The redesigned, flagship Land Rover Range Rover luxury SUV makes an evolutionary step forward, with one notable exception: It is the first SUV to use an all-aluminum unibody structure. And as a result, the 2013 Range Rover is a staggering 700 lbs. lighter than the model it replaces.
As all automakers race to improve fuel economy, in an effort to keep pace with government regulations and consumer demand, they are routinely challenged to shave pounds, even ounces. For example, spare tires are becoming optional equipment on many cars, just to save weight. Put in context, trimming a 100 lbs. is notable. Excising 700 lbs. without shrinking the vehicle is, frankly, amazing.
The British-built SUV will have a body structure that is 39-percent lighter than the current BMW-designed model, putting its curb weight at a still hefty 5,000 lbs. (In other markets, the weight-reduction therapy cuts as much as 926 lbs.) Land Rover claims that the new Range Rover will preserve the brand's off-road capability, aided by the latest Terrain Response electronic system, while improving ride and handling. (A claim that likely followed each new Range Rover launch through the decades, but today promises an impressive combination.)
The U.S. version will be offered with a choice of V8 engines that will include a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission. (We tested that engine in our latest LR4 and the ZF-supplied transmission is super smooth in the Audis, BMWs, and Chrysler 300 we tested.) Assuming that power remains at 375 hp, or possibly increases, straight-line performance may also benefit from the diet. Reference to more than one variation of the engine suggests there may be a supercharged V8; Jaguar offers a 5.0-liter engine in the 470-550 hp range.
The fuel-economy goal is noble and important, for the outgoing 2012 Range Rover is EPA-rated at just 14 mpg overall. Even its typically well-heeled owner has to feel some pain at the pump with that fuel economy.
The new "Range" boasts 4.7 inches greater rear-passenger leg room. And like some premium luxury sedans, it will be available in a four-seat configuration. The interior looks a lot less cluttered with a knob that acts as the gear selector. Other details are being withheld until the formal introduction next month, ahead of the Paris Motor Show. Rest assured, the precipitous weight loss may have a similar impact on buyers' checking accounts, making them lighter, as the price may head in the other direction.
The new Range Rover deliveries are scheduled to begin in December, 2012.