2013 Land Rover Range Rover preview
A switch to aluminum shifts Land Rover's icon into high gear for the 21st century
London, England — It's the biggest product revival in Land Rover's history. Spurred on by increasing sales (the company's Halewood plant is, for the first time, going to a three-shift production schedule), the iconic British brand is thoroughly revitalizing both ends of its price-point spectrum. The Evoque, of course, is obviously new, its avant-garde styling making it the current darling of the premium compact crossover segment. The 2013 Range Rover, though also all-new, looks suspiciously familiar, however, as if it there are hardly any changes beyond the mid-cycle model refresh norm.
Underneath that familiar exterior, however, may be changes even more radical than the hipper-than-thou Evoque. Indeed, with one number — 318 — one can describe the enormity of the changes underneath its slightly different skin. That number represents the number of kilograms (that's 700 pounds for those of you still having trouble conceptualizing metric) the new 2013 Range Rover 5.0 V8 is lighter than the equivalent 2012 model, surely some sort of all-time Biggest Loser in the automotive world.
So, how exactly does one make a luxury sport utility vehicle lose 318 kilos and still keep its personality? How does that same sport brute lose all that avoirdupois and still retain its inherent Range Rover-ness? In other words, how do you lose the equivalent of four adult-sized humans and still be big, bold and beautiful?
To fettle with metal
For the 2013 version of the Range Rover is nothing if not big (there's 120-millimetres of extra rear-seat legroom), bold (I don't know if 1,700 watts of Meridian audio system is bold, but it sure is loud) and beautiful (Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern's brief was to make it look the same, only better).
The first thing you do is make the entire chassis of aluminum. Constructing the entire chassis (codenamed D7u) in lighter-than-steel castings, extrusions and pressed panels saves about 180 of those 318 kg. It's not easy work either as constructing the entire body in aluminum requires a precision greater than the same job in steel. Nonetheless, the advantages are huge. The 2013 Range Rover's chassis weighs in at a relatively miniscule 180 kg, lighter, says the car's chief program engineer, Alex Heslop, than the same basic componentry in a BMW 3 Series sedan or an Audi Q5 compact crossover.
The rest of the weight savings, 138 kg, comes from the all-aluminum body panels (save the rear trunk lid which is a composite fabrication), all-aluminum doors and the pieces that Nick Rogers, Range Rover's vehicle line director, is most proud of: front and rear suspension subframes. Plus, there's a bunch of even lighter magnesium cross-beams in the framework. Toss in lighter springs for the suspension and lighter wheels and you've got a total of 318 kilos in direct weight savings.