By JIM MACPHERSON
4:48 PM EDT, August 20, 2013
As anyone who has briefly experienced some of the finer things in life and then had to revert to the ordinary can attest, the step back is often jarringly shocking. This was the case after spending a week with the new 2013 Land Rover Range Rover.
Giving up the Range Rover that Land Rover had loaned my wife Paula and me was a bit like being bounced from first class back to the main cabin halfway through a flight. It was the equivalent of having a waiter whisk the perfectly prepared filet mignon out from under your fork only to replace it with the blue plate meatloaf special floating in murky gravy from a diner down the street.
Still, nothing diminishes the impressive performance of the completely redesigned 2013 Land Rover Range Rover, including having to give the vehicle back. While the styling changes are evolutionary – the shape is slightly more rounded for improved aerodynamics – the engineering is revolutionary. With this redesign, Land Rover has delivered the first all-aluminum unibody sport utility vehicle that breaks the seemingly inevitable trend toward heavier, more lethargic and thirsty models. With this new Range Rover design, the company has managed to shed 700 pounds without giving up anything.
Actually, the weight loss has produced noticeable gains. The new body feels more solid – Land Rover notes that the new design and body materials have resulted in a stiffer structure – and the lower weight aids engine performance and handling, not to mention fuel efficiency. It should be noted that “lower weight” is a relative term. This new Range Rover still tips the scales at 4,850 pounds for the base version and 5,137 pounds for our Supercharged model.
Four models are offered. The base and HSE versions feature a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Our Supercharged model was powered by a far more potent 510-horsepower version of this engine. At the top of the lineup is the Supercharged Autobiography, which boasts upscale tailoring, including a choice of 22 exclusive paint finishes, as well as a breathtaking $130,950 price tag.
Acceleration with the supercharged engine is also breathtaking. Sixty miles per hour arrives in just five seconds. An abrupt stab at the gas pedal launches the Range Rover as if it were a sports sedan, with the eight-speed automatic transmission providing near flawless shifts.
All-wheel drive and a terrain response system are standard. A half day spent in the wilds of the American Southwest at this model’s introduction convinced all participants that the Range Rover has given up none of its off-road ability with the redesign. If anything, the lighter weight is beneficial when going off road.
The passenger cabin is fit for a king, or future king. News reports had the new Prince George taking his first motor vehicle ride in a Range Rover. He is already showing excellent taste.
The ride and handling are excellent for the large sport utility field. The Range Rover features a re-engineered four-wheel air suspension system that provides variable ride heights as well as a first-class performance over paved surfaces.
As for handling, the new Range Rover seems more responsive than the outgoing model. The electric power steering is notable for not robbing the driver of road feel while providing an ideal level of assist.
A week with the new Range Rover demonstrates the benefits of weight reduction. The new model is smaller, more responsive, extremely comfortable and luxurious.
The 2013 Range Rover is too big and too expensive for me. The Supercharged model my husband Jim and I had for review started at $99,950.
But, if you overlook the issues of size and price, this new Range Rover is a great vehicle to drive. The power is silky smooth and the ride is gentle, even over rough roads. The Range Rover seems to muffle sharp bumps. There is a sense of isolation when it comes to riding comfort, yet as a driver, I still felt connected to the road.
The driving position offers a commanding view directly ahead. Raising the seat gave me a better view at intersections by allowing me to see, at least partially, over the outside mirrors. Safety features, such as the blind spot warning system, are excellent.
In addition, this Range Rover also had a surround view camera system that aids in parking, though it is probably primarily offered for off-road travels. Range Rover also offers an optional Park Assist system that uses an ultrasonic sensor to find a suitably sized parallel parking space. It then assists the driver by automatically steering the car into the spot while the driver operates the brake.
However, there are some ergonomic shortfalls. I found the rotary transmission selector knob that rises from the console once the car is started to be convenient, but it’s located just in front of the similarly operated terrain response system. Just when I was feeling comfortable enough to operate the system without looking I got the wrong knob. Instead of going from reverse to drive, I changed off-road modes. No damage done, but that could be a problem in tighter quarters. I would have also preferred more contrast in the digitally generated instrument display.
Fuel economy was not a high point during our week with the car. We averaged 16.8 miles per gallon on premium gasoline.
For 2014, Land Rover is going to offer the Range Rover with a supercharged V-6 engine that will boost fuel economy to 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway. It takes the place of the 375-horsepower V-8. I suspect that performance will be more than adequate.
Land Rover Range Rover
Engines: 5.0-liter V-8 Supercharged 5.0-liter V-8
HP: 375 510
Torque (lb/ft): 375 461
EPA: 14/20 13/19Starts at: $83,500
Next week: Chrysler 200 S Convertible
¿Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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