out of 10

While the previous generation Range Rover certainly had its strengths, light weight and a luxury-sedan-like driving experience weren’t among them. If you need to regularly go out where the busses don’t run, and want to do so in comfort, however, chances are good that the last Range Rover still made your shopping list.

For 2013, Land Rover is launching a new version of its storied luxury SUV, and the good news is that they’ve addressed the model’s shortcomings without adding new ones. Thanks to the extensive use of aluminum in its construction, the new Range Rover tips the scales at some 700 pounds less than the model it replaces. That makes the new Range Rover more agile, more capable off-road (thanks in part to the miracle of modern electronics) and (somewhat) more fuel-efficient.

While the styling is unmistakeable, that’s not to say that it returns unchanged. The new Range Rover is almost two inches longer than the model it replaces, yet its lower stance makes it look even smaller. Up front, a kinder and gentler grille gives the Range Rover a more welcoming appearance, while the rear styling seems to forever banish the ghosts of BMW ownership by replacing boxy lines with a more tapered and flowing design.

Inside, the 2013 Range Rover loses none of its intimacy. Passengers can admire the rich wood trim from the comfort of semi-aniline leather seats, and opting for the high-end Autobiography edition allows buyers to choose from a dizzying array of wood trims, leathers and interior colors.

Dropping 700 pounds will make anything quicker and more nimble, and the new Range Rover is no exception to this rule. Base models come with a 5.0-liter V-8, rated at 375 horsepower and mated to a ZF-built eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters. That’s good enough to get the luxury SUV from 0-60 mph in only 6.5 seconds, which isn’t that much different than the previous generation’s supercharged variant. The new 510-hp supercharged version? It's good for a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, sport-sedan territory.

On the road, the new Range Rover feels more like a sedan (albeit a big, tall sedan) than ever before. Four-wheel independent suspension, fitted with adaptive air dampers, gets the credit here, and variable-ratio electric power steering serves up both precise control and admirable feel.

If you think the Range Rover has sacrificed off-road prowess for on-road comfort, think again. All Range Rover models come standard with full-time four-wheel drive, and a new version of Range Rover’s Terrain Response system ensures that drivers can handle just about anything in their path. Settings include General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. With the air suspension fully extended, there's more than a foot of ground clearance, and the Range Rover can ford streams nearly three feet deep. We’d be the first to admit that no one is going to take a luxury SUV with the Range Rover’s price tag off-roading, but buyers will have piece of mind knowing that if Armageddon happens on the way back from an afternoon of golf, they’ll still make it home in time for dinner.

In the unlikely event that you do get the new Range Rover stuck, passengers will be plenty comfortable until help arrives. Rear seat occupants now get an additional 4.7 inches of leg room, with powered seat functions including recline and massage. Front seat passengers get the same amenities, and all four chairs can be heated and cooled for year-round comfort.

Up front, simulated instruments are shown on a 12.3-inch LCD display, while an eight-inch touchscreen located in the center stack handles infotainment duties. While even base models come well-equipped, major options include a 1,700 Watt Meridian audio system, surround-view cameras, a panoramic sunroof and cooler boxes. Even color selection will take some time, since buyers get to choose from 37 exterior and 17 interior hues.

The 2013 Land Rover Range Rover goes on sale in December, starting at $83,500 for base models and climbing to over $130,000 for Autobiography editions. For more on the new Range Rover, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection.

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