2013 Land Rover Range Rover Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 13, 2013

The 2013 Land Rover Range Rover swaps steel for aluminum, and delivers better performance and luxury in every dimension.

It's been a decade since its last full makeover, but for 2013 the Land Rover Range Rover gets what is likely the most radical reinvention for its long and storied life. The change bring a sedan-level street demeanor to the SUV, while electronics make it more capable off-road than ever before.

It's all because of aluminum. The Range Rover's had aluminum body panels for a while, but now it's made of the stuff to its core--and that means a roughly 700-pound weight loss, which permeates the way the Range Rover drives, and to a lesser extent, how much gas it consumes.

A pan down the sideview of the new Range Rover doesn't jar the senses, but it ticks the "new" box from at least a dozen angles. It's almost two inches longer, and can sit almost two inches lower, and that pushes its proportions into an almost crossover-like stance if it's staged properly. The pillars seem slim, and the glass floats: there's a passing resemblance to the Ford Flex, itself an homage to the Rover as much to the old Fairlane wagon. The new front end tones down the bluff SUV grille and slims out the headlamps for a more friendly face, and the rear end lifts and tapers in a callback to the first Range Rover that obliterates the blocky look of the BMW-era models. The cabin? It's as warm as a campfire, and it may as well be finished in hundred-dollar bills. The LCD screens are muted against the backdrop of fantastic wood and semi-aniline leather, and it's all nearly custom-finished in the Autobiography edition, with its huge palette of wood and leather and color.

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With a body structure some 39 percent lighter than before, the Range Rover makes huge strides in acceleration, ride quality, both on- and off-road performance. The base 5.0-liter V-8 quietly presses its case with 375 horsepower and a ZF eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic; it's almost as quick as the old supercharged model. It may not feel as transformative as a result, but the 510-hp Supercharged edition hits sport-sedan 0-60 mph times of 5.1 seconds, with the soft whine we've come to expect from most things British (with wheels, that is).

Straight-line performance transformed, the Range Rover's handling on pavement feels more like a big, tall touring sedan than ever. Credit the independent suspension, adaptive air dampers, and variable-ratio electric power steering for quicker responses and finer responses, with little of the fuss baked into some other electronic steering and suspension systems. The basic setup has a languid, well-controlled feel and a directness that gets tauter on Supercharged models with their active anti-roll-bar setup--but more importantly, adapts to conditions as the Range Rover slows down and heads off-road.

For everything that happens beyond the tarmac, all Range Rovers are fitted with full-time four-wheel-drive and a new generation of Terrain Response Control that uses sensors to predict the surface ahead, and to change traction, stability, and active-differential settings to handle whatever nature throws your way, choosing between five settings (General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl). There's more than a foot of maximum ground clearance thanks to the air suspension, about three feet of fording depth thanks to internal venting, and 7,700 pounds of towing capacity. More than ever, the Rover's a swarm of electronic and mechanical systems that let it go almost anywhere you'd like--provided its longer body doesn't high-center or get stuck.

Because it's lighter, the new Range Rover can afford 1.7 inches more in overall length, which translates to 4.7 additional inches of rear-seat leg room. Excellent front seats offer up a command view of the path ahead--and step-in height is lower, since the air suspension's access height can be dropped two inches more than before. The reclining rear seats have limousine-like leg room, and for the first time, have power adjustment, heating and ventilation, a massaging function, and a bucket-seat configuration available. The tailgate design is now split and the individual pieces can be powered open or closed.

All Range Rovers will come with dual LCD screens, a wide 12.3-inch display that replaces traditional gauges, and an 8-inch touchscreen that runs infotainment systems on the center stack through a combination of soft and hard keys for functions from navigation to climate, phone, and audio. The screen's interface is cleaner and seems quicker, but it's not rendered as prettily as the LCD gauges. Leather upholstery is standard, while major options will include a panoramic sunroof; a Meridian sound system with 1,700 watts of power; surround-view cameras; cooler boxes; and a choice from among 37 exterior colors, 17 interior colors and 3 veneers.

The new Range Rover is built in the U.K., and goes on sale in the U.S. in mid-December, priced from $83,500 for normally aspirated models to about $100,000 for the Supercharged version, to more than $130,000 for Autobiography editions.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Styling

The new Range Rover pares itself down to essence and elegance; the cabin's pure country estate.

It's not out of bounds to suggest that the Range Rover's always dressed better than its passengers, is it?

Officially a 2013 model for the U.S. market, the new Range Rover may not strike all comers as a big departure from the 2012 model. To us, its recognizable two-box silhouette gets just the right balance of heritage-infused details and untouched expanses of bodywork and glass, with a library-like cabin finished exquisitely at the Autobiography level.

The 2013 Range Rover first looks long, but it's lithe for an SUV. The stance reads lower and the roof pillars seem slimmer; from the sideview, the Range Rover has some crosscurrents with the Ford Flex, which has been roundly pointed out as a blend of Fairlane and Range Rover cues since it was introduced back in 2009.

The key clues as to the Range Rover's freshness are in the front end: LED headlamps are slimmer, and frame a trimmer mesh grille, over perfectly faired-in fog lamps. It's one of the points where designers admit to dialing back the rugged SUV appeal, to warm up the Range Rover's appeal to luxury-sedan shoppers. There's also a distinct callback in the way the sill line kicks up at the rear end; it's more like the first Range Rovers that came to America under the brand name, back in the mid-1980s, and less like the blocky BMW-era utes that followed. The tapering pulls a lot of visual weight out of the Range Rover's rear end, as does the silver finish along the sills that suggests the Range Rover's new aluminum core. 

The cabin stays just as true to long-standing Range Rover cues, with a wide LCD screen taking up center stage on the dash, and a pair of round thumb controls studding the steering wheel. The center console now has a rising rotary shift knob like the one found in the Range Rover Evoque and in the Jaguar lineup, and a large LCD touchscreen interface for infotainment systems. The interface itself has been cleaned up, but it's not rendered in the same loving depth as the LCD gauges. It could use a hug from a design squad with Apple's sensibilities, a fix that's usually only a firmware update away.

It's all surrounded by the customary wood and leather that's rivaled only by the likes of Bentley. The staggering set of finishes spans from a gloss-black trim and semi-aniline leather, with hushed touches of ambient lighting and aluminum trim, on the standard Range Rover, to the audacious and gorgeous trims fitted in the $130,000-plus Autobiography models. Finer leather from the dash to the doors to the headliner's just the start; those top models have 22 distinct paint colors, and a striped-grain wood choice that might have been inspired by an Art Deco waterfall chest.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Performance

It's astonishing how quick and light the new Range Rover feels, and how smoothly it rides despite a foot of ground clearance.

The Range Rover is quicker on pavement and lighter to the touch than ever before, a magnitude of change that's all the more remarkable since it's also longer, with more off-road hardware woven into a stiffer, stouter body.

The body makes all those gains possible. The new Range Rover goes from a steel frame surrounded by aluminum body panels, to an SUV with a full aluminum frame that's riveted and bonded with aerospace glue, in the same way the Jaguar XK and XJ are constructed (not to mention most of the Boeing lineup). The suspension's also composed of cast- and forged aluminum pieces, while some body panels are twinned to composite liners to save even more weight. The net result is a 700-pound weight loss, when comparably equipped.

It'd give the perfect cover to downsize engines, but the Range Rover is the brand--so it retains its ultimate power. In the U.S., we'll choose from a pair of 5.0-liter V-8s, both teamed with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift controls. The entry-level engine is normally aspirated and direct injected, with 375 horsepower. It's whisper-quiet at cruising speed, and about as quick as the outgoing supercharged model, with an estimated 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds. For the fully realized, fully British experience, though, the supercharged edition's the way to roll. It scrolls out 510 horsepower with the supercharger whine we automatically associate with British cars, and it guns to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. In a vehicle so large, it doesn't quite have the sensation of being that much faster than the normally aspirated version, but of course, it's bundled with lots of hardware and features. And any vehicle so large that tosses in paddle controls wins us over.

The trimmed-down figure doesn't benefit gas mileage so much, though. Fuel economy is pegged at a 9-percent improvement, with the EPA yet to weigh in.

Straight-line acceleration's lifted to a new luxury-sedan plane, but it's the Range Rover's street handling that's reached new levels with the lightweight makeover. The combination of a control-arm front suspension, a multi-link rear, an adaptive set of air dampers, and variable-ratio electric power steering aims for Flying Spur or S-Class-style handling, and it's as close as any wagon with this roofline gets. Depending on speed and traction modes, the Range Rover can vary steering and ride settings, giving it strong on-center feel with more programmed-in centering weight, for example. It's not particularly linear, as a result, but it's a good solution for an SUV, as much for light parking-lot effort as for effective highway tracking over a wide range of wheel and tire packages. In almost any circumstance, the Range Rover has mostly gentle ride motions and a substantial amount of body lean and ride softness -- purposely so, to avoid head toss of the kind we've seen in the competition. It's a languid, well-damped feel that's more luxury sedan than ever. Large six-piston front Brembo calipers, big front and rear disc brakes (15 and 14.4 inches in diameter) handle the Range Rover's curb weight of about 5300 pounds with ease.

For a double dose of technology, there's Dynamic Response, a set of active anti-roll bars that's standard on supercharged models. As the body leans into corners, the system counters with force to flatten out its response. It's similar to system on Mercedes-Benz GL; in the Range Rover it's set more softly, and allows more roll, at least, on the 19-inch wheels fitted to both of the vehicles we've driven. It still has the counterintuitive feel, that it's masking information you'd get from a conventional suspension, but likely it's adding safety for many drivers. Those active stabilizer bars are decoupled automatically in off-road modes, too, for better suspension articulation, which means no loss of off-road capability. Indeed, the Range Rover can handle slippery rocks and gully washouts on street tires without too much trouble.

The reason? All Range Rovers are fitted with so much off-road hardware, it's difficult to name something left off its comprehensive list of gear. There's a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a 50:50 torque split, and a low range accessible on the fly up to 37 mph to go with better wheel travel of 10.2 inches front and 12.2 inches rear. The low range operation is one of many triumphs of the new Range Rover, not the least of which is its quiet operation: there's very little of the usual gear whine, much more isolation. A new generation of Terrain Response Control uses sensors to predict the surface ahead, and to change traction, stability, steering, suspension and locking-differential settings from five presets (General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl). Choose Sand mode, for instance, and the throttle settings allow for lots of wheelspin and fast tip-in, to generate momentum; rock mode slows it all down and firms up ride for more precise maneuvers. It's accessed on supercharged models by pressing the rotary traction mode knob down--and it's an option on normally aspirated models, which otherwise make drivers rotate the knob to the correct mode themselves. (No, really.)

We can attest to these expansive off-road capabilities, after a day running sand dunes and rocky outcroppings in Morocco--on street tires--and only once wedging ourselves into a sand trap. The challenge for the Range Rover's ceased to be its myriad means of extracting itself or lowering itself from trouble--it's more that it's grown long enough to outspan some obstacles that shorter, more compact off-road vehicles can clamber over with ease.

For the most extreme duties, the Range Rover has two off-road air suspension heights, depending on the ground clearance needed and the speeds driven. There's also an extended mode that raises it to 12.2 inches of clearance for 10 seconds--for the most difficult extractions, which we used to pull our vehicle out of that sand trap after all. Supercharged models can have an active rear locking differential, for go-almost-anywhere traction. Fording depth is up to more than 35 inches with special ducting that draws out water from underhood, while towing remains 7,716 pounds maximum. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are factored into the stability control as well as trailer-sway control.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Comfort & Quality

Its aim set on the finest luxury sedans, the Range Rover lands a hit with exceptional room, more in back than ever.

Its crash diet was such a success, the Range Rover has splurged a little, letting out its sheetmetal to accommodate 4.7 inches more between its wheels, and another 1.7 inches in overall length. Still 700 pounds lighter comparably equipped to the 2012 model, the new Range Rover's significantly more spacious, especially in the second row--almost large enough for a third-row seat.

The penalty-free growth spurt between the wheels pays other, bigger benefits, but in the front seats there's an added sense of room. Range Rovers have always had great headroom, but now it's complemented by a mostly flat floor and more shoulder room. The standard front seats fit us very well--they're at an ideal height for a panoramic view of the world--though some other drivers with us on a Moroccan adventure complained of a flat bottom cushion. We countered that with a little more tilt at the front of the seat, easily. The front seats avoid the overly intrusive headrests plaguing some luxury cars too; its headrests are softly padded, almost napworthy. And if you've never driven a Range Rover, the armrests are infinitely adjustable--but you'll have to get used to the fussy wheel-on-a-spindle adjuster to set them in place.

While the Range Rover sits at a commanding driving height, it's lower than before in some modes. That's because its air suspension can drop two inches lower than before, in its curb-friendly access mode.

Truly, if there's any place to be seen in the Range Rover now, it's in the rear seats. The standard three-row bench is fine, really--room in all directions, a bench nicely covered in leather, split and folding for more cargo access. But if you're into the full regal treatment, opt for the individual package--it splits the seats into two buckets that recline, heat, ventilate, and massage, and share a console with its own cooler box. Get the DVD entertainment system, stretch out with the exceptional rear-seat leg room now on tap (it's beyond long-wheelbase S-Class), and you'll see why the speculation about a three-row Range Rover's already out there. Our guess? An aluminum-bodied, three-row Discovery/LR4 could fit the bill just as nicely.

As for cargo space, it's less arduous to access thanks to the new power tailgate. It's split horizontally, so the top glass lifts up, and the body-color lower panel lays down flat. The cargo floor's still relatively high in the normal suspension mode, but lower it and the Range Rover practically becomes a crossover. The servants will be pleased.
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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Safety

No crash scores are in, but the Range Rover has a body like a Boeing, and enough electronics for one, too.

The Range Rover's entirely new body structure and raft of safety gear is promising, but data is absent.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the new Range Rover, and frankly we'd be surprised if either one did, given its expected sales volume and base price.

Still, we're assigning a high safety score, based as much on the Range Rover's aircraft-style aluminum body structure as its long list of safety technology, from the standard airbags and traction control, to its standard four-wheel drive with selectable traction modes, to hill-descent control and hill-start assist, to its available locking rear differential and adaptive headlights. On supercharged models, the traction system predicts the terrain ahead and selects its own mode--pretty nifty.

The Range Rover also has a standard surround-view camera that provides a "kerb-side" view down the car, thanks to cameras at the front corners and under the big sideview mirror housings. It also has standard Bluetooth with voice control of some vehicle functions.

There's also the latest in electronic assistance, including adaptive cruise control that can slow the Range Rover to a complete stop in traffic, and then accelerate again with a slight tap on the gas. Blind-spot monitors incorporate cross-traffic alerts--useful for backing out of parking spaces. For towing, the Range Rover has sight lines in its surround camera that help in positioning, and trailer-sway control factored into its stability systems.

Overall, visibility is excellent from the driver seat. The driving position is ideal, and the new look has slim roof pillars that leave the rear-quarter view almost unfettered, though the back glass can seem a little small.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Features

Meridian sound and dual-DVD rear seats are fine, but the Range Rover's autobiographical choices of leather, wood, and color are its real hallmark features.

In its mission to move ever more smartly upscale, the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover adds even more standard equipment, while nudging its ultra-luxe Autobiography edition even further into the pricing stratosphere.

The Range Rover is priced from $83,500, and includes standard features such as the normally aspirated V-8, eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, and user-selectable traction control modes. All Range Rovers also come with power features; cruise control; keyless entry and pushbutton start; three-mode automatic climate control; power heated front seats; and a power split tailgate that has a liftgate and a fold-down tailgate.

On the infotainment front, the Range Rover sports dual LCD screens: a wide 12.3-inch display replaces traditional gauges, and an 8-inch touchscreen runs infotainment systems on the center stack through a combination of soft and hard keys and Bluetooth-driven voice control for functions from navigation to climate, phone, and audio. The look of the center screen's been simplified, and the screens work better and more quickly than before, though the graphics are a revision or two behind those on the gauges--and not all the information for the navigation and audio system passes from one to the other. Track names on iPhones, for example, don't show up between the Range Rover's gauges as they would on some other vehicles. It's as simple as a firmware upgrade away, we think.

Worth noting: the center screen's a "Dual-View," so by the miracle of pixelation and LCD technology, the front passenger can watch a DVD while the driver doesn't have a clue as to what's on.

The Rover's basic audio system is powered by Meridian sound processing, and has more than 300 watts of sound; the most expensive version has 29 speakers (including passenger-facing speakers in the front seatbacks) and 1700 watts of power, but as with Bentley's Naim system and Rolls' Lexicon setup, the sweet and clean signal sound is attuned away from some of the hefty sound available just across the showroom, even. The bone-vibrating bass in a Bowers & Wilkins-equipped Jaguar XJ will out-thump the top Meridian system on, say, Zeppelin's "Kashmir"--by a huge margin--while the Meridian setup wins the clarity race and the marketing one too, with what Land Rover says is the first 3D signal processing on the road.

Major luxury and convenience options will include a panoramic sunroof; 20-way power front seats with heating and ventilation and massaging function; individual rear seats for the second row with heating and massaging; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; soft-close doors; electrically deployed side steps; and cooler boxes. Safety options run from surround-view cameras to adaptive cruise control and speed limiting.

Leather upholstery is standard on all Range Rovers, and there are a few grades that distinguish the pretty hides in the base versions from the gorgeous, supple ones in the Autobiography editions. All are semi-aniline, which means they're softer to the touch, not quite so heavily treated as some lower-grade leathers. The Range Rover is offered in a palette of 37 exterior colors, with a black or silver roof, 17 interior colors and 3 veneers; Autobiography editions hold 22 of those paint colors as exclusive.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage should improve slightly this year--that in spite of a 700-pound weight loss.

It's only a few weeks from dealerships, but the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover doesn't yet have any official fuel-economy ratings, or blessings otherwise from the EPA.

Land Rover estimates that with the dramatic changeover in construction techniques, the new Range Rover sheds 700 pounds over the comparably equipped 2012 version. In the new Range Rover, it's not just the body panels that are aluminum--it's body sections, too, riveted and glued together with aerospace-level adhesives for ultra-rigid joinings.

The weight loss and other drivetrain improvements should boost the Range Rover's operating efficiency by about 9 percent, it's estimated. Against 2012 ratings of 12 miles per gallon city, 18 miles per gallon highway, and 14 mpg combined, that works out roughly to an estimated 13/20 mpg, or as much as 16 mpg combined. It's not a wonder of gas mileage, then--but it's much improved, and a good bit ahead of vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GL 550 in that regard.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like U.S. customers will get to experience the Range Rover with diesel power, at least until the middle of the decade when European regulations on emissions become much more restrictive, much more like our own. There's also a plug-in hybrid diesel coming to the Range Rover in other markets--perhaps it's possible, once those other hurdles are cleared.

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