Plush, quiet 2022 Range Rover’s 7-seat model is exactly what owners want

SONOMA COUNTY, California — The 2022 Land Rover Range Rover is bigger, more advanced and more luxurious than ever before in the upscale SUV’s 50-year production run.

It’s also less likely than ever to be used off-road. The vehicle’s appeal rests at least as much upon James Corden shooting immensely popular carpool karaoke segments in a Range Rover’s quiet, cushy interior as on images of British royalty carousing through fields of gorse, which is a flowering shrub for those of you who do not live in the U.K. or in the far eastern U.S.

Despite any cavils I raise later in this column, Rover was probably wise to acknowledge that fact in its flagship’s engineering and design. Decades of off-road adventures built Land Rover’s image, but the 2022 Range Rover is essentially a tall limousine, the replacement for Jaguar Land Rover’s discontinued Jaguar XJ sedan.

It’s not without off-road ability, but neither is that its main purpose.

The  new 2022 Range Rover's P530 First Edition model stickers at $164,000.
The new 2022 Range Rover's P530 First Edition model stickers at $164,000.

Prioritizing comfort and electrification

The key development goals were increasing the SUV’s refinement — particularly interior quiet, ride comfort, design and materials — and preparing this fifth generation of the Range Rover for its first electric model, a battery-powered SUV due for sale in 2024.

To most owners, the big news about the new 2022 Range Rover has nothing to do with off-roading or electrification, though: It’s the addition of the SUV’s first three-row, seven-seat version.

My inbox overflows with notes from readers complaining that SUVs’ soaring popularity has driven sedans and coupes to the brink of extinction. Now I’m bracing for a flood of letters insisting the influx of nouveau SUV-istas has destroyed the purity of off-roading purpose that made brands like Land Rover special.

Comme ci, comme ça. It proves one of the laws of journalism. We don’t number our laws, because, as a rule, journalists are awful at math, but for every vitriolic complaint, there’s an equal and opposite complainer.

The rest of the world will motor on, in ever-increasing comfort and efficiency.

The seven-seat new 2022 Range Rover has a 13.1-inch touch screen and multipurpose climate control dials.
The seven-seat new 2022 Range Rover has a 13.1-inch touch screen and multipurpose climate control dials.

Advanced new EV-ready architecture

The new 2022 Range Rover is the first vehicle to use Rover’s MLA-Flex architecture.

MLA stands for modular longitudinal architecture. "Longitudinal" means the engine sits longwise, or front-to-rear, under the hood, as opposed to transverse engines fitted sideways between the front wheels in vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque.

The flex part of the name refers to drivetrains. The architecture was developed to accommodate internal combustion engines, mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and a 100% electric model.

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Unlike recent aluminum-intensive Rovers, the MLA architecture uses a mix of steel and aluminum, putting each material where it will do the most for acoustics, strength and efficiency. The MLA’s torsional rigidity — loosely speaking, its stiffness — rose 30% from the previous model.

The new model’s short-wheelbase model is 2.1 inches longer and about the same width and height as the previous model, though new features and technology abound.

Land Rover bosses expect the long-wheelbase seven-seater to become the top-selling model in the U.S. and be an asterisk on sales tables in the rest of the world. I suspect it’ll also do well in China, where buyer preferences consistently resemble those of Americans.

How much?

Prices start at $104,500 for the short-wheelbase five-seat P400 SE model, which has a straight-six mild hybrid engine that produces 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Prices for LWB seven-seat P400 SEs start at $110,500.

All Range Rovers come with all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transmission and adaptive air suspension.

The top engine is a BMW-built 4.4L V8 bi-turbo in the P530. It produces 523 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque. Prices start at $122,800 with five seats, $128,800 with seven.

The top model is a feature-laden SV that tops out at $218,300 with the seven-seat long extended wheelbase, which increases overall length from 199 to 207 inches.

Front seat of the new 2022 Range Rover.
Front seat of the new 2022 Range Rover.

Expect prices to top $250,000 by the time Rover is done adding features, luxury and exclusivity.

A plug-in hybrid promised to offer 434 hp and a battery-only range of 62 miles will join the lineup as a 2023 model. The first fully electric, battery-only Range Rover should go on sale in 2024.

I drove two Range Rovers: the $164,000 five-passenger P530 V8 and the $110,500 P400 SE long-wheelbase, seven-seat mild hybrid.

Caveat emptor

Land Rover continues selling the outgoing Range Rover that debuted in 2013 as a 2022 model. Calling the new fifth-generation Range Rover a 2023 would have made life easier for shoppers.

The simplest way to know which you’re looking at is the door handles: The new model’s handles retract flush into the doors’ sheet metal, popping out when the key fob approaches or you use it to unlock the SUV.

To confuse matters just that little bit more, Land Rover treats "Range Rover" as both the standalone model name of its flagship and a subbrand for vehicles like the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque.

Pick a lane, blokes. It’ll be on the wrong side of the road, but pick one.

2022 Range Rover models and prices

Range Rover P400 SE: $104,500

Range Rover P400 SE (LWB 7-seat): $110,500

Range Rover P530 SE: $122,800

Range Rover P530 SE (LWB 7-seat): $128,800

Range Rover P530 Autobiography: $157,600

Range Rover P530 Autobigraphy (LWB 7-seat): $159,600

Range Rover P530 Autobiography (LWB): $161,600

Range Rover P530 First Edition: $164,000

Range Rover P530 First Edition (LWB): $169,400

Range Rover SV: $193,100

Range Rover SV (LWB): $218,300

All prices exclude $1,350 destination charge.

Quiet, great steering

I spent two days driving new Range Rovers in Sonoma County’s rolling wine country.

The lavishly equipped 553-hp V8 five-seat P530 First Edition was stunningly quiet, a tribute to road noise cancelling speakers fitted in the front headrests. Rover’s audio supplier, Meridian, expanded the range of frequencies it erases up to 1kHz, extending its effect from eliminating low-frequency engine vibration to include wheel and road noise.

The cabin was virtually silent at highway speed, on rough paved surfaces, dirt and even in light off-roading.

The difference was most apparent when I drove a long-wheelbase P400 without the feature the second day. It was still quiet compared to most big, boxy SUVs, but increased road noise was pervasive. Expect road-noise cancellation to be the next ‘once you’ve had it, you’ll never go back’ feature.

The Range Rover’s four-wheel steering falls into that category, too. At highway speeds it increases stability and response in lane changes. At lower speeds its greater maneuverability makes parking easier and reduces the short-wheelbase model’s turning circle to about 36 feet — roughly the same as the 17-inch-shorter Evoque. The SWB Range Rover has the tightest turning circle of any Land Rover.

The four-wheel steering also paid off on a set of daunting switchbacks leading to a hilltop cabin overlooking fields full of long-haired Scottish Highland cattle. The substantial SUV pivoted neatly to stay on the narrow, muddy track.

The P530 handled a modest off-road course with ease, including using hill-descent control to manage a steep slope of wet clay. A related system can manage speed and braking in other off-roading, allowing the driver to focus entirely on steering.

A unique feature senses if the Rover is high-centered — that is, stranded because it’s hung up on an obstacle — and raises the suspension another two inches, or until the wheels make contact.

The driver can’t activate that extrication mode. It’s entirely automatic, augmenting the 2¾ -inch lift the air suspension provides in off-road mode.

Safety and driver assistance features

  • Adaptive cruise control with steering assist

  • Blind spot and cross traffic alert

  • Traffic sign recognition

  • Parking assist

  • Lane keeping assist

  • 3D surround vision with wade sensing

Improved AWD features

Rover says the AWD system has the same off-road capability as the outgoing Range Rover, including a mechanical low range. Unlike previous Rover full-time systems, it can disconnect the front wheels from the driveline to reduce fuel consumption.

For the first time, it also manages torque to improve on-road handling and performance.

Electronic controls make it easy to overlook the amount of hardware required to accomplish all that. A dial in the center console lets the driver select drive modes for various terrains, but the driveline processor could probably do 90% of it without intervention by the driver.

The rather modest off-road course was more challenging than luxury SUVs like Cadillac Escalades and Jeep Grand Wagoneers attempt in demonstrations, but less than the standard to which previous Range Rovers were held.

The matte-gold P530 First Edition’s interior materials are understated and elegant, including wood, aniline leather and luxurious leather-free fabrics.

Driving the LWB six-cylinder 400 SE made me appreciate the standard four wheel steering even more. The 207-inch vehicle felt practically nimble. The absence of noise cancellation was very evident in the less expensive model, however. A mildly pebbled blacktop surface seemed deafening after the hush of the P530.

New Range Rover’s best features and tech

  • Disconnecting front driveline

  • Power-assisted doors

  • 4-, 5- and 7-seat interiors

  • Standard four-wheel steering

  • Standard air suspension

  • High-center escape

  • Power lower and upper tailgates

  • Road-noise cancellation

  • Reclining captain’s chairs

  • Center console/workstation

  • 13.1-inch touch screen

  • Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa

  • Over the air updates

2022 Range Rover at a glance

Base price: $104,500 (all prices exclude $1,350 destination charge)

All-wheel drive luxury 4-, 5- or 7-passenger SUV

On sale now

Specifications as tested:

Primary model tested: Range Rover First Edition P530 SE

Price as tested: $164,000

Engine: 4.4L bi-turbo V8

Output: 523 hp; 553 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy estimate: 16 mpg city/21 highway/18 combined. Premium gasoline.

EPA estimated annual fuel cost: $4,100

0-60 time: 4. seconds

Top speed: 155 mph

Wheelbase: 118 inches

Length: 199 inches

Width: 87 inches (mirrors out)

Height: 74 inches

Cargo volume: 40.7 cubic feet behind rear seat; 83.5 behind front

Water fording: 35.4 inches

Curb weight: 5,530 pounds

Assembled in Solihull, England

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 2022 Range Rover is quiet, plush and just what owners asked for