2023 Land Rover Range Rover First Drive Review: Modern Luxury Defined


“Modern luxury.” That’s how Land Rover is positioning the new Range Rover. It sounds like a bit of a trite slogan, but now, having driven it, I think it’s very apt.

Modern certainly applies to the Range Rover’s exterior styling, which looks even better out in the wild than it did captive in a studio. There is a sculptural simplicity to this SUV that is really very striking. It’s a confident design yet it retains enough restraint to stop just short of being showy, although you can tip it over the edge if you spec certain colors. I saw white, burgundy, gray and two gold variants on Land Rover’s launch event, and you can probably imagine which of those would attract more attention.

Inside is really where the luxury starts, but the modernity also continues. Like the exterior, there is a sense that the design has been pared back to leave you with a nicely uncluttered and rather calming ambiance. Thankfully, however, not all the controls have been migrated to touchscreens, so you can still simply and quickly access things like the drive modes and adjust the HVAC system. Alexa is also on hand to help for the first time. Ease of use is crucial to luxury.

Having said all that, the screens are actually worthy of a mention. The way the 13.1-inch Pivi Pro infotainment screen gently curves like it’s arching its back is truly beautiful. I’m also a fan of the new 13.7-inch digital dash, which is surprising, because I generally bemoan the demise of real dials. However, there is a crystal clear brightness and sharpness to the graphics, there’s enough but not too much information and I like the way the whole screen seems to float. It’s very pleasing.

You might be thinking that all this reductionist lack of clutter sounds rather austere, but thankfully, it’s not, and a large part of that comes down to the softness and warmth brought by the various materials used throughout the cabin. Obviously you can opt for sumptuous leather, but the one that really appeals to me (and which feels more modern) is the Ultrafabrics and Kvadrat combination. Not only does this textile twinning generate a mere quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions of leather in its production, it also lends a real coziness to the interior. You might expect to find it on a comfy chair next to an open fire in a Scottish hotel.

The interior is exquisite, and packed with tech, too.

Land Rover

Stylistically, then, the new Range Rover is a success and lives up to the “modern luxury” tagline. But how can a driving experience be both modern and luxurious? Well, the ride comfort of a Range Rover has always been something to enjoy, but its ability to soak up imperfections and cosset its occupants is now matched with a much greater sense of control for the driver.

My test drive takes place largely in Napa Valley, and some of the roads through the hills are of the seriously sinuously snaking sort — more suitable for showing off a sports car than a luxury SUV. But the new Range Rover takes them in stride. Inputs to the wheel can be calm and you can be pleasingly precise. There’s no sense of reluctance from what is undeniably a hefty vehicle. Even when asked to pick up the pace, the Range Rover responds remarkably well. It still doesn’t have the agility of something like a Porsche Cayenne, but if you adopt a considered “slow in, fast out” mentality, then you can hustle the Land Rover with surprising speed and composure.

This control comes down to a combination of the new body structure (which is 50% stiffer than before), the new 48-volt anti-roll system (which is capable of delivering up to 1,033 pound-feet of torque) and the new rear-wheel steering system. All these make the Range Rover much more enjoyable to drive smoothly and swiftly, but do nothing detrimental to the crucial sense of calm and comfort. The Range Rover now feels luxurious for both the passengers and the driver.

On-road or off-road, the Range Rover excels. 

Land Rover

Talking of calm, the interior is one of, if not the quietest I have ever experienced. There is a real sense of shutting out the world and entering a sanctuary when you close the doors (something that can now be done via a button). Again, the new body structure and suspension help with this isolation, with Land Rover claiming a 24% reduction in the transmission of road noise and vibrations into the cabin. However, when equipped with the optional 1,680-watt Meridian Signature sound system, the Range Rover’s hush is helped by an active noise-canceling system. There are 35 speakers in total, but most importantly, there’s a pair of 2.4-inch-diameter speakers in the headrests for each of the four main cabin occupants, and these help create personal zones of quiet. Even at highway speeds, I don’t have to raise the volume of my notoriously quiet mumble to make myself heard by others in the car.

Range Rovers are of course meant to excel off-road, though there’s nothing on Napa’s dry, tame trails to really test its no doubt consummate abilities. The only thing these tight dirt roads vividly demonstrate is the improved turning circle courtesy of the aforementioned rear-wheel steering. With the rear wheels turning up to 7.3 degrees, the turning circle of this large SUV is less than 36 feet, or about the same as a Volkswagen Golf. This should remove a little of the stress of negotiating tight parking lots in something so big.

In the US, the Range Rover will be available with both I6 and V8 gasoline engine options. My test drive largely has me experiencing the BMW-sourced twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine, with its stout 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Torque talks in terms of luxury, and the Range Rover’s plentiful and effortless thrust makes it a joy to drive. However, thanks to all that emphasis on silence inside, you don’t get much in the way of pleasant exhaust sound, the V8 making merely a distant rumble when exercised.

This is one of the world’s best luxury SUVs.

Land Rover

Overall, my first impressions of the new Range Rover are that it simply makes getting from A to B feel less stressful than just about any other vehicle I can think of — including the old Range Rover. And a sense of calm and comfort is surely a very modern luxury in our busy, noisy world. This SUV is deeply impressive, making its six-figure asking price feel appropriate.

However, good as it is, I think the final pieces of its modern luxury puzzle are not yet quite in place. One will appear very soon, with the plug-in hybrid variant that will give up to 62 miles of electric, emissions-free running, taking even more stress out of any urban driving. Then, in 2024, the complete picture will emerge with the addition of a fully electric Range Rover — and that might just feel the most modern and luxurious of the lot.

Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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