2013 Range Rover passenger ride
* We ride in 2013 Range Rover * Faster, roomier and more efficient * First deliveries in December...
An all-new Range Rover has just been unveiled, and while it features evolutionary styling, there's been a complete revolution beneath the skin.
Most significantly, the new car swaps the steel body of the current Range Rover for an all-aluminium structure, which is around 39% lighter.
That weight saving along with other smaller ones and improved aerodynamics helps make the new Range Rover both faster and more efficient than an equivalent version of the current car.
In addition, it has allowed Land Rover to offer a new entry-level V6 diesel that provides the same sort of performance as today's TDV8, yet averages 37.7mpg and emits less than 200g/km of CO2.
The TDV8 engine will continue to be sold alongside the V6 diesel, while a supercharged V8 petrol completes the line-up at launch.
Range Rover's Terrain Response system gets a new auto mode
Late next year, Land Rover will add a hybrid model that combines the V6 diesel engine with an electric motor to bring CO2 down to an estimated 169g/km. Cleverly, the batteries are positioned under the floor, so there's no loss of boot space.
In the longer-term, there will also be a plug-in hybrid that can go much farther on electric-only power. This should average around 90g/km.
We won't get to drive the new Range Rover until next month, but we have already been for a passenger ride in a late prototype that Land Rover says is dynamically very close to the finished article.
What's the 2013 Range Rover like on the road?
The car we went out in was a supercharged V8 petrol, and this built speed very quickly and progressively, aided by the slick eight-speed auto gearbox that's standard across the range.
Height-adjustable air suspension is also standard on every model, but only the V8 and TDV8 come with active anti-roll bars; they're not an option for the V6 diesel. With these fitted, the new Range Rover stays remarkably flat and composed, even when you brake hard or chuck it into a corner.
There is some body float on straight, undulating roads, which Land Rover says has been deliberately engineered in to improve comfort and give the car that distinctive Range Rover character.
However, you're not tossed around like you are in the current car, because the suspension quickly brings the body back under control rather than let it bounce up and down repeatedly.
The new Range Rover is also good at taking the sting out of high-speed bumps, but you do feel some patter over battered urban streets (the optional 22-inch wheels fitted to our car probably didn't help).
There was also a bit of wind noise down the sides of our car at motorway cruising speeds, but this wasn't loud enough to be a major irritation, and Land Rover claims production models will be quieter because they'll have tighter panel gaps.
The new Range Rover is generally impressive on the road, then, and it should be very capable off it.
Like the current model, it comes with Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which lets you optimise the car for different surfaces at the twist of a dial, and this now features a new auto mode.
Land Rover has also given the latest Range Rover more wheel travel than the outgoing car, while the wading depth has been improved by 200mm to 900mm.
An electrically deployable tow bar will be available as an option, and with this fitted the car can haul up to 3.5 tonnes.
What's the 2013 Range Rover like inside?
Perceived quality has long been a Range Rover strength, but the new one is the classiest yet, mixing sumptuous materials with superb fit and finish and a tidier dash layout.
There are now said to be 50% fewer switches, because most functions are controlled through a large Evoque-style touch-screen.
Fortunately, you still get the high seating position and superb all-round vision that the Range Rover is famous for.
One of the Range Rover's less desirable traits has traditionally been poor rear legroom. However, there's an extra 118mm in the back of the new car, so six-footers can stretch out.
Land Rover will also offer the option of an 'Executive Class' rear cabin, which swaps the standard three-person bench for two individual rear seats that are electrically adjustable.
Buyers of the new Range Rover will be able to specify heated, cooled and massaging rear seats, a new 29-speaker Meridian sound system and an optional T-junction camera that stops you from having to stick the nose of the car out into traffic to get a clear view.
At the back of the car you still get the traditional Range Rover split tailgate, but for the first time, both sections open and close electrically.
Electrically folding rear seats further boost practicality and ease of use.
Later, Land Rover will introduce a long-wheelbase Range Rover that offers even more rear legroom.
Should I buy one?
The supercharged V8 that we rode in makes little sense in the UK, but the V6 diesel starts at 71,295, which means it's only slightly more expensive than the outgoing TDV8, as well as significantly more efficient.
True, the V6's ride and handling characteristics remain something of a mystery because the active anti-roll bars that were fitted to our car are reserved for the V8 models.
However, when you factor in the improvements in quality, technology and practicality, it should be a very appealing alternative to a traditional luxury saloon.