New Car Reviews

Land Rover 101 – The Range of Rover

By Jason Cammisa

The mere mention of the name Land Rover conjures images of a utilitarian, boxy, moss-green off-road vehicle slowly passing kangaroos as they stalk their prey on the mosquito-riddled frozen wetlands of the Kalahari Desert. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll have already made a beeline for your computer to correct us. Relax! We know that scenario is ridiculous – the Defender, the model we were envisioning, hasn’t been sold in the States since Britney Spears was a virgin. Silly us.

But seriously, the truth is that, although the Land Rover brand is synonymous with rugged off-roaders, the only Land Rovers we can buy in America are luxury models. The Rolls-Royce-for-the-brush idea wasn’t a carefully planned recipe dreamed up by a marketing team. Instead, it was the brainchild of a couple of forward-thinking engineers in the 1960s who thought that Land Rovers could be more comfortable on-road. The Range Rover was born, complete with form-follows-function styling that was mostly done by the engineers themselves. Over the years, the Range Rover became more and more luxurious – and, to our eyes, even better-looking. But it never lost its off-road ability or its appeal.

The Land Rover lineup as a whole, however, has not been easy for the uninitiated to follow. The top-of-the-line Range Rover has been a constant, but the rest of the models seem to cycle through names faster than Florida storms in hurricane season. As Land Rover has transitioned through multiple owners in recent years – Rover, BMW, Ford, and now Tata – some of these vehicles have had engines from different makers. (And even the Rover V-8 was Buick-based.) Here are the models that Land Rover currently sells in the United States.

Range Rover Sport Supercharged | Jaguar XFR muscle for the off-road.
By Eric Tingwall
Photos by A. J. Mueller

The optional supercharged V-8 in the face-lifted 2010 Range Rover Sport packs the same 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque as the track-star Jaguar XFR, yet it has all the presence of a mime. Aurally, that is. Ask for full thrust, and it executes a stunning show of power. With a Roots-type supercharger, direct injection, and variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing, the new 5.0-liter engine creates seamless, unending acceleration. However, the thrill of going fast in a straight line is novel only for so long.

We click the Terrain Response dial one notch counterclockwise to select dynamic mode – optimizing the engine, transmission, suspension, and traction behavior – before trying a quick turn. But the Rover’s stability, composure, and eagerness to move fast in a bend are hardly exciting. Rather, the handling falls short of the expectations set by fantastic steer-ing, an impressive transmission, and go-fast power. BMW’s X6 xDrive 50i – the vehicle that tainted all drivers’ standards for SUVs – is two inches wider, five inches shorter in height, 270 pounds lighter, and immeasurably more agile than the supercharged Range Rover Sport.

But don’t expect any apologies from Land Rover. At its core, the Sport is still an off-roader. Body-on-frame construction, a transfer case, and an optional $500 locking rear differential are more entitled to be here than the twenty-inch tires designed for pavement-bound SUVs. The four-corner air suspension is capable of increasing ground clearance more than two inches, to 8.9 inches. Half of the six Terrain Response system settings are specifically for off-road conditions.

The Sport’s cabin is just about as posh as off-roading gets (aside from stepping up to the larger Range Rover, sans Sport). Two flanks of pristine, matte-finished walnut hugged the center console of our test vehicle, and a $1000 package added leather to the upper dash, door panels, and armrests. The stitching and perforations on the seats make for wonderful art, but the driver’s chair stops sliding back a bit too soon for your six-foot, three-inch scribe. Slide into the rear, and it’s easy to see why the front seats stop where they do. The narrow rear-door opening hints at tight headroom and even tighter legroom within.

The rear hatch is heavy to open and stiff to close. At $82,345, we expected the Sport to be equipped with a power liftgate, but Land Rover doesn’t offer one. There’s also no provision for cooled seats, but a refrigerator in the center console is standard on supercharged models and good for keeping four cans chilled. The optional five-camera, $800 surround-view system is useful for parking, although image quality is below par, and the physical controls for the infotainment display can be fussy, particularly when scanning through radio stations.

In a market that increasingly follows the BMW and Porsche examples of how to build an $80,000 SUV, Land Rover doesn’t have a lot of competition in its niche of a niche. Still, that doesn’t mean that the automaker doesn’t have to meet all the expectations those vehicles have instilled. The updated Range Rover Sport is an admirable evolution of performance and prestige, but it falls short on technology and packaging.

On sale: Now
Price: $74,195/$82,345 (base/as tested)
Engine: 5.0L supercharged V-8, 510 hp, 461 lb-ft
Drive: 4-wheel

Land Rover LR4 | A guilty pleasure.
By Jason Cammisa

Thank God for the optional third row of seats. Otherwise, it might seem a little gauche to lust after a 5800-pound luxury SUV with a rorty V-8 and a heated steering wheel. Not to mention five exterior cameras, three sunroofs, air suspension, and fourteen speakers. But who’s counting?

Apparent excess notwithstanding, the mid-size Land Rover LR4 probably makes the most left-brain sense of any offering in the Land Rover lineup. With a starting price of $48,100, it’s significantly less expensive than the similarly sized five-seat Range Rover Sport but offers a great deal more cargo space (90.3 versus 71 cubic feet).

The LR4 is full of strange compromises. Like all Land Rovers, its reputation for off-road prowess is undermined by its rap for unreliability – which just means that it might break down in an exotic locale. Its Terrain Response system is automobiledom’s easiest way to set up a chassis – it adjusts the engine, transmission, differentials, suspension, and numerous electronic aids with one simple knob – and yet the touch-screen infotainment system is so cumbersome that you’ll need to pull out the user manual to find your favorite radio station.

Compromises, though, can be charming, and the LR4 has charm in spades. Well, that and horsepower: the new Jaguar Land Rover direct-injected 5.0-liter V-8 makes 25 percent more power than the previous 4.4-liter engine, with no penalty in EPA tests. Land Rover says the truck will hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. This definitely isn’t a sporty vehicle – the LR4 is so tall that, from inside, you look down on passengers in lowly minivans. Literally and figuratively.

Despite its new name, the LR4 is not a ground-up new model; it’s a heavily updated LR3 with a host of upgrades to the powertrain, suspension, styling, and electronics. The new interior is both well designed and well executed, with loads of storage compartments and an available refrigerator in the center console. While Land Rover made its name fighting the perils of the African desert, it’s the wealthy North American suburban jungle where this particular vehicle will live.

Price: $48,100/$61,715 (base/as tested)
Engine: 5.0L V-8, 375 hp, 375 lb-ft
Drive: 4-wheel

The original full-size luxury off-roader debuted in 1970 but didn’t go on sale in the United States until 1987. The current generation was initially engineered by BMW, and it’s now evolving under Tata.

Model Name: Range Rover, Range Rover County LWB, Range Rover Classic
Length: 175.0-183.0 in
Wheelbase: 100.0-108.0 in
Engines: Rover 3.5L V-8, 132 hp*
Rover 3.9L V-8, 178-190 hp
Rover 4.2L V-8, 200 hp
*Not sold in U.S.

Model Name: Range Rover
Length: 185.6 in
Wheelbase: 108.1 in
Engines: Rover 4.0L V-8, 188-190 hp
Rover 4.6L V-8, 222-240 hp

Model Name: Range Rover
Base Price range: $79,275-$95,125
Length: 194.9-195.8 in
Wheelbase: 113.3-113.4 in
Engines: BMW 4.4L V-8, 282 hp
Jaguar 4.4L V-8, 305 hp
Jaguar 4.2L supercharged V-8, 400 hp
Jaguar Land Rover 5.0L V-8, 375 hp
Jaguar Land Rover 5.0L supercharged V-8, 510 hp

The LR4 is Land Rover’s most off-road-capable vehicle. Even though it’s shorter than the Range Rover, it’s available with seating for seven – and its high roof gives it excellent cargo space and headroom. Land Rover’s other mid-size SUV, the confusingly named Range Rover Sport, is based on the same chassis as the LR4 – it’s not a particularly sporty model, just a smaller Range Rover. Perhaps it should have been called Range Rover Mini instead.

Model Name: Discovery
Length: 178.7 in
Wheelbase: 100.0 in
Engine: Rover 3.9L V-8, 182 hp

Model Name: Discovery Series II
Length: 185.2 in
Wheelbase: 100.0 in
Engines: Rover 4.0L V-8, 188 hp
Rover 4.6L V-8, 217 hp

Model Names: LR3 (U.S.),
Discovery 3 (elsewhere)
Length: 190.9 in
Wheelbase: 113.6 in
Engines: Ford 4.0L V-6, 216 hp
Jaguar 4.4L V-8, 300 hp

Model Names: LR4 (U.S.),
Discovery 4 (elsewhere)
base price: $48,100
Length: 190.1 in
Wheelbase: 113.6 in
Engine: Jaguar Land Rover 5.0L V-8, 375 hp

Model Name: Range Rover Sport
Base Price range: $60,495-$74,195
Length: 188.3-188.5 in
Wheelbase: 108.0 in
Engines: Jaguar 4.4L V-8, 300 hp
Jaguar 4.2L supercharged V-8, 390 hp
Jaguar Land Rover 5.0L V-8, 375 hp
Jaguar Land Rover 5.0L supercharged V-8, 510 hp

Wildly successful in Europe – but not in the United States – Land Rover’s smallest offering is a crossover that uses a unibody and has a transversely mounted engine.

Model Name: Freelander
Length: 174.1-175.0 in
Wheelbase: 101.0 in
Engine: Rover 2.5L V-6, 174 hp

Model Names: LR2 (U.S.),
Freelander 2 (elsewhere)
Base Price: $36,350
Length: 177.1 in
Wheelbase: 104.7 in
Engine: Volvo 3.2L I-6, 230 hp