The launch of a new Range Rover is ALWAYS an important occasion. Since the inception of the original luxury SUV in 1970, there have only been three new models. So this fourth generation represents a major milestone for the small, specialized, British carmaker, especially arriving in its 65th year.
Unlike larger manufacturers that offer annual model updates and short vehicle lifespans, the cycle of any Land Rover is practically glacial by comparison. The original Land Rover, that would later become the Defender, has essentially seen only four generations since it was first produced in 1948. So any new Land Rover model has a lengthy gestation period, allowing the engineers to fine-tune the product.
And while new models like the Evoque may appeal to a fresh audience, a Range Rover has 43 years of expectations to live up to, and a diverse group of buyers to please. It must be luxurious and comfortable, dependable and practical as well as ridiculously capable off-road.
The original Range Rover, now known as the Classic, boasted coil springs, discs brakes and 100mph capability - unheard of for off-road vehicles. It also brought a level of luxury and sophistication that was previously unseen in this segment. That intriguing mix would establish the Range Rover as the benchmark, with competitors still unable to match its all-round versatility.
Our expectations are the same 43 years later. We want it to be capable on the freeway, make a statement at a swanky restaurant, traverse snow-capped peaks and conquer impassable terrain: a tall order for any other vehicle but the basic requirements for the 2013 Range Rover.
We also expect a new Range Rover to be groundbreaking, and Land Rover didn't disappoint. Its new aluminum monocoque, body panels (first used on the Land Rover in 1948) and suspension components, for example, shed a whopping 700 lb compared to the previous generation.
Testing a vehicle of this magnitude brings its own challenges. We'd have to reach beyond our usual canyon roads and test tracks to put this car to the test. But if the new Range Rover is truly capable of the impossible, perhaps it could help us find the improbable?
Our plan was to take the $99,995 2013 Range Rover Supercharged and find Bigfoot. It would involve 250 freeway miles and almost 100 miles of challenging mountain passes to reach Prescott in northern Arizona. There we'd meet our local guide and Bigfoot researcher, Tim Zamiski from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, who'd assist us in our quest.
With these mythical creatures only found in remote mountains and forests, the final leg of our journey would involve miles of rock-strewn dirt trails reaching deep into Prescott National Forest. Here we could test the Range Rover's legendary ground clearance, approach angles, wheel articulation, traction and Terrain Response system. It seemed like the perfection plan.
Getting to Prescott was a straight shot down the 10 Freeway from Los Angeles but like the Boy Scouts, we always want to be prepared. So we crammed the Range Rover and a borrowed 2012 Range Rover Sport full of video, photo, camping, clothing and survival equipment. We had towropes, sand tracks, shovels, night vision, Flir thermal vision, tripods, water and firearms.
The latter were courtesy of our military liaison, CW2 Brady A Cloward UTNG AVN who was along for wildlife protection and entertainment. About to embark on his fourth tour of the sand box, we knew he was accustomed to searching for an elusive adversary.
Smart enough to master a Blackhawk helicopter in order to liberate himself from the gun turret of a soft-skinned Humvee, Brady was also familiar with the terrain, having grown up near our location. As an accomplished hunter, we hoped he wouldn't run screaming from the undergrowth at the sound of the first cracking twig in the middle of the night!
As it turns out, Brady also knew a man with some night vision goggles that proved a useful addition to our inventory. He wouldn't let us use his Army-issued NVG, but claimed the civilian versions were almost as good.
We should also point out Brady's been a regular contributor to eurotuner.com, having built several project vehicles for us, in addition to reporting car sightings from the frontline. So with his ability to root out the unseen, light a decent campfire, engage the locals, and with skill behind a keyboard, Chief Warrant Officer Cloward was always going to be a vital part of the team.
We'd be joined by the aforementioned Tim Zamiski (more about him later), as well as Kenneth Thompson from our video department. Kenny would capture the action as it unfurled - we were hoping for Bigfoot footage to rival the legendary 1967 Patterson film, but it turns out we don't have cameras that work in the dark...
Rather than the usual bright colors seen on the 2012 Range Rover Sport, our example was finished in Ipanema Sand, making it more subtle without hiding its muscularity. Yet it shrank alongside the 2012 Range Rover in both dimension and stature.
While it looks considerably bigger than the outgoing T5 model, the new D7u Range Rover is only 1" longer. Yet its lower roofline and 1.6" longer wheelbase create the illusion of being considerably bigger. The same is true inside, where passengers get 4.7" more legroom and 2" more knee room.
Despite losing its square styling, the Range Rover maintains many of its 43 year-old features. These include the clamshell hood (which now acts as the intake duct, allowing an impressive 35" wading depth), split tailgate (made from composite, both sections are powered) and floating roof (thanks to black pillars).
The front-end retains its chunky, slotted grille but is dominated by the LED lighting that's distinctive both day and night. The new headlights resemble a camera lens, complete with appropriate lettering, and are one of a number of delightful details throughout the car. Other enchanting discoveries included "Range Rover" projected into the puddle lighting under the front mirrors, as well as a cool silhouette graphic of the car between the doors, but there are many more for you to discover.
There are 37 paint colors to choose from (ours was Luxor, an $1800 upgrade), which can be paired with either a silver or black roof. There are eight wheel designs up to 22" (ours was on stock 21"), and a panoramic roof (prompted by a 70% take up by Evoque customers) that can hold three times the vehicle's weight in a rollover.
The interior is a departure, eschewing the rash of infotainment and dynamic control buttons infecting most of the competition. Instead, Land Rover halved the number of buttons and switches, preferring rotary controllers for the transmission and Terrain Response, with a touchscreen for almost everything else.
You can specify three rear seats or two individual ones divided by a center console. And there are three levels of Meridian Audio, including "Ultimate 3D" which features 29 speakers and 1700 watts of power. Our test vehicle made do with an $1850 Premium system with 825W and 19 speakers, creating a surround sound stage with amazing depth and clarity.
We were also grateful for the $4150 Climate Comfort Package fitted front and rear. It included climate control, solar glass, a cold box in the console, reclining rear seats, heated/cooled seats front and rear, plus massaging up front.
With the Range Rover's 23-gallon tank, you can travel more than 430 freeway miles between fill ups, so the massagers undoubtedly keep you behind the wheel longer.
As a freeway tool, the 2013 Range Rover is enormously adept. The lack of noise, air carpet suspension, eight-speed trans and 510hp to power past distraction makes it a wonderful grand tourer.
Perhaps our only gripe was the odd on-center steering feel. Making small adjustments required a relatively big tug on the wheel, causing the car to over-steer and requiring you to correct the other way. This set up a weird swerving motion as you tried to correct left and right to get the car where you wanted it. This may have been caused by the new variable-ratio steering system that provides slower on-center feel.
Fortunately, the problem dissolved once we started ascending the mountain passes, with the steering feel improving and the new aluminum suspension coming into its own. Not only does it have independent suspension all round, with a multi-link rear, but it sits on air bags and has adaptive dampers as well as an active lean system called Dynamic Response. Along with huge multi-piston Brembo brakes, the Range Rover behaves more like a sports sedan than an SUV in tight turns. Although you never quite forget its height and weight, the car is surprisingly agile and again, its ample horsepower got us past slower, rather intimidated drivers.
In fact, we surprised a lot of road users who didn't seem to expect this small house to reach 60mph in 5.1sec and continue to 140mph (155mph on 22" tires).
Every Range Rover must excel off-road and the permanent 4WD system has a 50\50 torque-split center diff and low-range option. It also has Terrain Response 2, which is an enhanced version of Land Rover's traction system with individual settings for grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl. It also has a new Auto mode that senses the conditions and opts for the best of the five settings.
Just as useful is the air suspension, which will raise the body by 5.7" to improve its ground clearance to 11.6".
A graphic in the central display shows you the percentage of differential lock as you maneuver through an obstacle. You can also feel individual wheels being locked and released as grip is found at any corner.
Wheel travel has been extended by the new suspension, allowing 10.2" of movement at the front and 12.2" rear, providing exceptional articulation in the harshest conditions.
We should also add Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Hill Start Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control and Roll Stability that serve the driver as you tackle off-road obstacles.
In short, the Range Rover feels as unstoppable as ever. This is just as well when you're aiming $100k between narrow trees on a sandy path with rocks jutting through. The high approach and departure angles meant we were able to clear everything northern Arizona threw at us.
If we're honest, it appeared as if the car was quietly laughing at us. There was a hint of derision each time we climbed a sand bank, crossed a creek or traversed rocks. Was that all we had?
We were greeted by many perplexed stares as we negotiated our way past campsites, gold prospectors, hikers and target shooters. It appears that luxury SUVs are an unusual sight in Arizona's woodland. Little did they know we were enjoying air-conditioned massages while using the five surround cameras in the $1550 Vision Assist Package to watch the vehicle behind, check obstacles ahead and clearance on each side.
If we'd had tents onboard it would've redefined glamping. However, all our electronics needed charging each night and memory cards downloaded, so we afforded ourselves the charms of The Motor Lodge in Prescott (themotorlodge.com) - a boutique motel we chanced upon. It's close to downtown and comprises individual cabins with a cool '50s motoring theme. If Bigfoot should draw you to Prescott we highly recommend a stay.
After a full day's drive and several hours plunging into the Prescott scenery, our BFRO guide Tim Zamiski could finally do his thing. Unfortunately, he hadn't bargained on herding cats as our group of ADHD sufferers toyed with cameras, phones and garments.
Although quiet-natured, Tim's piercing eyes told a story. It was about a man who wished he hadn't volunteered for this assignment, yet was resigned to seeing it through.
His first advice was to observe a noise protocol. I believe the phrase was "shut up and listen," but I might have misheard.
Tim menacingly swung a pickaxe handle, his eyes flicking from face to face as he silently decided who to leave in the forest. The axe handle is a key tool in the Bigfoot researcher's arsenal, used to make "knocks", which is thought to be a form of Bigfoot communication. It also served to get our attention.
As we hiked through the woods, smashing the undergrowth underfoot, we became aware that Tim was able to avoid snapping branches or crushing pinecones. He had the agility of a mountain lion, seeming to float above the foliage like a camouflaged Jesus.
With eyes constantly on the swivel and ears tuned to the forest's calls, we'd stop to inspect sandy areas. The soft sediment would allow us to identify telltale footprints. Somehow, Tim could traverse the narrow trails without disturbing its sandy corridor, while we stumbled into the trough, eliminating any chance of forensic examination.
During one such exploration, Tim chanced upon a small footprint. It was a distinctive humanoid shape, with recognizable heel and toe impressions.
This deep into the forest, with only ATV tracks, hiking boots and animal tracks as evidence of life, this was an anomaly. There was only one footprint and steep banks on either side.
The chance of a barefooted child wandering in this environment and altitude was unlikely but Tim couldn't rule it out. He was eagle-eyed in spotting it but equally quick to dismiss it as inconclusive.
What impressed us about our BFRO insider was how much evidence he rejected. For some reason we expected every snapping twig and animal feces to be heralded as proof of Bigfoot's existence. However, Tim was the opposite. He dismissed everything, clearly irritated by hoaxes and misinformation that only confuse the public. Tim and the BFRO want only hard evidence to prove the animal's existence.
We received some interesting insights into Bigfoot behavior, generally prefaced by the acknowledgement it's supposition rather than fact. But Tim did suggest the Bigfoot community may migrate through Arizona, being found at higher climes where deep snow had closed the roads to us that time of year, but also moving down to the desert in search of prey. There's even a theory about hibernation, and that each community follows different patterns.
Food sources seem to indicate an omnivore, living off flora and fauna as it becomes available. However, its movement, socialization and communication remains theoretical. Yet its existence is beyond doubt in the mind of Tim and his fellow researchers.
Stood in the woods, overlooking a deep valley, armed with our FLIR thermal camera (see sidebar) and night vision goggles, we were tooled-up to find Sasquatch.
I tried my hand at "knocking", using Tim's axe handle on a nearby rock: the hollow sound echoing through the valley. Tim also demonstrated a Bigfoot call, preferring one that rises in pitch and intensity. If anything had been tempted to respond, it remained quiet, while Alex's attempt to mimic would have sent them running for the undergrowth.
Not since I asked my first girlfriend to show me her boobs have I ever wanted to see something so much. Yet we scoured the forest and hillside opposite without reward. The NVG and thermal turned night into day as the image intensifiers brought amazing clarity. But even the deer and turkey we'd seen in daylight were refusing to make an appearance.
Armed with our gadgets, knocks and calls, the best tool in a Bigfoot researcher's belt is patience. You spend hours listening, waiting, hoping, tuning into the forest. Sometimes you get a result, but on this occasion we didn't
Buoyed by the popularity of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot, Tim reports increased interest in his research. The BFRO organizes field trips for the curious, instructing them in the same track and observation techniques he demonstrated to us. You can find details on the organization's website, along with maps of recent sightings and reports. There's a form to submit if you have a sighting, which will be investigated by researchers like Tim, who seem to approach each with healthy skepticism.
What was refreshing was Tim's optimism. It's what makes the TV show so addictive. Faced with disbelief or ridicule, having scant evidence, Bigfoot proponents know it's there. "I just want to prove to myself that it's real," Tim explained. "I don't want to prove it to the world or to science, just myself.
"We go out maybe twice a month to search and investigate. Maybe we hear a call or a knock, maybe we find footprints, or maybe we don't. At worst we find nothing, but we're in a beautiful place enjoying the scenery and nature, so it's always a good weekend," Tim explained.
Switching off our equipment and returning to the vehicles, you had to wonder if we were alone. Were we being watched by something smarter than ourselves? As I fired up the V8, heated the seats and set the navigation, I knew it wasn't smarter. Yet we all desire simplicity, and I decided we should find space in our cynical lives for some of the optimism the Bigfoot researchers show. It was refreshing and certainly tempted us to return for another trying at 'Sasquatching.
2013 Range Rover Supercharged
Layout longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 4999.7cc LR-V8 32v quad-cam, DIVCT Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing, supercharged
Transmission ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic
Brakes six-piston Brembo front calipers, 15" rotors f, 14.4" r
Wheels & Tires 21x9.5" ten-spoke Style 4 wheels, 275/45 R21 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric SUV tires
MSRP $99995 (inc D&D) $114930 as tested
Peak power 510hp at 6000-6500rpm
Peak torque 461 lb-ft at 2500-5500rpm
Top speed 140mph
Weight 5137 lb
Wading depth 35.4"
Economy 13/19/15mpg (city/highway/combined)
A member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, Tim has been an investigator and expedition organizer since 2005.
Interest in Bigfoot has been his lifelong interest. The famous 1967 Patterson footage made Tim a "believer" and he'd regularly search for related news stories. So when the internet arrived, he found the BigFoot Field Researchers Organization at BFRO.net and was fascinated by reports from around the US and beyond.
His tenure with the organization began after signing up for an Arizona expedition in 2006. This followed a posting of his own online report about unusual vocalizations.
Shortly after the first trip, BFRO founder and TV presenter Matt Moneymaker offered him the opportunity to investigate local reports, which Tim's done ever since.
His interest continues as he investigates reports for BFRO.net and helps to organize BFRO expeditions. "I've met very credible people from all walks of life with interesting stories to tell," Tim explained.
"My search is ongoing because I've yet to witness one of these creatures for myself. I've seen and heard strange and interesting things during my investigations and outings into the wilderness, but a visual encounter with this animal eludes me... so far..."
Brady Cloward CW2, UTNG, AVN
So you think you had a strange week? I'll bet you never got the call on a cold Wednesday afternoon to join a Sasquatch hunt in the new 2013 Range Rover. I'm used to varied work and seeing incredible adventures in car magazines, but I had to sit down for this one...
I should state I'm a VW dude, not a new car guy. I drive cars that rattle so bad you schedule dental work every time you get an oil change. I get excited about working AM/FM.
As well as building project cars for eurotuner magazine, I've spent the last 16 years in the military. I was the magazine's self-titled Combat Car Correspondent during my time in Iraq, sending back sightings of Passat Wagons and Mercedes diesels from the front line.
I'd like to think I was invited on this adventure both for my familiarity with large off-road vehicles and a well-hidden foe. Whatever the reason, I was happy to tag along.
When packing for the trip I spent a few minutes worrying about what clothes to bring, and hours on hold with TSA to see how much tactical gear I could legally squeeze into my bags.
After a few wide eyes from airport security, and a closed-room pat down, (the secret is to not clench), I arrived in LA and got my first look at the 2013 Range Rover. The elegant design was cloaked in champagne paintwork but I lost my airline lunch when I heard the list price was a pinch under $100,000!
We packed the car and hit the road for the six-hour drive to Prescott, AZ. As the teacher's favorite I rode in the Crown Jewel. Being an Army UH-60 pilot, I love pushing mystery buttons. It's not always the smartest policy, but is undoubtedly the most exciting. Besides, the spinning thing on top of the Blackhawk has never stopped, so what's the worst that could happen in a car?
This propensity came out with a vengeance inside the Land Rover. While testing every button along with Greg's patience, I can honestly say it's the most pampered I've ever been in a vehicle. We rode with cooled seats while being massaged, and although I couldn't find the "happy ending" button, I'm convinced it's hidden within the touchscreen functions somewhere.
Arriving in sleepy Prescott, I had no idea of the adventure awaiting us. Following a night shoot at the motel, we met our local guide and Bigfoot investigator, Tim, who led us to our destination.
On its air suspension, the Range Rover seemed amazingly nimble despite its outward appearance. As an aviator, I'd like to think I'm less prone to motion sickness but as we stretched the car's handling limits I needed to put down my phone and focus on the road to keep my breakfast eggs down.
As we ventured into the pine and juniper backwoods we saw another side of the Range Rover. With the push of a button, we could raise the ride height. The suspension glided over rocks, mud, water... Ok not "over" water, even though it seemed divine enough.
It was clear the vehicle was made for the dirt. And yet, as we trailed the two other vehicles through thick dust, I noticed the Range Rover was airtight. There wasn't a hint of dust in the vehicle, just crisp air-conditioning.
After reaching our destination, Tim gave us the rundown on typical Sasquatch behavior before we set out on a two-mile hike into the mountains. There we were schooled on tracking, knocking and howling techniques. And as Alex demonstrated, the Squatch call isn't something you simply learn overnight!
During the hike we found a footprint that might have been left by a small Sasquatch, or homeless meth addict, it's anybody's guess...
Our night hunt turned into a technological expo as we unpacked our tracking equipment in the middle of the woods. We tallied it up and our hunt boasted roughly $35000 in night vision, thermal and infrared equipment.
Once we patted ourselves on our well-equipped backs, we ventured into the night. A few more lessons were learned; first off, Sasquatch hunting is a passive activity. A great deal of time was spent listening and watching, with just a few howls or knocks to attract Bigfoot attention.
After becoming excited by mistakenly identifying the heat off the Range Rover brakes as a Sasquatch, we started to understand how to scan the brush for movement. Secondly, at an altitude of 6500ft, it gets damn cold after sundown. Two hours passed without a sighting or a sound, so we made our way back to the cars and lit a campfire to reflect on the lessons learned. This was a unique opportunity with a truly unique vehicle and some great people.
With our adventure ending, we should have been bummed with only a footprint to show for it. However, our time with Tim was truly educational. We'll always be grateful to him for what we learned.
As far as our transportation, my only regret was that I've been ruined for any vehicle I'll ever drive again. The Range Rover is a remarkable car with a versatility I never expected. Well done, Land Rover - your vehicle is now on my bucket list.
FLIR Thermal Camera
Designed with serious outdoor enthusiasts in mind, the FLIR Scout BTS Series is a must-have for those looking to step up their 24/7 thermal vision. The BTS features a full coverage eyepiece with ergonomic comfort, inter-ocular adjustment and straightforward controls to alter thermal range. You can capture thermal photos or record video using the SD card slot.
The BTS Series can detect heat signatures more than 1.5 miles away and operates on rechargeable AA lithium-ion batteries. The images can be viewed in any of the camera's three heat signature settings (White Hot, Black Hot, InstAlert) at either 320x240 or 640x480 resolution, depending on the model.
The camera is supplied with a hard case, output cable, batteries, etc. And there are optional 35mm, 65mm and 100mm quick-disconnect lenses available for different viewing ranges. $13000, as tested with all the options included (flir.com).