PSFK test drives a reboot of a classic model across mountains and desert.
The work that goes on behind the scenes to launch a new car in some cases seemingly overshadows the time taken to create it. For Land Rover, 2013 is a big year and you’ll probably see a lot of promotion surrounding the global launch of the new Range Rover. It is only the fourth time the vehicle has undergone a major redesign since it was introduced in 1970. The goal this time was to make the Range Rover ‘the world’s most refined and capable luxury SUV.” In contrast to the introduction of the Evoque, this is a far more serious car and Land Rover has taken a very different approach in how it is presented and experienced.
The new Range Rover was quietly introduced late last year in quite a unique way in the US. Some of the brand’s hardcore owners, known as “SuperLoyalists” were invited to host preview parties at their homes. These are folks who have owned five or more Land Rovers. The tour made stops at residences across the country, Land Rover set up a car display and brought a chef and staff to handle the catering. The events were like door-to-door car shows for the home owners and their friends.
These owners offered a lot of advice over the four years it took to develop the new model. They demanded improvement over change. Land Rover responded by targeting what they call the Three Pillars: iconic design evolution, capability and ultimate refinement. Placed in a press release, print ad or tv spot these terms come off as a bit abstract. So to prove what they actually mean, Land Rover hosted a very special media event in Utah. You can travel along with PSFK from our convenience-laden base in New York City to one of the most remote places in America.
Flying from NYC to Phoenix followed by a charter plane to Page, Arizona looked like a journey to Mars. Views from the plane of sprawling cities faded to red rock and canyons stretching to the horizon. Land Rover’s scouting team really did their homework in finding a location which would perfectly compliment the new Range Rover.
Leaving the paved roads for the final destination, the Amangiri Resort, the setting couldn’t have looked more like being inside a Range Rover ad. Amangiri is situated in the center of 600 unspoiled acres of desert and canyons. The resort buildings are anchored to a giant cropping of rocks, one of which projects into the outdoor swimming pool. The architecture is sophisticated and refined yet is made to compliment the rugged and brutal surrounding landscape. Parked at the entrance, the Range Rover appeared like an actor on a stage set beginning to tell their story. The clean lines of the exterior styling made an initial impression.
Telling an effective story usually requires setting the scene and before heading out to drive the Range Rover, there was some time to explore Amangiri and the grounds. Coming from the concrete canyons of NYC to see the real deal couldn’t have felt more jarring. The scale of the landscape makes quite an impression and it is dead silent. Views from inside the resort are stunning at every turn.
Heading out on the first drive, it was promised we’d experience a wide range of conditions. In a matter of hours the route transitioned from twisty canyon roads to open asphalt stretches in the desert and finally to a wooded mountain trail covered in 6 inches of snow. The drive highlighted both the refinement and capability improvements of the Range Rover. Motoring along the canyon corners and flat roadways, the ride is comparable to a luxury sedan and reflective of the desert, it is quiet. Engineers reduced the overall weight by nearly 400 pounds from the previous model, a major contributor is the new all-aluminum frame.
Along for the ride on the off-road sections was Tim, a full-time Land Rover performance driving instructor. He offered driving tips and guidance through the more challenging sections. We’d be covering the terrain using an ‘Expedition-style’ driving approach. It requires a conservative use of speed and navigation in order to preserve the vehicle. The location was miles from help, there was no cell phone service but each Range Rover was given a satellite phone…just in case.
Transitioning off-road from pavement (something unfortunately most Range Rover owners won’t do) requires learning the transmission and traction control systems to best match the vehicle’s capabilities to the conditions. This is really the most challenging part. Following a few minutes of button fiddling though and driving confidence comes pretty easy. This is partly due to the solid construction and how quiet the Range Rover is. Driving over boulders, through water, up severe inclines, there isn’t a creak or rattle to be heard. The new Range Rover makes a compelling case for defining luxury as effortless conquering of extreme terrain.
In part two, we’ll tackle a drive up a canyon wall and reveal some key lessons learned in how Land Rover successfully launched the new flagship Range Rover model.