Land Rover rewrote the book on luxury SUVs when it introduced the fuel-efficient Range Rover Evoque a couple of years ago, but the British luxury-SUV specialist returns to its familiar formula with the 2013 Range Rover.
The new SUV checks off all the requisite boxes: Styling that makes a Lego car look svelte? Right, guv'nor. Deluxe interior look and feel? Got it. Off-road ability? None better.
The 2013 Range Rover also features an aluminum body and chassis that shaves a whopping 700 pounds from the curb weight of a comparable 2012 model. It also offers appreciably more passenger and cargo space, fixing one of Land Rover's historic failings.
Prices for the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover start at $82,650. All Range Rovers feature all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base model has a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Range Rovers with a 510-horsepower supercharged engine start at $99,100.
The Range Rover competes with all-wheel drive versions of luxury SUVs like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX 56, Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz GL 550 and Porsche Cayenne GTS. Range Rover prices are at the high end of the class.
I tested a Range Rover with the HSE option package, normally aspirated V-8 and a $93,500 price. That would buy a top-shelf version of most luxury SUVs, but it's just a rung on Range Rover's ladder. You can add the $31,000 Autobiography option package to the $99,100 supercharged model. While my test vehicle lacked any of Autobiography's 22 premium paints, three headliners, eight wheel designs, etc., it had perforated leather seats, black lacquer trim, an 825-watt Meridian sound system, blind spot alert, a big panoramic sun roof and more.
The 2013 Range Rover is about an inch longer, slightly wider and less tall than its predecessor. In addition to the Kilimanjaro-high roof line typical of Range Rovers, the new model adds 4.7 inches of rear legroom. It's the first Range Rover in which riding in the rear seat versus wading through a leech-infested swamp isn't a judgment call. The front seat also has more room.
Cargo space increases to 32.1 cubic feet behind the rear seat. The liftover to the cargo area and step-in height are both high. Lowering the air suspension 0.8 inches eases egress somewhat, but tall ride height comes with the territory if you choose a Range Rover.
The air suspension provides a comfortable ride, with surprisingly good bump absorption. The steering has more play than SUVs engineered more for the highway than rock-strewn hillsides, but is reasonably responsive. Tall windows and thin pillars combine for very good visibility. Even so, this Range Rover is more at home on the wide open Serengeti than a grocery store parking lot.
The base engine's 375-horsepower is less than all the competitors but the Q7 and Lincoln Navigator. Acceleration is acceptable.
With an EPA rating of 14 mpg in the city, 20 on the highway and 16 combined, the Rover is thirstier than the Audi and Cayenne. It matches the X5 5.0i, QX 56 and GL. The Escalade and Navigator get better mileage, but they use regular fuel while the Rover requires premium.
With new versions of the X5 and Escalade due within a year, the Rover is likely to slide down the fuel economy rankings soon.
In addition to room, comfort and appealing materials, the interior features a very simple control layout. Avoiding the self-congratulation other automakers indulged in, Land Rover has replaced most buttons for navigation, climate, audio and phone controls with a large and simple touch screen and a few steering-wheel controls. The Rover's voice-recognition understands words very well, but requires too many steps to perform basic tasks, like “call home.”
No other luxury SUV maker has Land Rover's gift for interior design, and most upscale brands have abandoned the pretense that their SUVs are capable of serious off-roading. Land Rover is alone in offering both, and that will make the 2013 Range Rover worth the substantial price to many buyers.
2013 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
Base price: $82,650
As tested: $93,500
Type: All-wheel drive five-passenger luxury SUV
Engine: 5.0-liter direct-injected DOHC variable-timing 32-valve V-8
Mileage: 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway