2013 Land Rover Range Rover Driving Impressions

The Range Rover is probably the most capable, and certainly the most comfortable, hardcore off-roader on the market. The high price tag does not simply yield a better interior, but the dollars translate to incredible technologies that make the vehicle out perform the most rugged of machines.

Despite acceleration numbers being close to a second faster than the outgoing model, the engines remain the same. The base Range Rover and Range Rover HSE come fitted with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 that produces 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. It will dash to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds.

The Supercharged and Autobiography models get the same 5.0-liter V8 only fitted with the supercharger to pump out a whopping 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The supercharged V8 will burst to 60 mph from a standstill in a scant 5.1 seconds.

The performance increase over the previous-generation Range Rover is a benefit of significant weight reduction. And by significant, we mean around 700 pounds. By automotive standards, this is a monumental feat, achieved primarily by utilizing almost 100-percent aluminum in the body and components. The aluminum in the body is 39-percent lighter than the outgoing steel body.

Of course, these reductions drastically improve the handling of the Range Rover. It feels more agile and more composed, with less body roll (especially in models equipped with the Dynamic Response system). The lengthy suspension travel, that is by far longer than any of its competition, does make the car feel like it floats a little. Shorter travel, with a firmer set up would be preferable for on-road handling but that would compromise the off-road performance.

Climbing up to speeds well in excess of triple digits is effortless. The ride is silky smooth, bumps feel non-existent, and road noise is effectively zero. The new Range Rover now comes mated to an 8-speed automatic, rather than the 6-speed in the outgoing model.

Fuel efficiency is an EPA-estimated 14/20 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined for the naturally aspirated motor. The supercharged rigs come in at 13/19 mpg and 15 mpg Combined. This is around a 9-percent saving compared to the outgoing model.

Ground clearance is up 0.67 inches to 11.9 inches, and the improved approach and departure angles make large boulders seem like driving over a child's play block. Even if it encounters a more prominent boulder, the smooth, sturdy underbody helps protect the important components against damage.

The air suspension significantly enhances off-road performance by introducing an automatic system that varies between two ride heights; Plus 1.6 inches and Plus 2.95 inches when the off-road setting is selected, rather than a single Plus 2.2-inches position of the outgoing model.

The Range Rover's four-wheel-drive system is one of its best qualities. The heart of the system is a two-speed transfer case that provides permanent 4WD. A low range option, for heavy off-roading, provides a ratio of 2.93.1, giving a low crawl speed that helps keep speed consistent on heavy descents or challenging surfaces.

The dampers are adaptive, allowing for infinite adjustments to match any given terrain. The new Terrain Response system gives the same five settings as the outgoing model: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. The difference with the new generation Terrain Response is that it comes with an automatic setting that uses on-board vehicle sensors to analyze the current road surfaces and conditions, and then automatically selects the most suitable terrain program.

Each setting optimizes capability and traction by adapting the responses of the engine, transmission, center differential and chassis systems to match the demands. The new system will also make recommendations to the driver, such as when to select low-range. For most of our time in the new Range Rover, including over some incredibly difficult off-road terrain, we left the setting in auto (General). It was perfectly intuitive and for most obstacles did not even cross our mind.

Of course, the usual Land Rover goodies like Hill Descent Control and Gradient Release Control are all there, too. No matter how impossible the off-road appeared from behind the wheel, never did the Range Rover falter when we were high in the mountains of south Utah. And with a wading depth of 35.4 inches, no river was too much either.

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