2000 Land Rover Range Rover Page 1

If it's good enough for the queen, it's good enough for us. The original luxury SUV is so good, in fact, that it remains the best offering in its segment despite serious competition from Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes, and most recently, its parent company, BMW.

For year 2000, this upscale sport-utility vehicle that boasts great off-road ability and luxuriant trappings has only minor changes, including trim updates and reduced engine emissions.

Call it stodgy, boxy, or downright imposing, Range Rover's sheet metal (lightweight and rustproof aluminum over a stout steel frame) projects its unflappable, go-anywhere performance. This year, the bolt-on body hardware has been significantly freshened. Body-color bumpers, front spoilers, and exterior mirrors now grace the exterior. Front and rear turn signals and side marker lamps use smoke-gray plastic lenses for a more modern, sporty look, while new headlamps and fog lamps add to the familial resemblance to the newer, more svelte Discovery Series II. The 4.0 SE models now ship with the "Lightning"-design 16-inch alloy wheels. Two new paint hues, Alveston Red and Kent Green, are added this year, and color combinations have been expanded: Whereas in 1999 only certain interior/exterior combinations were produced, customers can now mix and match at will.

On this side of the pond, we're treated to two versions of the Range Rover, both assembled in Land Rover's Solihull factory. On paper, the 4.0-liter 188-bhp SE and 4.6-liter 222-bhp HSE differ only in displacement, tires, and mudguards, not to mention $8,000. But on the road, the HSE's 64-lb-ft torque advantage makes all the difference in the world, giving the unhurried Range Rover the guts it needs to compete with the fine powerplants from Lexus and Lincoln, and for that matter, the rest of the globe. Both of Range Rover's engines meet California's Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard this year, thanks to new catalytic converters and secondary air pumps. An electronically controlled automatic is the only transmission offering; it allows manual +/- gear selection or uses a driver-adaptive shifting program when in "drive."