EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Does this 2014 Land Rover Range HSE look like a minivan to you? Doesn't to me either, but this morning I got pulled over and, long story short, the officer thought he'd nabbed a minivan he got speeding on his radar. But I digress…
It's no secret around here I love me some Range Rover. Always have, even when they were -- ahem -- not the planet's most reliable SUVs.
In my opinion to this day the Range Rover is about the only car/truck available that you can bash around in the woods and mud all day then hose it off and drive it to the opera or a black tie dinner that night. I also happen to think Land Rover/Range Rover is one of the great global brand names in cardom. That goes for Jeep, too.
I love the stories I've heard about how Land Rover was working on the first Range Rover prototypes back in the '60s. Engineers developed the chassis and suspension then hung crude body panels on it just so they could drive and test it on the streets. Land Rover brass thought the thing looked good as is, so they just rounded the edges a bit. The first ones went on sale in 1970, complete with hose-out-able interiors. I think that's all cool.
This is my first sampling of the supercharged V6. All I've driven 'til now have been V8s or supercharged V8s. This car is as comfortable and sumptuous as the V8s, so, very. Jumping to the V8 is another $5K, while going to the supercharged V8 another $11K above that. The blown V6 could be smoother, but is reasonably powerful when you need it.
This Range Rover HSE was perfect for a recent morning's snowy commute. Everything's heated -- seats, wheel, etc. Like the V8s I've been in, it looks terrific outside and the interior materials are gorgeous. The big buckets are comfy, the view out commanding. It is whisper quiet going down the road and smoothes Detroit's worst potholes and snow piles and anything else that got in my way to the point where you don't feel them -- other automakers can only dream their SUVs rode this well (well, the Mercedes-Benz GL rides as well, too). Shifts are unnoticeable unless you're watching the tach.
Overall, this is a smooth, quiet driving experience. It's a hell of a truck.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I took the Range Rover HSE home for the weekend and it was so nice, I was nervous about putting anything dirty in the cargo area. I was transporting my oil-and-sawdust-soaked toolboxes to my Pontiac for a tune up, and I almost circled back to get a tarp or something to protect it. I almost felt like you should take your shoes off before getting into it.
I was looking at this Range Rover HSE in our garage, and it happened to be parked next to a Range Rover Sport. They're both big, expensive-looking trucks, but the Sport just looks more exciting. Sure it had black wheels and paint, but even the shape of the cabin had more of a sloping, fastback, younger look.
Don't get me wrong, this car says something. Mostly, “I can afford a Range Rover.” I like the new LED lights, though I wonder if they would get annoying in someone's rearview mirror.
I also took the car to a dance recital into a parking lot jam packed with cars and snow. The Range Rover's multiple cameras came in handy here, as I crab walked it sideways into a parallel parking spot. The front-facing ones and the bird's-eye view would be a boon off road, especially traveling on an unfamiliar path.
I don't like the side mirrors, which move all over the place when you put the car in reverse. If the car is moving, and then the mirrors start moving as you're watching, it can really screw you up. Make it a quick turn downward, or leave the mirror as is.
This is a nice supercharged V6. The six-pot had no problem getting all 4,900 pounds of this car around. And I bet it's a good bit more efficient than the last motor. EPA highway fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg, which isn't terrible. The eight-speed transmission is smooth. My only problem was when I was manually shifting, and forgot to shift back down when slowing. Taking off from 20 mph, not realizing you're in eighth gear is annoying.
The seats are comfortable, but not too hard to get into, and gave a commanding view of the road. I like the idea of a defrost-able front windshield, but those little black wires running through the front glass might get bothersome after a while. Or maybe you would just forget them. I'd like to know what a long-term driver thinks. The sound system is nice and louder with the subwoofer rattled my fillings.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I don't know, Wes. Maybe that cop was on to something. The new Range Rover may not look exactly like a Dodge Grand Caravan, but it's certainly getting rounder and softer. The luxury SUV Land Rover is producing in 2014 is leagues away from the boxy, quirky, purposeful utility vehicles it built decades ago -- the ones you're waxing nostalgic about.
Part of that change is undoubtedly due to regulation; Range Rover made a huge deal about the efficiency-boosting lightweight aluminum unibody beneath the skin of this SUV, and those melty lines are probably as wind tunnel-optimized as they're going to get while still keeping that signature profile somewhat intact.
But marketing and consumer demand have probably done more to drive Rovers off of muddy estate two-tracks and into glitzy mall parking lots. The result is, as Jake notes, an allegedly capable truck that's too nice inside to put anything dirty in.
I've said enough about the lackluster Land Rover/Jaguar infotainment system; it works, barely, but desperately needs an upgrade. Everything else is just fine, and the vehicle as-equipped checks off every box the discriminating luxury buyer could want. Nearly everything you'll touch is heated. With sun finally braking through the winter gloom, I especially liked the panoramic roof. The V6 performed more than adequately -- I do not think the vast majority of buyers will miss the two extra cylinders -- though it hasn't really kicked its thirst for gas.
Still, something seemed off. Other automakers have done a much better job at melding luxury and ruggedness. Take Jeep, which has a hit on its hands with the Grand Cherokee. The venerable Mercedes-Benz G-wagen feels like a particularly nicely upholstered bank vault. Even top trim level domestic pickups combine creature comforts and a commanding feeling of ruggedness.
I could just be spoiled by our long-term Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec, which combines some of that large SUV presence with impeccable (and so far, hard-wearing) build quality for about the same price. And I do get that Range Rovers are, despite their luxury rep, theoretically capable of heading off-road from time to time. This one put up with the snow and ice just fine, but I've said that about nearly every other car I've tested this winter -- except, ironically, a Range Rover Sport shod in summer tires.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
Base Price: $83,545
As-Tested Price: $91,895
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V6; 4WD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,918 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 17/23/19 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 15.5 mpg
Options: HSE package including 12-way power seats, driver memory, perforated oxford leather seats with heated rear seats, black wood trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, auto dimming power fold exterior mirror, fog lights, sliding panoramic roof with blind ($5,000); Meridian premium audio including 825 watt amplifier, 19 speakers ($1,850); towing package including armature with electrics, full-size spare ($900); soft door close ($600)
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