Despite what you may want to believe, the new 2013 Range Rover is far more capable off-road than anything in its class. I'll even go out on a limb and say it would either whoop or give the current presumed-capable SUVs a run for their money off-road. Sure, it's not for everyone. The Range Rover is the price of a nice home in middle America, but there is a customer for it, otherwise they wouldn't be selling them.
Anyway, I just returned from driving the 2013 Range Rover on- and off-road in southern Utah (you can read the First Drive review in a upcoming issue). Based on the reaction of a few social media postings, what surprised me most was the contempt many true 4x4 enthusiasts have for the vehicle. I started to wonder when exactly that happened. So on my way home I asked a Four Wheeler reader that I bumped into at the airport (thanks Daniel) what he thought about the Range Rover. He, like most 4x4 enthusiasts, crunched his nose and said something to the effect of it being a mall crawler. Then I asked him if he knew what a Defender 90 was. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head no. Last question: "Do you know how long the Land Rover brand had been around?" He incorrectly guessed 30-something years. Even though Land Rover is a quality, high-end, luxury brand like Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and so on, why is it that Land Rover has been unable to spark the interest of the typical American, and more importantly, how does the company get the admiration and respect from the experienced 4x4 enthusiast that it truly deserves?
Land Rover is 65 years old and came from humble beginnings much like Jeep. The company originally created utility vehicles that were not unlike a farm implement. Today, despite the true off-road prowess of the Range Rover, the perceived capability has been tarnished by the Los Angeles celebutards who insist on decorating it with ridiculous 26-inch wheels and other bedazzlement. Land Rover can't simply refuse to sell the vehicles to these people. At the end of the day, a sale is a sale, and someone has to pay the bills, even if they don't use the vehicle to its full potential.
In my opinion, the Land Rover brand needs an off-road halo product here in the U.S. It should be a vehicle that every 4x4 enthusiast would want to aspire to, similar in the way traditional sports car enthusiasts admire the many super cars they will never be able to drive, much less afford. Land Rover should bring back the solid-axle, coil-sprung Defender 90. It could be offered as an upscale alternative to the Jeep Wrangler. Heck, some well-equipped Jeep Wranglers have far surpassed the $40,000 marker, perhaps a strippy D-90 should start at that price.
This addition would not only show the typical 4x4 enthusiast how dedicated the Land Rover brand is to off-road capability here in the states, it would improve the American perception of the luxurious Range Rover and its true capability.