2023 Land Rover Range Rover First Drive: Three-Row Luxury

All-new Range Rover cements its SUV status with sleek design, sumptuous performance, jaw-dropping luxury and muscular inline-six or V8 power. Land Rover

Driving the all-new Land Rover Range Rover in a likely habitat—California’s Sonoma and Napa wine country—it’s hard to imagine a Rover being any posher. Then we sip Cabernet on a misty vineyard hillside and get a chauffeured taste of a prized new vintage: A nearly $250,000 Range Rover SV with Signature Suite. Ranges have always been a cut above, the redesigned 2023 model takes things to another level.

With its airline-style massaging rear recliner, electrically deployable club table, laser-cut mosaic wood marquetry, hidden champagne fridge and English-crystal flutes, this Rover goes toe-to-pedicured-toe with far-pricier SUVs from Bentley or Rolls-Royce. Only this peerlessly tasteful Rover looks miles better than the half-baked Bentley Bentayga or fusty Rolls Cullinan, and drives every bit as quietly.

Of course, most Rover loyalists aren’t eager to plunk down $200,000 or more for new upper-crust versions. And Jaguar Land Rover isn’t about to abandon its merely successful customers versus the truly wealthy. So, the 2023 Range Rover lineup stretches wider than Napa’s green hills, ranging from $105,850 for a standard-wheelbase SE model with a 395-horsepower, turbocharged inline-six to $219,650 for a long-wheelbase SV with BMW’s 4.4-liter, 526-horsepower V8.

Three-Row 2023 Range Rover

Americans especially will pop corks over those long-wheelbase (LWB) versions, which address Rover’s longstanding oversight: The lack of a three-row model that sent many would-be buyers packing for a Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade or other seven-passenger special.

Stretched nearly a foot beyond standard models and riding on an eight-inch-longer wheelbase, those versions are expected to capture 40 percent or more of Range Rover sales. Americans like ‘em big. So LW models come in either a five-passenger layout with bonus cargo space and limo-like legroom in the second row or a seven-passenger configuration with a third row designed to be habitable by grown-ups standing a good six feet tall. (Personally tested and approved by this six-foot scribe, whose head didn’t brush the headliner and whose knees, feet and elbows had acceptable comfort).

Power switches tilt and pivot second-row seats for reasonably easy climbs into the way-back. In a clever touch, second-row seats automatically scooch forward slightly when the third-row motors down or up to ensure third-row headrests can clear the space, then resettle into position. No more frustrating moments when a third-row gets jammed along its pivot, forcing you to readjust the second row or fuss with headrests to complete the swing.

New Long Wheelbase models bring a dramatic presence and a choice of two or three rows to seat a respective five or seven passengers. Land Rover

That Jeeves-level cossetting pervades the new Rover, along with heightened on-road athleticism and confidence; and exterior and interior design that both sets and raises the bar for status-symbol SUVs.

The Rover leads with its familiar elegant, yacht-like proportions, including the limo-like presence of its long-wheelbase model, sure to find favor with Chinese billionaires or loyal chauffeurs the world over. Rover claims the mixed-metals body architecture is up to 50 percent stiffer and transmits up to 24 percent less noise into the cabin.

Using accelerometers and microphones outside the car, the Rover then pipes noise-canceling frequencies through its 1,600-watt Meridian sound system—not available on SE models, but standard otherwise. That spectacular, 35-speaker audio system includes industry-first, noise-canceling headrest speakers for four main occupants. Flush surfaces and precision assembly aid a .30 coefficient of drag, solid aerodynamic efficiency for such a blocky SUV.

Imposing alloy wheels, as large as 23 inches, ably fill the wheel wells. The Rover’s floating, falling roof is laser-welded for an even-sleeker appearance, its tall waist impeccably finished and rounded where it meets dark windowsills. Digital LED headlamps feature 1.2 million micromirrors that can focus on 16 objects. More flush glazing makes pop-out door handles almost melt into the body. “Hidden until lit” taillamps, a world’s first, form a striking gloss-black graphic that frames the tailgate, then light up vivid red.

Streamlined exterior surfacing includes industry-first “Hidden Until Lit” taillamps that blend into a black tailgate graphic—until they light up in bright red. Land Rover

The classic two-piece split tailgate adds an optional “Tailgate Event Suite” with a leather seating cushion, overhead LED lighting and audio speakers—perfect for watching a private-school soccer match or the swings of a stock portfolio. Speaking of swings, optional power-assisted doors (beginning with 2023 models) will open or shut automatically, including up to 10-degrees of off-road incline. Five-passenger models get a clever Auto-folding Loadspace Cover that hinges in sync with the tailgate, again ensuring occupants needn’t expend physical effort.

The body exudes the seamless vibe of a just-polished private jet, especially in special paints like the knockout Sunset Gold Satin on First Edition models (a roughly $7,000 upcharge when ordered separately); or a black-wheeled Rover SV in Sunrise Copper Satin that looks made for a Bond villain’s getaway.

Finely Hewn Style

A redesigned cabin is especially dramatic. Like the Coco Chanel of SUV designers, Rover understands that less is more; clean surfaces and authentic luxury are more flattering and restful to the eye than the flashy, faux and over-accessorized.

Domestic social climbers like the Cadillac Escalade and Jeep Grand Wagoneer have (finally) begun getting the good-taste, dial-it-back message. Yet, from superior materials to London-studio execution, this Rover instantly smacks Detroit’s contenders back to wannabe status. Even the wealthiest Teutons, the BMW X7 (whose V8 engine is shared with the Rover) and Mercedes GLS-Class, must bow to the British throne here, especially the Rover’s most-royal trims. 

Smoothly integrated tech includes Jaguar Land Rover’s markedly improved Pivi Pro infotainment system, Amazon Alexa and over-the-air software updates. Land Rover
Top-shelf models aim for Bentley or Rolls-Royce heights, including a four-passenger SV Signature Suite with airliner-style recliners, refrigerator, crystal flutes, motorized club table, laser-cut mosaic wood and more. Land Rover

That particularly describes the new SV models, offered in two design themes (Intrepid and Serenity) and either wheelbase, which Rover estimates allow some 1.6 million personal configurations. That includes signature white ceramic trim for exterior roundel badging, interior switches and shifter; themed metal treatments for the grille, body, wheels or roof (including a Corinthian bronze topper); rear entertainment with 13.1-inch screens, and much more. Fragrant leather cozies everything from interior door panels to the headliner at the lineup’s upper reaches.

Aside from multiple grades of leather and carpeting, buyers can eschew animal hide entirely for a durable yet still-handsome textile that combines sustainable poly “Ultrafabrics” with Kvadrat wool blend. At the tippy-top, the $19,740 Signature Suite brings a four-passenger SV model with 24-way reclining rear seats with heating, cooling, massage, calf rests and foot supports. A full-length fixed console bisects them with a touchscreen controller. There’s also the motorized, pivoting club table; electric cupholders, an integrated champagne chiller and Dartington crystal glasses.

Updated Tech and Infotainment

There’s also plenty of modern tech, including Amazon Alexa commands, wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Wifi for up to eight devices, a maximum of eight USB-C connectors and over-the-air software updates for up to 70 electronic modules. After decades of painfully subpar infotainment systems, Jaguar Land Rover’s comprehensive new Pivi Pro (and its 13.1-inch center screen) is a welcome antidote, even if a few too many functions are controlled by screen menus. A 13.7-inch driver’s screen, controlled by somewhat fussy (yet manageable) steering-wheel buttons, reclines against the leather-topped dash.

Signature Suite’s Club Table, lined with laser-cut wood with mosaic details, motors from the console and pivots toward either rear passenger. Land Rover
Optional Tailgate Viewing Suite pads Rover’s classic split-folding tailgate with a leather cushion, Bluetooth speaker and overhead light. Land Rover

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Powertrains

The Rover made for a perfect chill-out tour of Sonoma and Napa wine country—with an occasional fizzy burst from its twin-turbo V8, an engine shared with BMW’s flagship X7 SUV. With 526 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque, filtered through an eight-speed automatic transmission, this mighty V8 can shove the five-seat, 5,530-pound Rover to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, matching its 4.4-liter displacement.

Two days of driving underlined that even “basic” models are worth aspiring to. That includes models powered by the Ingenium inline six-cylinder—an engine we love in the Land Rover Defender—that generates a solid 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque via the high-tech trio of a turbocharger, supercharger and 48-volt mild-hybrid assist. So equipped, even this largest, heaviest Rover (at about 5,600 pounds) can ease to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

The V8 feels more magisterial, of course, especially with its bounty of low-range torque. Yet the six-cylinder Rover never feels underpowered, and its 18/26 mpg rating (in either wheelbase) whips the V8’s thirsty 16/21 mpg. Moreover, a seven-passenger SE we drove starts from $111,850 with that engine, serious savings versus $130,150 for an SE long-wheelbase V8.

The cliff-hung roads of the Pacific Coast Highway aren’t ideal for any 2.5-ton SUV, yet the Rover dispatched them with ease, especially in the Dynamic setting of its Terrain Response Control system. The brand’s first five-link rear axle combines with an air suspension Rover pioneered on SUVs in 1992. That suspension poured clotted cream over the road surface, even on massive 23-inch wheels.

The adaptive suspension blends real-time performance and navigation data to preemptively adjust shocks. Handling magic includes standard four-wheel-steering that can electrically turn rear wheels by up to seven degrees. That boosts high-speed stability or agility at lower speeds and shortens the turning circle to a sedan-like 36 feet, the tightest of any Rover model. A new 48-volt anti-roll system, Dynamic Response Pro, can apply up to 1,000 pounds of torque to keep the body as flat as a croquet field in corners.

 The Rover can still get dirty when necessary, with its adjustable air suspension, all-wheel-drive Terrain Response System and new standard four-wheel-steering. Land Rover

Rover arranged two off-road detours, including the postcard vistas of a fantasy horse ranch in Sonoma. On its street-oriented all-season tires, the Rover easily conquered obstacles on our path, stuff than any Subaru honestly could have tackled. For tougher going, the Rover combines intelligent all-wheel-drive that monitors road grip and driver inputs 100 times per second with its height-adjustable springs, six-mode Terrain Response System and standard active locking rear differential. One issue: When set in the Rover’s “off-road” ride height, two different models produced a loud and annoying clunk as the suspension surmounted fairly mild obstacles.

Range Rover Hybrid and BEV Future

The model lineup expands further in 2023 via a plug-in hybrid Rover with 434 horsepower from the inline-six paired with a 105-kilowatt electric motor. With its enlarged 32.8 kilowatt-hour battery—about 2.5 times the size of Rover’s previous plug-in—the hybrid should deliver about 48 miles of all-electric operation. Rover cites a five-hour home recharge time from a 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger. And things get really momentous in 2024, with the brand aiming to debut its first all-electric Range Rover.

Let’s hope they don’t call it the Electric Range.

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