Pedigree means everything at the top end of the sport-utility market, and no luxury SUV has more pedigree than the Land Rover Range Rover. The Land Rover name dates to 1948, when the Rover group began building bare-bones 4x4 vehicles with extraordinary off-road capability. The Range Rover emerged from this off-road tradition in 1970, billed as the first Land Rover civil enough to be driven by a person in a business suit. This two-door SUV was stylish, yet quite primitive by today's standards, but it was immediately popular among wealthy U.K. consumers with a taste for the safari aesthetic. Sales in the United States started in 1987, though quite a few Range Rovers were imported through the gray market in the years preceding.
Now in its third generation, the Land Rover Range Rover still carries considerable prestige. From an off-road perspective, it's one of the most capable SUVs available at any price. From a luxury perspective, it's probably the most elegant and distinctive utility vehicle on the market, despite a few rough edges. High pricing keeps all but the very rich from buying a new Range Rover, a fact that only adds to the appeal of this elite 4x4.
2013 Range Rover Specs
The 2013 Range Rover is a five-passenger luxury SUV available in two trim levels, both featuring 5.0-liter V8s. The HSE model produces 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, while the Supercharged's V8 develops an impressive 510 hp and 461 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
A permanent four-wheel-drive system is standard on all Range Rovers, along with low-range gearing and nearly 11 inches of maximum ground clearance. The standard Terrain Response system allows the driver to customize powertrain, suspension and electronic stability and traction systems to best handle five predetermined off-road conditions.
Engineered in the late 1990s during the brief period when BMW owned Land Rover, the Range Rover is nevertheless aging quite well. It employs unibody construction (instead of body-on-frame architecture) and a fully independent suspension (instead of solid axles). These changes make all the difference when cruising on pavement, as the Range Rover now delivers the composed ride and secure handling expected of a true luxury SUV. Yet BMW engineers went about their work carefully so as not to compromise all-terrain ability.
Cabin design is a mix of traditional and modern in the new Range Rover. The upright seating position, blocky dash and large steering wheel evoke the feeling of an old-school Land Rover, while supple leather seats (with contrasting piping), walnut inlays and a navigation system with both on- and off-road mapping assure you that this is indeed a contemporary luxury vehicle. The cabin, like the exterior, manages to be both retro and modern at the same time, especially with the new gauge cluster that is, in fact, a large LCD screen. Nevertheless, its controls can be rather arcane in fine British tradition. A roomy reclining rear seat makes it possible to carry a pair of adults or three children in back, but cargo room is only average due to a high load floor.
If you're looking for a premium SUV with unparalleled off-road abilities and a legendary pedigree, the new Range Rover is an obvious choice. If you want to save some money and get a bit more on-road talent with that same legendary pedigree, the Range Rover Sport is a good compromise. However, any Land Rover has an albatross slung around its neck in the form of disappointing reliability. Buying one has been known to cause headaches (and breakdowns), which is certainly ironic given their status as go-to vehicles for adventures to Outer Mongolia.
Used Land Rover Range Rover Models
The present-generation Range Rover dates back to its introduction for 2003. Between then and '05, a BMW-sourced 4.4-liter V8 rated for 282 hp was the only engine available. It came with a five-speed automatic transmission. However, in 2006, then-parent company Ford replaced this engine with a pair of Jaguar-sourced V8s. The HSE featured a 305-hp 4.4-liter V8, while the Supercharged had a 4.2-liter V8 that was (surprise!) supercharged to produce 400 hp. The same number of transmission gears and four-wheel-drive system were employed as in the current Rover. The current 5.0-liter V8s showed up for 2010.
Buyers interested in technology will want to pay particular attention to year-by-year changes when shopping for used Range Rovers of this generation. The navigation system was CD-based until Land Rover upgraded it for 2005 (although it's once again a bit behind the times). A rear back-up camera and adaptive headlights were added to the standard equipment list for 2006.
There were significant changes made for 2007 when the interior was given a mild refresh, with twin gloveboxes, new cupholders and a slightly more intuitive control layout. The customizable off-road settings debuted that year along with an upgraded rear differential and an electronic parking brake. Airbags were also relocated for better performance and a driver's knee airbag was added. For 2010, there were minor exterior updates, a new LCD instrument cluster and navigation system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and a 360-degree parking assist camera. Updates were also performed on the adaptive suspension, Terrain Response and stability control systems.
There were two previous generations of the Range Rover. Both are coveted on the used market, but potential buyers should know what they're getting into, because Range Rovers have been phenomenal off-roaders, but reliability is poor and repair costs are high.
Sold from 1995-2002, the second-generation Range Rover is the better bet of the two for buyers seeking a luxury experience. Note that 1995 was an overlap year: Rovers bearing a "4.0 SE" badge are the new model, while those with "County Classic" or "County LWB" badging are the old design. For 1996, Land Rover added a high-line 4.6 HSE model, and for the sake of acceleration alone, this is the better bet: The Range Rover 4.0 SE was powered by a 188-hp 4.0-liter V8, while the 4.6 HSE took a 222-hp 4.6-liter V8 with considerably more torque. A four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive were standard on all models, as were leather upholstery, wood trim and a high-end audio system. Interior furnishings were opulent by the standards of the day, with ample comfort for front and rear passengers.
Second-generation Range Rovers still had solid axles front and rear, but engineers fitted self-leveling air springs to improve their manners on pavement. There's only so much you can do with old-fashioned hardware, though, and compared to other high-end SUVs, the Land Rover Range Rover's ride quality was harsh and body roll was excessive around corners.
Shopping for a first-generation Range Rover could make sense if you're looking for a dedicated off-road vehicle and don't mind repair bills or doing your own repair work. Only a four-door version of the Range Rover came to the U.S., and initially it had a 3.9-liter V8 (rated for anywhere from 178-182 hp, depending on the year) and a four-speed automatic transmission. A long-wheelbase model known as the County LWB joined the lineup for 1993, and not only did it have another 7 inches of rear legroom, it upgraded to a 200-hp 4.2-liter V8.