Having now sampled the super-lux SUV for myself and being a longstanding fan of the Range Rover brand and most Land Rover products, I'm happy to report that the rumors are true. My Nara Bronze Range Rover HSE not only looked the part of a utility vehicle for the well-heeled set, it performed up to the high standards of the models past, as well.
That summation is extra impressive, considering that the Range Rover I had was powered by the base, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, too.
- I thought Brandon Turkus was crazy. We published his LR4 review around the time I was driving the Range Rover – both vehicles that make use of this supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Brandon complained that the LR4 – admittedly larger – felt pretty laggy with the V6 as compared with its old 5.0-liter V8. After feeling the sprightly performance of the blown six in the Rangie, I called Turkus, and I called foul. That is until I was gently reminded that the Range Rover's new aluminum architecture made it nearly 750 pounds lighter than the LR4.
- As you might guess, that relatively light curb weight (4,918 pounds) goes a long way to making the 340-horsepower, 332-pound-feet V6 feel punchy. Land Rover estimates a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds, but the pull feels even stronger than that in the mid-range speeds. Throttle response is sharper than you might expect for a big SUV, too, which helps the Range Rover seem quicker than it is against the clock.
- The lowered curb weight and smaller engine have improved the fuel economy estimates for the Range Rover as well. The EPA cites 17 miles per gallon in the city, with ratings of 23 highway and 19 combined to round out the window sticker. I saw close to 18 mpg in a week of mixed driving that tilted toward an urban cycle.
- Even with its adjustable air suspension, cornering hard is not the Range Rover's bread and butter – nor should it be. There's too much vertical motion in the suspension to make you want to push the Range around your favorite driving roads, and I suppose that's exactly why the Range Rover Sport exists.
- At highway speeds, the cabin is filled with the low rush of buffered wind noise, and not a lot else until you crank up the excellent optional Meridian audio system ($1,850). As a long-range driver and commuter tool, the highway manners, smooth ride, glove-like seats and all-around great visibility place this vehicle at the top of its class.
- The ride from the rear quarters isn't too shabby, either. One thing that the $5,000 HSE package includes is the massive sliding panoramic roof, which makes the whole of the interior feel airy and light. With the sky as the ceiling and plenty of legroom, I didn't hear a word but praise from the few friends I threw in the back seats.
- It's truly subjective, but I've never been much of a white-leather-interiors kind of a guy, and even I found this ivory colored hide to be impressively posh. I'm not sure how sensible it would be for the stereotypical family full of muddy wellies and wet Brittany in the boot, but rich people seem to know magic for keeping clean. Anyway, for my money Range Rover is doing some of the best interiors this side of top-trim Mercedes-Benz and Bentley.
- In a vacuum, this latest Range Rover is really spectacular. But even I must admit that, if your intended use case is softer than the hard-core off-roading this SUV was built to do, there are a couple of very strong competitors in the market today. Both the all-new Cadillac Escalade and the Mercedes-Benz GL450 are larger, more powerful and less expensive to start, with a slight downtick in terms of star power versus the Range Rover. If you love the Land Rover brand, the look and the potential ability, that might be enough; if your future SUV is set to be more of a mall cruiser, it might not.