Four-hundred pounds. Just think of the things you can do with that kind of weight loss: Earn yourself an appearance on the Maury Povich show. Maybe win a cool quarter-million bucks on the quasi-reality infomercial The Biggest Loser.
If you're Land Rover, however, the answer is easy: Losing 400 pounds lops almost a full second from the quarter-mile time of your flagship Range Rover SUV.
How did it drop all the weight? Mostly through the extensive use of aluminum. The all-new 2013 Range Rover's body, doors, fenders and hood are made of the material which is not only strong and stiff, it's far lighter than traditional steel.
Land Rover says the weight savings can be as much as 900 pounds depending on trim level, but the realities of feature content, simple physics and PR-speak account for the difference between this SUV and the previous-generation 2011 model we last tested. Even so, this is no small improvement considering that the new Rover is bigger than the SUV it replaces. Land Rover grew the Range Rover model in every dimension except height. Its wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer (to 115.0 inches) while its length and width are increased 1.1 inches and 1.5 inches, respectively.
Philosophically, though, this is the same Rover known and loved by suburban moms and well-to-do pheasant hunters alike. It's been restyled and thoroughly re-engineered with an updated suspension, a new interior and a new transmission. Base price rises about $4,300 to $99,995 including shipping. Our tester came with plenty of options, including the $4,150 Front and Rear Climate Comfort package, the $2,400 Rear Seat Entertainment package, the $1,850, 19-speaker Meridian premium audio system, plus more. All in, this supercharged version totaled $114,930.
Living With It
Motivating the big Rover is a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 good for 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The direct-injected engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be manually controlled using paddle shifters on the steering wheel. There's also a two-speed transfer case directing power to all four wheels via an electronically controlled clutch pack. A rear locking differential is optional.
Dynamic Response active lean control maintains a mostly flat attitude in corners, but the ride is never actually soft. Variable dampers preclude any Buick-like porpoising, but road irregularities still upset the body more than we expected. Rover calls the ride "imperious." We agree.
It's the Rover's steering, however, that's truly strange. At freeway speed there's sufficient friction around center that small corrections (the kinds that locate the big SUV in its lane) are burdensome. Possibly this is a product of the "Active Return" system, which is designed to increase the self-centering effect.
Whatever the case, the steering feel and effort are, at best, in need of revision. Jumpy throttle response can be an adventure in parking lots, neighborhoods and other locales that require subtle throttle inputs.
Despite these misses, it's easy to see, after a few days, why many purveyors of the brand opt for the more powerful version. Driving something this big, with this much grunt is genuinely fun. We surprised more than one Mustang jockey with the Rover's shovel-to-the-spleen holeshot. We also explored the limits of active lean control while passing a lazy Lotus on a freeway transition ramp.
Then we headed to the off-road park.
One SUV To Do It All
It hardly seems fair, after all, to evaluate a Land Rover solely on its road-going merits. So despite the Range Rover's 21-inch wheels (standard on Supercharged trims), we sought out our nearest frame-twisting trails to explore this SUV's split personality.
And then the strangest thing happened: We observed a posh, proper, road-going SUV admirably navigating off-road obstacles usually reserved for Jeep Wranglers fueled by sunburn and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Certainly it's a different experience than one might have in a Jeep, but it works.
Land Rover's Terrain Response System optimizes the powertrain and chassis across five different terrain settings. And should you find selecting one yourself too burdensome, there's an "auto" setting to do it for you. We twisted the knob and were amazed. Though it doesn't react quickly, the Rover's combination of brake control and center-differential slip always convinced the right wheel to turn. Get a wheel in the air (an admitted challenge with 10.2 inches of front and 12.2 inches of rear wheel travel) and you'll need some patience as the system works out the appropriate torque distribution.
Could it be better? Certainly. Adding the rear locker would mean quicker, more intuitive response off road. And smaller wheels fitted with tires designed for dirt duty would make a dramatic difference. Speaking of which, in perhaps the greatest paradox ever printed on the sidewall of a tire, the Rover's 275/45R21 Goodyears are labeled "Eagle F1 SUV 4x4." Really.
The Rover can also tow 7,716 pounds and wade through water 35 inches deep should the need arise. So there's that.
Bottom line? For an SUV that's unlikely to see a dirt road very often, this one is better than it needs to be at handling them.
Back on the Pavement
Any SUV that runs a 12-second quarter-mile is silly. But one that's shaped like a Kelvinator refrigerator, weighs 2.7 tons and is pedigreed with more than 40 years of off-road legacy makes the feat plain absurd.
Our tester did the deed in 12.9 seconds at 107.4 mph, thereby erasing 0.9 second from the ET of the last Range Rover we tested. The stomp to 60 mph requires only 4.7 seconds (4.5 seconds with a 1-foot rollout like at a drag strip). The old Rover needed 5.5 seconds.
Real improvements, these.
Handling limits are well below that of the German performance SUVs in the segment, but we can't complain after our run-in with the Lotus. Lateral acceleration around our 200-foot skid pad worked out to 0.74g while the big Rover slipped between the slalom cones at 60.7 mph.
Braking from 60 mph required 125 feet and was consistent throughout the five stops. Thank you very much, Brembo.
Beautiful Cabin, Questionable Electronics
Inside, the Rover is as lavish as Donald Trump's bedroom — a remarkable irony considering the brand originated on a British farm. But there's sufficient leather and authentic wood veneers to make us forget all about this SUV's modest heritage. Truly, it's a stunning interior that ranks among the best-looking and most well finished in any vehicle sold today.
Simulated gauges are displayed on a 12.3-inch TFT screen in the instrument panel, while navigation, audio and other functions are shown on an 8.0-inch touchscreen in the center stack. Infotainment functionality is intuitive, with buttons flanking the display providing quick access to major controls. Overall, it is a strikingly beautiful and practical interface.
Thanks to the Front and Rear Climate package, our tester was fitted with heated and cooled front and rear seats. The front seats include massagers and the rears offer a power recline function and lumbar support. Even the center console is cooled. Visibility, thanks to upright seating and relatively small pillars, is good and despite offering marginally less cargo space than the old model, there's more rear headroom.
Although Land Rover has been steadily improving its quality lately, our Rover had a few obvious issues. Our tester's sunroof cover didn't retract properly, leaving it dangling in the faces of rear-seat passengers. Bluetooth pairing was inconsistent to the extent that we gave up on more than one occasion, while the power-operated rear hatch failed to function during much of our test, forcing us to close both panels manually against the resistance of the power mechanism.
Summing It Up
Without question, the 2013 Range Rover's biggest strength is its versatility. There isn't another SUV, luxury or otherwise, that offers the Rover's combination of on-road performance and off-road capability. And if those are the traits you want, then Land Rover is the place to get them.
But we all know where these vehicles are driven most of the time (the street) and for that the Rover's German competitors offer SUVs that handle better, are more rewarding to drive and — judging by our brief experience — are less likely to need repair.
Despite this, some 7,843 Range Rovers left dealers last year destined for high-end shopping centers all over the country. And there's no denying that this new SUV is better than those. Weighs less, too.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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