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It's been a decade since its last full makeover, but for 2013 the Land Rover Range Rover gets what is likely the most radical reinvention for its long and storied life. The change bring a sedan-level street demeanor to the SUV, while electronics make it more capable off-road than ever before.
It's all because of aluminum. The Range Rover's had aluminum body panels for a while, but now it's made of the stuff to its core--and that means a roughly 700-pound weight loss, which permeates the way the Range Rover drives, and to a lesser extent, how much gas it consumes.
A pan down the sideview of the new Range Rover doesn't jar the senses, but it ticks the "new" box from at least a dozen angles. It's almost two inches longer, and can sit almost two inches lower, and that pushes its proportions into an almost crossover-like stance if it's staged properly. The pillars seem slim, and the glass floats: there's a passing resemblance to the Ford Flex, itself an homage to the Rover as much to the old Fairlane wagon. The new front end tones down the bluff SUV grille and slims out the headlamps for a more friendly face, and the rear end lifts and tapers in a callback to the first Range Rover that obliterates the blocky look of the BMW-era models. The cabin? It's as warm as a campfire, and it may as well be finished in hundred-dollar bills. The LCD screens are muted against the backdrop of fantastic wood and semi-aniline leather, and it's all nearly custom-finished in the Autobiography edition, with its huge palette of wood and leather and color.
With a body structure some 39 percent lighter than before, the Range Rover makes huge strides in acceleration, ride quality, both on- and off-road performance. The base 5.0-liter V-8 quietly presses its case with 375 horsepower and a ZF eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic; it's almost as quick as the old supercharged model. It may not feel as transformative as a result, but the 510-hp Supercharged edition hits sport-sedan 0-60 mph times of 5.1 seconds, with the soft whine we've come to expect from most things British (with wheels, that is).
Straight-line performance transformed, the Range Rover's handling on pavement feels more like a big, tall touring sedan than ever. Credit the independent suspension, adaptive air dampers, and variable-ratio electric power steering for quicker responses and finer responses, with little of the fuss baked into some other electronic steering and suspension systems. The basic setup has a languid, well-controlled feel and a directness that gets tauter on Supercharged models with their active anti-roll-bar setup--but more importantly, adapts to conditions as the Range Rover slows down and heads off-road.
For everything that happens beyond the tarmac, all Range Rovers are fitted with full-time four-wheel-drive
and a new generation of Terrain Response Control that uses sensors to predict the surface ahead, and to change traction, stability, and active-differential settings to handle whatever nature throws your way, choosing between five settings (General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl). There's more than a foot of maximum ground clearance thanks to the air suspension, about three feet of fording depth thanks to internal venting, and 7,700 pounds of towing capacity. More than ever, the Rover's a swarm of electronic and mechanical systems that let it go almost anywhere you'd like--provided its longer body doesn't high-center or get stuck.Because it's lighter, the new Range Rover can afford 1.7 inches more in overall length, which translates to 4.7 additional inches of rear-seat leg room. Excellent front seats offer up a command view of the path ahead--and step-in height is lower, since the air suspension's access height can be dropped two inches more than before. The reclining rear seats have limousine-like leg room, and for the first time, have power adjustment, heating and ventilation, a massaging function, and a bucket-seat configuration available. The tailgate design is now split and the individual pieces can be powered open or closed.All Range Rovers will come with dual LCD screens, a wide 12.3-inch display that replaces traditional gauges, and an 8-inch touchscreen that runs infotainment systems on the center stack through a combination of soft and hard keys for functions from navigation to climate, phone, and audio. The screen's interface is cleaner and seems quicker, but it's not rendered as prettily as the LCD gauges. Leather upholstery is standard, while major options will include a panoramic sunroof; a Meridian sound system with 1,700 watts of power; surround-view cameras; cooler boxes; and a choice from among 37 exterior colors, 17 interior colors and 3 veneers.
The new Range Rover is built in the U.K., and goes on sale in the U.S. in mid-December, priced from $83,500 for normally aspirated models to about $100,000 for the Supercharged version, to more than $130,000 for Autobiography editions.
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