Pros: Great acceleration; fine interior amenities and build quality; strong off-road capability

Cons: Poor fuel economy

The Range Rover has one of the most famous SUVs in the world. Originally released in 1970 in the U.K., the Range Rover wasn't officially sold in the United States until March 16, 1987. Since its inception, the Range Rover model has been through three generations, with the most recent making its debut in 2002.

Within the past few years, Range Rover's parent corporation, Land Rover, has adopted the Range Rover nameplate for other of its more luxurious models. Although once a stand-alone name, the Range Rover Sport, based on the Land Rover LR3, and most recently the Range Rover Evoque, a small three- or five-door hatchback SUV, have taken on the Range Rover brand name.

Although the Land Rover company is respected for its world-class off-road luxury vehicles, it has had difficulty finding a permanent parent corporation. Land Rover has been owned by several larger automakers, including British Leyland, BMW and Ford. Currently Land Rover is owned by Indian automaker Tata.

Comfort and Utility

 "Comfort and Utility" is a section included in all AutoTrader vehicle reviews. For Range Rover, it's perfectly suited, since the Range Rover was built with seamlessly blended comfort and utility as its core values.

Some automotive journalists have called the interior of the Range Rover the greatest vehicle interior in the world. Big, spacious and beautifully constructed and finished, the Range Rover is truly at the pinnacle of luxury vehicles of any kind.

The Range Rover is trimmed with luxury-grade European leather from the seats to the headliner to the door pillars. The interior is finished with satin black or natural wood to complete the interior experience. In addition, the front seats are both heated and cooled, and the rear seats recline electronically.

Adding to the luxurious interior are numerous technological features to enhance both utility and driving enjoyment. Among them are the award-winning Terrain Response system, which includes Sand Launch Control, a newly revised Rock Crawl Program and Gradient Release Control. The 2012 Range Rover has two further enhancements, Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration Control.

Hill Start Assist works by holding the driver-generated brake pressure long enough for the driver to move his or her foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator without having the vehicle roll backward. The system releases the brake after "sufficient time has elapsed" or when the engine supplies enough torque to move the vehicle uphill. Gradient Acceleration Control is designed to activate on severe downhill gradients when the driver does not have Hill Descent Control engaged. Gradient Acceleration Control pressurizes the brake system, slowing the vehicle to a throttle-position-determined speed while the vehicle descends a slope.

Technology

Within the past few years, physical gauges and dials on the dash have been replaced by a 12-inch transistor screen made of thin film that displays essential vehicle information on digitally created dials and graphical displays. Not only does this upgrade look strikingly modern, it also allows owners to change the position of certain virtual dials to customize vehicle information.

Beyond its new instrument cluster, the Range Rover is loaded with technological goodies. Among the many are a rear-view camera, heated front and rear window shields, rain-sensing wipers, satellite navigation, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, push-button ignition and a 720-watt Harmon Kardon digital surround sound system with a six-disc CD changer.

Performance & Fuel Economy

In the U.S. market, the Range Rover is available with two engine configurations. The HSE model has a normally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 producing 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. The supercharged model's 5.0-liter V8 makes 510 hp and 461 lb-ft.of torque. The HSE will make the run from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. The Supercharged model will make the same run in 5.9 seconds. That would be quick for any vehicle; considering that the Range Rover weighs more than 6,000 pounds, it's staggeringly quick.

As for fuel economy, if you have to ask, you don't have the right mind set for Range Rover ownership. But if you must know, the Range Rover is rated at 12 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

Safety

The Range Rover is loaded with safety features. Headlining the equipment list are seven airbags: driver and passenger dual threshold airbags, driver's knee airbag, a side airbag for the front seats and separate side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers. The Range Rover also features an inertia switch that unlocks the doors, turns off the fuel pump and turns on interior and hazard lights in the case of an accident. The front seats also include something called an Integrated Whiplash Reduction System.

Driving Impressions

Customers who choose the Range Rover HSE with its normally aspirated V8 engine will find the acceleration astonishing, especially those who have driven Range Rovers in the past, which were not so quick. The supercharged Jaguar 5.0-liter V8, however, is something altogether different. The best way to describe it would be to conjure up images of the space shuttle. Arguably, we've never flown the space shuttle. So we figure the experience of piloting either vehicle is rather similar.

In keeping with the space shuttle analogy, one driving sensation that distinguishes the Range Rover from the rest of the automotive universe is its tall ride height. Not only is the vehicle itself tall, but the passengers sit high in the cabin. This elevated seating position coupled with the height of the vehicle itself gives the passengers the sensation of being above everything else on the road, as if flying at 10,000 feet, rocketing toward Jupiter.

Below, we give recommendations on other vehicles to consider in place of the Range Rover. With 99 percent of the vehicles we review, these side-by-side comparisons are reasonable. Comparing a Mustang with a Camaro is fair; comparing a Range Rover with any other vehicle isn't. There simply is no other 500-some-horsepower luxury SUV on the market that can conquer most any earthly terrain that its driver throws at it. The Range Rover is-like the space shuttle-a standalone masterpiece of engineering.

Other Cars to Consider

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 - The SRT8, the fastest Jeep ever built, starts at a bargain basement MSRP under $60,000. Arguably, it is great off-road, too. But its interior isn't even close to that of the Range Rover.

BMW X5M - Starting at $87,250, the X5M, like the Range Rover, is luxurious and fast. But the BMW X line has never been known for its strong four-wheel-drive systems. If you should ever take one of these off-road, you'd better hope there's a Range Rover nearby to tow you out when you get stuck.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo - The 500-hp Turbo starts at $107,000, which is $13,000 more than the supercharged Range Rover. The Cayenne is much more carlike than the Range Rover. Customers looking for a sports car/luxury SUV will prefer the driving characteristics of the Cayenne over the much more trucklike Range Rover.

AutoTrader Recommendations

Fuel economy actually doesn't decrease too much when upgrading from the standard HSE to the Supercharged model. So drop a couple of extra grand and go for the 510-hp version. If you're even considering a Range Rover, there's no sense in going small.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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