The all-new Range Rover is many things - luxurious, ridiculously capable, prestigious and a lifestyle object - but it's also a testament to how quickly the global auto industry can change these days.
The last time an all-new Range Rover debuted a decade ago, it was completely German-engineered. Land Rover was owned by BMW in the late '90s, before Ford acquired the automaker in 2000. Yet this time around, the Range Rover was completely designed and engineered in England and is being built at a new plant in Solihull, the brand's longtime home, using state-of-the-art aluminum construction methods pioneered by Jaguar for the last-generation XJ sedan. Of course, both Jaguar and Land Rover are now owned by India's Tata Group, which was eager to buy them partly due to Jag's expertise in building lightweight aluminum cars.
You'll hear a lot about the Range Rover's bonded-and-riveted aluminum skeleton and aluminum body panels, and not just because it's the world's first all-aluminum SUV. The body structure is at once lighter (39% or 408 lb, to be precise) and stronger than an equivalent steel structure. This helps the new vehicle drop a whopping 700 lb over the previous generation Range Rover V8. It inevitably makes the 2013 model feel notably more nimble to drive.
An all-new suspension system also makes copious use of aluminum. With control arms at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, it provides 10.2" and 12.2" of wheel articulation respectively for tough off-roading. As before, the suspension also features air springs at all four wheels to keep the Range Rover on an even keel both on- and off-road.
Ah yes, off-roading. We did plenty of it during the Moroccan launch. As you might imagine, the vehicles barely flinched at the terrain, whether we were driving over sand dunes on the Atlantic coast or crawling across rocks in the Atlas Mountains above Marrakech.
We flinched, though, at the poverty witnessed through the windshield. Our demanding route took us off the beaten path to see areas not frequently traveled by visitors. With tourism being one of the backbones of Morocco's economy, our presence was at least bringing some income to the area.
It was the wet season in Morocco. The country was blanketed in red mud and standing water. We drove through it all, dry and comfortable, with the Land Rover Terrain Response system's new automatic setting deciding which of the five modes was most appropriate: General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; or Rock Crawl. Of course, you can still manually select your preferred mode if you want to feel more involved.
The Range Rover engineers were also proud of the 7.8" increase in wading depth, creating a total of 35.4". This incredible feat was made possible by moving the air intake to the edge of the clamshell hood. This makes for dramatic photos because it's impossible not to be amazed by the sight of a luxury vehicle slogging through a yard of water, but it's also impossible to imagine many owners subjecting their $100K Range Rovers to such usage, but it's nice to know you can...
Most North American buyers will probably be more interested in the luxurious cabin, especially the rear seats that offer 4.7" of additional legroom.
An optional rear-seating package creates an even more spectacular environment with two sumptuous, power-adjustable captain's chairs flanking a beautifully crafted, wood-paneled center console.
There are two grades of leather available in a rich array of colors, and two versions of an upmarket Meridian sound system. Life is definitely very good inside the Range Rover.
It's even better when behind the wheel. Both the naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter V8 and its supercharged variant carry over but with a paddle-shifted ZF eight-speed automatic. Land Rover quotes 0- 60mph of 6.5 and 5.1sec, respectively, representing improvements of more than 0.5sec over the 2012 models.
On-road, the Range Rover is energetic in base trim and downright sprightly with the supercharger. It's also surprisingly agile on a mountain road, with precise steering, well-contained body roll and perfect brake modulation. Off-road, head toss is virtually absent thanks to the control systems.
The fourth-generation Range Rover is a fitting pinnacle of the Land Rover lineup and is priced accordingly: $83500 to start for the 5.0 V8 model; $99950 for the Supercharged model; and $130950 for the sybaritic Autobiography series.
2013 Range Rover 5.0L V8
Engine 4999.7cc V8 32v DOHC, dual independent variable valve timing
Transmission eight-speed ZF 8HP70 automatic, permanent 4WD via center and optional rear diffs
Brakes 14.96" rotors, six-piston Brembo calipers f, 14.37" rotors r
Suspension SLA with twin lower links f, multi-link r, air springs, adaptive damping, passive anti-roll bars
Wheels & tires 19x7.5" wheels, 235/65 R19 tires
Exterior aluminium structure and body panels
Torque 375 lb-ft at 3500rpm
Top speed 130mph
Weight 4850 lb (minimum)
Wading depth 35.4"
Economy 14/20/16mpg (city/highway/combined)