If you’re old enough to be aware of pop culture from the 1960s, you remember when ABC replaced the Darrin, a lead character played by Dick York, on Bewitched with a new and improved Darrin played by Dick Sargent in 1969. The puzzling thing for a lot of viewers was that they knew something was dramatically different, yet the two looked largely similar, so it was tough to see what had changed.
Think about that with the all-new 2013 Range Rover, and the difﬁcult decisions a brand has to make when revising something as iconic as this car. When the third generation Range Rover appeared in 2003, the previous model had been in existence since 1994, an eternity in automotive design. That Range Rover was a breakout success and took the brand from the dark ages right up to the modern day with a huge dose of help from BMW, which supplied the engine, transmission, and electronic systems from the BMW 7-Series.
This fourth generation L405 Range Rover is the ﬁrst to debut under the ownership of Indian parent company Tata. It is lighter, stronger, faster, more fuel efﬁcient, and more capable both on and off the road, but because it’s such a luxury icon, the car still has to retain the design cues that make it unmistakably a Range Rover.
Start with the body structure: It is the world’s ﬁrst SUV to be constructed with an all-aluminum, lightweight monocoque body structure. That alone helps to contribute to the 2013 Range Rover’s amazing 420kg (926 pound) diet program. To put that into perspective, 926 pounds equals the approximate weight of ﬁve average-sized male passengers. This is still a heavy beast, but any time you can take almost a thousand pounds off the scales, the effects are dramatic. This Range Rover weighs a hundred pounds less than the sport-oriented Porsche CayenneTurbo, and 200 pounds less than the street-oriented Mercedes-Benz GL450.
That weight savings helps to contribute to improved fuel economy, but this isn’t some teetotally hybrid.You’ll still be ﬁlling up at regular intervals thanks to fuel economy ratings around 13 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. That’s partly because the car still weighs around 5,200 pounds, and partly because even the lowest trim features a 5.0-literV-8 with 375hp. In the Supercharged version, power jumps to 510hp, bringing 60 mph in view in just 4.4 seconds.
Changes inside are notable. There’s a palate of interior colors and materials that would give fashion designer Michael Kors a mild stroke, and the ﬁt and ﬁnish is impeccable. Most encouraging is the decision to eliminate as many buttons and switches as possible, leaving just a handful of major functions at ﬁngertip access. Heat controls are easy to adjust, as is the radio volume. Deeper functions are available through relatively intuitive menus on the touch-screen, or via voice activated control.
When testing this baby on twisting, turning roads along the Utah/Colorado border, we became slightly dizzy until we found the Sport setting on the console, which transformed the 2013 Range Rover into an agile, sporty vehicle that belied its overall size.The normally aspiratedV-8 delivers plenty of power to get the Range Rover to 60 in about 5.8 seconds, which was sports car territory not 15 years ago.
Those brave enough to try a vehicle on off-roads that starts at $83,500 and runs all the way to $130,950 will learn where a lot of research and development has been expended on the ﬁnal product. Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is amazing, making much better off-road drivers out of normal folks by employing iconographic symbols accessed by a large knob in the console. Experiencing snow or wet grass? Turn the knob to that picture and the Range Rover starts in third gear. Volkswagen-sized boulders ahead? Select the Rock Crawling proﬁle and the Range Rover switches to low range, locking and unlocking differentials as required. Through some truly hairy terrain in the high desert, the Range Rover performed like an athlete.
There are a great number of vehicles you can purchase that can do 99 percent of what the Range Rover can do off-road, for a lot less money. There are cars that are a lot faster off the line. Then there are vehicles that can provide the Range Rover’s many luxury features. Putting all of those features in one vehicle, however, is a pretty admirable feat. And there’s only one car with the distinctive design elements of a Range Rover.
Craig Fitzgerald is a freelance writer. You can read his blog at yankeedriver.wordpress.com, or follow him on Twitter at @vespaﬁtz.