A strange thing happened multiple times while we were piloting the new Land Rover Range Rover on a beautiful selection of winding two-lane roads that meander through Northern California’s wine country and along its scenic Pacific coast. We’re not sure why, but when we invariably came upon a slower vehicle, they promptly found a turnout and moved out of the way within a couple of corners. This never happens.
It’s not as if we were tailgating or flashing our lights, and our SUV wasn’t painted black and white with a light bar on top. Sure, the new Range Rover is easy to hustle along at a good clip and there was a certain closing rate involved, but in our experience the usual reaction is to patently ignore the desires of those behind and stay put until they’re good and ready— especially if they’re holding up just one vehicle.
Perhaps the new Range Rover looks impressive in a rearview mirror, and they wished to take a gander. That’s certainly the case when it’s parked, because there’s a simple elegance to the flowing shape of the new Range Rover that stands in direct opposition to some of the more gimmicky new vehicles of late. Its proportions and roofline are unmistakably Range Rover, but there’s a precision to the execution that makes it appear to be a design study brought to life. Smooth lines flow along its flanks, barely interrupted by gentle curves and subtle creases.
It’s a design that demands a precision build, so considerable effort has been put into tightening flushness tolerances and slimming panel gaps. Our favorite such detail might just be the way the body sides roll through 90 degrees to meet the side glass with no chamfer, crease, or molding. We also like how the taillights appear to be black accents until they’re illuminated, at which point they reveal themselves for what they are. The overall shape is as pleasing to the air as it is to the eye, with a remarkable (for an SUV) 0.30 coefficient of drag.
Both the standard (SWB) and long-body (LWB) versions have had their wheelbases stretched by some three inches: from 115.0 to 118.0 inches in the case of the former and 122.9 to 125.9 for the latter. The result is a welcome 1.1-inch increase in rear-seat legroom for the SWB (1.2 inches for the LWB) and an extra six cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. Critically, the stretched LWB now allows Land Rover to offer three-row seating for the first time. Proportions remain familiar, though, because tidier overhangs limit the overall length increase to just 2.0 inches, and larger 32-inch tires nicely fill out the subtly enlarged fender openings.
Underneath, the rear suspension has been changed from an “integral link” multilink with a complex lower arm to a true five-link setup. The benefits are twofold and significant. The setup makes rear-wheel steering possible, and this new feature (which is standard) chops some five feet off the turning radius despite the elongated wheelbases. A new long-body Rover can hang a U-turn in just 37.9 feet, a maneuver that required 42.8 feet in the outgoing LWB machine and 40.5 in the old SWB model. A new SWB Range Rover can do the deed in just 35.9 feet, which is only 1.5 feet shy of a two-door Jeep Wrangler.
The new multilink setup also consumes less inboard packaging space where the links attach, a crucial attribute that allows for the fitment of a transverse electric motor in a full battery-electric (BEV) version. The longer wheelbase also comes into play with the size of the all-important underfloor battery, but such specifics won’t be revealed until later. We know a bit more about how this affects the soon-to-be-released plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model, which has a significantly enlarged 31.8-kWh battery that will enable an expected EPA range rating of 48 miles instead of the outgoing one’s near-useless 19 miles.
Until those plug-ins arrive, two gasoline engines are available. The P400 is a supercharged and turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which carries over from last year. As before, it makes 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic. The combination moves out smartly and smoothly, even when motivating the seven-passenger long-wheelbase SE. Land Rover claims the LWB will reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which is quicker than the previous SWB model. What’s more, EPA-estimated fuel economy is up from 20 to 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway) on the strength of a 3-mpg increase in highway fuel economy that owes much to slippery aerodynamics.
The P530 twin-turbo V-8 is a new offering, designed and built by BMW to Land Rover specifications. It cranks out 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque and delivers its smooth rush of thrust through an eight-speed automatic. Land Rover says it’s good for a 4.4-second 60-mph time and 8200 pounds of towing capacity. The P530 delivers a refined growl when you stand on it, then fades appropriately into the background when you achieve cruising speed. Changes made for Range Rover duty include a higher intake tract that enables 35.4 inches of water-fording depth and a reworked sump that won’t oil-starve the engine during extreme forward, back, or sideways off-road driving angles.
Northern California’s meandering two-lanes are always being reshaped by earth movement, and the Range Rover handled them admirably. In Comfort mode, the short-wheelbase model’s air springs tended toward float, but in an intentional, stately Range Rover way that could be firmed up by setting the Bilstein adaptive dampers to Dynamic mode. Either way, body motions are far more controlled than before, particularly in roll, where a new faster-acting active anti-roll-bar system can offer counteracting torque to flatten curves and then go appropriately limp on wavy straightaways to combat head toss. Notably, the long-wheelbase seven-seater tended to be a bit less buoyant, perhaps because of rear-suspension tuning differences needed to accommodate seven occupants.
Inside, the accommodations are as classy as the appearance outside, with straightforward controls and handsome appointments. The Achilles heel was perhaps the infotainment system, but that may be a case of guilt by association because the menu flow looks similar to earlier versions we didn’t much care for. To be fair, the functions and camera views we did access through the touchscreen were carried out directly, but it’ll take additional interactions and a degree of familiarity to get a better sense of its user-friendliness. We did try out the third-row seat, and it’s easy to access with a tip-forward second row that moves in a way that allows you to keep many forward-facing child seats or boosters belted in place. Once inside, headroom is tight if you’re six feet tall, but you’ll find cupholders, USB-C ports, air-conditioning vents, and seat heaters back there. Land Rover did this part right.
For 2023, the SE is the entry level model, though it hardly feels bare bones. A P400 SE five-seat SWB goes for $102,350, with the long-wheelbase three-row with the same engine going for $108,350. Stepping up to a P530 V-8 in either one costs $17,700. And while we don’t know much about how the P440e plug-in hybrid will drive, we do know it’ll be an SE five-seater starting at a comparatively reasonable $106,250. Meanwhile, the V-8 is standard in the three Autobiography models that span the mid- to high-$150,000 range. Above that, the First Edition executive four-seaters slot in, and if you want the ultimate chauffeured-limousine experience, you’re staring down the barrel of a base price of $212,550 for a long-wheelbase four-place SV.
But that vehicle isn’t the one that impresses us most. The brilliance and style of the new Range Rover is apparent even at the SE level with the base P400 powertrain. That’s what really moves the Range Rover up the consideration list, along with the new three-row configuration and useful chassis changes that not only make it more livable every day, they also set the stage for relevant plug-in models in the very near future. Get out of the way, Range Rover is coming on through.