First Drive: 2012 Range Rover

Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene

Originally published by Dupont Registry:

2012 Range Rover HSE

The 2012 Range Rover (Range Rover and Land Rover are now considered separate brands in the same vein as Ram and Dodge) is quite different from the Range Rovers that I recall from a few years less than a decade back. I can specifically remember friends’ clamor about the Land Rover Range Rover—and how Michael Jordon drove one—provoking my own criticisms. Sure, it looked exquisite and had a pleasant interior, but what about the sloppy steering, slow pedal responses, and clunky suspension? But after some quick drives in a new 2012 Land Rover Range Rover, I can testify that my previous concerns have all but been erased and the things I liked before have gotten even better.

The new Range Rover doesn’t stray too far visually from previous editions, but the changes underneath the skin have transformed the car into something more deserving of its prestigious reputation: the interior that has grown to be absolutely gorgeous and the entire driving demeanor has been vastly improved compared to its predecessors.

Broken Range Rover Key Fob
The journey started when I grabbed the keys. The metal bands that wrap around the plastic key fob make it look similar to a small iPhone 4. Old-school tendencies takeover whenever a key fob is in hand, and I immediately start to search for the mechanical key portion of the key fob. It is a natural reaction despite every test car we see offering push-button starters. In case of the Range Rover, I broke the key before I even got a chance to set foot into the car, disconnecting the hidden metal key from the fob. It was an easy fix, but it is no way to start a relationship.

Still in its third-generation form, which dates back to 2003, the Range Rover has undergone a number of exterior refinements to help it keep up with its stylish competitors. Its form appears to be standing the test of time; it holds itself like a classic in slightly revised clothing (think 911 but with a much shorter history), but we can’t be sure how much longer these looks will continue to compete with its ever-changing competition. Some of the external revisions for 2012 include gloss black plates in the headlamps and tail lamps, a black finish around the front grille, color-match door handles and side vents, and new 20-inch wheels.

The interior of the Range Rover is striking and comfortable. The command seating gives you the impression of having command of the road while the car’s many functions are easily accessed from a large number of rotary knobs and switches. Atop the center console is a seven-inch dual-view touchscreen infotainment display, which we found easy to navigate. In addition to the navigation system and music, phone, and vehicle settings, it also provides access to the five cameras added with the optional Vision Assist package. These five cameras provide a view to the rear, out from the front bumper to the left and the right, and on either side of the vehicle to better judge the vehicle’s proximity to curbs. Although you will not need all the cameras most of the time, it does provide assurance in atypical parking or maneuvering situations. In front of the driver is 12.3-inch LCD virtual display. It serves as an innovative way to bring a large number of different graphics to the instrument cluster, but its gauges still felt a little artificial and lagging compared to standard analog dials.

Our test was enhanced with a Luxury Interior package, which include soft perforated (for the in-seat cooling and heating) Oxford leather on the seats and leather on the doors and center console. Walnut wood and metal trim highlighted our test car’s tan leather exceptionally well. The colors and high-quality materials (cheap plastic could almost not be found) inside are masterfully mixed and pleasant to the senses. The Range Rover can accommodate up to five people with enough room in the back for their luggage. 

2012 Range Rover Interior

The car drives like a modern luxury SUV, something we could not say about its predecessors. For instance, Land Rovers of the past featured syrup-slow reactions, while the steering of the 2012 features good weight and direct responses. We were also impressed with the suspension, which didn’t result in the same louds thuds when going over larger bumps that we experienced in older models. It drove a tad rough but helped the Range Rover stay flat up to a point, where then large amounts of body roll would kick in to let us know we were pushing it too far. The Range Rover now comes standard with an electronic air suspension that adjusts 100 times a second to please occupants on twisty, rocky, and smooth roads alike. The car’s off-road credentials served as a safety net in the back of our minds, making us more aware of road conditions than any other test car. We secretly hoped to utilize one of its four special drive modes (Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud-Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl), no easy task with Florida’s well-known flat straight paved roads. We sought out some gravel patches to see if we could sense the system, which alters the engine, transmission, suspension, and traction control settings to the road condition. The system never made itself known with the little we did to try to provoke intervention. You could speculate the system was doing nothing, wasn’t pushed hard enough, or was invisible in nature, while we will lean more to the latter. The system also features Gradient Acceleration Control and Hill Start Assist.

2012 Range Rover rear
Our test car featured the standard naturally aspirated V-8. It produces 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, which results in a 0–60-mph time of 7.2 seconds. This may come off as lackluster to some, but we were pleased with the power output and acceleration, especially considering the 2.75 tons of vehicle the engine has to move. Part of our enjoyment of the power plant seems to come from the six-speed automatic transmission but not because it bangs off lighting fast shifts or knows exactly what gear the driver wants, but because it sticks to the fat part of the torque band and is almost reluctant to enter the upper rpms. Fuel consumption, however, is merely mediocre. Its rating of 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway are on par with the Lexus LX570, but fall short of the 14/20 from the more powerful 2012 BMW X5 xDrive50i and the 13/18 offered in the outgoing Mercedes-Benz ML550 model (expect better returns with the 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the upcoming new ML550).

In conclusion, the 2012 model changed our dicey view of previous lackluster Range Rover products. The 2012 Range Rover offers a pinned down ride, strong off-road presence from a storied off-road heritage, and beautifully appointed interior. Its top-notch engine provides good power and was assisted with a six-speed automatic that kept it in the torque band. Our only gripes would be its price compared to its competition, its aging styling, and its so-so gas mileage.