2011 Land Rover Range
Few brands in the modern carscape enjoy the dichotomous image that Land Rover’s Range Rover so expertly exudes. At its core a go anywhere, climb anything, traverse all conceivable topographies utility vehicle, somehow the Range Rover manages to look as at home dropping celebrities onto red carpets as it does traversing the Kalahari with weeks worth of consumables strapped to the roof. How they have managed to pull off such a feat largely remains a mystery that has driven marketing professors mad for years and kept the competition guessing for equally long, but it does ensure one thing – each successive Range Rover design is more impressive than the last, both in staggering off-road confidence and opulent luxury. So why should the 2011 Range Rover HSE be any different?
Last year’s redesign resulted in a few subtle exterior changes, but the big modifications could be found under its skin. A new 5.0-liter direct injection V-8 engine now provides performance virtually indistinguishable from that of the old supercharged unit, while the suspension measures road response 500 times per second and has the ability to adjust up to 100 times per second. Interior refinements include a simplified dash layout and a 12-inch TFT all-digital dash. Plus, you can still drive it up (and down) just about anything. Of course, if that’s not enough, there’s always the 510 hp supercharged model.
What's to Like
Styling is eye-catching, and the interior is plush. The 12-inch screen is the largest in the industry and can provide drivers with useful off-road information such as differential lockup and vertical wheel travel. The increased low-end torque of the new engine fits the chassis and its off-road demeanor well. There are only ten options offered for the vehicle, which really simplifies the buying process.
What's Not to Like
This is a Range Rover, and the price tag reflects its name as much as it does the luxury. The navigation system is woefully hard to use, and its functionality is subpar. It’s difficult not to laugh at fuel economy consumption numbers that never escape the high teens, in this case 12 mpg city, 18 mpg highway. Blame the bulbous 5,697 lb curb weight. Cargo capacity is also down on some of its larger competitors.
The Drive: Driving Impressions
Luxurious and massive, the Range Rover is like a limousine jacked up on stilts. The steering is quite light and feels slightly disconnected – perhaps hinting at its disposition for off-road antics – but it’s accurate, making the massive Range Rover easily placeable on roads. Adjustable air ride suspension floats over imperfections in the road with ease, and with 9.1 inches of ground clearance you ride very high in the cabin indeed. There’s a moderate amount of pitch and roll when stopping and starting, but it handles corners well. Sweeping turns are somewhat difficult for it to manage, and you’ll find yourself correcting often. The gearbox also feels sluggish, and moments when you really need a quick downshift are lost to a lag in shifting.
But what would a Range Rover be without the ability to pull off the road at leisure and annihilate whatever terrain it comes across? With the air suspension in its highest setting for off-road driving, 11.1 inches of ground clearance helps keep undertray damage to a minimum, and even on factory tires and it’s surprisingly capable. The 5.0-liter V-8’s low-end torque and linear throttle response make slow climbing easy, yet out on the road, 0-60 comes up in just 7.2 seconds, which is basically performance hatchback territory.
Engine and Drivetrain
A 5.0-liter V-8 powers the Range Rover through all kinds of terrain, and generates 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. It’s a heavy SUV though, and a few more horsepower wouldn’t hurt, despite the 25 percent bump in power over the previous 4.4-liter.
The six-speed automatic transmission features three modes: Normal, Sport and CommandShift (manual), and the sport mode does a great job of keeping the engine in its powerband, but is never overly aggressive with its shifts. You can opt for such off-road goodies as Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control and Land Rover’s famous Terrain Response system – which lets drivers tailor the chassis to various off-road conditions.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
For 2011, Land Rover added the option of a new 1200-watt, 19-speaker harmon/kardon audio system – a great choice, that is, if you feel it’s necessary to update the already impressive 14-speaker, 740-watt harmon/kardon system that’s included. Of course, that’s in addition to the standard heated windshield, rain sensing wipers, rearview camera and multiple off-road functions.
Key Technology Evaluation
It’s hit or miss when it comes to the technology in the Range Rover. The navigation system is a letdown; with its limited functions it’s one of the poorest we’ve seen. However, Land Rover’s new Surround Camera System is useful both off-road in the wilderness and in the concrete jungles of suburbia. By using five external cameras – one under each mirror, two in the front bumper and one in the rear – the system can help drivers parallel park, steer clear of bumpers and poles in parking lots and avoid obstacles off-road.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Obviously not a Range Rover strong suit, the close to three-ton Range Rover HSE returns just 12 mpg city, 18 mpg highway. It’s actually more economical than the previous generation’s powerplant by 7-10 percent and is emissions rated at ULEV-II. Unfortunately, the more economical diesel models are not currently offered in North America.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Last year’s redesign reduced the number of buttons on the dash, resulting in a clutter-free look. The nav screen simplifies the overall layout, though the interior styling still features a strong horizontal emphasis and a rugged slant. Drivers will enjoy using the industry’s largest TFT screen, which replaces the traditional gauges with a 12-inch digital screen that changes display information based on the selected driving mode.
Range Rover’s new LED-lit front end is sleek and modern, giving the car plenty of presence out on the road. The overall shape remains essentially untouched – a response to customer demand – though die-hard fans will notice small touches like a new grille and front bumper design. 19-inch rims come standard.
Market Segment and Pricing
No one does it quite like Land Rover, especially when it comes to combining luxury with off-road prowess. And because of that expect pricing to start at $79,685 for the HSE. Other luxury SUVs worth comparing are the Lexus LX 570
($78,555), Mercedes-Benz ML550
($57,590), Infiniti FX50 AWD
($56,950) and even the Porsche Cayenne S
What We Think
Equally at home clambering up a mountain pass or parked up outside a high-end hotel, the Range Rover HSE represents a brilliant combination of utilitarian pragmatism and opulent luxury. The combination of modern technology with tireless capability represents Land Rover doing what it does best, and while few would use this car to its fullest, we simply wouldn’t have a Range Rover any other way.