We’ve driven this generation of Range Rover in a Moroccan gale, over the Spanish steppes, and in miserable Atlanta traffic. Its composure has never lagged: always calm, cool, and collected.
For 2018, the sixth year for this design, Range Rover finally gives in and goes along. Two big touchscreens with flashy technology replace most of the hard buttons, switches and knobs.
Other 2018 changes include revised LED headlamps, more adjustment for front seats with optional massage function, and redesigned rear seats with exceptional comfort for outboard passengers, with long-wheelbase versions adding 7.3 inches of legroom, making the Range Rover feel like an SUV limo.
The Range Rover rides like a tall sedan, while being renowned for its offroad capability, with up to 12 inches of ground clearance and Land Rover’s effortless Terrain Response system, using four modes with sensors dictating traction. Meanwhile it can tow 7700 pounds of horses or boats, even racecars.
The entry-level Range Rover has a short wheelbase. The lineup moves steeply to opulence, with HSE, Supercharged, Autobiography, and SV Autobiography Dynamic models.
Every Range Rover is all-wheel drive, and uses a sharp paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission built by ZF. Several engines are available. An all-aluminum supercharged V6 comes standard, making 380 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. It’s EPA rating is 17 mpg City, 23 Highway, or 19 Combined.
Then there’s a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel, making 254 horsepower and a bulging 440 foot-pounds of torque. It’s the best choice for towing. It gets an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon Combined, with a range of more than 600 miles, and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 7.4 seconds.
A supercharged 5.0-liter V8 making 510 or 557 horsepower comes on Range Rover Supercharged models. Both the 510-hp version and 557-hp get 14/19/16 mpg.
As with many luxury vehicles, federal and insurance industry crash-testing hasn’t been done on the expensive Range Rover. However the unique aircraft-like structure, bonded and riveted aluminum, is exceptionally stiff, and the safety equipment both standard and optional is bountiful. Every 2018 Range Rover comes with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, parking sensors, and a rearview camera. Adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitors are fitted to HSE and higher trim levels.
The Range Rover V6 Supercharged short wheelbase ($87,350) is the entry model, available with the Td6 turbodiesel ($89,350). Standard equipment includes two 10.0-inch touchscreens for infotainment and vehicle controls, leather seats, and a 380-watt Meridian audio system. Also a two-hour off-road lesson from a Land Rover driving school instructors, and every instructor we’ve encountered has been great. Take that lesson, you’ll be very glad you did and it’s a waste of money if you don’t.
Range Rover HSE trim ($6700) upgrades with bigger wheels, softer leather, heated rear seats, panoramic moonroof, surround-view camera. 2018 packages include rear entertainment, head-up display, and active lane control.
The Range Rover Supercharged V8 ($104,850) is available with the short or long wheelbase ($4000 more). The Autobiography model has a heap of features ($141,995) and is available with the long wheelbase ($148,295). Also available are the SV Autobiography Dynamic ($177,200), with the long wheelbase ($207,900).
The short wheelbase Range Rover looks (and is) more balanced than the long wheelbase. Its profile lends itself smoothly to the box that it is, and looks more classic Range Rover, a box with curves and wraparound headlamps. It’s clean. You’d never mistake it for a Cadillac Escalade.
The long wheelbase brings more aero to the front, with a windshield very slightly swept back, behind new thin LED headlamps. Thanks to slim black pillars, the roof appears to float. The tail is ever so slightly swept up, with a split tailgate.
The cabin is beautiful. Leather and glossy wood on the lower models, softer leather on HSE trim, and semi-aniline leather everywhere on Autobiography. The front seats are tall and the glass low, so you feel like the king of the road, sitting above them all in luxury and isolation. The air suspension can be set at a step-in height.
The new 10-inch touchscreens handle everything; the only buttons that remain are for windows and hazard lights. Fortunately, there are steering-wheel thumb controls for some functions, namely audio. It takes a while to learn the touchscreen system, which responds quickly to taps and swipes. The top screen handles infotainment including audio, Bluetooth for phones, and navigation (convenient pinch and scroll); while the bottom screen is configurable for climate and vehicle functions such as driving modes. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Google maps are not available, however.
The front seats are hugely adjustable, with available massage. The rear seats are reshaped for 2018, with standard power backrest adjustment and optional heating, cooling, and massage. In the standard wheelbase Range Rover, the legroom is relatively tight; the long wheelbase adds relief, with 7.3 more inches.
An Executive Seating package for Autobiography models gives rear seats that recline 40 degrees, eight-way adjustable headrests, and a smartphone app that enables passengers to adjust their seats and rear climate control. However, that package cuts about 25 percent out of the cargo space.
There is no third row. The cargo area is thickly carpeted, but not so big with the standard wheelbase. There’s 31.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat (24.5 cubic feet with Executive Seating). With the long wheelbase, behind the front seats, with the rear folded, there is 75.6 cubic feet.
The standard supercharged 3.0-liter V6 will push the Range Rover to sixty miles per hour in 7.1 seconds, with a slight supercharger whine and lots of low-end thrust with 332 foot-pounds of torque. The aluminum chassis and suspension parts, as well as sandwiched composite body panels, brings the weight down to 4700 pounds. The riveted and bonded construction brings aircraft-like rigidity and strength.
The turbodiesel V6 is only 0.3 seconds slower from 0-60, and gets five more miles per gallon. In the diesel, you can drive from New York to Los Angeles and only stop for fuel three times. It begins pulling like a train at 1750 rpm and tops out at 3500 rpm, the engine so under-stressed it could take naps. An awesome 443 foot-pounds of torque. It makes a bit of diesel noise when you hammer it, but it’s soundly insulated and otherwise totally quiet inside.
The third engine option is the supercharged 5.0-liter V8. If you want to take on your friend’s Cadillac XR with its supercharged 6.2-liter Chevy V8, this is your steed. It makes 510 beefy horsepower and hits 60 in just 5.1 seconds. It comes standard with Dynamic Response, with active anti-roll bars to control lean and firm up the cornering. And it still gets 16 miles per gallon Combined, just three less than the V6.
The SV Autobiography brings 550 horsepower, with sport-tuned chassis that makes the most of the Range Rover’s air suspension.
The Range Rover was designed to handle like a Bentley Flying Spur or Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It almost corners with the confidence of a sports car The steering is precise and quick, more direct and accurate than most luxury sedans. Advanced suspension with adaptive dampers and air springs, front control arms and rear multi links, variable-ratio electric power steering, help it feel smooth and languid, even without the tautness of Dynamic Response. Remarkably, the LWB model with seven inches more wheelbase, feels as responsive to us as the regular wheelbase.
The four-wheel drive is full time, with a 50/50 split. It’s the highest technology among all luxury SUVs, using the Terrain Response system. Low range will go to a fast 37 mph, enabling the Rover to climb monstrous grades. There’s more than 10 inches of wheel travel in front, and more than 12 inches in rear. With a ground clearance rising by 2 inches to 12.2 inches, it can drive through 35 inches of water. We see lots of Range Rovers in Australia, where floodways often flow 35 inches of water across the outback highways.
Terrain Response uses sensors to set the traction control, stability control, steering, suspension, and locking differential. The modes are General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl (with Heavy Duty package). You can leave it in General and forget it. The anti-roll bars can be disabled during offroad maneuvers like crossing over boulders, or other times when the demand for wheel articulation is extreme.
If you want your garage to be the home of the best British SUV made, buy the Range Rover with the V6 turbodiesel engine. We miss the classic instrument panel.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Words by Sam Moses.