A few times a strange thing happened while we were trying out the new Land Rover Range Rover on a beautiful set of winding two-lane roads that meandered through northern California wine country and along the scenic Pacific Coast. We’re not sure why, but when we always encountered a slower car, we immediately found a turnout and they moved off the road at two corners. This never happens.
It’s not like we’re turning on or off our lights, and our SUV isn’t painted black and white with a light strip on top. Sure, the new Range Rover was easy to pull off at a good clip and had a certain closing rate, but in our experience the usual reaction is to clearly ignore the wishes of those left behind and stay put until they are up and ready. Especially if they only have one vehicle.
Perhaps the new Range Rover would look so impressive in the rearview mirror, and they would have liked to follow suit. That’s certainly the case when it’s parked, because there’s a slight elegance to the flowing shape of the new Range Rover that stands squarely against some of the more exotic new cars of recent times. Its proportions and roofline are unmistakably Range Roar, but there’s a subtlety of execution that makes it feel like a design study coming to life. Smooth lines flow down her sides, barely cut by gentle curves and fine wrinkles.
It’s a design that requires precision construction, so great effort has been put into tightening the tolerances and gaps of the slimming plate. Our favorite detail might be the way the sides of the chassis roll 90 degrees to meet the side glass without chamfering, wrinkling or shaping. We also like how the taillights look like they are touch black until they light up, at which point they show themselves for what they are. The overall shape is as pleasing to the air as it is to the eye, with an impressive drag coefficient (for SUVs) of 0.30.
The wheelbase of both the Standard and Long Body (LWB) versions has been extended by about three inches: from 115.0 to 118.0 inches in the former and 122.9 to 125.9 in the latter. The result is a welcome 1.1 inches increase in rear seat legroom for the SWB (1.2 inches for the LWB) and an additional six cubic feet of storage space behind the second row. Crucially, the extended LWB now allows Land Rover to offer three-row seating for the first time. The proportions remain familiar, though, as the sag lengths limit the overall length increase to just 2.0 inches, and the larger 32-inch tires subtly fill the enlarged fender slots.
Underneath, the rear suspension was changed from a multi-link “integrated link” with a complex lower arm to a true five-link setup. The benefits are twofold and important. The setup makes rear-wheel steering possible, and this new feature (which is standard) cuts about five feet of turning radius despite the long wheelbases. The new Rover’s long-body suspension can U-turn just 37.9 feet long, maneuvering that required 42.8 feet in the outgoing LWB machine and 40.5 feet in the old SWB model. The new SWB Range Rover can do the deed just 35.9 feet away, which is just 1.5 feet away from the two-door Jeep Wrangler.
The new multi-link setup also takes up less space for internal packing where the links are attached, an important feature that allows a transverse electric motor to be installed in a full battery electric (BEV) version. The longer wheelbase also comes with the all-important battery size in the floor, but those details won’t be revealed until later. We know more about how this will affect the soon-to-be-released Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), which has an enlarged 31.8 kWh battery which will allow an expected EPA range rating of 48 miles instead of outgoing. 19 miles is almost useless.
Until those plug-ins arrive, two petrol engines are available. The P400 is a supercharged and turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that was carried over from last year. As before, it generates 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic. The package moves intelligently and smoothly, even when stimulating the seven-passenger long-wheelbase SE. Land Rover claims the LWB will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which is faster than the previous SWB model. What’s more, EPA-estimated fuel economy rises from 20 to 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway) on a powerful 3 mpg increase in road fuel economy. Speed owes a lot to slippery aerodynamics.
The P530 twin-turbo V-8 engine is a new offering designed and built by BMW to specification for Land Rover. It generates 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque and delivers smooth dash through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Land Rover says it’s good for 4.4 seconds at 60 mph and 8,200 pounds of towing capacity. The P530 makes a great sound when you stand on it, and then appropriately fades into the background when you hit a crunch. Changes made to the Range Rover mission include a higher intake tract that allows 35.4 inches of water depth and a remanufactured sump that won’t starve the engine when off-road, front, rear or side-mounted.
The winding tracks of Northern California are always being reshaped by the movement of the land, and Range Rover has handled them admirably. In Comfort mode, the short-wheelbase model’s air springs tend toward buoyancy, but in a deliberate, luxurious Range Rover way that can be installed by setting the adaptive Bilstein dampers to Dynamic Mode. Either way, body motions are much more controlled than before, particularly in rolling, where a new, faster-acting anti-roll bar system can provide counter torque to flatten curves and then transition appropriately on straight, undulating trails to combat head-toss. Notably, the seven-seater’s long wheelbase tends to be a bit less boomy, possibly due to the rear suspension tuning differences needed to accommodate seven passengers.
Inside, the accommodations are as elegant as the outside, with straightforward controls and great appointments. Maybe the Achilles heel was the infotainment system, but that could be a case of guilt by association because the menu flow is like previous versions we didn’t care about that much. To be fair, the functions and camera views we accessed through the touchscreen were implemented directly, but it would take additional interactions and a degree of familiarity to get a better sense of usability. We’ve already tried the third-row seats, and they’re easily accessible with the forward-leaning second row that moves in a way that allows you to keep multiple forward-facing child seats or boosters in place. Once inside, headroom is tight if you’re six feet tall, but you’ll find cup holders, USB-C ports, air conditioning vents, and seat heaters right there again. Land Rover did this part right.
For 2023, the SE is an entry-level model, although it hardly feels a bone. The five-seat SWB P400 SE is $102,350, with a three-row long wheelbase with the same engine for $108,350. To climb a P530 V-8 in either one costs $17,700. And while we don’t know much about how to drive the P440e plug-in hybrid, we do know that it will be a five-seat SE that starts at the relatively reasonable price of $106,250. Meanwhile, a V-8 is standard on the three Autobiography models that span a mid-to-high range of $150,000. On top of that, the first version of the executive four-seater unlocks, and if you want to try a chauffeur-driven limousine, you’re barrel-staring at a base price of $212,550 for a long-wheelbase four-seater SV.
But this car is not the one that impresses us the most. The brilliance and style of the new Range Rover is evident even on the SE level with the basic P400 powertrain. This is what really moves the Range Rover up the list of considerations, along with the new three-row configuration and beneficial chassis changes that not only make it more livable every day, but also pave the way for related plug-in models in the very near future. Get out of the way, Range Rover is coming.
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