of these competitors have versions that overlap with the Range Rover's base price, though they start markedly lower. See them compared here.
We tested long- and short-wheelbase 2016 Range Rovers equipped with gasoline and the new diesel engines, both on and off the road.
Exterior & Styling
The Range Rover remains true to its heritage, with an upright and boxy shape, though the edges have been filed down a bit. The Range Rover measures 196.8 inches from bumper to bumper, and it also comes in a long-wheelbase version (designated LWB) that adds almost 8 inches to the overall length. If you want to spot a Range Rover Sport, it's the same width as the regular model, but it's 5.8 inches shorter from bumper to bumper and measures more than 2 inches shorter at the roofline. The Sport is rounded off even more than the regular model and has a more dramatically raked nose and windshield. Its roofline also drops more sharply in back.
How It Drives
There is no Range Rover drivetrain that disappoints, and that includes the new 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, which costs a reasonable $1,500 more than the base gas engine, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, on base and HSE trim levels. Endowed with 440 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm, the diesel Range Rover bolts off the line, the standard four-wheel drive and big tires wasting no power. According to Land Rover, the Range Rover does zero-to-60 mph in 7.4 seconds with the diesel and 7.0 seconds with the gas V-6.
As expected, however, the diesel's 254 horsepower makes for modest passing power at highway speeds compared with the gas version, which starts at 340 hp but just 332 pounds-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. (The HSE trim now has 380 hp but the same torque rating.) In the middle driving range, however, the lopsided specs sort of even out and there's little difference between the diesel and gas V-6. At most, the diesel lets the eight-speed automatic transmission chill a little on hilly roads where the gas V-6 would have to shift more often.
Our Range Rover Supercharged LWB's V-8 had the best of both worlds, with 510 hp and 461 pounds-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. LWB versions come only with the V-8, which in the astronomically priced SV Autobiography and Holland & Holland trim levels has an output bump to 550 hp and 502 pounds-feet. Land Rover estimates a zero-to-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds for both, and that's how it feels. The massive Rover hurtles through space faster than such a hulk probably should, yet it brakes well and even handles nicely enough to lend confidence.
Though it can dance, the vehicle is designed for comfort and isolation. The ride quality is divine on standard air springs that also allow the SUV to rise off the ground for greater clearance (up to 11.6 inches and a water-wading depth just shy of 3 feet), or drop down low for better aerodynamics and easier loading and unloading. Wheels as large as 22 inches don't seem to upset the ride too much. Though the Sport is exceptionally comfortable, it ostensibly leans to the sportier side, if that's your preference. It comes with the same engines, and did I mention it's $20,000 cheaper?
For the minuscule percentage of owners who go legitimately off-road, the diesel version clambers more effortlessly over off-road obstacles than does the gas V-6. The new optional All-Terrain Progress Control, a feature we first experienced in Jeeps, automatically transcends rough terrain at a constant, driver-selected preset speed, making all the necessary drivetrain and suspension adjustments to overcome obstacles and letting the driver merely steer. It might be best described as hill descent control for acceleration. Like the latter, it effectively enables less-skilled drivers to do what they otherwise couldn't do, while effectively sucking the fun out of off-roading just like computerized traction and stability control took the fun out of performance driving. Ain't technology grand?
The diesel is sized right to provide a satisfying driving experience while burning less fuel: an EPA-estimated 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined versus the gas V-6's 17/23/19 mpg and the V-8's miserable 14/19/16 mpg. Unfortunately, LWB buyers are stuck with the latter, because the gas and diesel V-6 engines aren't an option.
According to AAA, the national average price per gallon of diesel is $2.06 as I write this. Regular gasoline is $1.93, but the gas-powered Land Rovers require premium, which currently is $2.38. The advantage is clear.
In the big picture, there aren't many differences between these models' diesel and gas V-6 versions. They have the same transmissions with the same gearing, just a taller final drive ratio for the diesels. Their curb weights are within about 50 pounds of each other, and the tow rating is identical: 7,716 pounds. Even the primary maintenance intervals are the same: 16,000 miles or 12 months for oil changes, though the Td6 also requires diesel exhaust fluid that gets refilled on the same schedule.
If you appreciate the lap of luxury, the Range Rover is Land Rover's biggest lap, and one of the most luxurious you'll find, even in the base trim. Extra-soft window sills and armrests pamper you, and if you see a surface that looks like the genuine article - wood, metal, etc. - chances are it is. Also rest assured that the Range Rover is posher inside than the Range Rover Sport, but unless you're highly attuned to such things, you'll find the dramatically more affordable Sport to be damn close.
The dimensions are a greater differentiator: Front-seat legroom is almost the same in the two, but the Sport's backseat legroom is 37 inches, which is certainly workable but not as generous as the Range Rover's 40.2 inches. With the long wheelbase, all the growth is in the backseat for 47.5 inches of legroom. This is limousine territory. Higher "LWB" trim levels offer an optional Rear Executive Class Seating package, which adds reclining, massaging seats, replaces the center seat with a console and enables the front passenger seat to be moved far forward to enable reclining.
Even without this package the LWB's backseat is impressive at first, but ultimately the model's additional cost, longer length, wider turning circle and huge rear doors should dissuade most buyers. The regular-wheelbase version has more than enough backseat space for family use.
Among the competitors listed above, the Range Rover compares to the Cayenne for front headroom but is 2 to more than 3 inches shy of the base Mercedes GL-Class and Cadillac Escalade, respectively. (The GL's advantage is just 0.6 inch with an optional moonroof.) The Benz trails by a couple inches in front legroom, where the Caddy has almost 3 inches more.
The Rover has roughly 1 to 2 inches more backseat legroom, but all of these models' rear seats are more than workable, and the Mercedes and Cadillac throw in third-row seats. The Rover's selectable load height is helpful for entry and exit, especially for younger and older occupants. It can be programmed to drop automatically when the transmission goes into Park, or activated manually. I like the shortcut button atop the driver's door panel, which you can smack when nosing into a parking space; by the time you're ready to shut down and get out, the SUV has lowered.
The Range Rover has better wind noise isolation than a giant box has any right to exhibit, though one does hear surrounding traffic and tire noise on some surfaces at high speeds. To an extent, the quietness extends to the diesel versions. Luxury brands try to keep their diesel engines quiet, but I've never experienced one as unobtrusive as the Range Rover Td6 - once it's warmed up. You can hear the telltale diesel clatter better if one accelerates past you, but if it's just idling next to you or you're inside, driving it, you rarely pick up on anything to distinguish it from the supercharged gas V-6 - with one exception: When it's first started, with the engine cold, you will hear it more - and if outside temperatures are freezing or below, you'll hear it much louder.
The Range Rover's tall stance and upright windshield give it good outward visibility, and the optional 360-degree camera system is a good choice for parking maneuvers. The biggest impediment to visibility, in my opinion, is the heated windshield, the embedded squiggly wires of which are distracting in daylight and maddening after dark. Fortunately, the feature can be deleted, and the conventional defogger proves adequate. To this end, a travesty common among luxury brands, the Rover lacks remote start. It will come in 2017, enabled through the InControl Remote smartphone app.
Unrelated to the heated function, we've found electronic toll transponders frequently don't work through the windshield, due to a solar-resistant coating. The hole in this coating at the top of the windshield, intended to account for the problem, didn't always do the trick.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Unlike German competitors, Land Rover sticks with a touch-screen rather than a separate display and controller - the approach I prefer, but the Range Rover's needs work. First, the touch-sensitive buttons flanking the screen cheapen the vehicle and don't always respond to touch. Second, the touch-screen is slow to respond. More recent systems from sister company Jaguar are faster, but this model is stuck in the past.
This year Land Rover updated the ventilation temperature knobs, adding controls for the heated/ventilated seats - functions formerly accessible in a touch-screen submenu. It's a step in the right direction; a few more direct-access controls could be added without creating button overload.
Though the company hasn't ruled out future adoption of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, for now it offers optional InControl Apps, a third-party interface that provides similar functionality with Apple and Android devices, supporting Sygic navigation, iHeartRadio and Stitcher internet radio, parking-finder Parkopedia, MobileDay conference calling and other services such as Hotelseeker, Cityseeker, Eventseeker and Airmotion News. Instinct tells us consumers are primarily Apple or Android/Google people, and third-party dashboard portals will lose the battle, but we shall see. As I write this, the InControl Apps application has 2.9 stars out of 5 in the Google Play store and 1 star in Apple's App Store. Android Auto has 3.5 stars (CarPlay is in the Apple operating system and thus not rated).
Now-standard built-in cellular connectivity enables InControl Remote - which lets owners check fuel levels and range, window and door lock status and find their vehicle in parking lots - and InControl Protect, detailed below.
Cargo & Storage
The Range Rover delivers the cargo space you'd expect from a big box, with 32.1 cubic feet behind the backseat (in regular and LWB sizes) and 71.7 or 82.8 cubic feet with the backseat folded in the regular and LWB, respectively. For comparison, the Cayenne has 23.6 cubic feet behind the backseat and 62.9 cubic feet total. The GL-Class has 49.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 93.8 cubic feet total. The Escalade beats all with 51.6/94.2 cubic feet. Also note that the Escalade comes in a long-wheelbase version, the ESV, which ups these numbers to 76.7 and 120.9 cubic feet.
The Range Rover is distinguished by its combination liftgate/tailgate, both segments of which are powered. A fellow reviewer mused that unless you're hauling a lot of melons or soccer balls that need to be contained, the closed lower tailgate serves no purpose. It does require you to reach up and over or, when it's lowered, creates a longer reach to the cargo area. The tailgate does extend the cargo floor for hauling longer items, but nowadays there's no real disadvantage to a tall, single-piece liftgate, which the Range Rover Sport has.
With a maximum towing capacity of 7,716 pounds, the Range Rover matches the Cayenne and beats the GL-Class and GLS-Class by 216 pounds but falls short of the Escalade's 8,100 pounds (or 8,300 pounds with rear-wheel drive).
As a large, low-volume model, the Range Rover hasn't been crash-tested and probably never will be.
A backup camera is standard, and 360-degree sonar sensors come in the optional Driver Assistance Package along with lane departure warning (but no active lane departure prevention) and non-safety features such as automated parking and soft door-closers. Additional active-safety features including blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive headlights that swivel in the direction of a turn come in a separate option bundle, the Vision Assist Package, which again includes non-safety items such as configurable mood lighting and All-Terrain Progress Control, plus 360-degree cameras. We prefer safety features to be bundled exclusively in low-cost packages or offered a la carte.
The latter describes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, which comes with the optional Adaptive Cruise Control that shares its radar system. The cruise control works well, bringing the car to a complete stop when needed and then taking over again at tap of the accelerator once traffic takes off again.
Standard InControl Protect provides SOS and roadside assistance buttons along with automatic collision notification should airbags deploy.
To see how well child-safety seats fit in the Range Rover, view the Car Seat Check for the 2015 model, which applies to the 2016. To see all the Range Rover's safety systems, click here.
Value in Its Class
Much of a vehicle's value to given buyers is based on their perception of the brand, and when it comes to luxury vehicles, the brand perception influence is exaggerated. Luxury models are status symbols, and the status each brand puts forth is in the eye of the beholder. This complicates any calculation one might make to determine value.
If you want a lot of the comfort, performance and status of a Range Rover, the Range Rover Sport is a bargain I wouldn't be able to pass up. But if knowing there's something more expensive and incrementally better drives you toward the full Range Rover, you'll find competitors are few. If off-roading isn't important to you, loaded versions of the erstwhile Mercedes GL-Class and coming GLS-Class are probably the closest to cross-shop.
Note that Land Rover's reliability history has been broadly below average, and indeed we frequently encounter bugs in their test vehicles and those from sister brand, Jaguar. Ironically, it's common enough that when our 2016 long-wheelbase Rover's rear wiper froze mid-sweep, we knew shutting the car off and restarting it might solve the problem; it did.
To address concerns, Land Rover recently introduced the most generous warranty coverage in the class, including five-year/60,000-mile basic, powertrain, roadside assistance and collision notification coverage, plus complimentary scheduled maintenance for the same term.