The latest evolution of the Range Rover was unveiled at a star-studded event at the Royal Ballet School in London last night. Olympic stars, pop queens, old rockers and Recombu rubbed shoulders, eager to get a glimpse of this 7th generation model in the flesh.
The car made its entrance in dramatic fashion, as atmospheric dubstep pounded, the new Range Rover waded through a huge pool of water, rode over a rocky causeway and came to a stop in front of a clearly impressed audience. Once the water had settled, we headed over for a hands-on inspection of the car, due to arrive later this year for a starting price of £71,295.
Designers always risk public ire when updating something as iconic as the Range Rover, but few in attendance will have left disappointed after seeing the changes to Land Rover's new flagship. The front end seems more fluid than before with a larger grille and stylish new wrap-around headlights that sport a new LED layout. The new wraparound light theme continues at the rear but in profile it's typical Range Rover, albeit with new a set of 'gills' chiselled into the front doors. It's contemporary, classical, menacing and inviting all at the same time – just like a Range Rover should be.
Inside, Land Rover says the new car is more refined. It's certainly seemed quieter, managing to drown out a live performance from Dire Straits front man David Knopfler happening less than 100m away. The rear seemed more comfortable than the previous car thanks to 118mm more rear leg room. Buyers have the option of a two-seat executive class seating package (complete with remote-controlled rear seat entertainment system) for those who want the ultimate in back seat luxury.
The previous Range Rover was a heavy steel-bodied monster of a thing but this car has been placed on a significant diet. Blessed with a completely new, all-aluminium monocoque body structure, magnesium front panels and composite plastic upper tailgate, its body is 39 per cent lighter than its predecessor's. Further weight saving ensures the new car can be up to 420kg lighter than the previous model (with the lightest of its engine options fitted). It even cuts through the air with greater ease. Land Rover says this model is 10 per cent more aerodynamic than before, achieving a drag coefficient of 0.34.
The new Range Rover will use a similar engine line-up to the current car. Expect the 510PS 5-litre supercharged LR-V8 to make an appearance, and expect a 0-60mph time of 5.1 seconds (0.8 seconds faster than the previous model). It'll be joined by a 375PS non-supercharged 5-litre unit that hustles to 60mph in 6.5 seconds – 0.7 quicker than before – and a 339PS 4.4-litre SDV8 'super-diesel' designed specifically for this this new car. The most popular version will most likely be the 258PS 3-litre TDV6 engine (previously seen in the Range Rover Sport). This offers 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, a 130mph top speed and C02 emissions of just 196g/km.
In late 2013, Land Rover will offer a diesel-hybrid power system. With this, it targets 'exceptional' fuel economy, high performance and low CO2 emissions of just 169 g/km.
This latest car promises to make the journey into inhospitable, unwelcoming places even easier thanks to the second-generation Terrain Response system. In the old model, drivers had to turn a knob to tell the car what kind of terrain it was driving on. Terrain Response 2 offers the same manual adjustment but also features a new auto mode that determines what type of surface you're driving on without driver input. The system uses a range of sensors looking at the transmission, transfer case, ABS, traction control and torque delivery to intelligently guess what type of surface, and therefore what levels of traction and performance, it needs to apply.
Those who live in areas prone to extreme precipitation will be pleased to hear the 2013 Range Rover boasts a new air intake system that increases its wading depth by 200mm to 900mm. We'll need to wait and see how well it rides on ordinary tarmac, but with height-adjustable air suspension and a dynamic response system that keeps the car level during cornering and braking, we expect it'll be an excellent daily cruiser.
The host during the launch of this new car was none other than Jon Briggs -- the voice of Siri. This was fitting, as it's this man's dulcet tones that relay navigation instructions on the integrated sat-nav. In high-end cars, Siri's slightly robotic vernacular will be played through a 29-speaker Meridian audio system that promises to be the best in its class.
Also new on this car is an updated blind spot recognition system. It works in the same way as most systems, flashing a warning light in the wing mirror if it detects cars in your blind spot. However it also features a closing vehicle sensing system that detects when fast-moving cars are hurtling towards you at speed. If it detects the possibility an accident occurring within five seconds, the warning lights will flash.
More radar sensors are in place to warn you about potential collisions when reversing out of a blind driveway or parking space and to facilitate the adaptive cruise control system. This feature includes queue assist, which allows the Range Rover to 'lock on' to cars ahead of it in slow-moving traffic. It should prove a godsend in traffic, as it allows the car to follow vehicles up ahead, automatically accelerating and decelerating to a stop without driver intervention.
Land Rover seems to be onto a real winner with the 2013 Range Rover. It appears to have significantly increased the desirability, comfort and technology levels we expect from the luxury SUV brand while also increasing efficiency and driveability -- mainly thanks to impressive weight reduction. If it can maintain its trademark off-road capability and exceptional road manners, and we've little doubt it will, the new 2013 Range Rover has every chance of being the best yet.
Prices start at £71,295 for the Range Rover Vogue 3-litre TDV6, up to £98,395 for the Range Rover Autobiography 5-litre supercharged. Orders are being taken now.