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Everything about the 2003 Range Rover is totally new, save for the badges and tailgate latch. It's quicker and more agile on the road than the previous version, yet it retains Land Rover's pedigree for traversing the backcountry.
This marks only the third time that Land Rover has revamped its flagship since the Range Rover's introduction in 1970. What you won't notice at first glance is that the newest Range Rover is loaded with technology and BMW engineering. What you will notice once you open the door is that it comes with a beautiful interior.
Unlike the previous versions, the 2003 Range Rover was engineered with assistance from BMW. Land Rover belonged to BMW briefly, but has since been purchased by Ford. Land Rover is now part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, along with British automakers Jaguar and Aston Martin. Land Rover builds four-wheel-drive products exclusively.
Land Rover says its flagship sails in a class by itself. That's largely true. Legendary off-road prowess comes in a cabin that will coddle and comfort you, as well as nestle you in the latest in safety refinements. Upscale competitors include the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon with notable 4x4 capability but a utilitarian cabin, and the Lexus LX 470, essentially a Toyota Land Cruiser with bland Lexus styling cues that offers a well-appointed cockpit but less competence off road.
The new Range Rover retains Land Rover's legendary off-road capability, but what's most amazing is its vastly improved handling on the road.
It handled a 200-mile trek on narrow, winding roads in Scotland with the poise of a sheep dog, dodging and darting with the utmost steadiness. In sharp contrast to the previous Range Rover, the new one exhibits relatively little body roll, or lean, in corners.
This is the result of a highly refined air suspension system. Cross-link valves automatically allow softer spring and wheel rates for enhanced comfort. They also permit the driver to lower the ride height making it easier for passengers to get in an out. A new Access setting can be pre-selected so the body can be the correct height as it rolls to a stop, allowing it to lower more quickly for passengers too impatient to wait.
BMW's smooth and powerful 4.4-liter V8 delivers far greater power than the old 4.6 Rover engine. Output has been raised from the previous Range Rover's 220 horsepower to 282 horsepower at 5400 rpm in the new version. Torque is up 10 percent to 325 pounds-feet at 3600 rpm.
This gives the new Range Rover much quicker performance, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 9 seconds (as opposed to previous Range Rover's 10.8 seconds), with a top speed of 130 mph. Emissions have been reduced and fuel efficiency has been improved slightly to an EPA-estimated 12/17 mpg, City/Highway.
The V8 is mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission developed by BMW and adapted for Land Rover and Ford. The transmission features CommandShift, one of the newest manual/automatic hybrids now coming to the luxury market. The news here is that CommandShift in the Range Rover can operate in both high and low gear ratios for use on and off road.
While it's clear that the greatest difference with the new model is its on-road handling, its off-road prowess has been significantly upgraded as well, which we discovered on some of Scotland's rugged off-road tracks.
Increased ground clearance (11 inches) and an improved angle of approach (35 degrees) along with the stiffer chassis made negotiating Scotland's muddy, rutted backcountry a breeze. The new Range Rover boasts the slowest low-range crawl speed in the industry: just 2.4 mph at 1000 rpm, good for traversing the world's worst terrain. Its gearing is the lowest in its class.
An unusual feature is that the transmission can be switched between low and high range on the fly, at speeds up to 30 mph from low to high range, eliminating the need to stop in the middle of a mud bog to change gearing. Additionally, advanced electronics provide for a dual-range throttle with on- and off-road calibrations. That makes for quicker throttle response on the road, while allowing precise throttle adjustments in extreme off-road situations.
Blazing trails can be done with more confidence thanks to an undercarriage protection system including a plastic shield and Kevlar engine protection layer. A traction control system allows drivers to tread lightly by minimizing wheel spin, and therefore trail damage, off the beaten path.
The new Range Rover is capable of towing a two-horse trailer or a large powerboat. While many of the body panels are constructed of lightweight aluminum, this monolith weighs more than 5,300 pounds, 500 pounds heavier than the previous version.
Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are backed by electronic Brake Assist, which applies full braking force in a panic stop even if the driver mistakenly relaxes brake pedal pressure, and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), which helps reduce stopping distances by balancing braking forces front to rear.
The Range Rover is also equipped with Ford's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, which helps drivers stay on their intended course by preventing a skid. This system helps maintain vehicle stability at the limits of tire adhesion via a combination of yaw rate sensors, the antilock brake
Land Rover's all-new Range Rover moves the bar for style, prestige, luxury, and capability. Boasting an all-new monocoque body with integrated chassis, all-independent suspension, five-speed automatic transmission along with Land Rover's legendary four-wheel drive, the 2003 Range Rover will take you anywhere, from the Sahara to the South Pole.
The 2003 Range Rover offers style and pedigree, something the Lexus LX 470 does not have. It offers off-road capability and cargo space that BMW X5 drivers can only dream about. And it'll drive circles around the Mercedes G500 on the open road.
In short, the new Range Rover lives up to its reputation as the standard to which other SUVs aspire. It is a pleasure to drive and it's easy on the eyes. For many, it truly is the SUV heavyweight world champion.
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