I’ve driven some extraordinary and unique vehicles in my career, but none of them seem hardly as special as the Range Rover. The three examples I’ve driven in the past have optimized high-end luxury, fine craftsmanship and superb on-road drivability, yet still deliver a phenomenal off-road prowess unmatched but by a select handful of vehicles. The Range Rover is certainly in its own league.

The SUV’s last major update in 2013 saw a huge transition in architecture. The new aluminum-intensive body and unibody frame brought a welcomed reduction in weight while adding more rigidity. An updated Terrain Response system brought better off-road functionality as well as on-road refinement thanks to the next-generation four-corner air suspension. Of course the updated exterior brought a new interpretation of Range Rover’s classic design while the revamped interior ushered in the latest technology and higher levels of luxury.

I spent a week with the fourth generation Range Rover as it enters its third year in production. As it turns out, not much has changed. That’s not a bad thing, however, as the high-end Land Rover proved it still has what it takes.

Click past the jump for the full review

  • Year:
    2015
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    eight-speed auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    510
  • MPG(Cty):
    14
  • MPG(Hwy):
    19
  • Torque @ RPM:
    461
  • Energy:
    Supercharged
  • Displacement:
    5.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, AWD w/ Low Range
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

TopSpeed Garage


Exterior

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The outside of the 2015 Range Rover Autobiography Long Wheelbase carries over unchanged from last year. Even still, the design remains fresh. Rounded edges and curved accents – especially up front and out back – contrast nicely with the more hardened edges of the Range Rover’s classic silhouette. The downward sloping roofline pulls toward the upward sloping beltline and rocker panel line, giving the rear a smaller look. That plays into making this 17-foot-long behemoth appear shorter than it is. Don’t be fooled, the long wheelbase edition Range Rover is large.

"The Range Rover exudes a kind of presence not found in many vehicles"

Equally large are the 22-inch, six-spoke wheels fitted to my tester. They’re wrapped in Continental Cross Contact LX Sport tires that work just as well at highway speeds as they do trudging through loose sand. Also playing the size game is the expansive windshield. The forward view is tremendous, allowing for a commanding view of the road. The side windows seem a bit smaller by comparison yet still offer a generous view outside.

More to its heritage, the Range Rover’s underbody is protected by skidplating. The engine and transmission get a sturdy aluminum piece while the rocker panels make do with plastic pieces. The hood and front fenders are specially designed to pull dry air up and into the engine, allowing the SUV to ford up to three feet of water. Thankfully the door seals are designed to keep up.

Overall, the exterior of the Range Rover exudes a kind of presence not found in many vehicles. It looks just as good parked neatly at the country club as it does covered in mud at the hunting lodge.

Interior

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Pull the solidly built door handle to the equally sturdy, triple-sealed, aluminum door and you’re greeted by one of the finest interiors on the market today. Soft leather seats match the padded dashboard, door panels, and armrest for a uniform look. The wood accents are real, as are the aluminum ones. What plastics are found inside have a rubberized, high-quality feel to them. Of course by adding the Autobiography package, the already luxurious cabin turns into first class accommodations on the swankiest of private jets. And at $36,000, the Autobiography package ought to add a lot.

"Checking the Autobiography option box doesn’t leave much for wanting"

Checking the Autobiography option box doesn’t leave much for wanting. All four seats get 20-way adjustments along with heating, cooling, and massaging functions. Rear seat passengers enjoy 10.2-inch TV screens complete with wireless headphones. And then there is the legroom – 42.8 inches, to be exact. Stretching out with crossed legs never felt so good.

Though the rear seat passengers get all the fun stuff, the driver gets use of some specialized equipment. Adaptive cruse control, automatic wipers and high-beam headlights, parking assist, Traffic Sign recognition, blind spot detection, a heated windshield, and a center-console chiller box. Everybody gets to enjoy the 1,700-watt, 29-speaker, Meridian 3D sound system.

Like I’ve mentioned in my past Range Rover reviews (here and here), the in-dash DVD system is rather cumbersome to use. It requires too many steps for simply playing a movie and then doesn’t remember the settings when the vehicle is turned off. Also, the exterior camera system works well in theory, but the super low-resolution cameras offer a rather terrible view on the infotainment screen.

Powertain

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Motivating the 5,320-pound vehicle is a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 making an impressive 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of toque. It’s mated to the same fantastic ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that has permeated the market. Then behind the transmission is Land Rover’s complex 4WD system.

"An automatic mode lets the quick-thinking computer do the work if you don’t want to shift between modes"

Acting more as an AWD setup, the system routes power to all four wheels. When the going gets tough, low range is selectable. The whole thing is controlled by Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system that features a rotary knob with five settings for varying terrain. They include General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl. An automatic mode lets the quick-thinking computer do the work if you don’t want to shift between modes. Everything works in conjunction with the air suspension. Two off-road ride heights are offered, which raise the Range Rover upwards for a total of 11.2 inches of ground clearance. If grandma needs to come along, a lowered “access height” is selectable.

Though no one will mistake the supercharged Range Rover for a fuel-sipping hybrid, the engine does come equipped with an auto start/stop function that helps keep mpg numbers in the double digits. The EPA rates my tester at 14/19/16 mpg on the city, highway, and combined test loop. During my time with the Range, I averaged right at 16 mpg. Premium fuel is required. I have a feeling that more careful driving with a vehicle that’s properly broken in would result in much higher numbers. (My tester had less than 1,000 miles on the clock.)

Driving Impressions

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Despite its extended length, the Range Rover long wheelbase drives smaller than it is. Much of that is credited to the high seating position and large windows. At no point did I feel the Range Rover was cumbersome or ungainly. More to the point, the SUV drove extremely well on pavement. Body roll is well controlled, the steering is nicely weighted with no on-center numbness, and throttle and brake inputs are linear and consistent.

Thanks to the 510-horse V-8, accelerating is a non-issue. Power comes on strong from low rpms and continues through the entire power band. Torque steer is present when pulling hard out of a corner, but is manageable. Shifts happen quickly in both normal and sport modes. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters work well at calling gears and have a rewarding snap to their operation.

"With a raised suspension and a tremendous amount of torque, the vehicle quickly inspires confidence"

The fun continues when the pavement ends. Clicking through the different Terrain Response settings prepares the Range for battle. With a raised suspension and a tremendous amount of torque, the vehicle quickly inspires confidence. Despite the on-road nature of the Continental tires, they held up surprisingly well in mud and deep sand. I traversed hills covered in loose dirt with ease. Even more surprising was the Range Rover’s break-over angle. Sharp crests atop those sandy hills didn’t even touch the skidplates.

I fought the feeling of guilt the entire time my 22-inch wheels were digging through sand and mud. It just felt so wrong to use such a posh vehicle in that manner. Nevertheless, that’s what the Range Rover is designed to do, and it does it with surprising grace.

I did, however, find those wheels like collecting wet sand, resulting in a heavily unbalanced wheel.

Pricing

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As expected, things get very expensive very quickly. Starting out with a base Range Rover results in a $83,495 sticker price. Checking the long wheelbase box puts the price at $106,995. From there, checking the Autobiography box pushes the MSRP up to $142,995. As equipped, my tester featured premium metallic paint ($1,800), the 22-inch wheels ($2,100), and the Protection Package ($511).

Tack on the $925 delivery fee, and the grand total comes to $149,831.

Competition

2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

2013 Mercedes G65 AMG - image 450390

The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is a hardened war vet that’s been softened with time and love, yet it still rides on a ladder frame with solid axles that feature locking differentials. Basically unchanged since 1990, the body and suspension of the G-Wagen prove that old-school is still relevant. Of course, Mercedes has dolled up the interior to über luxury standards and massaged the engine bay by throwing a variety of turbocharged V-8 and V-12 monsters under hood.

While the G-Class isn’t nearly as luxurious or roomy as the Range Rover Autobiography LWB, the Merc holds its own off-road. Pricing for the G-Wagen starts at $115,400 for the G550 while the more comparable G65 AMG starts at $137,150.

2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

2015 Porsche Cayenne - image 561990

Yet another German player comes to compete against the British Range Rover. This one, the Cayenne Turbo, plays better on the beaten path than a muddy field. Reworked for 2015, the Cayenne gets a facelift to keep a fresh look. It rocks a 4.8-liter turbocharged V-8 making 520 horsepower that motivates all four wheels. Sixty mph zips by in 4.2 seconds on its way to a 173 top speed. Both those numbers out class the Range Rover.

Pricing for the Cayenne starts at $74,100 though the Cayenne Turbo commands $113,600. Adding options only increases the MSRP.

Conclusion

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All told, the 2015 Range Rover continues basically unchanged from last year. All of its luxuries and gadgets remain in place and provide a quality experience not otherwise had in other SUVs. A powerful engine, capable drivetrain, and mesmerizing off-road system puts the Range Rover ahead of its competitors. While my complaints with the infotainment system still stand, the remainder of the vehicle exudes an immense level of refinement and sophistication.

It’s hard to imagine a better all-round vehicle that can blast down the autobahn at 155 mpg yet still ford three feet of muddy water before climbing a rocky embankment impassable by other 4WDs. A $150,000 price tag is rather steep, but nothing else comes close to the Range Rover Autobiography LWD’s abilities. Now where’s my checkbook?

  • Leave it
    • Rather expensive
    • Finicky infotainment system
    • Torque steer under hard acceleration

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