2OO3 Range Rover

March 25, 2003
Filed under Trailer Reviews

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The Range Rover has always been a luxury-class vehicle wrapped in the skin of a die-hard
off-pavement explorer with a long heritage of adventure travel on the planet’s most-rugged
terrain. The 2003 Range Rover is an even-more-sophisticated and technically developed
version of the famous brand that doubles as a capable tow vehicle rated to handle a
7,700-pound trailer. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $71,200, the
Range Rover is right up there in cost, too. For that price, the buyer gets a smooth-riding,
powerful and classy rig that should satisfy many driving styles. There are very few option
choices on the Range Rover. Most of its features are standard, and the rig is so
well-equipped that there’s simply not much left to add. Suffice to say that if a power or
automatic feature can be included in an SUV, it’s in the new Range Rover, and it probably
even has a few that no one else has thought of yet. The sole model available features a
113.4-inch wheelbase and a four-door-wagon-style body with a rear liftgate/tailgate
arrangement. This year’s model is a monocoque design with a three-piece subframe integral
to the body. The buyer can choose from seven exterior and four interior upholstery
finishes. Outside, the Range Rover body sports individual head- and taillights, a restyled
body, 19-inch alloy wheels and the traditional Range Rover’s large glass area. An
all-aluminum 4.4-liter V-8 engine rated at 282 hp at 5,400 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at
3,600 rpm is the only engine available. It’s mated to a ZF five-speed automatic with
CommandShift, a transmission-control program that allows the driver to choose between
normal, sport and manual shift modes. The full-time four-wheel-drive (4WD) transfer case
includes a Torsen torque-sensing limited-slip center differential and shift-on-the-fly
capability. MacPherson strut front suspension with air-bag springs, cross-linked via
computer valving, is standard, as is the double-wishbone independent rear suspension with
similarly fitted air springs. The rack-and-pinion steering includes an
engine-speed-sensitive power-assist feature. Four-wheel-disc brakes with a four-channel
anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard, as is dynamic stability control (DSC), an
overall combination of vehicle traction and stability systems. DSC ties the other vehicle
powertrain controls together into a sophisticated system to provide optimum ride, traction,
handling and safety. Among the features that are standard equipment and part of DSC are
electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which allocates braking power according to
dynamic vehicle inputs from other brake-related systems; emergency brake assist (EBA),
which applies full anti-lock brakes when needed; cornering brake control (CBC), which
monitors the vehicle in a curve and uses brake application to ensure vehicle stability; and
hill-descent control (HDC), which is a kind of automatic brake application under certain
driving conditions, as monitored by the DSC system. The net result is that the Range Rover
drives and handles like no other SUV. It’s quiet, nimble, precise in its handling and as
surefooted as a mountain goat when the going gets rough. The cross-linked air springs help
push the tires down to the road as the road’s surface exercises the suspension to its
limits. Despite its seemingly cushy image, the Range Rover moves through the worst
countryside with grace and style. Interior detailing and finish in the Range Rover is
nothing short of superb. Blenheim leather seats and upholstery plus burled walnut or
American cherrywood complement the interior’s color-keyed and immaculately finished
componentry. The driver is faced with a dizzying array of switches, controls and
electronics with a broad range of functional options. A global positioning system (GPS)
off-road-enhanced navigation system; triple-zone automatic climate control; power
tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with automatic tilt-away, multiple-vehicle controls in
the steering-wheel assembly; 12-way power driver and 10-way power passenger seats; a
comprehensive message center; and a trip computer are among the other interior items. A
broad range of safety features is included; among them, eight air bags, side-door impact
beams, a collapsible steering column, pre-tensioning front seat belts and a
collision-activated inertia switch that unlocks all doors, shuts off the fuel pump and
turns on the hazard lights, among a long line of other goodies. Entertainment features are
up to snuff, as well, with a 290-watt Harman Kardon and Alpine stereo feeding 12 speakers
and a subwoofer. A six-disc CD changer is in the glovebox, and the audio controls are on
the steering wheel for easy hands-on-the-wheel access. We found the interior quite
comfortable, although its “squared-off” design, typical of Range Rover vehicles, may not
suit some American tastes. Legroom, headroom and overall driver accommodations are
well-done, even for a tall driver. It’s a vehicle that we’d enjoy on any adventure, be it
going to the corner store or heading out cross-country on an extended road trip. The Range
Rover isn’t for everyone, but for those with moderate towing in mind and the means to
afford a top-end SUV model, it stands alone in its field.

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