One of today's Range Rover's major weaknesses is its outdated 4.0 and 4.6L V-8 engines. BMW fixed this by providing the smooth and powerful DOHC 4.4L V-8 and five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode (both available in the X5). Yes, a Ford-owned brand powered by a BMW engine--no bad thing. Despite being 485 lb heavier than the current version, the '03 should run 0-60 mph in about 9.0 sec--or 1.5 sec faster than the '02.

While former owner BMW provided much engineering support, and new owner Ford contributed manufacturing expertise, veteran Land Rover designer Don Wyatt penned this bold, modern interpretation of the classic Range Rover theme. This elegantly imposing luxo 'ute is 9.3 in. longer, 2.6 wider, and 1.8 taller than its predecessor, on a wheelbase of 113.4 in. (a 5.3-in. increase).

While the exterior is evolutionary, the interior is revolutionary. Even though Land Rover claims few parts are shared between the Range Rover and X5, much of the Rover's interior is clearly BMW-sourced. No matter: It all makes for one of the most well-detailed, finely finished sport/utility cockpits ever. Its combination of leathers and woods is superb. The HDC and 4x4 levers mounted just aft of the shifter rate special mention for their ease of use. Interior room has increased, especially in the formerly tight back-seat area. Standard safety equipment includes dual front, front side, and front/rear head airbags, ABS, and Dynamic Stability Control.

The first Range Rover was introduced in 1970; the second-generation came along in 1994. Both were benchmarks of their time, but this newest Range Rover goes far beyond. Where the previous models lacked sophisticated engine technology and on-road driving dynamics, this fabulous Land Rover/BMW/Ford hybrid has it all and will be a sure hit among its affluent buyership. The ongoing challenge for Land Rover will be to produce future vehicles that are as well-engineered and as refined as this one, now that Ford has taken over and the access to BMW and its considerable engineering prowess is gone. Look for the new Range Rover to play in the rarified air between $70,000 and $80,000. TT

A New Dressing Room
For 50 years Land Rover has been building vehicles in Solihull, England. And from the outside, it's like nothing's changed; however, with $300 million of BMW monies, everything inside is completely new. Building each vehicle, essentially by hand, is now a thing of the past. Where two robots helped build the previous Range Rover, close to 130 robots are now responsible for production, assembly, and quality control. Land Rover is looking to produce 700 Range Rovers per week at the Solihull plant, with a little less than half of those coming to the U.S.--M.W.