Pros: Outstanding V8 engines; sumptuous interior; more rear legroom; still an off-road champ; huge weight reduction means better acceleration and fuel economy
Cons: Daintier exterior styling than before; fuel economy is still pretty poor
What's New: The Range Rover gets a full redesign for 2013, and it's lost an incredible 700 pounds thanks to its new aluminum structure.
Leave it to India to show England how it's done.
The 2013 Land Rover Range Rover, you see, is the first clean-sheet Land Rover redesign to be executed under the ownership of Indian conglomerate Tata, best known to tourists for apparently having built every single cargo truck in India. If you've seen these lumbering trucks in action, you'll know that this is not necessarily good news for Range Rover fans.
But the Indians have succeeded where the Brits seemingly didn't even try: they've managed to put Land Rover's notoriously heavy flagship SUV on a crash diet. We haven't officially weighed a 2013 Range Rover, but Land Rover claims a scarcely believable weight reduction of 700 pounds, and credits a new all-aluminum unibody for most of it. What's more, the wheelbase has actually been stretched, resulting in nearly five extra inches of rear legroom. Score one for postcolonial progress.
Less progressive, perhaps, is the sleek new exterior, which strikes some of us as a questionable retreat from the outgoing model's chiseled, imposing sheet metal. Although we could see giving this treatment to the urban-oriented Range Rover Sport (reviewed separately), shouldn't a full-blooded Range Rover announce its driver's presence with maximal authority?
But it's always a good sign when we start kvetching about styling, because that means everything else must be pretty darn good. Indeed, we suspect the 2013 Range Rover will be an immediate success in exclusive zip codes around the globe. For former Land Rover bigwigs in the British Isles, this piece of humble pie will have a distinctly Indian flavor.
Comfort & Utility
A 2-row luxury SUV, the 2013 Range Rover is offered in four main trim levels: base, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography.
As you might expect of a vehicle that starts at more than $80,000, even the base Range Rover comes fully stocked with standard equipment: 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights with washers, LED lighting accents front and rear, a power tailgate, a heated steering wheel, wood interior trim, leather upholstery, multi-way power heated front seats with driver memory, a TFT/LCD instrument panel, tri-zone climate control and an 8-in touchscreen infotainment system with voice control, Bluetooth, a hard-drive-based navigation system and a 380-watt Meridian sound system.
Notable options include 20-in wheels, adaptive cruise control and a full-length panoramic roof.
The HSE comes standard with 20-in wheels and the panoramic roof (with optional black trim on the periphery) and adds niceties like Oxford leather upholstery, heated rear seats, winged headrests in both rows and available massaging front seats with power-adjustable bolsters. Quad-zone climate control and a self-parking system with automated steering are also offered.
The Supercharged cranks up the power with a supercharged V8 and tacks on 21-in wheels and an upgraded Terrain Response 2 Auto adaptive off-road driving system (see Performance and Fuel Economy below), but it's otherwise pretty similar to the HSE in terms of equipment. The bonkers Autobiography model is in a league of its own price-wise at over $130,000 -- roughly $30,000 more than the Supercharged -- but it does boast adaptive xenon headlights, reverse traffic detection with blind-spot monitoring, available 22-in wheels, unique color combinations, semi-aniline leather upholstery, 20-way power front seats, a rear-seat entertainment system, an 825-watt Meridian sound system and the option of two executive-style rear seats instead of the standard 3-person bench.
Before conducting our interior evaluation, we wondered how Land Rover could possibly improve on the outgoing Range Rover's stellar cabin. Well, they've done it, but the improvements here are mostly incremental. Not surprisingly, materials remain outstanding, and they're perhaps a smidgen nicer than last year's if you get up close and personal with the dashboard and door panels.
As before, the Range Rover features a standard TFT/LCD instrument panel that basically turns the gauge area into one big computer screen. It definitely contributes to the modern feel inside. But the high-tech heart of this beast is the touchscreen interface (see Technology below).
The Range Rover's standard front seats are plenty comfortable if you ask us, but the ones to have are the massaging chairs that are offered on the HSE on up. Rear passengers are treated to an unusually elevated seating position and truly limo-like space, thanks to a stretched wheelbase for 2013 that yields 4.7 more inches of rear legroom. There is no third-row seat, standard or optional.
Cargo space measures 32.1 cu ft behind the rear seats and 71.7 cu ft with the rear seat backs flipped forward. That's not overly impressive for an SUV of this size, but we'd call it competitive -- not to mention more than most Range Rover owners will likely ever need.
The 2013 Range Rover's 8-in touchscreen looks crisper and seems more user friendly than the old Range Rover's touchscreen, even though the graphics and fonts are generally familiar. Overall, we like it. With 3D-style virtual buttons on the screen and handy physical buttons at the margins, this solution is a refreshing departure from the sometimes overly complex knob-based systems favored by the Germans. Among other features, the touchscreen controls the hard-drive-based navigation system and either of the two available Meridian high-end sound systems.
The new Range Rover also offers a Say What You See voice command system with a training program that provides prompts on the touchscreen for commands you might wish to issue in a given situation. The system even has a training mode in which it can learn your accent so that your commands will be better understood.
Performance & Fuel Economy
Standard on base and HSE models is a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 rated at 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. The Supercharged and Autobiography models feature a supercharged version of this engine with 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Either way, an 8-speed automatic transmission with an unusual rotary shift knob handles the shifting duties.
The engines are carryovers from last year, but the 8-speed is new, and it teams up with the 2013 Range Rover's lighter aluminum bones to deliver considerably stronger acceleration. We're not saying the outgoing model was slow, but when you take 700 pounds out of a vehicle, keep the same engines and add a couple transmission gears to help keep said engines in their sweet spots ... well, you do the math. In the case of the supercharged engine, Land Rover estimates a 0-to-60 miles per hour sprint of less than 5 seconds.
It doesn't hurt that both V8s sound great, too. We're not sure if it's cool to drive a Range Rover with the windows down, but we'd do so at every opportunity just to hear that mellow exhaust note burbling out back.
All Range Rover models feature full-time 4-wheel drive with low-range gearing. Regular V8 models get the standard knob-controlled Terrain Response system for managing different off-road driving scenarios, while supercharged models upgrade to the new Terrain Response 2 Auto system, which can sense changes in terrain and adapt accordingly even without driver input. Land Rover's website is full of fun facts about the Range Rover's insane off-road capabilities; our favorite is the 35.4-in wading depth, replete with a photo illustration of a half-submerged Range Rover.
Properly equipped, a Range Rover can tow up to 7,716 pounds.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy estimates were unavailable at the time this article was written, but Land Rover projects an improvement of roughly nine percent. This would put the regular Range Rover at 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy and the supercharged models at 14 mpg city/21 mpg hwy.
The 2013 Land Rover Range Rover comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and a robust roster of airbags (front, side and full-length side curtain). The various available driver aids include rear traffic detection and blind-spot monitoring.
We don't expect either the government or the independent Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) to crash test the new Range Rover, but chances are you'll be well-protected in an accident.
No matter which engine you choose, the 2013 Range Rover is fast. Very fast. But the overarching impression here is one of world-class refinement. Whether you're making time in the fast lane or gliding across sand dunes in the desert, the Range Rover remains cool, calm and collected. The standard air suspension keeps the ride smooth on just about any surface, while a variety of electronic aids keep you on course in corners. We also love the super-high command driving position, a traditional Range Rover strength that happily persists here. No vehicle is invincible, but the Range Rover comes perhaps closer than any other to feeling that way.
Other Cars to Consider
Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Treated to numerous improvements for 2013, the G-Class nonetheless continues to employ a chassis that dates to the 1970s. Doesn't matter; we want one anyway.
Infiniti QX56: Not traditionally considered a Range Rover competitor, the 3-row QX56 earns its place in this discussion on the basis of its robust 5.6-liter V8, bold styling and genuine off-roader roots. It's a great all-around truck at an appealing price.
Porsche Cayenne: You give up some off-road ability with the second-generation Cayenne, which lost some weight of its own by shedding its hardcore trail-busting hardware. But the payoff is sports-car-like handling that the Range Rover can't touch.
We'd skip the $130,000-plus Autobiography, but the Supercharged model offers the same glorious 510-hp motor at a considerable discount. We're sold.
What do you think of the new Range Rover? Let us know in the comments below.