New Range Rovers don't come around very often – in fact, the most regal of SUVs has only been redesigned four times since 1970.
So when a new one arrives, it's a pretty big deal. Even if the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover
doesn't look all that much different than its predecessors aside from its front and rear fascias, it hides a wealth of changes that add up
to a subtraction of 700 lbs. from its curb weight despite the fact that it brings far more luxury to the table.
Naturally, we had to check one out.
What is it?
The fourth generation of a line that has become synonymous with the lifestyles of the rich and famous, the latest Range Rover is a serious do-all luxury vehicle from Land Rover. Its off road credentials have never been better, even if it relies more on high-tech traction control systems than ever before.
But few Range Rovers will ever leave the pavement, so the British automaker has refined its ride and handling with an all-new air suspension and an aluminum unibody structure that reduces the curb weight by a staggering 700 lbs.
Two versions of a 5.0-liter V8 are available for 2013 (a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 joins the stable for 2014). Our tester is naturally aspirated, but a supercharged V8 is optional.
Similarly, four trim levels are available – our HSE trim is second from the bottom but will most likely prove to be the most popular in the U.S.
At $88,545 without any options, the HSE is lavishly-equipped as-is. Appealing to our hedonistic side, our tester further included a package with air-conditioned massaging seats, another package with all sorts of cameras and a “soft” door closing feature that tugs not-quite-closed doors so you don't have to go through the uncouth motion of slamming them.
What's it up against?
With just five seats aboard – the newly-expanded Range Rover Sport will be the brand's family hauler – the big Rangie is short on direct rivals. We would cross shop everything from the Jaguar XJ
sedan to the lumbering Lexus LX 570
if we were in the market.
What's it look like?
Retaining the classic Range Rover side profile – including its iconic upright, airy greenhouse – the 2013 differs mainly in its more streamlined front end and its new tail lamps.
Let's start with the latter, a pair of complex, LED-lit arrangements that wrap around the fender. We liked the tail end changes until we realized that the look is derivative of the Ford Explorer
Up front, things are better all around. Less upright than before, the design is nonetheless clearly linked to its predecessors by way of the big, bold grille and huge clamshell-style hood. We're not big fans of the overstyled air vents below the intricate head lamps, but at least Land Rover saw fit to nix the outgoing model's goofy fender-mounted vents.
And on the inside?
At first glance, things aren't that much different than before, although a more intense look reveals that “button clutter” has been reduced – something we're not sure buyers of high-end vehicles necessarily minded. After all, if you're spending this much, don't you want some buttons to press?
Poke around and you'll find a pair of huge, high-resolution screens hiding in the instrument cluster and in plain sight on the center stack. The former is a carryover from before and it works well, cleanly displaying standard gauge functions without looking needlessly futuristic. Fortunately, Land Rover doesn't allow for a wide range of customization, which makes the big instrument cluster intuitive and legible.
If only we could say the same about the other screen, which contains the vehicle's infotainment system. Most climate control functions are accessed via traditional knobs and buttons, but you have to tap one hard button and then at least one on-screen soft button to adjust the seat heating, cooling or massage functions. All three work as intended, but the extra step or two involved in accessing them is distracting.
The Range Rover's audio and navigation systems aren't much changed from before, which means that they're excessively menu-intensive but fairly easy to sort through. The system was clearly not designed to display SiriusXM data, as you'll only see either a band or a song title, not both at the same time. Navigation, on the other hand, benefits from the higher resolution screen, and the pricey optional Meridian sound system on our tester is worth every penny.
Not as distracting as we expected is the Range Rover's new rise-to-the-occasion gear lever, a knob that pops to the surface once the ignition has been fired. Cribbed from sister brand Jaguar, the knob is as easy to use as the four-wheel-drive traction control and ride height adjustments behind it.
Speaking of ride height, the Range Rover now conveniently includes a button on the driver's door to lower the vehicle to “access height.”
Space remains a Range Rover asset up front and in the cargo area and, for the first time ever, the rear seat is as palatial as you might expect. On our tester, the seats and some other panels were covered in fine leather, but the dashboard featured an oddly rubber-like vinyl.
We also weren't sold on its piano black accents, which look more like molded plastic than an upmarket material. Piano black strikes us as a fad worth passing on. But rich woods are available.
But does it go?
With the same 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft. of torque as last year's Range Rover, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Land Rover didn't make any changes.
Well, you'd be wrong. Really wrong.
Not only is curb weight down the aforementioned 700 lbs., last year's six-speed automatic has given way to a ZF-developed eight-speed gearbox. Ostensibly the same unit you'll find in everything from Chrysler 300s to BMW X5s, the transmission's extra ratios keep the V8 within its wide power band – and they help save fuel.
Land Rover quotes a believable 6.5 seconds in the 0-60 mph sprint, a metric that doesn't necessarily paint a picture of just how fleet of foot this big vehicle feels. Tipping the scales at about 4,850 lbs., the Range Rover remains a heavy SUV, but it dances like a ballerina when pushed, requiring little throttle input to really get up and go. The Supercharged model is faster, but not necessarily usably so – it exists only for those who simply must
have more power.
Aiding the Range Rover's newfound drivability is its retuned chassis, including the height-adjustable (to the tune of nearly 12 inches) air suspension and an electric power steering system. Poised and confident over anything – and we mean everything
– we could throw at it, the Range Rover is undoubtedly the finest do-anything vehicle ever built.
Despite riding on chunky 20-inch alloy wheels (that were quickly coated in brake dust thanks to the ultra strong calipers and huge rotors), our test Range Rover swallowed up even the worst urban terrain we found with nary a whimper. Moreover, it was also the quietest SUV we can ever recall encountering, which made it a perfect high-speed companion.
Even better, it sipped fuel at a rate unimaginable before: Officially, it's rated at 14/20 mpg (and 16 mpg combined), but we averaged around 18 mpg and saw has high as 22 mpg on the highway.
Leftlane's bottom line
It's not the best looking Range Rover ever (the Classic will be forever hard to beat), but the 2013 is the best vehicle at doing just about anything else the Land Rover has ever built. And that's high praise, since we've never encountered a new Range Rover we didn't like.
Aside from selecting some of the borderline gaudy color combinations Land Rover offers on its flagship, you simply can't go wrong here.
2013 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
base price, $87,650. As tested, $96,795.
Soft door close, $600; Meridian audio system, $1,850; Vision Assist Package, $1,650; Four zone climate Package, $4,150; Destination, $895.
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.