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August 16, 2012

News & Features

Auto review: Range Rover a blend of luxury and ruggedness

The Associated Press

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Standard features of the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover include air suspension, a heated steering wheel, power sunroof, leather and wood interior trim, rear camera and front and rear parking sensors. (Land Rover)

Well-heeled car buyers who haven't had enough of all things British — last year's royal wedding, this year's queen's jubilee and the recent Olympics in London — don't need to be deprived.

The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover, which is the quintessential, large British sport utility vehicle that has chauffeured Queen Elizabeth on occasion, remains a proper and luxurious expression of British transport.

The Range Rover's boxy exterior, amazingly adaptable suspension, tall perch for the seats and British-flavored interior make for a unique road experience. And off-road, the Range Rover's prowess is legendary.

2012 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
  • Base price: $79,425
  • Price as tested: $87,945
  • Type: Front engine, four-wheel-drive, five-passenger, large, luxury sport utility vehicle
  • Engine: 5-liter V-8 with DIVCT
  • Mileage: 12 mpg (city), 18 mpg (highway)
  • Top speed: 130 mph
  • Length: 195.8 inches
  • Wheelbase: 113.3 inches
  • Curb weight: 5,697 pounds
  • Built at: United Kingdom
  • Options: Luxury interior pack (includes 14-way, adjustable power front seats, Oxford leather seat trim, heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels) $4,370; Silver Package (includes blind-spot monitor, around-the-vehicle cameras, automatic high-beam assistance, climate glass, four-zone climate control, Logic7 Harman Kardon 19-speaker audio system) $3,300.
  • Destination charge: $850

While still headquartered in England and with British factories, the corporation now is owned by Tata Group of India, which bought Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. in 2008.

A warning: The 2012 Range Rover, weighing more than 2 tons and with V-8 engines and full-time four-wheel drive, gulps down gasoline. U.S. government fuel economy ratings of 12 miles per gallon in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway for the base Range Rover HSE are among the lowest for a 2012 passenger vehicle.

The five-seat, 2012 Range Rover is the flagship of the Land Rover lineup and comes well-equipped. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $80,275 for a base HSE model with standard four-wheel drive and 385-horsepower, naturally aspirated V-8.

Starting retail price, including destination charge, for a five-seat, 2012 Cadillac Escalade with all-wheel drive and 403-horsepower V-8 is $66,715, while a 2012 Infiniti QX56 with four-wheel drive starts at $64,090 with seats for five and 400-horsepower V-8. The 2012 Porsche Cayenne SUV has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $52,825 with all-wheel drive, five-passenger seating and 300-horsepower V-6.

Clearly, the Range Rover commands a premium price.

Standard features on every model include air suspension, heated steering wheel, power sunroof, real leather and wood interior trim, Xenon headlights with headlamp washers, Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, an electronically adaptable terrain system for off-road or inclement ground conditions, electronically controlled hill-descent control, low-range transfer box for rugged off-road terrain, navigation system, rear camera and front and rear parking sensors.

But these items and others are put together and arranged in a way that makes a driver and passengers feel comfortable and secure both on the pavement and in the wilderness. It is no easy feat to be rugged and ready for the strenuous Rubicon Trail while maintaining a quiet, serene ride that's fitting as a prelude to a candlelight dinner at the country club.

And every now and then, a buyer will notice a few compromises.

The high ride height with minimum ground clearance of 9.1 inches, for example, forces passengers to scramble up to get inside. Range Rovers typically are not equipped with running boards, but the tester sure could have used one to help smaller-stature passengers climb inside. There are no grab handles at the Range Rover windshield edges, either, as there are in some other SUVs. So front-seat passengers must use awkward handles up by the ceiling, or grab hold of the steering wheel to help get inside.

Once on the Range Rover seats — it's tempting to call the two separate seats in front "chairs" because of their fine appearance and carefully stitched leather trim — everyone sits high above the ground and above most other passenger vehicles.

The test Range Rover HSE provided the driver with views way down the road, even above six cars and smaller SUVs that were ahead.

The Range Rover steering wheel is noticeably large and the leather-wrapped circle feels silky smooth to the hands.

It's surprising how compactly the big Range Rover can make U-turns. The turning circle of some 41 feet on a vehicle with sizable, 19- or 20-inch tires is admirable and comes in handy both in the city and off-road.

The base, 5-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 was in the tester, and its 385 horses provided the kind of strong, steady power needed for a pricey and heavy SUV that can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

The test Range Rover moved with traffic easily and merged onto highways with some noisy bluster but without hesitation.

The company says it takes 7.2 seconds to go from standstill to 60 miles an hour. Torque peaks at 380 foot-pounds at a usable 3,500 rpm and compares with 417 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm that Cadillac's Escalade gets from its base, 6.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-8.

The Range Rover HSE only has a six-speed automatic transmission, while Porsche's Cayenne has a sophisticated eight-speed Tiptronic.

With lots of pedal-to-the-metal driving, the test Range Rover HSE averaged 11.9 mpg in travel that was 70 percent in the city, 25 percent highway and 5 percent off-road.

This is lower than the 14-mpg combined city/highway rating from the federal government and translated into a lackluster range of just over 275 miles.

Range Rovers are known for safety, and standard equipment includes seven air bags. One air bag deploys for the driver's knee to help keep the driver properly positioned behind the steering wheel during a frontal crash.

A Thin-Film Transistor liquid crystal display provides the instrument gauges in front of the driver. While clear and easy to see, these gauges looked artificial and a bit eerie in the tester. They disappeared each time the SUV was turned off.

Land Rover continues to rank near the bottom in annual J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study that measures consumer problems with new vehicles.

A final note: A revamped, 2013 Range Rover will be lighter in weight and borrow some design cues from the stylish Land Rover Evoque SUV.

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