2002 Range Rover Review - The Third Time's The Charm
New Range Rover Sets New Standards And Maintains A Heritage
Any introduction of a new Land Rover product is special because new Land Rover products don't come along very often. There have been just five all-new products since 1948, and the revisions to those products bring the company's new-product-launch total to eight. This new Range Rover, only the third Range Rover since the upscale brand debuted in 1970, is one of those all-new products. It's incredibly important to the company, for it is intended to help the company move to a new level of competitiveness in the luxury market worldwide-and especially in the U.S.
Don't be fooled by the close resemblance of this new Range Rover to previous editions of the brand. It is indeed completely new, though its parentage is just a little confusing. It was conceived while Land Rover was owned by BMW. Hence the happy accident of its being equipped with the exceptional BMW DOHC 4.4L V-8-significantly customized for use in this chassis-and CommandShift five-speed automatic transmission-actually the BMW Steptronic unit. (See accompanying sidebar, The Drivetrain.) Land Rover now is an element of Ford Motor Company's glittering Premium Automotive Group, however, demonstrating, if nothing else, how fast the corporate landscape can change. So the new Range Rover was initialized and partially designed under one set of owners, and it's being brought to market by a completely different set of owners-even though the company's primary leadership has not changed.
There's been a great deal of talk recently about so-called crossover vehicles-those which offer a balance of car-like capabilities on the highway with at least some off-highway capability as part of the bargain. So it's interesting that Land Rover officialdom sees this as the ultimate crossover, a high-tech amalgam of the 4x4/SUV/minivan. With it, company officials said at the vehicle's recent introduction, they intend to seduce buyers who might otherwise set their sights on the fullsize luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz and, yes, former parent BMW. They've designed and furnished Range Rovers with those buyers in mind. But they've also kept Land Rover's heritage firmly at the top of their consciousness-that of a tough, all-terrain 4x4. So the new Range Rover mixes a very high level of luxury and highway performance with considerable off-highway prowess in what company officials refer to as tough luxury. (See Hard Facts sidebar.)
Our brief introduction to the Range Rover indicates that they've been largely successful. Of interest to Four Wheeler readers is that this new Range Rover certainly is in the game when it comes to capability. (See The Chassis sidebar.)
You've got to be impressed with the Range Rover's behavior, both because of its independent suspension, and in spite of it. Our exposure to the Range Rover took place over an intensive two-day briefing, during which we drove it both on pavement and over moderately challenging forest and highland two-trackers. What we learned is that first of all, the Range Rover lives up to its promise of luxury and comfort. The seats have a decidedly British-car look and feel to them, are infinitely adjustable, and are very comfortable. The dash carries a clean, elegant look, and is fully equipped with all the relevant gauges. Visibility is excellent. Of special interest is the automatic adjustability of the air suspension, which lowers itself to its "access" setting when the vehicle comes to a stop, to ease ingress or egress. Once in motion it raises itself to "normal" mode, at highway speeds it lowers itself to "cruise" mode for a lower center of gravity and improved aerodynamics. Finally, for 'wheeling, the driver can select an off-highway mode that significantly raises the chassis for up to 11 inches of ground clearance.
Thanks to the values applied to the air springs and shocks, the Range Rover's ride, on-pavement and in the dirt, is solid and plush, with very little chassis roll, and very crisp, precise steering, thanks to its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system. Pavement performance is deceptively smooth and quiet, which means that that strong-pulling BMW engine soon has you traveling faster than you might have intended to travel. All in all, very comfortable and confidence-inspiring.
But as good as the Range Rover feels on pavement, it feels even better in the dirt, thanks to its Dynamic Stability Control and Four-Wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC) systems, developed in conjunction with Bosch. These systems, paired with a Torsen torque-sensing center diff, means that wheelspin, at least in our brief introduction to the Range Rover, was nearly impossible to achieve. We drove through water and deep mud and found that the traction-control system is so tight that the only time we saw wheelspin was in a set of super-slick, slippery muddy ruts where none of the four wheels had traction. In that situation, the Range Rover's 4ETC system allowed us to apply throttle to achieve the tire speed necessary to pull through the messy stuff. The terrain we saw during this introduction allowed only moderate articulation, but at no time did we sense a wheel hanging in the air. So far, at least, it seems that the Range Rover does articulate in the manner we might wish it to.
All in all, it does indeed seem that this third Range Rover constitutes the third-time charm of excellence that its purveyors are seeking, especially when its very complete level of comfort and convenience equipment, which includes comprehensive audio, climate-control, and direction-finding systems, are figured into the equation. Whether it can live up to their expectations in terms of sales, however-Land Rover officials are looking to sell 7,500 units here in the first year of this Range Rover's production, up from the 5,500 units sold in 2001-remains to be seen. The current difficult economy, and the vehicle's $70,000 price, won't make it easy. But folks willing to consider a $70,000 vehicle may not care what the economy's doing. Those that don't, and those that choose the Range Rover, will get an amazing vehicle-one that's every bit as at-home off the highway as it is on the highway. That's the kind of paradigm other manufacturers seem to be moving away from. We applaud Land Rover for sticking to its heritage, for providing down-and-dirty capability in this very competent upmarket vehicle.
Check It Out If:
Price is no object.
Avoid It If:
You're unable to accept that independent suspension might actually work.
All hail...the king of SUVs?
"Anything short of a tank when it comes to security features and off-road capabilities isn't really amusing." It wasn't passed on exactly like that but you could sense it resonating in the tuneful British accent in which it was delivered. Add driving comfort, the sumptuous interior of a luxury sedan, throw in some blue-blooded prestige, and you get a premonition of Land Rover's latest product.
Despite its instant-recognition factor, this new Range Rover doesn't share a single body panel with its predecessor. Steady growth in body width (2.6 inches), length (9.3 inches), and height (1.8 inches) produce more interior space and a distinctive on-road presence right beside that of Sequoia or Escalade.
After spreading roughly $1.5 billion between R&D and a new production plant, Land Rover officials present this new Range Rover with a steel unitized body/chassis-they call it a monocoque structure-reinforced by three main subframes with longitudinal runners to protect drivetrain and suspension. Torsional stiffness and body flex are-according to Rover-four times stiffer than the old model. Related strongman features like snatch recovery capability and towing capacity are remarkable as well. The Range Rover's unitized body is so strong, according to officials, that you could hang it from its front tow hook, then hang two more Ranger Rovers from its rear tow hook without damage. While the ability to tow a 7,000-pound braked trailer meets fullsize SUV standards, a 12,000-pound snatch-recovery limit as well as serious winch recovery reserves and a lower tailgate strong enough to carry 660 pounds separate the chaff from the wheat.
Aluminum hood, doors, and front fenders save a good 110 pounds over steel parts, a small bite considering the vehicle's 5,374-pound unladen weight. Extensive measures in sound deadening and corrosion prevention close a triumphant longevity chapter, while six airbags and excellent crash-test results, as measured by British standards, create an atmosphere of security in the inviting interior. To invite the right people only, however, the new Range Rover is equipped with one of the most effective security systems on the market and-in case of Mafia pursuits-can lap the venerable and classic 14-mile German Nurburgring racetrack in 10 minutes, 5 seconds. About 7 minutes is what it would take a racing car to lap this classic track, so the Range Rover appears to have poise.
Modified, dignified, dubbed a knight
Here's one serious approach to the independent-suspension agenda: MacPherson air struts at the front and a double-wishbone arrangement at the rear allow huge improvements in total wheel travel (10.6 inches front, 13.0 inches rear, due to very long rear A-arms) and center ground clearance (up to 11 inches) thanks to independent suspension front and rear.
Air suspension enhances ride comfort over all terrain and surface conditions, enabling automatic self-leveling and compensating for heavy loads. But here's the best part: A refined Electronic Air Suspension (EAS) system features interconnected cross-linked valves on all wheels, allowing a stiffer spring rate for pavement and a softer spring rate for the rough road. On paved roads the valves are closed and the wheels ride on fixed air pressure, assuring less body roll and firm dampening characteristics. If the "Terrain Sensing" software in the RR's computer senses off-road activities, it opens the valves to support maximum articulation. Of critical importance here is the sense that this may be an IFS/IRS vehicle that actually articulates, thanks to those cross-linked valves. At speeds of 5 mph and less, when one wheel deflects, the air from its airbag is shunted into the airbag of the wheel on the opposite side, pushing that wheel down into the driving surface, mimicking the behavior and articulation of a solid axle. And it seems to work, judging from our very short introduction to the new Range Rover.
Finally, the EAS computer determines ride height according to speed and switch selection. There's a low step-in setting, an automatically selected highway setting, and a tall four-wheeling setting that can be chosen by turning a dash-mounted dial.
Even more sophisticated is the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which combines four-wheel traction control, anti-lock brakes, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Breakforce Distribution, and Emergency Brake Assistance. Engaged, DSC detects wheel slip and reduces engine power to help regain traction.
Hill Descent Control uses ABS-controlled brake applications to limit downhill speed, providing brake bias to the downhill axle and individual brake pressure to each wheel as necessary. In low-range/low gear and Reverse, the maximum speed is limited to 2.5 mph, in Fourth and Fifth gear to 8 mph.
Holy Grail Revisited
Land Rover was part of the BMW group when work started on a luxury fullsize SUV, which it intended to position above BMW's X5. Not a big surprise then to find Beemer's workhorse, the widely acclaimed 4.4L (263.5ci) DOHC V-8, under the aluminum hood of the Range Rover. Smaller by 17ci than the solid but outdated pushrod 4.6L V-8 in the previous Range Rover, the new 32-valve four-camshaft unit boasts 10 percent more torque at 3,600 rpm (325 lb-ft) and 62 additional horses at 5,400 rpm. Part of the new stampede is dispatched to pull the 485-pound weight increase, diminishing actual performance gains from flamboyant expectations to a solid 9-second run from 0 to 60 mph.
Adaptations to the engine for use in this chassis include a higher air intake for water crossings, improved seals and pulley bearings, redesigned sump, and revised oil galleys, the latter because every Land Rover product should be capable of climbing a 45-degree gradient and of traversing ground at a side angle of 35 degrees, a company spokesman tells us. Obviously, proper lubrication is mandatory in these situations. In order to optimize the engine for on-road and off-road conditions electronics include two different throttle maps, with the throttle application becoming much more progressive when the T-case is shifted into low-range. Last but not least is the reworked cooling system, enabling the engine to cope with ambient temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Complementing the motor is a ZF five-speed automatic with CommandShift gear selection-this allows the driver to allow the trans to shift automatically, or to shift it manually. The chain-drive transfer case feeds torque to the axles via a Torsen differential. With a 2.7:1 drive ratio in low-range, the new Range Rover has the lowest gearing in its class. And finally, it's now possible to shift between low and high on the move up to 30 mph.
|Vehicle model||2002 Range Rover|
|Type||DOHC BMW V-8|
|Mfg's power rating @ rpm (hp)||282 @ 5,400|
|Mfg's torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft)||325 @ 3,600|
|Mfg's suggested fuel type||Super unleaded|
|Transmission||Five-speed BMW Steptronic automatic|
|Transfer case||Two-speed full-time four-wheel drive with Torsen diff and 2.71:1 low-range ratio|
|Frame||Monocoque reinforced by three subframes with longitudinal runners|
|Body||Welded steel and aluminum|
|Front||Electronically controlled independent air suspension, cross-linked MacPherson struts|
|Rear||Electronically controlled independent air suspension, cross-linked double A-arms|
|Front||13.5-inch vented rotor|
|Rear||13.9-inch solid rotor|
|Wheels (in.)||19x8 aluminum|
|Curb weight (lbs.)||5,374|
|Overall length (in.)||194.9|
|Overall width (in.)||77.0|
|Height (in.)||73.3 without roof rack|
|Minimum ground clearance (in.)||11.0|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||26.0|