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2003 Range Rover Road Test

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, 2003 Range Rover Road Test
Category: $70,000 + Luxury SUV
Who should buy this car: Someone looking for the ultimate back woods thrasher that is equally as impressive on the highway.
Comparable models in this class: BMW X5, Hummer H1, Lexus LX470, Mercedes Benz G500

From the moment one lays eyes on the new Range Rover, nothing short of beautiful comes to mind. Luxury and beauty are evident from first glance. Noting that the previous Range Rover was stunning only in its mediocrity all the more enhances this declaration. The new Range Rover is more than a ten-fold improvement over the old in every way.

The first and most obvious improvement is found in the Rovers new-meets-old exterior styling. The old shape is still there, but with an entirely new skin. Clear taillight lenses are all the rage these days, but the Range Rover makes that styling cue their own. Up front, quartz halogen headlamps are arranged in a manner that would make Buck Rodgers happy, and at the same time are incorporated into the vehicle without the clunkiness of other luxury cars. Side vents or gills are slightly reminiscent of old Corvettes and add a post-modern look to the muscular Range Rover.

The simplest act of opening the driver’s door results in one being awestruck by the sheer beauty of this car. As you pull the door open, the LCD screen, which houses the on-board computer and navigation system, instantly pops on and proudly displays the Land Rover logo. As the interior lights illuminate, you’d swear Land Rover hired the best Hollywood lighting consultant money could buy soft light gently falls on the wood and metal trim in just such a way that one can’t help but let out an enthusiastic wow! Upon entry, the beige leather, wood and chrome trim, combined with the lighting and Land Rover logo all seem to say, Welcome to your Land Rover. Wow indeed.

, 2003 Range Rover Road Test

No detail is overlooked, floor mats are at once rugged and luxurious each with a metal Land Rover logo and stainless steel tabs on each corner. Wood trim has a matte finish and, hang on to your hat, actually looks like WOOD! Gauges are set off with a nice hunter green background. This trademark Land Rover color is woven throughout the cabin in such subtle areas as seat trim, upper dash, and outlines various buttons and switches.

While Land Rover and British cars in general have not been know for their ergonomic perfection, the Range Rovers interior has a clarity to it that even an Acura owner would find pleasing. Climate control functions are housed in the center area of a rather squarish console that has the visually appealing illusion of continuing to the upper part of the dash area. Steering wheel mounted controls for the audio system, and cruise control are large and easy to find without distraction. Each surface seems to perfectly contrast those around it, or seamlessly flow into the next. This is by far one of the best looking, most eye pleasing interior spaces in any modern automobile.

Passenger room is more than adequate with virtually miles of headroom. Rear seat legroom looks to be a bit lacking, but once in the car, legroom is plentiful as is hip and shoulder room. Front seats offer tons of luxurious space, and the power lumbar can be moved up or down. Front armrests can also be adjusted for maximum comfort. The all out luxury theme continues with an optional cold weather package that includes: heated front and rear seats, heated windshield and a heated steering wheel.

Further enhancing the interior is the 12-speaker audio system that utilizesHarmon-Kardon and Alpine components. The industry standard for perfection in car audio has been Lexus Mark Levinson system as found in the LS430 or GS430, but the Range Rover system easily equals, if not surpasses that top of the line system and offers more customizable features. Thanks to a rear mounted sub-woofer, bass response is deep and clear. Sound quality overall is excellent with brilliant highs and a mid-range that doesn’t sound muddy this is sometimes a problem with many high-end systems when listening to live recordings or more rock oriented types of music. Pre-set equalizer settings offer even more choices for enhancing sound quality depending on style of music. If none of the pre-set selections are to your liking, there are three custom settings available. The only problem with this near flawless audio system is that accessing the features in it, and the navigation system can be down right frustrating it just seems to make no logical sense.

, 2003 Range Rover Road Test

Lest you think all this beauty and style are only skin deep, the 2003 Ranger Rover has more than a 60 hp advantage over its predecessor. The 4.4-liter, BMW V8 is no hot rod, but it does provide surprisingly brisk acceleration and delivers all 282 hp in a smooth and linear fashion. The 5-speed automatic shifts up and down without the driver ever being aware in 90% of driving situations. Having recently driven a few luxury cars with newly developed 5-speed automatics, we were just about ready to conclude that 5 speeds is simply too many, and that it seemed impossible to find one that lacked the hunting that has become a major downfall of today’s sophisticated automatics. Land Rover, with its BMW sourced ZF transmission has put our minds at ease. All it took was a British car, with a German power train, sold by an American company easy.

On the road, the new Range Rover is unbelievably smooth and solid. Even at highway speeds, the inside remains as quiet as a library. For such a boxy design, the Range Rover produces precious little wind noise. Road noise is minimal as well; in fact the only sound that makes its way into the lavish passenger compartment is the gentle purr of the BMW V8- now thats noise you can live with.

Handling is soft without being annoying, but then again this is an SUV and not a sports car. The 03 Rover has a four-stage ride height; three of them are selectable by the driver. With the Rover sitting as low as it will go, handling is slightly improved. In fact the Range Rover never feels clumsy and top heavy the way some SUVs can. For off-road ventures, select the highest setting and the vehicle raises itself to increase ground clearance from 8.8 inches to 11.1 in a matter of seconds. This is controlled via a dash-mounted knob – youll never need to leave the comfort of the cabin when venturing off-road. The adjustable air suspension also has a kneel mode where you can lower the height of the car to make loading and unloading easier. At highway speeds, the air suspension gently lowers the vehicle to improve stability and fuel economy this happens automatically, whereas the other suspension modes require the driver to flip a switch. The air-suspension also adjusts to compensate for a loaded vehicle, insuring that the car is always level.

, 2003 Range Rover Road Test

On paved roads, the Range Rover is a near perfect luxury tourer. Off road, the Range Rover is capable of duties that would simply ruin any other SUV. RoversHDC, or Hill Descent Control, makes sure you don’t get in over your head. This feature uses the brakes and engine braking to keep speed down on a hill; as Land Rover puts it, HDC can help keep your adventure from becoming more of an adventure than you want it to be. HDC works in both forward and reverse.

MacPherson struts with double pivot lower arms in front soak up off-road ruts and divots with ease. Permanent all-wheel drive with Torsen center differential combined with Dynamic Stability Control, and four-wheel traction control all work together, both on road and off, to insure an accident free adventure. Fear not, even if you never venture off-road (just knowing that you could is half the fun), that same independent suspension smoothes out ruts and potholes just as effectively.

Many luxury cars are simply not worth the price. The 2003 Range Rover tips the financial scales at just over $69,000 MSRP. That is a serious chunk of change, but consider the Hummer H1 at over $110,000, or the Mercedes Benz G500 at over $80,000. Both vehicles offer off-road abilities equal to the Range Rover, but fall far short with regard to creature comforts, storage space, styling, and on road performance. The Lexus LX470 seems to come closest to the new Range Rover in terms of cross shopping but even it lacks the style of the Rover and has 50 fewer horsepower. Sure the ultra-rich will purchase the new Range Rover as an addition to their collection so everyday usability may be irrelevant. The good news about the Rover is that it can easily function as a family’s only car. Even in a fleet of luxury cars, the Range Rover will undoubtedly be the one car that will actually get driven everyday.

Overall the 2003 Range Rover is almost the perfect all around vehicle; it does everything well easy to drive, lots of interior space, goes off-road with ease, travels the highway well, looks great and offers a perfect combination of Land Rover ruggedness and exclusive luxury. The two flaws in this otherwise stunning automobile are: 1. SUV-like fuel economy (12 city 17 highway – no worse than other trucks). 2. A bewildering navigation/on-board computer system. The Range Rover is now available in just one trim; HSE. This vehicle comes loaded with leather, sunroof, premium audio system, adjustable suspension, V8, steering wheel mounted controls, alloy wheels, gorgeous wood trim and on and on the list goes. Options include Xenon headlights, and cold weather package.

The new 2003 Range Rover is one of the few luxury cars that is actually worth its asking price. In fact, this may be the best all-around vehicle out there, regardless of price.

, 2003 Range Rover Road Test


2003 Land Rover Range Rover 4 Wheel Drive SUV

Engine Type 4.4 litre All-aluminum 90-degree DOHC V8
Horsepower 282 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque 325 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel Recommended Premium  91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission 5-speed automatic transmission
Drive Type Permanent four-wheel drive with Two-speed chain drive transfer gearbox with Torsen center differential
Tires (Std.)
Tires (Opt.)
255/55HR-19 mud & snow radial tires
255/50VR-20 radial tires
Overall Length 195.0″
Wheelbase 113.4″
Width 75.7″
Turning Diameter 38.0 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 5,379  lbs.
Fuel Tank 26.4 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 12, hwy 17
Acceleration 0 to 60 9.0 Seconds
Base Sticker Price $69,330   Plus $665 Destination Charge.

Standard Equipment

  • Leather upholstery
  • Wood and leather trim on dash and doors
  • 10-way power driver seat and 6-way passenger seat
  • Memory settings for 3 drivers
  • Choice of Cherry or Burled Walnut wood trim
  • 5-speed shiftable automatic transmission
  • Descent control
  • Full time 4WD
  • Hi-lo gear selection
  • Center limited slip differential
  • Four-wheel independent Active suspension with self leveling feature
  • 4 one-touch power windows
  • 3-zone climate control
  • AM/FM cassette 6-CD stereo with 290 watts and 12 speakers
  • Navigation system
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Front side-mounted airbags
  • Front & rear head air bags

Major Available Options

  • Heated Accessories Package
    Includes heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and ski hatch and bag integrated into rear center armrest

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