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Once, a new Range Rover model meant two things: a price increase and an increase in the displacement of its V-8, an engine that can be traced to the 1963 Buick Skylark. For 1993, the Range Rover County got both, but bigger news accompanied the welcome addition of twenty horsepower.

The wheelbase on the Range Rover County has been extended a full two-thirds of a foot, to 108.0 inches. Because the rear compartment got seven of those eight inches, riders with legs perceptibly longer than those of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec can luxuriate in a spacious passenger enclosure free from the risk of patella fracture and the horrors of claustrophobia.

As welcome as the added room is (and there's no cheating—the cargo capacity with the rear seat in use is unchanged but gains six cubic feet with the seat folded), the most significant news concerns Range Rover's new Electronic Air Suspension (EAS), which can raise or lower the ride height through a span of 5.1 inches.

The previous Range Rover suspension offered the most comfortable off-road ride in the business, an honor due in large part to its all-around coil springs and long, bump-absorbing suspension travel aided by a load-leveling device. Any new suspension had to maintain the marque's tradition of off-road utility, capability, and comfort and add luster to street and highway operation. The new airborne suspension does all of this, and with some stylish flourishes.

The EAS does a number of useful things in addition to its normal duties. Though it may sound laughable, given the boxy shape with which the Range Rover confronts aerodynamicists, the suspension automatically lowers the body by three-quarters of an inch—from the "Normal" suspension setting to "Low Profile"—once a speed of 50 mph has been attained. (Note that the newly bored-out 4.2-liter V-8 develops 200 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, thereby getting you to 50 mph far more quickly than before.)

Off-road, should you high-center the vehicle, the air suspension automatically assumes its "Extended Profile" position, sending the wheels (and axles) downward over 2.7 inches in search of firmer footing. In the event of a flat tire, we learned that this feature will cause the injured tire to try to remain flat on the ground if the engine is not turned off before you institute jacking procedures. Another off-road EAS option is the "High Profile" setting that raises the ride height by 1.6 inches for rough going.

Last on the air suspension's trick list is the "Access" mode. No longer must one drive up to the opera house and watch as women either expose themselves or rip the seams out of tight skirts as they descend to street level from their leather thrones. The driver can now punch one of the three suspension-control buttons that reside in a small panel below and to the right of the steering column, and the vehicle will lower itself by 2.4 inches to a more accessible position for entry or exit. The front end lowers first, a thoughtful procedure that prevents the headlights from dazzling anyone in front of the vehicle at night. For the same reason, when the vehicle regains its normal ride height, the rear end rises first, not unlike a camel though with infinitely less noise and odor.

To the EAS system and the existing anti-lock braking system and full-time all-wheel drive, the 1993 version brings an excellent electronic traction-control system, the first such device to appear in a sport-utility vehicle and one with obvious off-road advantages. This festival of electronic magic means that only the truly inept dunce will get in serious off-road trouble in a Range Rover.

For 1993, Land Rover North America offers three vehicles: the new County LWB, a 100.0-inch-wheelbase County that retains the 3.9-liter V-8, and the rugged Land Rover Defender 110.

The County LWB costs $49,825 fully equipped. Land Rover's U.S. boss Charlie Hughes told us that Land Rover's vehicles are not subject to the luxury tax, because the IRS does not consider them luxury cars. Those who buy the new, lavishly equipped County LWB could dispute the IRS definition—and for good reason: the Range Rover County LWB is a luxurious, easy-riding sport-utility that continues as the gold standard of off-road performance and comfort.

(Copied from Car and Driver) .
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