Forget everything you thought you knew about the Range Rover, especially the painfully ingrained image of it being nothing more than a road queen used to cart celebutards through Los Angeles traffic. Does nearly 12 inches of ground clearance and a 36-inch fording depth sound like a street creep to you? Let us put it in perspective, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (considered the most capable factory SUV ever offered) only has 10.2 inches of ground clearance and a 30-inch fording depth. Having said all that, we recently had the chance to get behind the wheel of the 2013 Range Rover both on- and off-road in northern Arizona and southern Utah. We were surprised by what we learned.
A significant amount of engineering went into the latest version of the Range Rover. Among other things, the ’13 Range Rover is 39 percent lighter than the outgoing model. The steel unitbody has been replaced with aluminum, resulting in a 400-pound weight reduction, making it the world’s first SUV with an all-aluminum unitbody structure. An additional 300 pounds was lypo-sucked out of the chassis and interior without sacrificing comfort or performance. The use of aluminum in the body and chassis increases the rigidity and strength. Plus, removing a total of 700 pounds from any vehicle will improve handling, acceleration, and braking.
On-road the Range Rover drives like a well-tuned $90,000 SUV should. It’s quiet and offers great visibility. The Range Rover’s appearance and commanding seating position would lead you to believe it feels top-heavy in corners. We noticed quite the contrary. When cornering hard on twisty mountain asphalt the Range Rover sticks to the road with little to no head toss. It almost feels like there is no weight at all above the waistline. The optional Dynamic Response system (standard on Supercharged models) improves on-road handling and cornering even more. The standard 375hp, 375 lb-ft, 5.0L V-8 is a blast in the 4,850-pound Range Rover, but the optional 510hp, 461 lb-ft, supercharged, 5.0L V-8 pushes the SUV 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and musters a top speed of 140 mph. The Supercharged 5.0L is an absolute ear-to-ear smile-riot when launching from a dead stop or a rolling start. Both engines are backed with the ZF 8HP70 eight-speed transmission which is shifted by a knob in the center console and can be shifted via the steering wheel paddle shifters when in sport mode.
As you would expect, the interior is a luxury experience wrapped in fine leather, precision stitching, and an unmatched workmanship quality. Yet the control surfaces are not overly complex and confusing or festooned with Liberace glam and glitter. It’s surprisingly utilitarian and easy to operate despite the significant amount of electronic comfort and chassis technology hidden inside and underneath. The buttons, knobs, and switches all have a solid feel. Unlike what you might find in many plastic SUVs, anything that looks like wood or metal in the interior of the Range Rover actually is real wood or real metal. With 37 exterior paint finishes, including 22 exclusive Autobiography colors, 17 interior color themes, two optional roof colors, and many other comfort, color, and performance options, there is almost no limit to customer personalization.
Off-road we were shocked by where we were able to steer the high-dollar SUV. The visibility from the driver seat is amazing thanks to the upright seating position, windshield and A-pillar design, and low hood. The Range Rover features the new fully automatic Terrain Response 2 system which includes a terrain-tunable knob with four different settings, as well as an auto mode. This knob automatically adjusts suspension height, traction control, and other chassis parameters for the best off-road performance in a given situation. With our limited time behind the wheel off-road we didn’t notice a significant difference when adjusting the knob through its settings, but we did notice the extra ground clearance afforded by adjusting the air suspension both automatically via the knob and manually via the center console buttons (up to 7.8 inches). Speaking of ground clearance, we appreciated that the bottom of the Range Rover is nearly completely flat and fully skidplated.
We did have a few gripes with the Range Rover, though. The fly-by-wire throttle control needs some tuning, especially off-road. We found that we would often slowly roll into the throttle with no response. Then when the engine room finally did wake up there was too much throttle input. On-road the slow-to-respond throttle is noticeable, yet bearable in most cases, but off-road it’s downright annoying. At the very least we’d like to see a different calibration used when the transfer case is shifted into low range.
The tire and wheel packages are understandably more tuned for street use. With no less than four different wheel sizes available we’d like to see at least one of them come with more aggressive tires with plenty of sidewall, perhaps the 19s could be reserved for a more aggressive tread or maybe an 18-inch wheel option with all-terrains?
And finally, the obstacle avoidance alarm should be deactivated when in low range, or at least there should be a button to deactivate it if desired. It’s extremely annoying to be wheeling in tight quarters, shifting from forward to Reverse and back, with an incessant alarm sounding off—as if we didn’t know there were going to be obstacles off-road when in low range.
It was nearly 45 years ago that the first Land Rover rolled off of the assembly line as one of the most utilitarian and capable 4x4s on the planet. Decades of off-road experience have gone into the design of the ’13 Range Rover to make it the most capable Range Rover ever built.
Look, we get that the ’13 Range Rover is not for everyone. Even a modestly equipped version costs more than a house in middle America. The Range Rover may be priced out of the reach of most of us, and the sad truth is that the consumers who do purchase one will likely never use it to its fullest potential, but that doesn’t mean it’s not capable. The specs and actual performance prove that it is, but keep in mind that when you purchase a Range Rover you are also buying unmatched interior comfort and a luxury experience. The seats even have a “Massage” setting for crying out loud! It’s safe to say that you get what you pay for with the ’13 Range Rover.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Extremely comfortable, flat skidplated underside, optional rear locking diff
Not: Expensive, electronic throttle is slow to respond off-road, no front tow points
Our take: Far more capable off-road than anyone gives it credit for, few consumers will use it to its fullest potential
Vehicle/model: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover
Price as tested: Starting at $88,545
Engine: 5.0L, V-8, 32 valves, Quad Cam Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 375/375, 510/461 (Supercharged)
Transmission(s): ZF 8HP70 8-spd
Transfer case: 2-spd
4WD system: Permanent 4WD via center differential and optional rear differential
Low-range ratio: 2.93:1
Frame type: Aluminum unitbody
Suspension, f/r: SLA with twin lower links with air springs, Adaptive Damping, passive antiroll bar, Dynamic Response (Supercharged)/Integral link suspension with air springs, Adaptive Damping, passive antiroll bar, Dynamic Response (Supercharged)
Axles, f/r: Dana AdvanTek M200 (200mm ring gear diameter)/Dana AdvanTek M220 (220mm ring gear diameter)
Axle ratio: 3.31:1/3.55:1 (Supercharged)
Max crawl ratio: 45.54:1/48.85:1 (Supercharged)
Steering: Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 14.96-in ventilated disc, 6-piston Brembo calipers/14.37-in ventilated disc
Wheels (in.): optional 19-, 20-, 21-, and 22-in
Tires: 235/65R19, 255/55R20, 275/45R21, 275/40R22
Wheelbase (in): 115
Length (in): 196.8
Height (in): 72.3
Base curb weight (lb): 4,850
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 26 (standard height), 34.7 (off-road height)/24.6 (standard height), 29.6 (off-road height)
Min. ground clearance (in): 11.7
Interior cargo volume (cu ft): 71.7 (max behind row 1)
Max towing capacity (lb): 7,716
Fuel capacity (gal): 27.7
Fuel economy (city/highway mpg): 14/20, 13/19 (Supercharged)