It's been said that if you want to see what an ordinary sedan will be like in 10 or 20 years' time, you should look at an S-Class from Mercedes-Benz. The thought is that as a leader in innovation, safety, and comfort, the executive sedan's features will eventually trickle down to more mundane iron like your average family four door. The same hasn't always been true of its closest off-road equivalent, the Land Rover Range Rover, but this all-new 2013 model might just be the SUV archetype of the future with its major leaps forward in weight, efficiency, capability and luxury.
This all-new 2013 model might just be the SUV archetype of the future.
For starters, as has been previously publicized, the 2013 Range Rover has gone on a massive diet. Thanks largely to its all-aluminum chassis, some 700 pounds has been snipped from the Daddy Rover (some trims save as much as 926 pounds!). Perspective? The vehicle's bodyshell is over 60 pounds lighter than a BMW 3 Series. That's about as sizable a diet as we can remember hearing of a production car from one generation to the next, and this ambitious lightweighting regime shows the way that other SUVs and crossovers will almost certainly have to go in order to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions targets the world over. Despite being much lighter, the bonded and riveted chassis and bodyframe are significantly stiffer than the third generation Landie, which wasn't exactly a creaking hollow. Even the chassis assembly process uses a lot less energy, and with no need for welding stations, the factory is said to be oddly quiet, too.
Lighter structures will only get automakers part of the way to their goals; powertrains play a big part in meeting efficiency targets, too. To that end, the Range Rover's engines have gone on diets – not just in displacement, but in weight as well. And for the first time at its London launch today, Land Rover confirmed what we've all suspected for some time – a hybrid variant.
Land Rover confirmed what we've all suspected for some time – a hybrid variant.
The parallel hybrid is actually based on the company's new 3.0-liter diesel V6 powertrain. Like all other 2013 Range Rovers, the diesel-electric relies on a ZF eight-speed automatic, but its transmission integrates an electric motor. Special care has been taken to keep the 1.7-kWh battery pack low in the chassis, but it's protected by a boron steel cradle, so officials say you can high-center the entire vehicle on a rock without fear of gashing its costly lithium-ion cells. Even more impressively, wading depth is also unaffected by the hybrid powertrain. Land Rover claims the system is good for 333 horsepower and 0-60 miles per hour in under seven seconds. More importantly, buyers are advised to expect 45 miles per imperial gallon on the combined European cycle (LR offers no U.S. equivalent guidance).
Sadly, Land Rover says this diesel-electric powertrain isn't coming to the U.S. – at least not for the moment. Instead, we'll get updated versions of the 5.0-liter V8 in both naturally aspirated and supercharged forms. The 32-valve V8 will be routed to the ground through a permanent four-wheel-drive system (a rear differential is optional). For 2013, the standard U.S. Rover V8 produces 375 horsepower and matching pound-feet of torque, good enough for a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. The force-fed V8 rings up 510 hp and 461 lb-ft – enough motive force for a 5.1-second 0-60 dash (0.8 seconds quicker than last year and about 0.2 seconds quicker than a BMW X5 xDrive50i).
The force-fed V8 rings up 510 hp and 461 lb-ft – enough motive force for a 5.1-second 0-60 dash.
That's rapid enough to momentarily forget our disappointment in learning that there's no diesel model yet for the U.S. – a bummer considering rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz are enjoying growing interest in their diesel models. We understand the reluctance to bring over the diesel hybrid to the States (cost and consumer acceptance issues), but we'd like to see the new 3.0-liter V6 diesel on sale (254 hp/442 lb-ft), or even the larger 4.4-liter with 334 hp and 516 lb-ft. When we asked Nick Rogers, Range Rover Vehicle Line Director about such possibilities, he could only wryly say that "there is clearly an opportunity" for an alt-fuel powertrain in North America, suggesting that one may eventually be made available. We wouldn't rule out a 3.0-liter gas V6 or even a gasoline hybrid in this generation, either.
We've just seen the new Range Rover here at its London reveal, and it continues to exude that elusive "Lord and Master of All I Survey" presence that has long been its stock in trade. That said, we're still not sure how we feel about the new design. It definitely looks cutting-edge and more rakish (a faster windscreen angle and a longer wheelbase and lower roofline will do that for a design), but some of the profile detailing strikes us as fussy – namely the trio of 'slats' on the leading edge of the front doors, which echo the vertical fender vents of this vehicle's predecessor without actually being functional. It also doesn't help that the L-shaped taillamps remind us of the Ford Explorer. We'll need to see it on the street (or covered in mud) to properly judge the whole aesthetic.
The outgoing Range Rover had a visually stunning interior with a commanding driving position marred by occasionally befuddling controls and a glitchy navigation system. We'll have to wait until our first drive to see how the new hardware shakes out, but we like what we see – and what we don't see – the 2013's cabin has 50-percent less switchgear, along with new options like the largest panoramic sunroof ever fitted to an SUV and a more sybaritic two-place rear seat with a wood-laden center console. It helps, too, that said rear seat's legroom has been embiggened by over four inches. The new cabin also claims to be much quieter, with less road and wind noise than an Audi A8. Did we mention the availability of a 29-speaker, 1,700-watt Meridian sound system? Twenty Nine.
The 2013's cabin has 50-percent less switchgear.
Land Rover hasn't forgotten about its off-road heritage, and despite having a longer wheelbase that ought to erode capability, a more capable air suspension and a next-generation Terrain Response system (with a new automatic mode) suggests that the Rover should continue to be Camel-Trophy ready. In fact, it ought to be better than ever. The vehicle's wading depth is up 20 percent to over 35 inches thanks to specially conceived "labyrinth" breather vents hidden under the clamshell hood, and the aforementioned suspension system now has even greater range than before with nearly five inches of additional clearance when called for – off-road ride height is now listed at 11.9 inches. And despite offering additional wheel sizes – from 18 to 22 inches – Land Rover has gone against the grain by fitting tires with taller sidewalls, part of an effort to minimize wheel and tire damage when off roading (as well as increase ride comfort).
Most Land Rovers will live out the majority of their days on pavement, of course, and those 700 fewer pounds should help improve handling greatly. Range Rovers have always had a bit more lean in the corners than their more tarmac-oriented rivals, but a new two-channel active lean control system (read: active anti-roll bars) on supercharged models should help flatten corning response. And a new aluminum double-wishbone front and rear multi-link suspension setup backed by adjustable air springs promises to deliver a suppler ride and better wheel control. Direction changes are now affected by electric power steering to help curb fuel consumption, and officials tell Autoblog that the company has worked particularly hard to preserve feedback and on-center feel, though the proof will be in the driving.
On the safety front, the Range Rover gains all of the usual safety anagrams, along with available active cruise control with auto brake and driver warning, blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, self park and a panoply of airbags.
Its dramatic weight loss, diesel-hybrid tech and array of electronics point the way for the genre.
All in, the 2013 Range Rover looks to be loaded to the headliner (available in three different colors, natch) with equipment to help it conquer every conceivable scenario, from the Gobi Desert to Beverly Hills' notoriously fickle valet stands. And while we don't expect every SUV or crossover 20 years hence to boast the Range Rover's fording depth or its semi-aniline leather, its dramatic weight loss, diesel-hybrid tech and array of electronics point the way for the genre.