The Range Rover has long occupied a seemingly unassailable spot near the top of the sumptuous SUV syndicate. Bolstered by decades of tradition that have seen it evolve from country squire to Forbes list accoutrement, coupled with an image carefully cultivated to underscore its potent off-road potential, Land Rover’s flagship has carved out territory that until very recently was willingly ceded by most of the ultra-luxury world’s contenders.
All of that has changed over the past five years or so, with the space immediately above the Range Rover suddenly colonized by Rolls-Royce (the Cullinan) and Ferrari (the Purosangue), and more direct rivals from Bentley (the Bentayga) and Lamborghini (the Urus) muddying up the waters closer to its top transaction price. Even two-track fare such as the BMW X7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class have begun to nip at the Range Rover’s heels as a longer list of manufacturers get serious about the six-figure SUV market.
Fortunately for Land Rover, there are several weapons which the Range Rover can bring to bear in defending itself from a thickening pack of interlopers: its three-row status, a range of wheelbases and trim levels not often seen outside its showrooms, and of course the prestige of having been first on the field. Throw in a truly impressive redesign, and it would seem that the most important member of the Land Rover stable has less to fear from the future than it might seem.
Range Rover’s Signature, Inside and Out
Despite wearing fresh sheet metal, the 2023 Range Rover neatly bridges the past and the present by way of its signature visual personality. There’s no mistaking the enormous long-wheelbase model I drove for anything other than a Land Rover, a true credit to the considerable brand equity it has built up over time. That said, from several angles it’s also clear that it stands apart from its predecessor.
This is especially true when seen from the rear, where the Range Rover now deploys tall, thin lighting that frames the tailgate and narrows its horizontal to the eye, as well as a rising belt line that conspires with a plunging roof to further trick observers into underestimating its size. Overall it’s a masterclass in maintaining one of the strongest design languages in the industry while simultaneously adding a new dialect to its vocabulary.
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The Land Rover’s cabin provides less drama vis-à-vis its visage, but that in no way detracts from its appeal. Even in what could loosely be labeled its “entry-level” SE trim (which retails for a decidedly non-trivial $113,000 in long-wheelbase form), much of the interior’s trappings feel decidedly on point with the Range Rover’s lofty aspirations. There’s a heft to every switch and dial that speaks to the size of both the SUV and its price tag, with the only real letdown being the occasionally balky infotainment system whose controls aren’t exactly intuitive (with submenus obscuring go-to functions), or even responsive (often requiring multiple presses to make a selection). It’s a common refrain among its showroom mates, and the brand’s biggest stumbling block.
The Range Rover treats rear seat occupants nearly as well as those perched up front, with the second row delivering full electronic controls (including heating and ventilation, of course). It’s even easy to clamber back into the third row thanks to the various slidings and foldings that occur at the touch of a button; and with a three-inch stretch versus last year’s long-wheelbase model, third row occupants benefit from just over an inch of additional legroom. Taller folk will have to be willing to hunch, however, as the Land Rover’s drooping deck does cut in on airspace.
I appreciated the truck’s dual-position cargo cover, as it gave me a place to stow it whether the vehicle was loaded with a full complement of riders or whether I had the area aft of the front row folded flat to maximize hauling. With the seats folded, there is just over 92 cubic feet of total storage space to be found inside the Range Rover, a capacious measurement by any yardstick and well ahead of some of the more expensive, sportier fare it finds itself facing off against.
Deep Sea Driving
Riding inside the 2023 Land Rover Range Rover is akin to plunging deep below the ocean’s surface. All around you, life flourishes, but very little evidence of its activity makes its way through the double-hulled carapace of aluminum and leather that surrounds you. Credit to the SUV’s fantastic air suspension system for soaking up turbulent asphalt, and also to the mitigating effects of its active swaybar system that dials out unwanted gyrations through side-to-side corners.
It’s unwise to expect much from the Range Rover when it comes to spirited driving. After all, this vehicle is sized like a cruise ship, not a Zodiac, and the prioritization of seating over sensation cements that fact. That being said, the P530 twin-turbocharged V8 engine option in my tester (which pushed pricing up another $23,000, over the base P400 mild-hybrid turbocharged inline-six) offered a stupendous charge with the pedal mashed by way of its 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. In P530 configuration, the Land Rover is able to keep up with much lighter competitors when drag racing from one charity gala to the next, and that spring-in-step is paired with over 8,000 pounds of towing capacity.
Furthering the Range Rover’s appeal out on the road is a newly standard four-wheel steering system that significantly shrinks both the truck’s U-turn arc as well as the effort required to parallel park. The SUV springs away from the curb like a gymnast contorting their way through a floor routine, an unexpected bit of agility given its power-lifter physique. And of course, for those who dare risk scratches and bumps on the British bruiser’s bodywork, there is a multitude of off-road ready functions at hand, including standard all-wheel drive, two locking differentials, and a long list of electronic aides including a wading function that will see you through to the other side of any inconveniently-placed river.
The new Land Rover Range Rover manages the difficult task of all-around improvement without leaving behind the personality and built-in audience that has made it so successful for so many years. Facing off against a varied field of technologically advanced, prestige-dripping trucks, the Range Rover has doubled down on what (mostly) works, added considerable design flair that simultaneously preserves and revitalizes tradition, and sacrificed none of its considerable ability to coddle regardless of how rough road conditions (or lack thereof) might get.
A discretionary purchase for a significant majority of its buyers, its price tag also remains surprisingly in step with those of its counterparts, wedging in well between the highest heights of Britannia’s conspicuous consumption and the extroverted Italiana of the nouveau riche. For Land Rover, that’s a great place to be — and for the Range Rover’s lucky owners, even more so.
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