The new Range Rover is here! Introduced with a splash at the Paris Motor Show 2012, the first customer deliveries started the first half of 2013. Will Range Rover maintain its top position among the luxury SUVs? We spent a weekend with the 2013 Range Rover SDV8 to find out!

First introduced in 1970, the new Range Rover marks the fourth generation. From the second generation, introduced in 1994, the Range Rover has set the benchmark for the luxury SUV segment with excellent off-road capabilities. The previous generation Range Rover has been on the market for ten years and was developed under ownership of Ford.


In June 2008 Ford sold Land Rover to Tata and the new Range Rover is the first of the flagship model to be developed under Indian ownership. The surge in new Jaguar and Range Rover models like the Evoque is a clear sign that Tata is serious about investing in the Range Rover brand.

The Engine & Chassis

The Range Rover SDV8 comes with a turbocharged 4.4 liter V8 Diesel engine. This diesel engine produces a maximum of 339hp at 3500 RPM and 700Nm of torque between 1750 and 3000 RPM. The Range Rover is also offered with a 3.0 liter Diesel with 258hp and a 5.0 liter V8 Supercharged with 510hp. The SDV8 is the heaviest of the three, weighing in at 2360 kilograms.

Performance

The 2013 Range Rover SDV8 features an all-aluminium monocoque body structure which is 39 percent lighter than the steel body in the outgoing model. Together with weight saving measures applied to the chassis and drivetrain this makes the Range Rover up to 350 kg lighter than the previous generation.

Thanks to this the SDV8 accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. The 5.0 liter Supercharged, the top of the range model, takes only 5.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Keep your foot down and the Range Rover SDV8 will eventually top out at 217 km/h. In comparison the 5.0 liter Supercharged Range Rover is limited to 225 km/h but the limiter can be raised to 250 km/h as an optional extra.

Gearbox & Drivetrain

The new Range Rover comes with a ZF 8HP70 8-Speed automatic transmission. The same transmission can be found in the last generation BMW 7-Series and BMW X5. The 8-Speed fits the Range Rover nicely and offers a smooth ride while the 8th gear is like an overdrive to save significant amounts of fuel.

Range Rover claims a fuel economy of 8,7 liter per 100 km and during our test period we were not far off with 9,8 liter per 100 km. Compared to the previous generation Range Rover this is a big step forward.

The Range Rover comes with permanent four-wheel drive via a central differential and optional rear differential. This electronic rear differential is only available for the SDV8 and V8 Supercharged engines and offers improved traction and cornering stability. We haven’t been able to test this as its not available in combination with Park Assist, a feature equipped on our test car.

The previous generation Range Rover came with a system called Terrain Response. This literally adapted the car for various surface conditions. Engineers at Land Rover studied 50 different driving surfaces and concluded that most could be boiled down into a handful of categories. On the 2013 Range Rover SDV8 the next generation Terrain Response® 2 is introduced as an optional extra for the Vogue and as standard on the Vogue SE and Autobiography editions. It is designed to further monitor driving conditions and automatically optimize the vehicle’s settings to suit the terrain giving you the best ride comfort on all surfaces including grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock. And even if it is not in auto mode, it will let you know if you should select low range and off-road ride height to keep the car moving.

Suspension

The new Range Rover features a next-generation four corner air suspension system which keeps it steady and comfortable. The Range Rover has an extremely high center of gravity but despite that it stays surprisingly flat through corners. Also cross movement on uneven terrain is suppressed by the air suspension very well.

It packs SLA suspension with twin lower links in the front and integral link suspension in the rear. Both are in combination with the air springs, adaptive Damping and Dynamic Response. As standard Adaptive Dynamics monitors the vehicle’s movements over 500 times a second, reacting to driver or road inputs helping to give greater control and minimizing body roll. The system works both on- as off-road and optimizes damping to the conditions.

Select the off-road setting and the air suspension system automatically switches between two ride heights. Below 50 km/h the maximum ground clearance is increased by 75mm above normal ride height. With the new Range Rover you can wade through water up to 90 cm high.

Design

The Range Rover SDV8 has a clean and elegant shape, the nose looks slicker than the previous generation and features new Range Rover design cues first introduced on the Evoque. The new Range Rover is also more streamlined than the old one, offering better aerodynamics and less drag. It is still unmistakably a true Range Rover with its massive grill, spacious passenger compartment and high seating position. The new design, including the side vents and strip running from the side vent to the rear lights in the Atlas finish, give the Range Rover a more modern look.

One of the signature elements of the Range Rover is the split-tailgate that allows you to open the upper half and bottom half of the luggage compartment separately. In the new Range Rover both can be operated electronically with the press of a button.

Interior

The inside of the Range Rover SDV8 is packed with premium leathers and the latest luxury gadgets. The seats can be ordered with massage features and seat cooling. New are the executive seats in the rear, with increased leg room of 11 cm compared to the previous generation, the Range Rover becomes a more obvious choice for VIP transport.

Gadgetry includes ‘mood lightning’ a 1700 Watt Meridian sound system, dual view touch screen with TV and multimedia feature, the surround camera system and the rear seat entertainment system. Apart from a small glitch in the navigation system everything works flawlessly. One minor downside are the controls and the menus which take a bit longer to get used to than in most German high-end luxury cars.


Driving Experience

The first thing you will notice as soon as you get in the Range Rover is its sheer size and height. With a length of 5 meters, its only 12 centimeters shorter than the new Mercedes S-Class. It is wide too, with the huge mirrors included its 2,22 meters wide. Inside that puts the driver and passengers in an elevated and upright driving position that Range Rover dubs the ‘Command Driving Position’ and it does feel a bit like driving a battleship.

Press the engine start button and a wheel pops up in the center control that lets you select the drive mode by turning it. Right below it you will find the wheel for the Terrain Responds system. We start our journey with the Range Rover in the center of Munich and do not directly plan to plow through the nearest park so we leave it in the default setting to begin with.

Despite its significant weight and size the steering and maneuvering in the inner city goes effortless. Our particular test car comes with an array of features to make living with the huge SDV8 easier. One of them is reverse parking detection, while reversing out of a parking spot it warns for traffic coming from either side with a blinking light in the outside mirror and beep when the approaching car gets dangerously close.

Another city feature is the park assist, it scans the side of the street for a suitable parking spot, once found engage reverse and the Range Rover will steer itself into the parking position. This feels a bit odd at first but works as its supposed to.

Leaving the city behind us and heading for the Austrian Alps the Range Rover can show its capabilities on the German autobahn. As you can imagine the fuel consumption in the city is not the best, but once its moving its not all that bad. On long journeys it drops significantly and with the 105 liter fuel tank you can drive easily 900-1,000 kilometers between tank stops. Pair that with the generously available passenger and luggage space and its no wonder you see so many of these in ski resorts around the Alps.

The Range Rover SDV8 has no sporty ambitions, yet it feels extremely at home on the German autobahn. Its air suspension takes bumps with great ease and also through faster sweeping bends the car stays flat and on track like a high speed train. It lacks a bit of high-end power to keep up with the likes of BMW X5, Mercedes ML or Porsche Cayenne in terms of acceleration and top speed. But with its formidable torque it is able tow up to 3,500 kilogram (Speedboat anyone?).

Switch on the adaptive cruise control and the Range Rover will take over braking and accelerating for you. Unlike the new Range Rover Sport it doesn’t have lane assist (yet), which also helps keeping the Range Rover on track by steering you back in your lane. But the adaptive cruise control alone makes long journeys much more comfortable. Another feature that comes in handy is the blind spot and close vehicle sensing system that displays a warn signal in the outside mirrors when another car or bike is in the cars blind spot.

The dual view system allows the passenger to watch TV while the driver sees the navigation map on the same screen. This clever technology is also found on other vehicles from the Jaguar-Land Rover group like the Land Rover Discovery and Jaguar XJ. You will also find an array of possibilities to connect multimedia devices to play audio and video files, including bluetooth and several USB sockets. The downside of the touch screen system is that the screen will be covered in fingerprints and that you have to bend towards the screen in the central area of the dashboard to operate it. We prefer the iDrive systems used by BMW for every day usage.

Once we cross the border into Austria the panoramic roof offers awesome views of the surrounding mountains. It is here near Lake Fuschl close to the city of Salzburg that we can test some of the Range Rover’s off-road capabilities. Various unpaved mountain roads lay before us ready to be conquered by the SDV8. Even with the Terrain Responds system in its default setting it will scan and recognize various surfaces and adjust the cars settings for optimal performance.

On a steep patch of sand not far from the Red Bull headquarters we switch the Terrain Response wheel to Sand and drive up, the car taking control of the brakes, we stop the car at an incredible angle. Get out and it just sits there, where any other car would dig in or simply slide back down in the loose sand the Range Rover doesn’t move an inch. Climb back behind the wheel and effortlessly drive up the remainder of the hill.

On a flat bit of grass we turn the car around the descent down the same way this time with Hill Descent Control (HDC) which allows you to drive down steep hills without touching the brake pedal. The Range Rover slowly creeps down the hill until we reach our initial starting point and without us touching the brake pedal once. Something not many SUVs on the market today will be able to match.

The more time we spend with the new Range Rover, the more it screams to be taken off-road. We resisted the desire to go off the paved tracks at every possibility but we are certain that in case of emergency the Range Rover would bring us home no matter what.

On our home journey we feel what makes the Range Rover so special, no matter where you go and what other cars you come across you are always higher. Pass any other SUV, whether its a Volkswagen Touareg or Porsche Cayenne and they look like dinky toys. The high and upright seating position of the Range Rover gives it something majestic.


What to Spec?

Range Rover offers various versions of the new Range Rover, the entry-level HSE version which is only available with the smaller 3.0 liter diesel engine, the Vogue and Vogue SE versions and the ultimate near full-option Autobiography edition with its 22 inch wheels, wide choice of exterior colours, including premium metallic paints with the choice of two contrast roof colours and 22 additional interior colours specific to the Autobiography version.

Opt for the Autobiography version and the only thing we would consider to look at are the:

  • Rear Seat Entertainment: Two screens with separate headphones to keep rear passengers entertained.
  • Meridian Signature Reference 1700 Watt Audio System: For those that want the best of the best. Comes at a price though and for us the 825 Watt version that’s fitted as standard in the autobiography edition was good enough.

If you consider taking the Vogue package and want to cherry pick some additional features consider:

Adaptive Cruise Control: Keeps distance to the car in front and brakes down to zero in case of a traffic jam. Also includes emergency braking.
Blind Spot Monitor with Reverse vehicle detection: Warns when a vehicle is in your blind spot and detects oncoming traffic that you can’t see when you reverse out of a parking spot.
Panoramic Roof: Makes the cabin much brighter and offers great views of the sky(scrapers).
Terrain Responds 2: Upgraded version of the ‘old’ Terrain Responds system offered on the Vogue SDV8.

SDV8 4.4 liter vs V8 Supercharged 5.0 liter

After our weekend with the SDV8 we had a short test drive with a 5.0 liter Supercharged V8 to see what it is like. Yes, the supercharged V8 petrol sounds better than the diesel and accelerates quicker. But is that really what the Range Rover is about? We doubt it. The SDV8 offers more than enough power and torque to enjoy the Range Rover as a fast travel car without the horrendous fuel consumption of the Supercharged V8 petrol and would therefor be our pick. The spare 7,000 euro you keep in your pocket you can use for a few nice ski holidays in a five star hotel in Gstaad, St Moritz or the likes.

What about the competition?

In the luxury SUV segment the Range Rover offers a special package that many other SUVs can’t top. The Mercedes G-class rivals its terrain capabilities but lacks the sophistication of the Range Rover. Other SUVs are faster but until high-end luxury brands like Bentley release their SUVs its the Range Rover that dominates the stylish luxury SUV niche.

Conclusion

The Range Rover SDV8 is a top travel companion, shedding significant weight did the new Range Rover a lot of good both in ride and fuel economy. However we are not a fan of the touch navigation and entertainment systems that leave fingerprints and are out of the drivers direct reach.

Overall we dub the Range Rover the true King of the ‘Road’ with its high seating position, impressive appearance and combination of ultra luxury and off-road performance!

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