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.)
As rugged and brutal as the environments that Range Rover is able to conquer can be, the interior is remarkably refined. Leather, wood, and real metal cover every surface that the eye can see. The cabin is fairly quiet for a giant V-8-powered SUV. The amenities and details are top-notch. Open the door and you'll find small Range Rover silhouette badges inside of the B-pillar doorjambs. Exit the vehicle at night and try not to smile at the Range Rover logos in the puddle lights.
Even the rear seats are power-adjustable and, in our Comfort package-equipped vehicle, get their own two climate control zones. The $4,150 Comfort package is also responsible for adding a solar-attenuating front windshield and the aforementioned massage seats and refrigerator.
On the road, the Range Rover doesn't behave much like a truck. Underneath its restyled sheet metal, the 2013 model has transformed, moving to a monocoque construction that gives the Rover more carlike behavior on the road without compromising its off-road ability. The same traits that allow the SUV to soak up the bumps of an unpaved road make short work of San Francisco's potholed streets. The same intelligence that lets the Rover sense off-road terrain allows it to know when you're on asphalt and adjust its behavior accordingly.
Our Supercharged model also comes standard with the Dynamic Response system, which allows the vehicle's computers to make use of the suspension's ability to automatically load-level to keep the SUV flat while cornering, increasing responsiveness and stability. Additionally, the Range Rover is equipped with a veritable alphabet soup of control systems -- from traction to stability to brake control -- that further aid its on-road manners.
The "new" tech is already aging...
The Range Rover does a lot of things well, but one misstep is its use of a reskinned and modified version of Jaguar's infotainment system. I've complained about this system before -- it's largely identical to the system in the recently tested -- so I'll be brief here.
The system's issues mostly boil down to slow response time when inputting and an overly complex menu system that requires too many inputs from the driver to reach various frequently accessed tasks. For example, it requires about a half-dozen screen inputs before you can even start searching for, say, the nearest car wash. This annoyance is compounded by the fact that the Range Rover is such a large vehicle that the touch screen is pretty far away from the driver -- I couldn't even reach the bank of shortcut buttons on the screen's far right bezel without stretching.
The Range Rover's voice command system could be its saving grace here, but even this system is too complex, requiring even more prompts and confirmations than the touch-screen input. It can take almost 2 to 3 minutes to input an address as simple as, "1000 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco."
Fortunately, once you've got a destination input, the navigation system performs well and looks good. The list of available audio sources is well fleshed out, including satellite and terrestrial radio, USB and iPod connectivity, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, an analog auxiliary audio input, and CD/DVD playback.
The optional 825-watt, 19-speaker Meridian surround system sounds great. I haven't heard the standard 380-watt, 13-speaker system to know if the louder option is really worth the additional $1,850 cost, but it sounds darn good in its own right. I've had issues with the Meridian surround system's audio staging in previously tested vehicles, but the setup in the Range Rover sounds spot on, filling the cabin with sound and placing the bulk of the soundstage in front of the driver's seat.
Our example was also equipped with a variety of driver-aid technologies, including blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking-aid sensors with cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. I found the proximity sensors to be a bit too sensitive, in particular the cross-traffic alert system, which was always beeping at something, and quite often, beeping at nothing at all.
An optional $1,550 Vision package equipped the Rover with an array of five exterior cameras that allowed me to double-check the sensor's beeping visually. Of particular use were the front bumper cameras, which displayed 90-degree views off of the front bumper when nosing out of blind alleys or parking spots, and the rearview camera with dynamic trajectory overlay, for obvious reasons. The two cameras in the side mirrors that displayed a curb view were less useful because, like most bits of the Rover's tech packages, getting them to show up onscreen required at least two or three touch-screen taps.
The icing on the driver aid technology cake should be the automated parallel-parking system, which allows the sonar sensors to measure curbside parking spaces to determine if the SUV will fit. When a properly sized space is indicated (on the digital instrument cluster) the computer can take over the electronic power steering, guiding the vehicle into the space while the driver retains control over the gas and brake pedals. There are only two minor drawbacks: automatic parallel parking only works on the right side of the vehicle and not the left side and the system is a little slow -- I found that I could often park the Rover faster than the computer could -- but its accuracy is inch-perfect. At $650, it's worth checking the box to make sure that your significant other doesn't go scuffing your bumpers when you lend him or her the keys.
It's expensive, but the money is well spent
There's no getting around it: the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover is expensive, and the Supercharged model is almost startlingly so at a starting price of $99,100. You'll also have to pay $895 for destination charges, and if you live in California, a $100 emissions tax just to sign on the dotted line -- and that's before about $11,000 in safety and tech options that our example was equipped with, including the previously mentioned packages. This brings us to our as-tested price of $111,120.
So buying a 2013 Range Rover Supercharged is really like buying two vehicles in one -- a comfortable, luxury sedan and a tough-as-nails truck -- which is good, because it costs about as much as two vehicles. Few, if any, vehicles can match the Range Rover's blend of luxurious appointments and off-road ruggedness and the ease with which it transitions between those two worlds. (Though many can best its dashboard tech -- the Editors' Choice Award-winning, for example -- but I digress.) Luxury SUVs are so often soft-roaders that probably shouldn't climb a median, to say nothing of fording a stream. And those that could keep up with the Rover beyond the pavement aren't the sort of vehicles that should be valeted at the best restaurant in town.
|Model||2013 Land Rover Range Rover|
|Power train||5.0-liter supercharged V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, full-time 4-wheel-drive|
|EPA fuel economy||13 city, 19 highway, 15 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||15.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard, HDD-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with audio streaming|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM satellite radio|
|Audio system||Optional 19-speaker, 825-watt Meridian Surround system|
|Driver aids||Optional Vision package with around-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, audible proximity sensors, automatic high beams, cross-traffic alerts; optional automated parallel parking|
|Price as tested||$111,120|