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2021 Land Rover Range Rover Test Drive Review

Buying a 2021 Land Rover Range Rover is about more than vanity, even if you have no intention of taking it off-road.

6.8 /10
Overall Score

The inimitable automotive journalist John Pearley Huffman once referred to the Land Rover Range Rover as the “Montecito Camry.” He’s right. Within the confines of this money-drenched enclave near Santa Barbara, California, you are more likely to see a Range Rover prowling the streets than you are Toyota’s popular family sedan. But, if you’ve ever spent any time in a modern Range Rover, you know why it is the SUV of choice for the truly wealthy.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

Once upon a time, Range Rovers were tools of a trade. Basic, rugged, and built to a purpose, they had a job to do, and it wasn’t to coddle your butt with heated, ventilated, and massaging thrones wrapped in quilted Poltrona Frau hides whilst motoring to the Whole Foods.

It didn’t take long for Land Rover to move the Range Rover upscale, especially after adding a four-door version more than a decade after the original 1970 two-door model debuted. Today, pricing for the 2021 Land Rover Range Rover starts at $92,000 (before destination).

Because of the SUV’s wide range of powertrains, upgrades, and personalization options, a long-wheelbase (lwb) version can cost upwards of $250,000. To get there, you need the most expensive paint job ($23,500), the plushest leather ($4,500), and the tailgate event seating ($5,850). That options such as event seating are even available suggests the SUV’s product planners envision Range Rover owners spending plenty of time at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club.

Our test car wasn’t quite that plush. Wearing a comparatively modest MSRP of $106,715 (including a destination charge of $1,350—less than you pay for the freight on a Jeep Renegade!), our evaluation vehicle had the HSE Westminster special-edition trim (new for the 2021 model year). Otherwise, it came with standard paint, wheels, and leather, and nothing more extravagant than an extra-cost wood-and-leather steering wheel and a set of heated and ventilated front and rear seats as options.

Regardless of its light equipment load, and despite a design approaching its 10th birthday, our Range Rover looked terrific in Byron Blue with silver 21-inch wheels and matching door and lower body trim. Hallmark design cues such as the blacked-out windshield and roof pillars, large nameplate lettering, and clean styling with lines that taper toward the rear of the SUV give the Range Rover a timeless look. And though the SUV is thoroughly modern, it draws deeply upon its past in the same way a Porsche 911 does.

Inside, the Range Rover looks, feels, and smells like luxury. With its Ivory-color interior, the test vehicle’s cabin offered a high-contrast design with a mid-century modern ambiance. While Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro Duo dual-screen infotainment technology isn’t as advanced or as intuitive to use as the Pivi Pro system in the company’s newer models, you find a way to peacefully co-exist with it.

Performance

7/ 10

Land Rover offers numerous powertrain choices for the 2021 Range Rover. Turbodiesel V6 and supercharged 5.0-liter V8 engines are available, as well as mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid choices. The HSE Westminster special edition includes the mild-hybrid turbocharged inline-six engine, which supplies a robust 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, with a flawless eight-speed automatic transmission and assistance from an electric motor.

Four-wheel drive (4WD), rather than all-wheel drive (AWD), is standard, and it has a two-speed transfer case to ensure the Range Rover lives up to its legendary reputation as an authentic off-roader. Terrain Response 2 traction control with multiple modes helps to keep the SUV moving forward under all manner of weather and surface conditions. In the interests of full disclosure, the furthest into the wilds that we ventured was a relatively well-traveled trail in California’s Santa Monica Mountains, which dirtied the tire sidewalls but posed no challenge to the SUV. No sense in risking damage to a pricey vehicle when the Range Rover’s capabilities are already thoroughly documented, is there?

You sit up high in a Range Rover, with a commanding view over the hood through the steeply angled windshield. Power from the turbo-six builds like a swell, the SUV launching smoothly from a stop and then rapidly building speed. Near-total silence rules the cabin, and it is easy to drive this quick and hushed vehicle too fast.

An adaptive air suspension expertly filters road harshness, lending a classic wafting sensation to the ride. Bringing the Range Rover to a clean, soft, unfettered stop is easy. A tight turning radius combined with easily-judged corners and a surround-view camera system makes maneuvering in cities a snap.

There exist Range Rovers better suited to driving mountain roads at speed. Comparatively, the HSE Westminster requires a more measured approach to twists and turns, despite its variable-ratio, speed-sensing steering and available Dynamic driving mode.

The steering is relatively slow in response and syrupy in feel. Also, the adaptive air suspension can only do so much to manage the Range Rover’s prodigious weight and tall center of gravity, so side-to-side wallow is a constant companion on all but the smoothest of roads. So, while you can hustle one along a winding road, a Range Rover is most rewarding to drive at a sedate, unhurried pace.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Range Rover we tested should get 20 mpg in combined driving. Our average fuel economy on the evaluation loop was 18.5 mpg. A Range Rover with the supercharged V8 should return 16 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined.

Form and Function

4/ 10

The Range Rover’s air suspension offers a kneel mode, making it easier to get into and out of the SUV. You’re likely going to want to use it, as shorter family members had difficulty getting into and out of this SUV.

Once you’ve climbed aboard, you’ll find decadently comfortable front seats wrapped in quality leather upholstery. The upper door-panel edges are as wide, flat, and level as central Nebraska, but be careful not to let your hand drop onto the poorly located touch-sensing controls for the power windows. Adjustable inboard armrests are also available, but we didn’t use them.

Unfortunately, the Range Rover’s second row is not comfortable at all. The bottom cushion offers no thigh support, it doesn’t slide or power forward and back to increase legroom, and even when it is in the most upright position, the seatback remains too reclined. As a result, the back seat provides a slouched, unsupported seating position.

That’s a shame because otherwise, the back seat is fit for a king—or an overpaid CEO. Quad-zone climate control, heated and ventilated outboard seating positions, and overhead air vents aid comfort, and rear-seat occupants can use a button to turn off the excellent Meridian sound system speakers, executive-style.

Front and rear storage space is barely adequate. Dual glove compartments help make up for the lack of room inside the tiny bin under the center-console armrest. It’s refrigerated, which is nice, except hardly anything will fit inside except for a couple of Red Bulls. You’ll likely make continual use of the lower door panel bins; just make sure nothing falls out when you finally find the door release handle and open the door.

Luggage volume is limited, too. Power open the clamshell-style tailgate, and you’ve got no more than 25 cubic feet at your disposal. Maximum cargo space amounts to 59.8 cubic feet, which is less than a Kia Soul. Load full-size suitcases, and you’ll need to lay them flat to fit underneath the cargo cover.

A button in the cargo area activates the SUV’s suspension kneel function to make loading more effortless, and the rear-seat center section drops to accept longer items without kicking passengers out of the SUV.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The Range Rover’s instrumentation and infotainment are fully digital, and rendered using three different displays. Between them, there are seemingly countless ways to program the SUV’s numerous features and functions, and we strongly advise doing so as soon as you get your new Range Rover home.

Fortunately, if you know how to use a smartphone or a tablet computer, you can figure out how to use the InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Still, the system is not entirely intuitive, and it’s easy to forget how to access certain features or perform certain functions. As a result, when you cannot find a way to achieve an objective, or the technology fails to respond as expected, you regularly end up muttering “Huh, I dunno” to yourself.

Furthermore, using the two 10-inch touchscreens while driving represents a significant distraction. And while the Range Rover has a relatively comprehensive head-up display, you won’t be able to see it if you wear polarized sunglasses.

So, go through the system and get everything set up to your personal preferences so that you need not fuss with the technology while driving. And be sure to make use of the touch-sensing steering wheel controls as much as possible. With some practice, they make living with the Range Rover’s technology less aggravating. You can learn voice control commands, too, or use the more naturally responsive voice assistants with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Otherwise, in terms of technology, the Range Rover’s waterproof Activity Key wristband deserves special mention. Wear it, and you can leave the key fob inside of the Range Rover while you golf, play tennis, or enjoy a round of water polo.

Land Rover also offers an iGuide smartphone app that serves as a digital owner’s manual. It might come in handy when you forget how to use an InControl function or where you’ll find a specific feature within the menu hierarchy.

Safety

7/ 10

Every 2021 Range Rover model includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, front and rear parking sensors, and a speed limiter for the cruise control. Surprisingly, if you seek driver aids beyond these, they’re optional.

Choose the Drive Pack for adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, a traffic sign recognition system, and a driver monitoring system. A Drive Pro Pack builds on this with active blind-spot monitoring, a stop-and-go function for the adaptive cruise control, and high-speed automatic emergency braking. The next rung on the ladder is the Driver Assist Pack with lane-centering assistance and a 360-degree surround-view camera.

Additionally, a Park Pack installs 360-degree parking sensors, rear cross-traffic warning, and a Clear Exit Monitor that warns the SUV’s occupants not to open a door when traffic or cyclists are approaching from behind. A Park Pro Pack gives the Range Rover semi-autonomous parking capability, the SUV steering itself into parallel and perpendicular spaces.

The HSE Westminster Edition includes the Drive Pro and Park packages, and the technology in each works quite well. If there is reason to criticize it, the adaptive cruise control is very slow to respond when traffic ahead moves out of the way. For example, while traveling in the right lane of a Los Angeles freeway, a line of slow-moving vehicles ahead exited the highway. Not only did the Range Rover wait until the last car in the line was entirely out of the path forward before taking any action to get back up to speed, but the SUV also accelerated too slowly.

Otherwise, we have no complaints about the safety features in terms of effectiveness, accuracy, and performance. But we also could not assess the contents of the Driver Assist Pack, which gives the Range Rover more advanced driving-assistance technology.

Cost-Effectiveness

7/ 10

Buying a Land Rover Range Rover is not a cost-effective way to transport yourself, your family, or your friends. But, when money is no object, value is irrelevant.

The 2021 Land Rover Range Rover competes against vehicles such as the BMW X7, Mercedes GLS-Class, and Cadillac Escalade. Option one up, and prices climb dangerously close to those of a Bentley Bentayga.

Having spent a week with the 2021 Range Rover HSE Westminster, it is clearly a great SUV, and we fear we haven’t given it enough credit in the past, perhaps writing too much of its popularity off as a pure vanity purchase. Now, we have a newfound appreciation for the Range Rover, one not at all related to the prestige of the nameplate stretching across the SUV’s hood.

Putting our Range Rover buyer hat on as best we can, we think the appeal of this SUV amongst the elites of society is the knowledge that if you find yourself in a tricky situation, this vehicle will help you get out of it. Whether faced with rising water, thick mud, deep snow, blowing sand, big rocks, a steep hill, or crumbling urban infrastructure, a Range Rover brings its owners a sense of security that most other luxury SUVs can’t.

Indeed, the vast majority of people who own the pristine Range Rovers clogging Coast Village Road (or any retail district in a moneyed area) have no intention of taking them off-road at any time during their three-year lease periods. But, no matter what life might throw their way, their Range Rover can help them deal with it.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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