Range Rover is more than just an SUV; it's an institution. Updates to it are watched closely by the industry because the features that appear on the Land Rover flagship usually preview the future of where luxury sport-utility vehicle is headed. Range Rover leads, and everyone follows.
The 2013 Range Rover is perhaps the biggest update ever to the 40-plus-year-old nameplate. The chassis is an all-new, aluminum monocoque design — a first in an SUV — and reduces the weight compared with the previous model by a staggering 700 lbs.
An aluminum chassis is uncommon in most vehicles because of higher cost and manuacturing complexities. Previously it's only been found in high-end sports cars and a few luxury sedans.
The Range Rover aluminum chassis uses expertise developed for the Jaguar XJ, and the results are a frame that is stiffer, lighter and stronger than a conventional steel one.
The benefits of a lightweight aluminum chassis are huge: improved ride quality; enhanced off-road capability; better fuel economy (EPA fuel efficiency figures have yet to be released); and better handling, braking and acceleration.
The previous Range Rover had stellar ride quality, and now it's even more refined.
Drawing inspiration from the cutting-edge Evoque introduced in 2011, the new Range Rover is a subtle evolution of the distinctive, traditional Range Rover shape.
Gone are blocky, chunky bumpers, replaced by more streamlined pieces. It's all a bit more windswept-looking and more modern. The more you look at it, the more it looks like a truly next-generation luxury SUV.
The original Range Rover's reputation comes from legendary off-road ability, but it's now arguably better known as a luxury vehicle.
The 2013 Range Rover improves upon this with a beautiful new linear design that raises the bar for its class so far no other super lux SUV comes close.
As before, the Range Rover isn't just competing against other luxury SUVs; it's competing against luxury sedans.
Almost every surface you touch in this Cirrus White fitted interior is leather, aluminum or deep black laquer.
Thankfully the long-standing Land Rover adjustable armrest design continues on. With its simple twist control to adjust the height, both driver and passenger can simply flip it up and out of the way when the support is unneeded.
We found the Range Rover to strike a good balance between on-screen, menu-based controls and physical buttons.
The in-car systems are still not quite the technical marvels of its Japanese or German competitors, but it's not nearly as finicky to use every day.
The seating position gives a good view of the road over a slightly-sunken hood for greater visibility.
Steering is beautifully weighted with a more sporting feel than even the outgoing Range Rover Sport.
The increasingly common rotary gear selector rises up from the wide center console like its Jaguar XJ and XF cousins.
Wheel sizes range from 19 inches to (slightly ludicrous, but attractive) 22 inches and every size in between (21-inch wheel shown).
The distintive clamshell tailgate returns and opens and closes at the push of a button. Rear volume is 32 feet with the rear seats up and 71 feet with the seats folded down.
While no third row exists at launch, expect Land Rover to introduce a long wheel variant to compete in the growing luxury three-row crossover space.
Headlights and taillights, which have slight "tails" that extend to the sides of the of the bodywork, are the most controversial aspect of the design and break from the traditionally rectangular form factor. LED running lights are standard (as if that were a question these days).
The Range Rover is powered by the same 5.0 liter V8s (available naturally aspirated and supercharged) from last year, although they've been slightly retuned.
New for 2013 is ZF eight-speed automatic, which ensures the engine is in the proper revs at all times for more efficient travel. This silky smooth auto helps launch off the line quicker while also bringing fuel economy to a "reasonable" spec.
Although the 510-horsepower Supercharged model is a hoot, we recommend the standard 375-horsepower version, which still has plenty of punch without the reliability and reduced economy concerns of the supercharger.
Despite the major changes under the sheetmetal, most casual observers probably won't even notice that the exterior has changed. In this case, it's not a bad thing.
By investing in a new aluminimum chassis, which benefits the ride quality, fuel economy and all areas of performance, the Range Rover is a stunning update and perhaps the most significant SUV released in years.
The 2013 Range Rover goes on sale December 1, and starts at $83,500.