Were it a person, the Range Rover would be the Most Interesting Man from those cerveza commercials, as at home wearing a suit in a swanky bar as rock-climbing on the weekend.
When Land Rover says this 2013 Range Rover is "all-new," it really means all-new. The latest model to wear the Range Rover badge returns to showrooms with an updated look that stretches elements inspired by the pint-size Evoque over proportions that still read classic Range Rover. The SUV also features a host of new dashboard and safety technologies, but perhaps the biggest change is beneath the sheet metal with the move to a more carlike, unibody construction.
It goes pretty much anywhere...
Interestingly, all 2013 Range Rovers are supercharged, so the difference between our "Range Rover Supercharged" and the entry models is that our example is powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 rather than the automaker's 3.0-liter V-6. Output is estimated at 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The noise that this aluminum block engine makes at full bore is akin to the world's angriest, largest vacuum cleaner being unleashed -- but that just means that Land Rover didn't waste a lot of time making things sound pretty.
Torque exiting the engine must first pass through the Range's single-option, eight-speed automatic transmission. Drive direction is controlled via a motorized shift knob that rises out of the center console when the engine is started. You've got your standard PRND selection of drive directions and an S for "sport" mode that adjusts the transmission's shift points for more responsive acceleration. The driver can also manually select gears with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I especially like that the paddle shifters can be set to respond only when the gearbox is in its Sport mode via a menu option, preventing accidental shifts when you're merely tooling around in the standard Drive mode.
The Range Rover is equipped with a two-speed transfer gearbox that defaults to the standard high-range gearing for daily driving, but also features a low-range setting that is good for low-speed, high-torque applications such as rock crawling or scaling extreme grades. The low-range gearing has a maximum recommended speed of about 10 mph, as indicated on the digital instrument cluster when activated.
Land Rover's Web site states that the 2013 Range Rover is able to make use of stop-start anti-idling technology to increase fuel efficiency, but our model never did such a thing. According to the EPA's estimates, the Rover will average 15 mpg over a combined driving cycle. According to my observations, it averaged a pretty spot-on 15.1 mpg over a 600-mile mix of relaxed highway cruising and city driving, with a dash of off-road crawling and climbing for flavor.
While we're on the subject of off-road capability, the Range Rover has it in spades. The SUV is equipped with Land Rover's Terrain Response 2, a sophisticated permanent four-wheel-drive system that is capable of automatically sensing the characteristics of the terrain and adapting the drive and suspension systems to provide the best grip and drive characteristics for the situation at hand. There are manual settings for rock crawling, sand, deep ruts, and gravel or snow. Chose any of these modes and the Rover will handle all of the differential locking or unlocking, suspension adjustment, and driver-aid selections for you. In rare cases, it may prompt you to make manual changes that it can't, such as putting the gearbox into neutral and selecting the low-range gearing when the Rock Climbing mode is activated. However, the automatic setting would probably work best for most drivers in most situations.
Standard on the 2013 Range Rover is a hill descent control (HDC) system that automatically restricts downhill speed using the brakes.
Also standard is an air suspension with four levels of ride height adjustment. The normal ride height is fairly tall. Press a button and the Rover lowers to its access height, which lowers the vehicle significantly to aid entry and exiting and to help the tall SUV clear low garage ceilings. For when you need a bit more ground clearance, there are two off-road heights that raise the vehicle. The off-road and access heights are speed-limited and will revert back to the normal mode at about 50 mph and 10 mph, respectively. The access height can be locked to prevent automatically raising the Rover into harm's way in cramped parking decks, but even locked it will revert back to normal ride height at about 15 mph after warning the driver to slow down.
But no one reading this review is interested in hearing about driving the 2013 Range Rover around a smoothly paved parking deck; you want to hear about driving beyond paved roads.
I took the new Range Rover for a spin and was first surprised by the feats this vehicle was able to achieve on its standard street tires and 21-inch wheels. The Rover descended steep hills that, were it not for the seatbelt across my lap, would have sent me sliding into the footwells, and climbed inclines steeper and more slippery than I could on foot. It effortlessly flew down rutted and washboard dirt roads and clawed its way around gravel corners, and it did most of this in its automatic mode. Every once and again, I'd try to push the SUV up a hill too tall, too steep, and too slick with gravel, but it wouldn't complain. Instead, the digital instrument cluster would just display a message, "Low Range recommended." A few button taps later and I'd be at the summit of the ascent, the nearly $100,000 SUV a lot dustier, but no worse for wear.
As my day of off-roading and trail riding progressed, I was left with the feeling that I wasn't really able to explore the full extent of what this vehicle is capable of (and wasn't comfortable doing so). It had scaled and descended hills that would have left most SUVs calling for a tow, and it had done so on street tires. Toss some knobbies into the Range Rover's wheel wells and there probably aren't many places that this go-anywhere couldn't get you.
...But it does it with style
Though outside of the Range Rover, the air was dry and hot and clouded with dust kicked up from climbing gravel trails, I was seated in relative comfort. My rear end could be heated or cooled at the touch of a button, thanks to the leather seats, which were also massaging my back. A massive, panoramic sunroof let the sunshine in, but not too much. A refrigerated cool box in the center console kept bottles of water chilled, and the premium audio system played back my favorite podcasts with crystal clarity. Were it not for an occasional shrub sliding across the $1,800 Barolo Black paint, I could close my eyes and image that I was in First Class on a flight that was experiencing mild turbulence. (Don't keep those eyes closed too long, though.)