Bread and butter, or Creme Fraiche in the desert
By Lou Ann Hammond
This week I was invited to live like a superloyalist. Range Rover describes a superloyalist as someone who has purchased more than five Land Rovers. It's an exclusive group, around 49 years old, averaging over half a million income annually.
Amangiri, the deluxe resort and spa at Arizona's Lake Powell, looks like it is carved out of the rock it is nestled in. Warm colors change hue as the sun sets across the boulders. The air is a fresh 35 degrees as I get out of the open air pool, set at 92 degrees. What could be a desolate land is made beautiful by the exclusive wonders of the hotel and Range Rover's ability to tackle the boulders. Both the hotel, and the Range Rover, are built to promote peace and tranquility, in the midst of our modern chaotic world, or a high desert.
"1.6 billion dollars of investment," is how John Edwards, Director of Land Rover, explained the new 2013 Land Rover Range Rover to me in an interview at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. Land Rover/Jaguar has been churning out a new product each year since it was taken over by Tata. Chairman Ratan Tata acquired Land Rover from Ford in 2008 and has poured his heart and money into the premium SUV manufacturer, producing a profit that the Jaguar/Land Rover company has never seen before. Year-over-year Land Rover increased sales 40 percent globally since its acquisition.
The fourth generation Range Rover is being asked to be more things to more people in more countries than it has ever been before. The three biggest markets for Land Rover are China, the UK and the United States. China is the fastest growing country for Land Rover according to Edwards who noted that Land Rover (SALES?) had increased, year-over-year, 80 percent in China. They have signed an agreement with Chery to produce the vehicles in China to escape the high import tariffs.
If the United States is the bread and butter for Land Rover, California is the creme fraiche. US sales for Land Rover increased 14.6 percent, while sales increased, year-over-year, in California by 22.8 percent.
Buying a Range Rover is like buying a diamond. If you want a diamond you can buy a diamond, but tell someone you bought the diamond at Tiffany's and the prestige factor goes up ten-fold, as does the resale value. Mercedes-Benz GL Class, Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q7, Infiniti QX, Lexus LX, Lincoln Navigator, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are all diamonds, but they don't have the off-roading capability and opulence of the Tiffany name, combined. Only the Range Rover meets both categories.
Land Rover has introduced the all-new aluminum monocoque (uni-body) frame on the 2013 Range Rover. The frame reduces the weight of the vehicle by 700 pounds. The ZF 8-speed transmission, combined with either of the tried, but true, 5.0-liter V-8 naturally aspirated (375 horsepower) or supercharged (510 horsepower), helps increase the fuel-efficiency and reduces the 0-60 from 7.2 to 6.5 on the naturally aspirated engine.
To have the ultimate experience you really do need the Range Rover Autobiography package. Base price of an Autobiography is $99,100. Add another $31,000 and you get the complete Autobiography package. This allows you the 18 way short seat with massage and memory and a 19 speaker Meridian surround sound. For another $4,450 you can get a surround sound, 29-speaker, 1,700-watt system. There are more audio options from Meridian: a 19-speaker, 825-watt system ($1,850) for base, HSE, and Supercharged models .
I called my husband on the voice activated Bluetooth. Stretch can play any musical instrument by ear so I rely on him to tell me how developed the voices are over the cars' interior airwaves. Stretch said "there was good cabin ambience, there was no reverberation, it didn't sound like a high school gym room. The Bluetooth has a well developed voice recognition. They obviously spent money on the microphones. This was the best system I have ever heard from any of the manufacturers."
The ride and handling is bolstered by the Terrain response system, configured, ostensibly, by the same person who wrote "Off-roading for Dummies". Little pictures around a rotary wheel on the center console let you drive through grass, snow, mud, sand, gravel, rocks, whatever stands in the way between you and Grandma's house. Once you twirl the knob - your throttle, differential, suspension, stability control and height are all set. No more needing to know what a limited-slip differential is, or why it is important.
The interior has more. Yes, more. More legroom, more sumptuous "Bridge of Weir" leather that is produced in a factory in Scotland boasting the lowest carbon manufacturing processes of any leather plant in the world. Brushed aluminum pillars, and wood that comes from sustainable forests and has a focus on craftsmanship. A split, power tailgate that allows easy cargo access. An expansive panoramic roof, 21-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, and an additional 22 exterior and interior paint colors above the normal Range Rover colors.
A full choice of individual options enable customers to create a personalized vehicle:
* 37 exterior paint finishes, including 22 exclusive Autobiography colors
* 17 interior color themes, plus additional choice of seat color
* 3 interior veneers at launch, with more to follow
* 3 headlining colors
* Rear Individualized Seating
* 2 optional contrast roof colors - Santorini Black or Indus Silver
* 8 available alloy wheel designs on 19-inch, 20-inch, 21-inch and 22-inch wheels
And the Range Rover has less. Less noise. The front and side glass windows are laminated, new-isolated engine mounts have been added, all to help decrease noise. The high-strength aluminum structure was created to minimize the transmission of noise and vibrations, while the use of stiff alloy suspension components and specially developed bushings help reduce road noise. All this adds up to wind noise that is reduced 7 percent compared to the outgoing model.
Combining the mystique of the brand with the complexities of global trade will be the challenge for Land Rover. They're already producing, and selling, all of their beautiful vehicles. They have superloyalists, and new buyers waiting in line to buy their newest vehicles. I just want to be one of them.
2013 Land Rover Range Rover
Models: Standard, HSE, Supercharged, Autobiography
Price as tested: $133,695
1. Naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 - 32-valve with variable valve timing; eight-speed automatic transmission; full-time four-wheel drive with adaptive front, center and rear locking differentials
2. 5-liter Supercharged V8 - 32-valve with variable valve timing; eight-speed automatic transmission; full-time four-wheel drive with adaptive front, center and rear locking differentials
1. 375 horsepower/375 lb.-ft of torque
2. 510 horsepower/461 lb.-ft of torque
Length/weight: 195.7 inches/4,850 pounds
Wheelbase: 115 inches
0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
EPA fuel economy:
1. 15/19 mpg city/highway/combined
2. 14/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined
Cargo capacity: 32.1 cubic feet