2023 Land Rover Range Rover First Drive Review: Resets the Luxury SUV Standard
The Range Rover is to SUVs as the Porsche 911 is to sports cars—the new one looks familiar, but it still raises the bar big time.
For the last four generations, the deft Range Rover has always delivered off-road capability that could conquer the Kalahari while also treating occupants to first-class accommodations and a pillowy ride that rivaled the world’s finest machines. After all, Range Rover was doing luxury 4X4s before any others (except perhaps for the Jeep Grand Wagoneer) and really created the market for prestige SUVs. Range Rovers have the unique ability to make everyone on board feel very special, very comfortable and very secure. But since the last new one hit the tarmac nearly a decade ago, a fresh crop of luxury SUVs have arrived—with plenty more to come. With that backdrop, one wonders: Does the all-new, fifth-generation, 2023 Land Rover Range Rover deliver enough to lead the pack once more?
In short, yes. Thanks to an even more posh and comfortable interior, an impressive choice of drivetrains, and fresh new tech, the Range Rover should have plenty of firepower to fend off those threats. Oh, and the Rover still maintains its off-road dirt cred too. I spent two days with the new Range Rover on the great roads around Sonoma, California, both paved and otherwise, to learn more. Here’s what I found.
2023 Land Rover Range Rover Specs
- Base price (as tested): $105,850 ($128,500)
Powertrain and performance:
- 3.0-liter twincharged I6 | 395 hp @ 5,500 rpm | 406 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 rpm
- 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 plug-in hybrid | 434 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm | 406 lb-ft @ 1,500-5,000 rpm
- 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 | 523 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm | 553 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,600 rpm
- Transmission and drivetrain: 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Wheelbase: 118 inches SWB | 126 inches LWB
- Seating capacity: 4, 5 or 7
- Cargo volume: 37 to 96 cubic feet
- Max towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
- Max SWB off-road angles: 34° approach | 29° departure | 25.2° breakover
- Max ground clearance: 11 inches
- Unladen weight: 5,520 to 5,789 pounds
- Fuel economy: TBA
- Quick take: A refined and stately luxury SUV that provides even higher levels of luxury and pampering with legitimate off-road capability.
- Score: 8/10
It would be easy to dismiss the new Range Rover’s design as a near copy of the previous fourth-generation vehicle. But that would be shortsighted. I’d argue that, like the Porsche 911, the Range Rover’s shape has achieved classic status. It’s clearly one of the most recognizable silhouettes on the road. So why not keep refining that look? The more time you spend looking at the new one in the wild, the more interesting it becomes. There’s not one shared panel with the old vehicle.
Walk up close to just about any body panel and it looks like it’s been assembled with great care. The panel gaps are tight and precise. The way the glass seems to blend into the metal is impressive and it all looks very expensive. This sleek design has an impressive drag coefficient (Cd) of .30 on PHEV models. That’s not quite as good as the Tesla Model X’s Cd of .25—but excellent for a traditional SUV and better than a Bentley Bentayga, BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS. Six-cylinder and V8 models are slightly less slippery at .32 and .33, respectively.
New Mechanical Makeup
The new Rangie rides upon an all-new vehicle architecture, one that Range Rover Vehicle Program Chief Nick Miller said will eventually underpin remakes of the rest of the company’s large SUVs. He said they were tempted to use a version of the outgoing Range Rover’s architecture for the fifth-generation Range Rover but two things drove the change—refinement and electrification.
“The previous generation plug-in hybrid needed the batteries in the boot (trunk), whereas this new one has them all under the floor. So there’s no compromise,” Miller said. “The weight is now concentrated lower in the chassis. There are loads of reasons why that’s a better solution.” And Miller said that on the upcoming 2024 fully electric Range Rover, all those batteries will be under the floor as well.
The all-new Mixed-Metal Modular Longitudinal (MLA-Flex) bones are stout ones. The company says the body structure is 50 percent stiffer than the outgoing Range Rover while also delivering a 24 percent drop in noise transmission.
The Rover uses a four-wheel independent multilink suspension with electronic air suspension and twin-valve dampers. Plus, there’s a new five-link design for the rear suspension that allows the company to deliver rear-wheel steering. The system, which comes on every model, can deliver a maximum rear steer angle of seven degrees so you’ll be able to slide right into the tightest Whole Foods parking spot or pirouette around that extra-large rock blocking the trail up to your woodsy cabin. In fact, the Range Rover turns a tighter circle than any other Land Rover. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in phase with the front ones, for added stability. That new rear suspension design also allows the company room to fit an electronic drive unit (an electric motor) for the upcoming pure-EV model. The previous suspension design did not.
Land Rover’s latest roll control technology, called Dynamic Response Pro, uses a 48-volt electrical system and supercapacitors to actuate the anti-roll bars electronically. And because it’s tied to the car’s navigation system, the Range Rover can prepare the dampers and roll bars if it sees a corner ahead. Land Rover says the roll control system can deliver just over 660 or a maximum of 1,032 pound-feet of torque in as little as 200 milliseconds at a time. Every Range Rover available in the United States at the moment has this system. But going forward, it will be optional on the base SE.
Range Rover's Cabin Gets Even Nicer
The Range Rover’s interior is cleaner and simpler than any that has come before it. But it’s certainly no less plush or comfortable. The materials used here are class-leading. The things that look like metal really are metal. And the leather feels and smells better than any car I’ve been in recent memory. Land Rover has pushed beyond where many current luxury SUVs are in terms of these fitments. And that’s especially true with the SV, where deputy editor Kristen Lee experienced the gorgeous mosaic wood firsthand.
The new digital gauge cluster looks and performs really well. And I love how small and tight the binnacle is. The infotainment starts with the new 13.1-inch touchscreen with haptic feedback. The screen is gently curved to better fit the dash and the look is impressive. It’s backed by the company’s latest Pivo Pro system with an advanced new electrical architecture called EVA 2.0. This allows for over-the-air updates, a Wi-Fi hotspot for eight devices, 4G data downloads, streaming, Amazon Alexa and of course, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Notice the dual shark fins on the roof? They allow the new Range Rover to simultaneously deliver OTA updates while also streaming content without interruption. Smart.
Overall, I found the performance of this system to be quite good. I did experience one hiccup while switching from navigation to the ride height screen and back. The system froze momentarily and then worked properly for the rest of my time with it. The new haptic touchscreen feature is helpful for confirming requests. But to that point, I wouldn’t have minded a few more hard buttons and knobs instead of having to dig into the touchscreen for so many functions.
The optional 24-way massaging front seats were supremely comfortable and offered an excellent view of the road (or trail) ahead. But the real treat was in the backseat, where, in the four-seat configuration, you can really appreciate the Range Rover as a luxury machine. The headliner is a soft leather with impossibly small and precise stitching. Touch the door handles and they feel like solid ingots of heavy metal—probably because that’s exactly what they are.
The SV long wheelbase rear seat experience is even more decadent. The optional four-seat Signature Suite option is quite possibly the pinnacle of pampering. The reclining seats are pillow soft and really hug you. Of the five massage types on the screen, I picked “hot stone” and my back has never felt better. Press a button on the touchscreen and a swiveling club table rises from the console. It’s beautifully made and furniture-grade. Press another button and cupholders are revealed. Press yet another and a wooden door lowers to showcase the refrigerator. This is the closest you can get to a 4WD limousine.
Large families will really appreciate the optional third row of seats in the longer wheelbase model. To gain access, simply press a button and the middle seat slides forward and tilts up. The big doors make the process easy. And this is no economy-class seat, either. My near-six-foot frame found plenty of knee clearance and my head gently grazed the back part of the headliner. Unlike some luxury three-row SUVs (Lexus LX 600, we’re looking at you), my legs were in a more natural, comfortable position. And there’s a good amount of luggage space behind that last row.
Engines and Electrification
Land Rover has both simplified and partially outsourced the engine lineup for the new Range Rover. The P400 SE comes standard with Land Rover’s turbocharged and supercharged 3.0-liter inline-six, mated to a mild-hybrid system to generate 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque with an eight-speed automatic. The top motor is no longer Rover’s own burley supercharged 5.0-liter V8 but a BMW 4.4-liter V8 (P530) that’s been twin-turbocharged to deliver 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. It also comes paired to the eight-speed and comes standard on the Autobiography, First Edition and SV trims.
The P440e plug-in hybrid model ditches the four-cylinder engine of the last generation for the P400’s much more suitable inline-six, paired with a 38.2-kWh battery pack for 48 miles of pure electric range. That’s quite a bit more range than both the old Range Rover plug-in as well as the newly introduced Bentley Bentayga Hybrid. Oh, and there’s 434 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque here, which is good for a saunter to 60 mph in about six seconds.
On the Road With the 2023 Range Rover
I grabbed the keys to a short wheelbase First Edition finished in Sunset Gold Satin, a $7,450 paint option that nudges the sticker just north of $175,000. At that price, naturally, it’s the twin-turbo V8 that sits between the front tires. The thrust from this powertrain was serious. Prod the throttle and the torque never let up. It was so smooth and nearly silent. Even during full-throttle launches, the most you hear is a distant, satisfying growl. Land Rover said this model can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. And no matter the terrain, that eight-speed automatic always seemed to be in the right gear.
The V8 is so strong you can pass a string of vehicles clogging your lane without a second guess—even uphill. A BMW X7 M50i uses this same motor, is slightly quicker, and is quite a bit less expensive. But, of course, doesn’t have the Rover’s capabilities or, arguably, its cachet. However, for the First Edition’s price point, you could have a Mercedes-AMG G 63, which delivers more power and speed with an added dose of aural violence.
On the freeway, the ride was generally pillow-soft. This was one of the quietest SUVs (perhaps the quietest) I’ve had the pleasure of driving. That, combined with the comfy seats, would make for an excellent long-distance road trip machine. However, there were some noticeable “thwacks” from the 23-inch wheels and low-profile tires as they hit certain expansion joints. I’d gladly trade some of that big wheel style for added sidewall.
On some country roads, there was a slightly floaty feeling to the suspension. The Rover pitched gently fore and aft, as well as side to side. It was subtle, but my preference would be for a more stable ride. My hunch for all the floatiness is that it has something to do with the way the air suspension behaves when those electronic swaybars decide to loosen up or de-couple on a straight, flat road. Bend it into a sharp corner, and the Range Rover might require a small secondary nudge of the steering wheel before taking a set. You can feel the weight of the machine here. The Rover is heavy and proud of it.
Still, the steering was nicely weighted and the grip limits were certainly reasonable for a vehicle like this. But none of that made the Range Rover feel sporty or encouraged quick transitions, even in Dynamic mode. Dial back the speed and get into some less challenging corners and the Rover is happy to waft along smoothly as the best luxury machines do.
Later, I swapped into a Charente Grey P400 (six-cylinder) long-wheelbase, three-row model in the less extravagant (but still expensive) SE trim that came in around $130,000 thanks to a heavy option load. The extra length of the LWB model made the ride a little smoother and also seemed to settle the side-to-side body motions I felt in the SWB model. Plus, the extra eight inches of wheelbase didn’t seem to negatively impact the handling. On the contrary, the longer one seemed to feel very planted and secure. That wasn’t entirely surprising, considering this longer one only weighs 70 pounds more.
The 3.0-liter six-cylinder is down a whopping 128 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque from the V8. But the gap seemed much smaller to me. This Rover was still plenty quick, with a nice wall of torque pushing the nearly three-ton SUV along. It’s just as hushed as the V8, too. Unfortunately, there were no plug-in hybrid models on hand to try.
In the Dirt
When it comes to the 4WD system, the new Range Rover doesn’t really stray too far from the last one. Every Range Rover comes with a two-speed transfer case with a 2.93:1 low range like before. Land Rover said every model available right now will have the electronic locking active differential, too, although it will become optional on lower models. It’s the same unit that’s found in the Defender and Discovery. All the vehicles I drove also had configurable Terrain Response drive modes (seven to choose from) in addition to another one that allows you to personalize preferences.
Land Rover chose off-road trails with stunning vistas and beautiful rolling green hills, but little in the way of anything to challenge the Range Rover. A Subaru Outback could have done it all without breaking a sweat. Still, there is a certain poise and confidence that Range Rovers deliver. Like before, there are two off-road suspension heights. The taller of the two raises ground clearance to 11 inches and allows a solid 34-degree approach angle and 29-degree departure.
However, the suspension’s full rebound and jounce travel—a healthy 10.23 inches up front and 10.8-inches in the rear—is only available in the suspension’s normal setting. The highest off-road setting puts the suspension on its tiptoes with less down travel available. The result is a rough ride and banging sound as the suspension hits the bottom of its cycle. Once you reach 25 mph, the suspension lowers. Land Rover’s Miller said the suspension has two even taller modes that deploy automatically should the Range Rover detect it needs more clearance for extrication. The better setting for comfort would be Off-Road 1, which still has 10 inches of ground clearance but delivers a smoother ride. Plus you can run it at speeds up to about 45 mph.
On these mild trails, the 23-inch all-season tires never slipped. But for anything more, I’d opt for 20-inch wheels and an all-terrain tire package with more sidewall cushion. Taller sidewalls not only offer a smoother ride on-road and off, but they also do a better job conforming to the terrain. And a tire with more sidewall will also do a better job protecting those (very) expensive rims. Peek underneath the rear of the SUV and it’s clear the company has done a good job tucking components up high and out of the way. And as expected, I never heard any metal-on-dirt contact.
The new rear-steer system really worked well for trail work. I was able to negotiate one particularly tight off-camber turn in one clean arc instead of needing an extra reverse and realign move. Similarly, the Rover’s multi-camera display provided some great views of the trail ahead.
Price and Competition
The breadth of luxury available on the Range Rover staggering—and so are the price points for all that opulence. The good news? The base, five-passenger Range Rover P400 SE ($105,850) comes standard with quite a bit of kit including plenty of soft leather, beautiful “noble chrome” trim, 13.1-inch touchscreen, 20-way power front seats, power rear recline seats, a full suite of safety tech and much more. The seven-seat, longer wheelbase model adds anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 to each trim.
The P400e model ($109,750) delivers plug-in capability and the equipment level stays the same as other SEs. Want that stonking V8 with the SE trim? A P530 SE comes in at $121,400. And aside from the little badge on the back, you can spy one of these by the unique 21-inch diamond-turned wheels with black accents. Step to the $158,950 P530 Autobiography (standard V8) and you’ll gain 22-inch wheels, special leathers, carpets and veneers, 24-way massaging front seats and sweet Executive Class Comfort rear seats, plus much more. The $165,514 First Edition builds upon the Autobiography and adds 23-inch wheels, and small details like illuminated treadplates. Finally, at the top of the heap is the $194,450 Range Rover SV, which offers unique exterior trim with “curated themes” and special materials. And when you go for the long-wheelbase version of the SV, the base price climbs to nearly $220,000.
The new Range Rover is expensive compared to many of its peers. A standard-trim Lexus LX 600 is $17,105 less expensive than the cheapest Range Rover. A BMW X7 is around $30,000 less expensive, and so are a Mercedes-Benz GLS, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. However, at the more extreme end of luxury, the Bentley Bentayga’s starting price is closer to the higher-end Range Rover SV models. And of course, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than double the Range Rover’s base price.
The Bottom Line
The new Range Rover is clearly an even more luxurious and elegant machine than the one it replaces. Does it move the needle in terms of furthering the model’s off-road capability? Probably not. Is it the SUV I’d choose to run up the Tail of the Dragon? Um, no way.
But it is one of the most robust, polished and handsome luxury SUVs currently on sale. Plus, it delivers a level of serenity behind the wheel that few can match. The new Range Rover seems to be future-proofed too, with an EV model arriving next year.
And right now, any Range Rover is an excellent Range Rover. In other words, you definitely don’t need the V8 or the most expensive trim level to have a true Range Rover experience. Regardless of trim, Land Rover says the buzz about this new one is strong. And after my time with the lineup, it’s clear it should have no trouble moving every one it can make.
Ben Stewart resides in Southern California and has been an automotive journalist for nearly 30 years. He specializes in reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs.
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