2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sheds Weight With All-Aluminum Unibody
By Andrew Stoy
Land Rover publicly unveiled its redesigned 2013 Range Rover five-seat SUV in London on Thursday, with less weight and better fuel economy than its predecessors thanks in large part to a new all-aluminum unibody structure--the first of its kind in an SUV, according to Land Rover.
The company also announced that European Range Rover buyers will get a diesel hybrid option. The Range Rover hybrid will pair a 3.0-liter diesel engine with a 35kw electric motor. Land Rover says the combination will deliver sub-seven-second 0-to-60-mph times along with 45 mpg combined in the European fuel economy test.
U.S. customers will continue to get Land Rover's 5.0-liter gasoline V8 engines for the foreseeable future--the naturally aspirated unit produces 375 hp while the supercharged version nets 510 hp. New this year, both engines will be bolted to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with standard paddle shifters. A rotary shift knob similar to the one used in current Jaguar models replaces the stalk shifter.
Asked whether U.S. customers could expect a diesel Range Rover, vehicle line director Nick Rogers gave the predictable “wait and see” response, saying, “We have an engineering team exploring all sorts of possibilities. The development of this car won't stop where we are now.”
Boasting a 39-percent lighter body than the outgoing steel Range Rover, the 2013 model will be built at a new aluminum production facility at Land Rover's Solihull, U.K., factory. Coupled with other weight-reduction strategies, the result is a U.S.-spec Range Rover that's 700 pounds lighter than the current model: 4,850 pounds for the regular 5.0-liter V8 model and 5,137 pounds for the supercharged version.
The focus on weight reduction is ostensibly an effort to improve the Range Rover's dismal fuel economy, but Land Rover representatives stressed the model's improved stiffness and handling rather than any major fuel-efficiency gains for the American market: The supercharged 2013 model is estimated to get about 9 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing model; expect somewhere in the 15.5 mpg range.
Land Rover designers elected to not mess too much with a good thing, moving the styling toward that of the Range Rover Evoque without altering the Range Rover's distinctive tall, boxy look. A side graphic that appears cribbed from a Great White shark replaces the former bodyside air extractor, and wheels from 19 to 22 inches in diameter are offered.
What about ride smoothness now that Land Rover has done away with all that road-hugging weight? A four-corner air suspension should keep your tea in its cup, and Land Rover also claims cornering and steering feel have been improved. The new system works in conjunction with the company's Terrain Response 2 system that uses various sensors to determine the road surface and automatically makes adjustments to traction control, transmission, electronic differential, transfer box and the air suspension.
For off-roaders, the air suspension offers a variety of ride heights to cope with changing conditions. Depending upon the mode selected, up to 5.7 inches of lift over the standard ride height can be dialed up to get the new Range Rover out of trouble. Wading depth also approaches 3 feet.
Inside, rear legroom has been increased by 4.7 inches, while knee room is improved by almost 2 inches. Five-passenger seating is standard, but a newly available executive package adds rear buckets with an extended center console. Interior noise was a major focus during development. Land Rover claims the new Range Rover has less wind noise at 100 mph than the Audi A8 sedan, plus lower road noise at 30 mph than any other luxury SUV.
Content provided by Autoweek.
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