The Car Connection Land Rover Range Rover Overview
The Land Rover Range Rover is more than the gold standard of SUVs. Arguably, it's the original luxury SUV, the utility vehicle good enough for British royalty (at least until the Bentley Bentayga came along to make the Range Rover look like a bargain).
The Range Rover is capable of chauffeuring heads of state in armored class, or driving for miles where no road exists. Or both. Despite an intense creep in prices and luxury features in the past decade, the Range Rover remains very capable.
The lineup includes supercharged V-6, turbodiesel V-6, and supercharged V-8 models. A long-wheelbase model was recently added, further emphasizing the on-road luxury bent of the vehicle.
Most owners would say the Land Rover Range Rover is without rival, but it has some fierce competition as a luxury good, sometimes mentioned in the same breath with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and GL-Class, the Cadillac Escalade, and the new Bentley SUV, the Bentayga.
MORE: Read our 2016 Land Rover Range Rover review
The new Land Rover Range Rover
The Range Rover was most recently revamped for the 2013 model year. It's now built on an aluminum architecture, which sheds 700 pounds from the five-seat SUV. It also enables a 4.5-inch stretch in wheelbase for much better rear-seat room on the standard-length model, with overall length up just over an inch.
Styling is less of a departure, and simplicity and elegance are keywords. The grille was toned down to be more friendly, and the added length gives the Range Rover a suitably regal stance. Few details break out of its smoothly formed aluminum body panels as much as the vertical vents just ahead of the front doors; they can be painted to contrast with the body color, and to coordinate with a sill color, for a uniquely catchy or distracting body line. The interior's just as refined, or more so, with an emphasis on leather and wood and LCD touchscreens, and rotary shift knobs for both the transmission and the off-road mode selectors.
The lighter body helps bring sterling performance. The launch model's 375-horsepower V-8 was as quick as the old supercharged version, at 6.5 seconds to 60 mph; the supercharged SUV's 5.1-second trip to 60 mph competes with Jaguar's XJR. Fuel economy is pegged at a 9-percent improvement. Off-road performance remains unparalleled—there's full-time four-wheel drive, an air suspension, a maximum of 12.2 inches of ground clearance, and available automatic Terrain Response that selects traction modes based on conditions, from mud to snow to rocks to pavement. Towing capability remains at 7,700 pounds maximum.
The big Range Rover comes standard with two LCD screens up front; an 8.0-inch touchscreen handles infotainment on the center stack, while a 12.3-inch widescreen displays digital gauges. The infotainment setup also makes use of soft and hard keys to control phone, navigation, audio, climate, and vehicle settings. All big Rovers get leather upholstery as well, while items like a cooler box, a panoramic sunroof, a surround-view camera, and a Meridian audio system with 1,700 watts of power are available options. There are at least 37 exterior paints to choose from, as well as 17 hues for the interior palette and three veneer choices.
For 2014, Land Rover replaced the Range Rover's standard V-8 engine with a new supercharged V-6. Combined with the all-aluminum construction pioneered in 2013—fully 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor—the new engine boosts efficiency even further to meet various challenging global fuel-economy and carbon emissions goals. The company also added a long-wheelbase variant, creating a limousine-like off-roader with a rear seat that more than subtly evokes the feeling of the stretched Jaguar XJ. The long-wheelbase Range Rover has even greater presence than the standard-length model and appears simply huge in person.
Changes for 2015 included expanded availability of the long-wheelbase model with HSE trim and the supercharged V-6 engine. Land Rover also made more features standard on the lower models and created a well-rounded Driver Assistance package that includes all of its advanced safety and convenience tech, including automated parallel and perpendicular parking with parking-exit assist.
In addition, Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations unit produced in 2015 a very exclusive model to top the Range range. The Holland & Holland edition played off the luxury gunmaker's brand and offered what was effectively the most luxurious rolling gun cabinet extant. A bespoke interior, special green paint, and gun lockers in the cargo area assured the most comfortable of hunting outings. Only 40 of these were to be built beginning in 2015 over the next three years, each with a price tag of $285,000, making this the most expensive Range Rover model ever built.
For 2017, Land Rover offers a Range Rover with a diesel engine that was new last year. The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine makes 254 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. Highway mileage is pegged at 29 mpg, with combined ratings of 25 mpg.
Last year, the lineup added a new top trim, the SV Autobiography model. It included two-tone paint, a higher level of exterior detailing, and everything Range Rover can throw at an interior. The SV Autobiography also got an engine upgrade, using the 550 hp version of the corporate V-8 that was developed by SVO for the Range Rover Sport SVR. The SVAutobiography replaced the Autobiography Black.
For 2017, the SV Autobiography is now the SV Autobiography Dynamic, and it is available only as a short wheelbase model intended to be even more focused on high performance driving.
Land Rover Range Rover history
Over the years, the Range Rover has managed to add layers of refinement and on-road performance while holding on to its rugged abilities. It's been in production since 1970, but the Range Rover has only been built in three distinct generations, all defined by some common traits.
Since 1970, the Range Rover has been built on a frame with aluminum body panels. It evolved over its early life from a utilitarian vehicle into a more luxurious sport-ute that went on sale in the U.S. in 1986, by the automaker's American arm, Range Rover North America. The "classic" Range Rover had other American ties; its original V-8 had been developed from an engine sold by Buick for decades.
By the time it arrived in the U.S., the Range Rover used a 3.5-liter version of the V-8. By the mid-1990s it had grown in displacement to 4.3 liters, and the SUV itself had gained a long-wheelbase edition.
BMW and Ford eras
In 1990, BMW acquired what had become the Land Rover brand. A new Range Rover was developed and introduced in the 1995 model year. The Buick-derived V-8 carried over in the second-generation SUV, while other markets also had diesel engine options. A BMW-derived 4.4-liter V-8 was introduced during this generation. Self-leveling air shocks and sophisticated off-road mechanicals were standard on American versions, as were an automatic transmission and anti-lock brakes. Of all the criticism lobbed at this Range Rover—reliability chief among them—the almost plain exterior shape visually conveyed how the times had changed at Land Rover.
In 1999, Land Rover changed hands again. BMW sold the brand to Ford, and delivered a nearly completed third generation of the Range Rover. The new vehicle emerged as a 2003 model, with a more expressive style, even more technology under its sheet metal, and the existing BMW-derived powertrain installed. The Range Rover now was a unibody vehicle, and an air suspension interlinked with electronic controls for braking gave it even more on-road prowess. Passenger space was improved, and build quality was Land Rover's best-ever: the new Range Rover's interior wore especially striking blends of vertical bands of wood trim and leather. Reaching even further upmarket, the Range Rover came to the U.S. fully equipped with standard navigation system, rearview camera, sunroof and leather upholstery.
During this generation, Ford worked with its other British acquisition, Jaguar, to build common V-8 engines for both brands. The new engines emerged in the 2006 model year: a 4.4-liter V-8 produced 305 hp, and a supercharged version of the engine put out 400 hp. The accompanying facelift brought some interior refinements to the Range Rover, including a new LCD screen that controlled the vehicle's navigation, audio, and climate controls.
In the 2010 model year, the Range Rover received its most substantial changes since 2003. Subtle changes to the headlights, grille, and bumper marked the exterior, but inside, the SUV received a finer interior with a much larger LCD screen. The powertrains were upsized for more performance: a new 5.0-liter V-8 shared with Jaguar earned 375 hp in base Range Rovers, while the supercharged version put out 510 hp, enough to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds—while still able to tow more than 7700 pounds. The drivetrains carried over through the end of the generation in 2012, along with a newly tuned adaptive suspension and a revamped Terrain Response system with hill-start assist integrated with the Rover's stability control system. Equipment remained royally complete; heated front and rear seats, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, LED interior lighting, and Bluetooth integration were available, as were a range of wood and leather interior options.