2023 Range Rover Road Test Review: It's like butter


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PIONEERTOWN, Calif. – Butter. Sexy, opulently gold butter is just the best way to describe this 2023 Range Rover First Edition. The twin-turbo V8 smoothly whisking you forward … butter. The adaptive air suspension wafting down the road and making railroad tracks feel like ant hills? As Linda Richmond would say, “buttah.” The primary controls for the steering, throttle and brakes that are all similarly weighted, friction-free and impeccably precise … like a knife slicing through supple Tillamook Extra Creamy. The lusciously soft leather and even its color in this particular Rover? Yep, butter.

And when you’ve just spent the day being jostled and bashed about on a rugged, rock-strewn trail in a firm-riding heavy-duty truck, you know what you want to climb into for a drive home? That’s right, butter. And feel free to insert “riding my horse” or “vigorous workout” or “match against Chelsea” in lieu of my personal Ram Rebel first drive example, but whatever the pre-Rover activity, know that it’ll be a very welcome sight. There might as well have been a beam of sun streaming from the heavens directly onto the Range Rover, its matte gold paint gleaming like it was the subject of a Renaissance fresco. Angels going “aaaahhhhhh” and such.

It should be noted that this’ll be the case if you’ve brought three friends along as well. Atop that butter base is stacked piles of decadent toppings for the long drive home after a long, hard day. Each of the outboard seats in this First Edition are heavenly. All are heated, ventilated and offer a multitude of massage options. Those up front are power-adjustable in 14 directions with additional lumbar movements, while those in back are six-way power adjustable, including power head rests and a seat bottom that moves upwards at the front while it moves forward to increase thigh support. And as these are “Executive Class Comfort” rear seats, the passenger-side one includes an extended calf rest and a pop-down foot rest mounted to the passenger seat that automatically slides forward at the push of a single button on the rear touchscreen controller. Oh, and those two leg rests are heated, too. So are the armrests.

Once under way, all will appreciate how little noise from the outside world filters in despite the fact you’re traveling in a giant brick through Earth’s atmosphere. The engine is quiet apart from the smooth, purr-like rumble that’s very Jaguar-Land Rover despite the 523-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 hailing from BMW. There’s really nothing in the way of road noise despite the 23-inch wheel-and-tire package, but if there’s a misstep here, it’s the size of those wheels. There are occasional uncouth shivers felt through the structure over various sharper impacts that would obviously be filtered out with a bit more sidewall. You know, like the optional 22s or, gasp, standard 21s. If you want maximum butter, go with those.

Road holding? That adaptive air suspension has absolutely no problem being hustled along, while the rear-wheel steering noticeably provides the feeling of shrinking this long SUV around tighter corners. It does a similar job in parking lots, and there’s a particularly amusing sensation to be experienced when pulling back onto the road from a sandy shoulder as you feel the right-turning rear wheels fight for traction while the left-turning front wheels claw at the pavement. Sandy drifts in this thing would be fun. There’s even a drive mode for it – well, for sand, not specifically for drifting in sand.

That was the extent of the off-roading on this journey, because as previously mentioned, that was accomplished in a Ram 2500 Rebel. Perhaps it’s ironic to drive an iconic off-roader like a Range Rover to go drive something else off-road, but does it really seem so wrong? No matter how sophisticated and capable its height-adjustable suspension, 4x4 drivetrain and multiple off-road drive modes are, the Range Rover First Edition still has those silly 23-inch wheels wrapped in definitely-not-all-terrain rubber. And there’s no way in hell I’d risk that $7,450 Sunset Gold matte paint (which really does look incredible, by the way, well done Hannah Custance) to the ravishes of spikey desert trees. Maybe some muddy roads on my English estate, but Branson had better be standing by with a hose upon my return.

In a related point, Land Rover actually offers a $5,000 Equestrian pack that includes front and rear mudflaps, rubber floor mats and something called a portable rinse system in addition to a custom Yeti cooler, tailgate picnic basket, wool blanket, garment bag, canvas tote and whatever a Horse Cooler is. Wait, you thought I was being hyperbolic with that “riding my horse” example up top? No no no.

All of this is to say that the all-new 2023 Range Rover is just as much of a limo-like flagship luxury vehicle as an S-Class or 7 Series. Is it quite to Bentley Bentayga level? I don’t know, I haven’t driven one, but come on. Would you really want to drive that instead of all this sexiness? Ditto that Rolls-Royce monstrosity or a Maybach GLS 600. Even if they all drive like butter too, none are as achingly cool as this masterpiece of design, styling and taste.

The grand total for this particular masterpiece was $176,375, including destination. My guess was going to be at least $25,000 higher, so maybe that speaks to its value along with being (arguably) more desirable than a Bentley or Maybach? Nah, it’s still goofy expensive. That said, you definitely don’t need to get a First Edition, as rungs much lower on the ladder (it starts at $105,975) are still able to deliver the same features and style, minus the matte paint option. You’ll also eventually be able to get an all-electric powertrain that’ll inject even more smooth, effortless and quiet butter into the Rover’s veins. I’ll make sure to arrange for a particularly bruising activity whenever I get a chance to sample one of those.