2013 Land Rover Range Rover road test
Britain's off-road king redefines what a luxury vehicle can be
Canyon Point, Utah — According to the man from Land Rover, the new 2013 Range Rover can wade through 900 mm — nearly three feet — of water. It's an impressive figure made possible by clever engine intakes, high-mounted electronic components, and air suspension that now permits best-ever ground clearance. Most owners won't put it to the test. And most owners certainly won't test it, then open their doors, flooding the sumptuous leather-lined and carpeted cabin, before they get out and walk away, only to come back and start it up after a nice long soak. But Land Rover's engineers did that just that — and then drove away without issue.
Trial by water is just one of the many extreme tests the new Range Rover was subjected to during its development. And going above and beyond is what Land Rover hopes will make its latest creation the ultimate luxury vehicle.
The aluminum diet
You're more likely to take note of a different figure: 180 kg, the weight of the Range Rover's all-aluminum frame. Despite being about as long as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and standing just over six feet in height, its frame weighs less than that of a BMW 3 Series. Held together with bonding and 3,400 self-piercing rivets, it's stronger than the outgoing model by a third, while leaving the vehicle overall — powertrain, sumptuous cabin, and all — hundreds of kilograms lighter.
This weight, or rather the lack thereof, makes itself known in just about every aspect of the Range Rover's performance. In conjunction with the standard ZF eight-speed automatic and a wind-sculpted body, the 510-hp Supercharged variant will go from zero to 100 km/h in less than five and a half seconds, and fitted with 22-inch wheels, can hit the magical 250 km/h mark. This is the sort of swiftness normally associated with a BMW M5, not something you'd use if your commute involved crossing the Serengeti. And if that weren't enough, comparing new to old, it even manages to use nine per cent less fuel. Never has removing so much resulted in so much gain.
An unlikely athlete
Provided you avoid stomping on the accelerator pedal, power is doled out with a velvety smoothness that never seems to end, and if you do stomp on it, prepared to be punted into the horizon with ludicrous force. The gearbox is equally impressive; it's impossible to catch off-guard, and responds swiftly to inputs from the paddles. Even the brakes are supercar-grade — six-piston Brembo calipers clamp down on massive discs with retina-detaching force, yet are easy to modulate for smooth stops.
All this talk of performance might make you believe that this is a sports car wearing the Range Rover's iconic clothes, but worry not, the plot hasn't been lost. This is not an overtly sporty vehicle — the Terrain Response knob does not have a "Dynamic" position as with other Range Rovers. No, all of this ability only serves as a key part of its character: effortlessness.
The commanding view thanks to an excellent driving position and thin pillars makes it easy to place on the road with confidence. The lightness shows in how it steers too: there's a newfound alertness and accuracy to the electrically assisted helm. Where the outgoing car felt ponderous, the new one positively darts. Less mass, plus the fitment of active anti-roll bars keeps passengers sitting more upright when the road begins to snake; the body will roll when hustled, but it builds progressively. And while it may not have the same connection to the road as a Porsche Cayenne, it's still an incredibly easy and enjoyable vehicle to drive with impeccable high-speed stability.