2012 Land Rover Range Rover Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 5, 2011

It can't rightly be called a value, but the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover delivers a truckload of ability and exclusivity along with its admittedly huge Monroney.

It doesn't have the raw power or the handling precision of its German competition, and America's plushest, biggest SUV offerings have more room. Still, the 2012 Range Rover is one of the most capable, most luxurious sport-utility vehicles available, whether it's used on-road or off-pavement.

Sleek in its slab-sidedness, the Range Rover artfully adapts its heritage cues to a spare modern style--and that makes it a unique and eye-catching piece, one that's recognizable at first glance.

Performance is excellent, in a straight line or around corners, on dry roads or wet, muddy trails. It seems up for any task, and it's one of the few truly capable SUVs left when it comes to the "utility" part of the equation, its off-road technology the most sophisticated in the class, and clearly oriented around its maximum capabilities, not watered down.

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The Range Rover's also downright opulent inside, with excellent fit and finish and plenty of room for five passengers. It won't seat seven, though, and the cargo space can seem a little small to anyone who's used a GL-Class or an Escalade for more than profiling.

There's no crash-test data in its corner, but the Range Rover has a standard safety package strong enough to recommend it--with the newer frills like rearview cameras and blind-spot monitors much appreciated.

Luxury and entertainment features abound, as you'd expect for the class, but sometimes the Range Rover's high-tech pieces trip over themselves with kludgy functionality. In some ways, it's a rolling supercomputer, but the displays from its foot-wide touchscreen could move along faster. Its harman/kardon 720-watt audio system? Nearly perfect.

The big Achilles heel of the Range Rover is in gas mileage. At 12/18 mpg, it's low even for the class, and we've typically observed real-world numbers closer to its combined 14-mpg EPA rating. So long as you budget in some fuel along with its $80,000 purchase price--$170,000 if you want the ultra-luxe Autobiography edition--the Range Rover won't fail to proceed, nor will it fail to please.

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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Styling

The 2012 Range Rover balances old-world luxury and sparse modernity in its one-of-a-kind look.

Two tires in the past, two in the present, the 2012 Range Rover walks the line between heritage cues and modern themes expertly.

From the front, the Range Rover is the SUV of the now, its squared-off headlamps shot with LED running lamps and the bluff grille capped by its own name, in hip-hop style. Spin it to the side view and the past comes more into focus, behind the air vents snipped out of its front fenders--more at the rear pillar, which cants forward just like the first Range Rover sold here in the U.S. did, back in 1986. The rear end's a simple, uncluttered collection of rectangles. From any angle, the Range Rover clearly doesn't have much attention to pay to the sculptured likes of the Audi Q7, or even the new Maserati Kubang.

It's more a gentleman's bush-whacker inside, a model of urban civility. Land Rover retuned the interior in 2010 and it's somehow even more plush than the cabin first fitted into this generation, back in 2003. It's priced from about $80,000 but the Range Rover's interior looks like it could come from Rolls-Royce or Bentley, with the lavish application of wood trim and leather hides. Rather than strip out the old interior--which was hardly an awful place--they've simply upholstered an X-wing fighter to cover the middle of the center stack, muting the vertical ribs of wood a little in favor of softer-touch leather.

The same visual trick also tends to mute the impact of the big touchscreen implanted in the dash, as does the set of metal-ringed controls that take up the lower half of the center console. Now the technology seems to complement the old-world look, instead of clashing with it--while also bringing lots of useful information closer to the driver's attention.

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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Performance

The 2012 Range Rover is capable and strong, on pavement or off road.

It's not the most powerful luxury SUV on the market, but the 2012 Range Rover feels supremely in command, on the road or off the pavement.

The base Range Rover is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8, rated at 375 horsepower. Coupled to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission and Land Rover's four-wheel-drive system, it's capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.

Adding on a supercharger boosts output to 510 horsepower, and drops 0-60 mph times to a scant 5.9 seconds. Both versions also are also capable of towing 7,700 pounds when properly equipped, and both have good drivetrain performance, with rapid and smooth shifts playing well with the V-8's meaty powerband. To our tastes, nothing says "British car" like the supercharger's whine, too. Considering the Range Rover's available speeds, its fuel economy of 12/18 mpg is still too low for our tastes.

On the road, the Range Rover performs well with either available drivetrain. The 6000-pound vehicle dials up speed quickly, and it's a stable, solid-handling machine. The steering can feel a bit slow but it weights up progressively, and has pronounced on-center feel, which helps it stay on track on interstates. Curves don't throw it, either, as its adjustable suspension lowers itself a fraction of an inch for more stability at higher speeds. Big wheels and tires and large brakes add to the aura of semi-invincibility. This isn't one of those vehicles that drives smaller than it is--but it's still athletic in its own way.

The Range Rover comes into its own when the pavement ends. Its sophisticated Terrain Response System has remarkable capability no matter what the surface--snow, mud, sand or gravel. All in concert, the air suspension raises the body for even better ground clearance, and the traction systems modulate wheelspin to let the Range Rover clamber up some daunting hills and trundle some steep descents with very little drama. Despite its high style, the Range Rover acquits itself like a billy goat when it needs to.

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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Comfort & Quality

The opulent 2012 Range Rover can cart five adults almost anywhere they'd like.

As you'd expect, passenger comfort and available space is very good inside the Range Rover. There's no third-row seat available, however.

The five-seat layout may not fit every buyer's every need, but the families and others who need and want a Range Rover will find some very supportive front seats, upholstered in beautifully stitched leather, with wood paneling surrounding them and their feet cushioned by thick carpeting. The details are exquisitely subdued and look rugged but plush. The rear seat's more than usable for three adults, too, and those passengers get their own climate controls.

The Range Rover's cargo space, though, is a little on the small side for the class, especially for its long wheelbase and particularly, its gargantuan, nearly 6000-pound curb weight (think fast: that's three first-gen Miatas). Most owners won't mind, since the rear seats fold down for the occasional hauling duty these machines are put through. Small-item storage is better, too, with bins and cupholders galore in front.

The highest achievement of the Range Rover is in its fit, finish and quality. The assembly is so good, you might think each one is handmade, though it isn't. Noise levels are very low, with a touch of V-8 engine burble and very little wind and road noise intrude on the luxe atmosphere.

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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Safety

The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover is stocked with the usual safety features and more, but it hasn't been crash tested.

The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover possesses the kind of passive and active safety features that tend to generate top crash-test scores, but it doesn't have actual test results yet.

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put the current Range Rover through its car-crushing regimen, and it's no surprise. The agencies don't tend to crash high-dollar luxury vehicles, as much for their extremely low sales as for their extremely high sticker prices.

Still, the Range Rover has a high driving position and great outward visibility, and standard four-wheel drive, to go with the usual array of anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a full complement of airbags, including a driver knee airbag.

New features include a standard rearview camera; Bluetooth; tire-pressure monitors; and active headrests. Land Rover offers optional adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors and a "surround-view" camera system for even better protection from small and major accidents.

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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Features

The Range Rover could be more user-friendly, but it has some stunning standard luxury features.

The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover doesn't want for luxury features, though sometimes the operation of its more advanced entertainment system can be confusing and slow.

Among the standard equipment is a power tilt-and-slide sunroof; leather upholstery and wood trim; heated front and rear seats; Bluetooth; LED interior lighting; a 720-watt harman/kardon audio system with 14 speakers, satellite radio hardware, a USB port and iPod connectivity, and a six-disc CD changer; and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The interior can also be upgraded with a wide range of finishes and materials.

Every Range Rover also comes with a navigation system controlled via a 12-inch TFT touchscreen. The system can respond somewhat slowly to inputs--something we've noticed in Jaguar systems as well--and on some screens, the immense amount of information displayed from the vehicle's infotainment and driving systems can be a little overwhelming. The look is high-tech and captivating in that way, but the functionality could use another rev or two.

As before, the Range Rover comes in HSE and Supercharged versions. An Autobiography package tops the lineup, and takes the equipment into the stratosphere along with the price, which checks in at $170,000.


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2012 Land Rover Range Rover

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover has a thirst for fuel that almost exceeds its price tag.

At today's gas prices, you'll spend about half as much as the sticker price of the 2012 Range Rover on a lifetime of fuel.

The Range Rover's no performance or luxury slouch, but it stumbles hard on gas mileage. Both the normally aspirated version and the supercharged edition are rated by the EPA t 12/18 mpg, low even by full-size sport-ute standards.

In our experience, the real-world numbers usually fall toward the low end of that range, too. The EPA's combined number of 14 mpg should give you a clue that, at $4 gas, over a 200,000-mile life span, you'll spend more than $50,000 on gas for your Range Rover.

Rather than angle on future hybrid or diesel Range Rovers for North America, Land Rover's doing something more conventional to help its fuel economy. It's introducing the smaller Range Rover Evoque, powered by a turbo four, to balance out the gas mileage of its uber-luxury lineup.

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Styling 9
Performance 8
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Features 9
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