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The 2005 Range Rover remains the ultimate personal-luxury, multiple-use sport-utility. This top-of-the-line Land Rover offers authentic all-terrain capability combined with a beautiful European-flavor cabin and the latest in safety features. Driving it just makes you feel good. It's smooth and poised on the road and makes its occupants feel classy and sophisticated. It's one of the best luxury vehicles available, counting cars. Land Rover doesn't sell vast quantities of them, ensuring the Range Rover remains an exclusive vehicle, and further adding to its class and panache.
The Range Rover was completely redesigned for 2003, only the third time that Land Rover has returned to a clean sheet of paper since the first Range Rover debuted in 1970. Compared to earlier Range Rovers, the current model is quicker and more agile. Yet it retains its Land Rover pedigree for traversing the backcountry, featuring the latest in off-road technology and luxury appointments.
BMW was heavily involved in the design and engineering of the current model, and its expertise is clearly evident. BMW owned Land Rover briefly, and helped develop the current Range Rover, then sold Land Rover to Ford. Land Rover is now part of Ford's Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover North America division headquartered in Irvine, California. The Range Rover continues to use BMW engines.
Exemplary service is part of the Range Rover experience. Surveys indicate customers are highly satisfied with their Land Rover retailers who pride themselves with taking care of their customers, and anecdotal evidence backs that up. The Land Rover Centres go beyond those of the typical car dealership, acting as off-road outfitters. They carry accessories and apparel and organize outings. Land Rover's four-year/50,000 mile warranty includes roadside assistance and free scheduled maintenance.
The Range Rover is powered by a 282-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. It features a permanent four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and Torsen center differential, all-terrain traction and stability control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
Standard amenities on the Range Rover HSE ($73,750) include three-zone climate control, a 10-way power driver's seat, GPS navigation, and a Harman/Kardon digital surround-sound system with six-disc CD changer and a hidden cassette player. Nine exterior colors are available to choose from including the new Tonga Green.
Options are limited. The Heated Accessories Package ($1300) includes dual-level heated front and rear seats; a heated, multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel; and an integrated ski bag. The Luxury Interior Package ($5,000) includes everything in the Heated Accessories Package, plus Contour seats with 16-way adjustment and memory for the driver. The package also includes upgraded leather on the seats, dashboard door pulls, center console lid, and luggage net. Seven-spoke, 20-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare are available on the HSE ($4000).
The limited-edition Westminster ($86,000) includes everything in the Luxury Interior package, plus Rain Sensor automatic windshield wipers, unique Java Black pearlescent paint, a Jet Black interior with Ivory accents, and 20-inch bright-finish aluminum wheels shod with 255/50 V-rated all-terrain tires. About 300 will be built.
The Range Rover cuts a distinct profile, instantly recognizable as a Range Rover. Its contours are smooth and taut, with just enough curvature to suggest substance and strength. Compared to less exclusive, but more conspicuously massive SUVs, the Range Rover looks trim, muscular, and athletic, like a formidable middleweight fighter next to a costumed television wrestler.
This newest Range Rover is taller, wider, longer, and higher off the ground than pre-2003 models. It's more than 5 inches longer in wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear tires) and nearly 4 inches wider in track (the distance between the right and left tires). It provides an amazing 11 inches of ground clearance. Though many of its body panels are formed from costly aluminum to keep the weight down, it still weighs nearly 5400 pounds, 400 pounds more than its predecessor.
The front end is strong and horizontal, capped by Range Rover's trademark clamshell hood. High-tech headlamps (with power washers) wrap around at the corners. Punctuating the bumper are two serious-looking round ports and a long, horizontal slot, all feeding air to the engine. Taillights echo the futuristic look of the front.
Viewed from the side, the latest Range Rover features a high beltline and a flat expanse of sleek metal dramatically slashed by Brunel-finish louvers that extract hot air from the back of the engine bay to help cool the engine.
Underneath the skin is a steel monocoque structure with an integrated chassis that increases torsional stiffness by 32 percent over pre-2003 models. Increased body rigidity improves ride and handling and gives the Range Rover the ability to tow, haul and tote just about anything on or off road. It can tow up to 7700 pounds, or cruise at speeds up to 122 mph.
The Range Rover features a spacious, well-appointed interior. Longtime admirers will not be surprised by a host of luxurious amenities, but loyalists may be surprised by the austere, straight lines of this latest design. The interior is not gratuitously ornate, but chiseled and architectural. Still, the atmosphere is light and airy, with styling cues coming from ocean-going yachts and first-class jetliner seating, as well as fine furniture and jewelry. Four standard interior color schemes are offered: Aspen/Ivory, Jet/Charcoal, Navy/Parchment, and Jet/Sand. All include contrasting piping on the seats, and a choice of traditional walnut burl trim or avant-garde cherry. The rich wood and leather combinations make for lovely interiors.
Range Rovers have long been known for sophisticated interiors, including a wide array of convenience and entertainment features. As new systems were added, the wiring harness became thicker and integration became more difficult. The 2005 Range Rover addresses that need, and is now wired with a new fiber-optic harness that replaces the prior copper-wiring network. The new harness better connects a variety of systems that need to communicate on an instantaneous basis; the GPS navigation has to work with the security system, the car telephone has to work with the entertainment system so it will mute when a call is received, voice activation and hands-free speakerphones require a microphone, and a display is needed for navigation and DVD playback, among other things. The effect of the new wiring is to integrate the electronic systems (GPS navigation, audio, and telecommunications, for example) into one system.
There is new hardware as well. Prior models used an LCD screen, which has been replaced by a VGA screen with 3.5 times higher resolution. A new DVD-based navigation system is state of the art. It is now voice-activated, with a single DVD mapping the entire continental United States. There is an off-road mode that can guide to destination, and also track where you have been, to make it easy to return to your start point.
In addition to the usual trip computer functions such as fuel consumption, range, speed and the like, the new Range Rover has a 4x4 driver interface that shows what the wheels and suspension are doing and direction of travel. Drivers can see front wheel position when slogging through muddy ruts without getting out of the car.
The premium Harman/Kardon surround-sound system boasts 710 watts and 14 speakers. It can be controlled by voice command, steering wheel controls, or the touch screen. The telephone system integrates the owner's mobile phone with the car, allowing hands-free operation and voice commands, either by placing it in a cradle or wirelessly using the Bluetooth technology.
There is more head- and legroom than in earlier models. Seats are big and comfortable, firm and supportive, with adequate side bolstering and lumbar support. Headrests are comfortable. Rear seats are also very comfortable and supportive with lots of room and split powered backrests. Four cup holders are adjustable and accommodate many different sizes of bottles and cans.
Carrying a lot of gear is no problem. The Range Rover's tailgate was designed to support the weight of two adults, making this a perfect vehicle for tailgate parties, or for pulling on a set of waders, or for a quick picnic lunch, or any of those other times you might want a tailgate, often good, memorable times. The cargo area is longer and taller than in earlier models. The rear seats are split 60/40 for versatility when moving cargo and people. Luggage hooks on the floor of the cargo area are designed to keep items secure. The full-size spare tire is stored in a well under the cargo floor.
In the Westminster edition, the power driver's seat adjusts 16 ways; the front passenger's seat 12 ways. Both front and rear seats have two-level electric heating; even the steering wheel is electrically w
The Range Rover builds on its legendary off-road capability, but with vastly improved road handling over the previous-generation models. It doesn't lean nearly as much in corners. The Range Rover felt poised on a 200-mile trek down narrow, winding lanes in Scotland, dodging and darting with the utmost steadiness. Back in the U.S., it handled the bumpy, crowded freeways of Los Angeles exceedingly well, ensconcing us in a richly appointed cocoon that gave us a sense of security on the mean streets. The ride on L.A.'s rippled freeways was smooth and comfortable.
The Range Rover's superb balance of ride and handling are the result of a highly refined and interconnected air suspension that allows softer spring rates for enhanced comfort. The system also allows the driver to manually lower the ride height, making it easier for passengers to get in and out, a nice feature for shorter, older passengers. An Access setting can be pre-selected so the body lowers to the desired height as the Range Rover rolls to a stop; this is more convenient and less annoying than the old system, which required pressing the button after you put it in Park then waiting for it to lower; passengers seldom had the patience to wait for it to do its thing and it would stop lowering the moment your impatient passenger opened the door. The new one solves this.
BMW's smooth and powerful 4.4-liter V8 delivers far greater power than the old 4.6-liter Rover engine. Output has been increased to 282 horsepower at 5400 rpm. Torque is 325 pounds-feet at 3600 rpm. Range Rover can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, which isn't particularly quick but seems quick enough. Top speed is electronically limited to 122 mph. The BMW engine is cleaner and gets better fuel efficiency with an EPA-estimated 12/17 mpg City/Highway.
The V8 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission featuring CommandShift, one of the newest manual override systems in the luxury market. In the Range Rover, CommandShift can operate in both the high and low ranges of the transfer case for use on or off road.
Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are backed by Emergency 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 Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which helps drivers stay on their intended course by preventing a skid. This electronic stability control system helps maintain vehicle stability at the limits of tire adhesion via a combination of yaw rate sensors, the antilock brake system, and the traction control system. When required, the system applies the brakes at one or more wheels to correct excessive yaw. For example, if the rear tires lose grip in a corner, a situation called oversteer can occur that can ultimately lead to spinning off the road; the system senses this happening and applies the brake on the outside front wheel to rotate the vehicle back onto the desired path. The driver need only steer where he or she wants to go.
Yet, while it's clear that the biggest improvement over pre-2003 models has been made in on-road handling, the Range Rover's off-road prowess has been significantly upgraded as well. We first discovered this on some of Scotland's rugged off-road tracks. We put it to a more thorough test at the excellent Land Rover Driving School at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Range Rover easily slogged up steep, muddy tracks most drivers would never attempt. Even more impressive was its ability to creep down steep, muddy terrain that would have left lesser vehicles parked against a tree. Its suspension articulation and impressive technology made driving over rugged terrain easy, smooth and comfortable with little of the head toss you get in most off-road vehicle
The Range Rover may be the ultimate in style, prestige, luxury, and off-road capability in a sport utility. Many upgrades have been made under the skin for 2005, integrating and improving an impressive array of electronic systems. Boasting a monocoque body with integrated chassis, all-independent suspension and five-speed automatic transmission along with Land Rover's legendary four-wheel drive, the Range Rover will take you anywhere, from the Sahara to the South Pole.
The Range Rover offers European 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 run circles around the Mercedes-Benz G500 on a paved road. In short, this latest 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 champion of the world.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reported from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and Los Angeles, with Sue Mead in Scotland.
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