Land Rover rewrote the book on luxury SUVs when it introduced the fuel-efficient Range Rover Evoque a couple of years ago, but the British luxury-SUV specialist returns to its familiar formula with the 2013 Range Rover.
The new SUV checks off all the requisite boxes: Styling that makes a Lego car look svelte? Right, guv'nor. Deluxe interior look and feel? Got it. Off-road ability? None better.
The new Range Rover also features an aluminum body and chassis that shaves a whopping 700 pounds from the curb weight of a comparable 2012 model. It also offers appreciably more passenger and cargo space, fixing one of Land Rover's historic failings.
All Range Rovers feature all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base model has a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 engine.
I tested a Range Rover with the HSE option package, normally aspirated V-8 and a $93,500 price. That would buy a top-shelf version of most luxury SUVs.
The 2013 Range Rover is about an inch longer, slightly wider and less tall than its predecessor. In addition to the Kilimanjaro-high roof line typical of Range Rovers, the new model adds 4.7 inches of rear legroom. It's the first Range Rover in which riding in the rear seat versus wading through a leech-infested swamp isn't a judgment call. The front seat also has more room.
The air suspension provides a comfortable ride, with surprisingly good bump absorption. The steering has more play than SUVs engineered more for the highway than rock-strewn hillsides, but is reasonably responsive. Tall windows and thin pillars combine for very good visibility. Even so, this Range Rover is more at home on the wide open Serengeti than a grocery store parking lot.
In addition to room, comfort and appealing materials, the interior features a very simple control layout. Avoiding the self-congratulation other automakers indulged in, Land Rover has replaced most buttons for navigation, climate, audio and phone controls with a large and simple touch screen and a few steering-wheel controls. The Rover's voice-recognition understands words very well, but requires too many steps to perform basic tasks, like "call home."
No other luxury SUV maker has Land Rover's gift for interior design, and most upscale brands have abandoned the pretense that their SUVs are capable of serious off-roading.
Land Rover is alone in offering both, and that will make the 2013 Range Rover worth the substantial price to many buyers.
2013 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER
Base price: $82,650
Price as tested: $93,500
Engine: 5.0-liter direct-injected DOHC variable-timing 32-valve V-8
Power: 375 horsepower at 6,500 rpm; 375 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city/20 highway
Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
Ground clearance: 11.6 inches
Wading depth: 35.4 inches
Length: 196.8 inches
Width: 87.4 inches
Height: 72.3 inches
Bottom line: Bar raised for off-road luxury