It’s not everyday that you take a vehicle with a base price of about $84,000 and slog it through mud, crawl across rocks, or ford streams up to three feet deep (thanks to higher placement of air intakes and critical electrical components). And once you get done, you hose the mud off the chassis, take out your off road floor mats and replace them with carpeted ones, and head to a formal event in black tie and evening gown.
Such is the paradox with the world’s most iconic Sport Utility brand – Land Rover. It is arguably the most luxurious SUV on the market, yet it climbs icy, slippery slopes like it was an arctic cat.
The Amangiri resort in Utah served as the backdrop for the launch of the all-new 2013 Land Rover Range Rover, the fourth generation of the go anywhere luxo-ute (the first Range Rover was built in 1970, and entered the U.S. market in 1987). Amangiri (Peaceful Mountain) combines the elements of the earth to provide guests with an almost tantric experience. You feel spiritually connected to the earth. Rooms are simple, yet very elegant — outfitted with stone, glass and wood. The heated pool surrounds a large rock formation — very fitting in the sense that the whole resort is built to complement nature.
Our drive in the new Range Rover took us on roadways that showcased the sportscar like performance of the vehicle. Pick your power depending on the wad in your wallet—the base model sports a 5.0 liter V8 that outputs 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. The supercharged models also displace five liters, and punch out 510 horsepower and 461 pound feet of torque. Power in the base V8 is plentiful, and just outrageous in the supercharged model. I put the hammer down in the supercharged model on a long straightaway and 130 mph showed up on the speedometer in quick fashion without cacophony or untoward handling behavior. The whole experience with this vehicle is about confidence. Go fast and you are good. Go slow so folks can appreciate the beauty of the vehicle. On or off road, the much used term state-of-the-art defines the new Range Rover.
(2013 Range Rover Photo Gallery on Flickr)
Power is channeled to the wheels through a full time “Intelligent” four-wheel drive system. An active locking rear differential is optionally available, complementing the standard center lock differential. All models feature an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The brakes are powerful and stop the vehicle straight and true. Front calipers are Brembo six-piston units.
Handling on road is controlled by and advanced air suspension at all four corners. The “Range” is light on its feet thanks to an all-aluminum monocoque body structure and aluminum front and rear subframes. Aluminum is also utilized to cast the brake calipers, doors, final drive unit and other components. Other exotic materials are utilized (magnesium and SMC plastic) to make this vehicle 39 percent lighter than the previous steel-bodied Range Rover. Land Rover calls the new Range Rover “the world’s first aluminum SUV.”
Ride quality is amazingly supple — given the stout character an SUV needs to do the things a Land Rover can do offroad, this is an impressive trait.
The 2013 Range Rover is built in a brand new manufacturing facility in Solihull, United Kingdom, and features construction techniques originally adopted in the aeronautical industry. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and unique aluminum bonding procedures ensure a tight, well built chassis. For example, no welds are used during the manufacturing process and panels are joined using aircraft grade adhesive and over 3400 self-piercing, boron-steel rivets. Because both techniques are always used together when joining panels, the result offers greater strength than traditional spot welding. And to ensure that no galvanic corrosion (occurs when dissimilar metals are combined) forms between the aluminum panels and steel rivets, a special coating was developed to isolate each material.
When all panels are fully constructed and bonded, and the vehicle is fully outfitted, the result is an SUV that is the vehicular equivalent of a Supermodel – gorgeous, sensuous and curvy in all the right places. Thankfully, the design of the new model is evolutionary, as the third gen model was no styling slouch. My favorite features of the new design are the new LED front “Light Blade” accents, and the artful integration of the LED tail lamps, which now wrap around the rear to form a wing like look on the quarter panels. The fourth gen model is also the most aerodynamic Range Rover ever, with an impressive 0.34 coefficient of drag. At speed, even though the cabin is tall, you ride in virtual silence thanks to extensive wind tunnel testing and strategic placement of noise isolating materials.
Not content to be among the world’s most capable off-road vehicles, Land Rover has upped their own game by enhancing the “Terrain Response” system on the previous generation Range Rover. The new model’s “Terrain Response 2” features an automatic setting that uses on-board vehicle sensors to analyze road surfaces and driving conditions, and then automatically selects the most suitable terrain program. The new system is able to switch automatically between five settings: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl.
So after ample time on smooth, twisting roads to assess the new Range Rover’s stellar on road acumen, it was time to head for the hills! Hog Canyon Arizona would give the Range a real workout and challenge both man and machine.
It started innocently enough, with a couple of modest hills covered with mud. Our instructor from the Land Rover Driving School stayed with us at all times to ensure our personal safety during the most challenging parts of the trail, and to also ensure that $100K worth of Range Rover made it back to the Amangiri Resort in one piece. My driving partner faced the first real challenge of the off road course – to climb a muddy hill strewn with large rocks. It was quite a sight to see the leather and wood clad Range Rover climb the hill. It took my partner several tries to find the right line up the hill without getting bogged down in the mud, and once he did, power and the Range Rover’s advanced technology took over and got the job done.
The rest of the afternoon offered differing challenges, with each successive challenge cementing the legend that Land Rover has created since the company was formed in 1947. My favorite was a boulder climb. Terrain Response 2 automatically selected Rock Crawl mode, and my instructor stood on top of the boulder to flash hand signals to tell me how to make it to the top. With the new Range Rover’s extended wheel travel (10.2” front, 12.2” rear), and generous approach (34.7 during full extension of the suspension) and departure angles (29.6) that ensures the body won’t be damaged during all but the most extreme off-road scenarios, up I went. No wheel slip, no drama and a huge smile on the face of yours truly for following my instructor’s lead to perfection.
Several hours after entering Hog Canyon, we were done. The cadre of Range Rovers were covered in mud, and the floor mats were totally brown as well. No worries though, for as soon as I glanced at the luxury appointments inside, the mud on the mats didn’t matter.
The interior is true luxe, and reminds me of the interior in corporate cousin Jaguar XJ. In fact, the rotary gear selector and the 12.3” Thin Film Transistor (TFT) virtual gauge cluster are the same style as those in the XJ. With the base model, the list of standard features is plentiful and impressive. Step up to the HSE for more traditional British luxury. Want all the bells and whistles? Then the “Autobiography” edition is for you. No matter what trim level you choose, you’ll get an interior fully bathed in the finest leather, real metal trim and stunning wood veneers from sustainable forests. Even the doors and headliner are covered in leather. Autobiography models get even finer semi-aniline leather. The new control layout features 50 percent fewer switches than the outgoing model. Bright LED overhead and mood lighting creates the perfect ambiance inside. Optional is mood lighting with variable colors.
A full sized panoramic glass roof is standard or available, depending on trim levels. It’s very well integrated and really brightens the interior. This is a “must purchase” option. Another interior fave is the available cooler in the center console, which kept my water nice and cold during or trek off road.
Merdian now provides the entertainment in the Range Rover. The base system is impressive, but if you really want to show off, Autobiography buyers can shell out an additional $3K for an insane 1700 watt Meridian 3D audio system with 29 speakers. The sound from this system is truly magnificent.
Lastly, no Land Rover product leaves the factory without a full suite of safety features and technology. Airbags, including a driver knee bag, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring are among safety highlights. The blind spot system now features “Closing Vehicle Sensing,” which looks beyond the typical blind spots to see vehicles that may be coming up on you in a hurry. Drivers are alerted by a rapid flashing of the mirror mounted LED that is part of the system. A new safety feature for 2013 is “Reverse Traffic Detection,” which uses radar at the rear to warn about vehicles during reversing maneuvers, such as backing out of a driveway. An available “Surround Camera System” incorporates front and rear cameras to warn of impending danger. The system also features trailer hitch guidance to help you hitch up in a hurry. As one would expect, dynamic stability control and roll stability control, hill descent control and a host of other safety features are standard.
I’ve got a new favorite in the luxo-SUV game. Congrats Land Rover on producing a superior SUV.
Range Rover prices are as follows:
Range Rover – $83,545
Range Rover HSE – $88,545
Range Rover Supercharged – $99,995
Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography $130,995