Review | Driving Impressions

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Driving Impressions

The Range Rover is probably the most capable, and certainly the most comfortable, off-road vehicle on the market. The high price tag does not simply yield a better interior, but the dollars translate to incredible technologies that make the vehicle outperform the most rugged of machines. Acceleration improved by nearly a second following the 2013 redesign due to weight reduction.

With the 340-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine, the Range Rover can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, according to Land Rover. While underway, we found there's not much sense of the supercharger's presence. Engine response is somewhat inconsistent. More than most vehicles, reactions depend upon road speed and just how hard you push on the gas pedal.

Acceleration from a standstill is energetic and effective, but from 30-40 mph it is not as brisk. Much of the time, especially when stepping only partially on the pedal, you get a prompt, smooth, seemingly effortless burst of power. But next time, you might experience a relatively long delay to downshift (often by a couple of gears) before you feel the V6's supercharger taking hold for a momentary surge. Some of the apparent shortfall is misleading, though, because a quick glance at the speedometer often reveals that speed is rising faster than it feels. Occasionally, you may hear what appears to be the blower sucking air, but only briefly.

Automatic-transmission shifts with the V6 are occasionally curt at very low speeds. Otherwise, it's not easy to discern changes between any of the upper gears of the 8-speed unit. During our test drive, the Start/Stop feature never activated, likely because the outside temperature was well below freezing. A Land Rover spokesperson said dozens of parameters might keep the Start/Stop from shutting off the engine.

Most often when accelerating, the V6 engine emits a normally refined, vigorous note. Occasionally, however, it sounds quite different, as if the supercharger has taken over. When pressing lightly on the throttle at modest speed, too, an odd sound, like a driveline whir, became noticeable.

All told, these performance imperfections amount to a fair exchange for the V6's markedly improved fuel economy, compared to any Range Rover with a V8.

We find the V8 engine more satisfying. Range Rover Supercharged and Autobiography models come with the 5.0-liter V8 fitted with a supercharger to pump out a whopping 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. Range Rovers with the supercharged V8 can burst from 0 to 60 mph from a standstill in a scant 5.1 seconds.

The performance increase over the previous-generation Range Rover is a benefit of significant weight reduction. And by significant, we mean 700 pounds. By automotive standards, this is a monumental feat, achieved primarily by utilizing almost 100-percent aluminum in the body and components. The aluminum in the current body is 39-percent lighter than the old steel body.

These reductions also dramatically improve the handling of the Range Rover. It feels more agile and more composed, with less body roll (especially in models equipped with the Dynamic Response system). The lengthy suspension travel, far longer than any of its competition, does make the car feel like it floats a little. Shorter travel, with a firmer setup, might be preferable for on-road handling, but that would compromise the off-road performance.

Climbing up to highway speeds or beyond is effortless. The ride is silky smooth, bumps feel non-existent, and road noise is effectively zero.

Fuel economy for the 2014 Range Rover is an EPA-estimated 17/23 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined, for the V6 engine. The supercharged models come in at 13/19 mpg City/Highway, 15 mpg Combined.

Ground clearance is 11.6 inches, and approach and departure angles make large boulders seem like driving over a child's play block. Even if it encounters a more prominent boulder, the smooth, sturdy underbody helps protect the important components against damage.

The air suspension significantly enhances off-road performance by introducing an automatic system that varies between two ride heights: Plus 1.6 inches, or Plus 2.95 inches when the off-road setting is selected.

The Range Rover's four-wheel-drive system is one of its best qualities. The heart of the system is a two-speed transfer case that provides permanent 4WD. A low-range option, for heavy off-roading, provides a ratio of 2.93.1, giving a low crawl speed that helps keep speed consistent on heavy descents or challenging surfaces.

Dampers are adaptive, allowing for infinite adjustments to match any given terrain. The Terrain Response system offers five settings: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. An automatic setting uses on-board vehicle sensors to analyze the current road surfaces and conditions, and then automatically select the most suitable terrain program.

Each setting optimizes capability and traction by adapting the responses of the engine, transmission, center differential and chassis systems to match the demands. The system will also make recommendations to the driver, such as when to select low-range. For most of our time in the Range Rover, including over some incredibly difficult off-road terrain, we left the setting in auto (General). It was perfectly intuitive, and for most obstacles did not even cross our mind.

Of course, the usual Land Rover goodies like Hill Descent Control and Gradient Release Control are all there, too. No matter how impossible the off-road terrain appeared from behind the wheel, never did the Range Rover falter when we were high in the mountains of southern Utah. And with a wading depth of 35.4 inches, no river was too much, either.

On the highway, the long-wheelbase versions feel little different from the standard-length models.

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