2003 Range Rover HSE
He Drove, She Drove
Range Rover rules supreme
By Paul & Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News
2003 Range Rover HSE
For those fortunate few who can afford it and are looking for the best sport utility vehicle in the world, the redesigned 2003 Range Rover stands alone.
Marketed by Ford Motor Co.'s Land Rover subsidiary, the new Range Rover -- only the third generation since its inception in 1970 as the pinnacle of the British marque's all-terrain lineup -- was actually designed, engineered and developed under former owner BMW AG.
It shows. If you look hard enough, you'll find some common pieces, costly under the skin, that are shared with the BMW X5.
Our test vehicle, a Range Rover HSE with only a handful of options, was priced at $72,045 -- beyond the reach of most mortals.
She: In some ways, this review is pointless. Land Rover says the 2003 Range Rover has been sold out in North America since it arrived here last June. So we're just giving people the voyeuristic thrill of hearing about our experience in one of the most expensive SUVs on the planet. There are some incredible things on this vehicle -- like an interior that only lacks marble and granite. It also can do just about everything but fly. It has hill-descent control, and a height-adjustable air suspension that makes the vehicle kneel like a pasha's elephant. Just what you need when you run up to the 7-11 for a Big Gulp and a gallon of milk.
He: This is not a social commentary, Emma Goldman, it's a product review. The point isn't whether your conscience can justify the purchase of a Range Rover, but whether it's worth the money. What else can you get in this class for $70,000? It sure won't pay for a Hummer H1. And even though the X5 costs less and shares some parts, it's not really in the same league as the Range Rover. For the money, there's nothing better on the market.
She: It is pretty impressive to look at the window sticker and see 15 items listed under the "Safety" column, including all-terrain antilock brakes, a heated front windshield and eight air bags, including head-protection bags for front and rear passengers. There's even an anti-trap feature on the sunroof and the windows. So I guess Range Rover is planning for every contingency except taking more than five people. There's no third-row seat -- something you can get in any ordinary minivan.
He: But isn't that part of the cachet of the Range Rover? It's not a common hauler, by any stretch. When I drove this vehicle last winter up in the Scottish Highlands, I was blown away by the comfort and luxury that surrounds you, even when you're perched on top of a mountain in a slicing ice storm. And the very fact that you can take the Range Rover to that mountaintop in the first place is mighty impressive. Kids, don't try that in your Honda CRV. On the way up that hill, we also plowed through deep mud holes and forded a river, with water up to the gunwales. But once we got back on paved roads, we thought we were driving a BMW 7-series sedan -- with out the wacky iDrive, of course. And that's another part of the beauty of the Range Rover. Unlike many of the SUVs that are sold in North America and clearly intended for use either on-road or off, the Range Rover does admirable double duty and exceeds its competitors in nearly every category.
She: I thought you were going to say you were perched on top of a mountain in a kilt.
He: Actually, it was a parka.
She: I can't remember the last time I needed to ford a river. My point is this vehicle is overkill, overkill, overkill. Plus it gets lousy gas mileage -- only 12 miles per gallon in city driving. It costs a lot to insure, and I can only imagine what it costs to operate and maintain. Worst of all, it was hard for me to get in and out of. They forgot to put a grab handle on the passenger side for shorter persons -- either that or a step stool.
He: Considering the Range Rover weighs well over 5,000 pounds and is equipped with a powerful 4.4-liter BMW V-8, the mileage isn't that bad. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should get at least 17 miles per gallon on the highway. And the performance is truly sensational, considering this vehicle is built like a tank. The zero-to-60 sprint takes only nine seconds, and the Range Rover will easily gallop to speeds of 130 miles an hour or better. That engine is a gem. It makes 282 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque, and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. If you really want to talk overkill, I've heard that the vehicle was also engineered to take the BMW V-12 engine, if Ford ever chose to go down that path.
She: No, thanks. I'll take a Volvo XC90 any day, then go on a great shopping trip to Paris with the $30,000 I saved.
Likes: Awesome off-road capability. Tank-like on highway. Sophisticated interior styling and trim. Lots of power from the new BMW engine. Supremely comfortable seats. Clever adjustable cupholder in front. Workmanship is noticeably improved over previous model. Incredible head, hip, leg and shoulder room. Ample cargo space. Air suspension provides terrific ride quality.
Dislikes: CD changer in glove box is inconvenient. Navigation system is difficult to use, virtually incomprehensible. Confusing audio system.
Likes: Classic exterior. Many safety features, including eight air bags, all-terrain ABS and stability control. Parking is easy. Optional heated front and rear seats, steering wheel. Personal overhead lighting in rear. Nice details like piping on seats. Easy to use push-button tailgate. Free scheduled maintenance for four years/40,000 miles.
Dislikes: Overkill, Unless your goal is to impress the neighbors. Appalling fuel economy. Too pricey for most. No third-row seat. Difficult entry-and-exit for short people.
By the numbers
Type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sport-utility.
Price: $69,330; as tested, $72,045
Engine: 4.4-liter V-8; 282-hp; 325 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway.
Key competitors: BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX470, Hummer H1, Lincoln Navigator.
12-month insurance cost2 : $2,305
Where built: United Kingdom
1 Includes $740 destination charge.
2 Estimated by AAA Michigan. Rates may vary depending on coverage and driving record.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....