The 2013 Range Rover starts where others leave off, with capabilities off the pavement that few other vehicles can match.
It also does it on price. Though it carries a base sticker of $83,545, all but a few go out the door with price tags well north of $100,000.
As such, it is a luxury vehicle that is at home on streets lined with exclusive shops and high-end jewelry stores. Yet thanks to an all-wheel drive system as sophisticated as anything anywhere, it can traverse the most treacherous terrain you can find.
It comes from Land Rover of Great Britain, founded in 1947 to build rugged, bare bones vehicles designed to conquer deserts and jungles. A common misconception is that, like America's Jeep, it produced military vehicles in World War II. Despite that, it went on in later years to produce capable off-road vehicles for both civilian and military use.
While the company still produces vehicles with varying degrees of those capabilities, it also has morphed into a machine that doubles as a luxury car, as exemplified by the new flagship Range Rover. With most versions costing well into six figures, it attracts buyers who, on average, earn more than a half a million dollars a year.
Yet despite its "all-new" tagline, many people will not recognize the newness because the designers have retained the basic profile and appearance. That's because loyal customers, according to product manager Simon Turner, are adamant about the traditional Range Rover look, saying "don't change it; just make it better."
It is, as always, so capable off-road that it invites overconfidence as it handles trackless territory that would leave other vehicles stranded. The already substantial competence is enhanced in the 2013 model by an upgraded all-wheel drive system called Terrain Response 2. It builds on the previous setup by adding an automatic mode.
The previous Terrain Response had five pushbutton settings to adjust for: general conditions, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl. The second-generation has a setting that uses sensors to automatically select the optimum mode. But for those enthusiasts who, for whatever reason, don't trust the automatic mode and believe they know better, the manual buttons are retained.
Either way, the Range Rover can get over or around almost anything Mother Nature can offer, short of a cliff or a deep river. Of course, there are places where even a tank or a giant road grader would get stuck.
Besides the Terrain Response 2, the Range Rover comes equipped with a panoply of assists: hill descent control, hill start assist, stability and traction control, and roll stability control.
Yet with all of that, the new Range Rover is unquestionably a luxury car with a whisper quiet interior, effortless highway cruising, and good handling around curves thanks to automated continuously-variable shock damping with air springs at all four wheels.
Luxury amenities abound, some standard and some optional. Among them: 20-way adjustable front seats; premium DVD audio system; power-latching doors; heated windshield, seats and steering wheel; four-zone climate control; adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitoring; reverse cross-traffic sensors; surround camera system, and communications and connectivity with voice control.
There are two versions: the Range Rover 5.0 and the Supercharged. The former, the subject here, comes with a 375-horsepower V-8 engine, which the Land Rover folks say can move the 4,850-pound vehicle to 60 miles an hour in 6.5 seconds. It has a starting price of $83,545 and, with a load of options including the HSE package, had a suggested delivered price of $102,915. It has an EPA city/highway/combined mpg rating of 14/20/16.
For those who must have the hottest version of whatever they drive, the Supercharged can accelerate to 60 in 5.1 seconds thanks to a 510-horsepower V8 with a supercharger. Its fuel consumption is rated at 13/19/15 mpg.
Both engines get their power through the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with low range for off-road activities as well as paddle shifters for manual operation.
Despite weights of 4,850 and 5,137 pounds, both Range Rovers are lighter than their predecessors thanks to an all-aluminum body, which Land Rover claims is a first among sport utility vehicle. The tested Range Rover V8 is claimed to be 700 pounds lighter than its similarly equipped predecessor.
A few quibbles: the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the side, and the sun roof shade is perforated, allowing sunlight inside.
Model: 2013 Range Rover four-door sport utility vehicle.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 375 horsepower.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and programmable all-wheel drive.
Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
EPA passenger/cargo volume: 108/32 cubic feet.
Weight: 4,850 pounds.
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 14/20/16 mpg.
Base price, including destination charge: $83,545.
Price as tested: $102,915.