First Drive: 2013 Range Rover

High-Tech, High-Dollar Dirt Machine

Fred WilliamsPhotographer, Writer

Forty some years ago the first Range Rover was revealed to the public, a high-end vehicle from the tough and tested Land Rover lineage. For 2013 the fourth generation of Range Rover is being offered. This new model is a modern example of technology, luxury, and performance while retaining off-road capability. We cannot deny that the Range Rover is a pinnacle vehicle with a price tag to match, but when a manufacturer is designing and engineering a vehicle that must work off-road and will carry an $85,000-$110,000 sticker, it allows them to come up with some really exciting technology. We know that most of you are not in the market for something like this right now, but some of you are, and all of you will find the innovation in this vehicle totally drool-worthy.

The Range Rover brand is unique. While it is born from the British Land Rover heritage of rugged off-road performance for farmers in the U.K., it has always had a bit more royalty than the Series, Defenders, and Discoveries of LR. Yes, in the USA Land Rovers were yuppified by many, but in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland you see farmers hauling sheep in the back of them. The Range Rover was designed as a “premium leisure vehicle,” but not specifically the luxury vehicle is has become. It was supposed to work off-road but still ride excellent, thus it was an early adopter of coil-spring suspension along with plenty of wheel travel. Stepping up to Range Rovers vehicles are Kings and Queens, rap stars, and oil-rich sheiks, but don’t confuse these highbrow vehicles with a lack of off-road prowess. In fact, for many years Range Rovers were the vehicle of choice for the rugged Camel Trophy where they devoured deserts, jungles, and mountains while packed with khaki-clad uberdudes.

People don’t buy luxury vehicles because they need them. They buy them because they want them

The ’13 Range Rover will no doubt keep its customer base of the megarich, but we are here to say these trucks could still cross a thick jungle or desolate desert if need be. We recently visited the northern African country of Morocco to test-drive this latest, greatest of British royal off-roaders. While blown away at the interior of the 4x4 luxo-truck, we were also delighted at what it would do in the dirt, dunes, and deluge of a Moroccan monsoon. As avid off-roaders we cannot help but be concerned with the multitude of electronic wizardry that makes these trucks work so well. At the same time, as gearheads, we are enthralled by the integrated intake snorkels, aircraft-style all-aluminum unibody construction, multiple terrain settings, and get-up-and-go of the optional supercharged V-8 engine. The new Range Rover fulfills a niche of extravagant off-roader while still upholding the heritage of the Rover name.

The full independent suspension under the Range Rover is a long way from the diehard straight axle we cherish, but we’re willing to say it is one of, if not the best, full independent OE suspensions we’ve driven. The A-arm suspension offers 10 inches of front wheel travel and over 12 inches of rear wheel travel. With air springs in each corner the Rover can raise itself 5 inches from its lowest position for ease of entry to its highest off-road position. The springs are cross-plumbed to help articulation. Additionally, the highest setting offers nearly 12 inches of ground clearance.

Did you know that back in 1969 when Land Rover began development of the very first Range Rover, they needed some way to test it without actually revealing what it was? Those prototype Rovers became what is now referred to as the Range Rover Classic, first introduced in the U.S. in 1987. But back in 1969 they were called “Velar” to help throw off anyone wondering what these prototypes might be. Range Rover had one of these original prototypes on display in Morocco where, believe it or not, these early prototypes were tested back in 1969. The second generation Range Rover, known as the P38A, arrived in 1994. The third generation, called the L322, went on sale in 2002. This new fourth-generation Range Rover is known as the L405 amongst Range Rover internal staff and hardcore enthusiasts.

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