Land Rover is one of the few auto manufacturers in the world that is expanding, due to the phenomenal success of the Evoque. This has delivered just the sort of confidence and resources needed to embark on a ground-up re-design of the flagship Range Rover. The parameters were clear: lighter, more efficient, more luxurious, more modern, yet still retaining extraordinary off-road capability and looking unmistakably like a Range Rover. Today the fruits of the company’s efforts were revealed.

The world’s first SUV with a lightweight all-aluminum “monocoque” body structure is 39 percent lighter than the steel body in the outgoing model, enabling total vehicle weight savings of a quite extraordinary 926lbs (420kg). This clearly has enormous knock-on effects for handling, speed, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

To go with the new body are new aluminum front and rear chassis architectures together with independent air suspension for all four wheels. The suggests that the days of the Range Rover “lurch” when going around corners at pace will finally be eliminated.

The exterior design trends of rounded fascia, sloping roofline and steeply raked windshield that were started with Sport and amped-up to the max on the Evoque are present and correct; but in a more smooth and subtle execution. The light-cluster “eyelashes” are pure Evoque. The side panel vents that were at one time fully functional have become stylized “shark gills” morphing in to a strange design “tick” at sill level. Functional engineering becomes mere decoration to evoke the past (I’m looking at you Mercedes).

The exterior design will polarize opinion as these things always do, but five minutes comparing the new body with the existing model soon puts things in perspective. The present incarnation now looks like the farmyard tractor its forebears once were.

Existing 2012 Range Rover exterior

The new interior offers greater luxury in terms of legroom, greater width in the front and a significant 4.7 inches more length in the rear; noise control, laminated front and side glass; and ride comfort, the aforementioned air suspension plus the option of two rear individually adjustable seats rather than the usual split bench.

Agricultural or not the interior of the existing model, particularly the driver’s station, is one of the finest known to man. A beautiful and coherent mixture of architecture, materials and switchgear. Something may have been lost here with a much simpler control arrangement based on a large touch screen and a full LCD dial cluster. It’s an inevitable modern trend influenced by iPad/iPhone that saves the manufacturer money but there is a tactile pleasure in a well-crafted set of switches and dials that is quickly disappearing.

The on-board sound system is of course top-notch, designed by respected U.K. hi-fi manufacturers Meridian.

Drive train specifications (and pricing) will have to wait for a few weeks but engine choices will be updated supercharged V8 petrol, turbocharged V8 and V6 diesels mated to a new 8-speed ZF auto-box that should provide the required smoothness. For when the going gets a little rough a new version of Land Rover’s automatic Terrain Response system will sense the conditions and adjust engine and transmission settings accordingly.

The Range Rover is such an iconic and popular vehicle that all Land Rover really had to do with this update was not screw it up. It has achieved far more than that with an excellent exterior design that moves things forward by just enough. The reduction in weight married to a new suspension set-up suggests that handling should finally match class leaders like the Porsche Cayenne whilst providing a level of luxury and practicality that they can only aspire to.

Full specs and pricing will be released in the lead up to the SUV's debut at the Paris Motor Show next month. Vehicle orders start in September with first deliveries expected in December.

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