2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Land Rover Range Rover, which is simply known as the Range Rover. This full-sized luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) was launched in 1970 by British Leyland and is currently in its fourth generation as the flagship model of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has extended the brand to include the Range Rover Evoque, Velar, and Sport sub-brands.
Road Rover Origins
In 1951, the Rover Car Company was conceptualizing a larger model than their successful Land Rover (Series 1), which was launched three years earlier in 1948. The owners of the car company, Maurice and Spencer Wilks, came up with the idea of a “Road Rover”, which was a genuine crossover between a Rover road car and a Land Rover. Engineer Gordon Bashford developed a two-wheel-drive prototype using a shortened 1951 Rover P4 75 fitted with flat aluminum panels, like the Land Rover.
The 1951 Road Rover prototype gave birth to the idea of an estate car (station wagon) with off-road capabilities that was more luxurious than the spartan Land Rover. In 1956, another three-door, high-roofed estate Road Rover prototype was created but was longer and much more stylish. Rover developed nine running prototypes, planned the production for 1960 but shelved the project in 1958.
The Road Rover idea lay dormant until 1966 until engineers Bashford and Spen King went to work on a new crossover model with the philosophy of a rugged, useful road car with some off-road capability. A clay model of the Road Rover was sculptured in 1967 and the shape would ultimately be developed and finalized to become the first Range Rover.
In 1967, the first prototype was built with the immediately recognizable Range Rover shape but with a different front grille and headlight configuration. In 1969, the design was finalized and 26 engineering development vehicles were built by the Velar Company. “Velar” was derived from the Italian velare that means “to veil or to cover”, which Range Rover development engineer Geof Miller used as a decoy for registering pre-production vehicles until the Range Rover was launched in 1970.
First Generation (1970-1996)
The first Range Rovers were available only as a 2-door estate/wagon with a body-on-frame design, box section ladder-type chassis, coil springs, permanent four-wheel drive, four wheel disc brakes, and powered by various Rover V8 and diesel engines. The early models had basic utilitarian interiors with vinyl seats and plastic dashboards that were designed to be washed down with a hose. Convenience features such as power steering, carpeted floors, air conditioning, cloth/leather seats, and wooden interior trim were fitted later.
The Musée du Louvre in Paris exhibited a Range Rover in the early ‘70s as an “exemplary work of industrial design”. In 1972, the British Trans-Americas Expedition became the first vehicle-based expedition to traverse the Americas from north-to-south, including traversing the road-less Darién Gap using specially-modified Range Rovers. In 1981, the 4-door Range Rover was introduced with a long-wheelbase (LWB) version. Towards the end of its production, Land Rover renamed it as the Range Rover Classic to distinguish it from its successors.
Second Generation (1995-2002)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the brand, the second-generation Range Rover was unveiled in 1995. It was based on the longer chassis of the previous LWB model and fitted with an updated version of the Rover V8 or a 2.5-liter six-cylinder turbo diesel. The diesel engine’s Bosch injection pump was the first diesel injection with electronic controls in a Land Rover, long before common rail diesel injection (CRDI) became commonplace. BMW acquired ownership of Rover Group and the Land Rover brand.
The P38A, as this Range Rover generation is known, offered more equipment and premium trims than the previous model to meet the increased competition in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) marketplace. The P38A was the first Range Rover to feature Satellite Navigation as an option and the last model to be equipped with the aging Rover V8 and fitted with Connolly leather interior.
Third Generation (2002-2012)
2002 saw the third-generation Range Rover move further up-market. Known internally as the L322 model, it was designed to components and electronic systems with BMW models. Manual transmissions were no longer fitted, just automatics. From 2002 to 2005, the L322s were equipped with BMW V8 with a 5-speed automatic transmission while 2006-2009 models were fitted with Jaguar engines 6-speed automatics. 2010-2012 Range Rovers were fitted with the naturally-aspirated or supercharged AJ133 5.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic. Tata Motors of India acquired Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008.
The L322 had its first exterior update in 2006 with a slight face-lift of front fascia and different tail lamps while slight differences can be seen on the Supercharged variant. The second exterior update was in 2010, bringing a true modern feel to the L322 with new fascia, tail lamps, side grills, and clear side markers. The interiors stayed relatively the same with some minor exceptions.
Fourth Generation (2012-Present)
The fourth-generation Range Rover was introduced in September 2012 at the Paris Motor Show. Known internally as the L405, the model became synonymous with ultra-luxury SUVs as well as technological tour-de-force models. At the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, Land Rover unveiled the Range Rover Hybrid, a diesel-powered hybrid electric model, to face the demands of the times.
Range Rover sales worldwide exceeded 45,000 units in 2013, 60,000 in 2015, and continue to grow with the expansion of its model line-up and the introduction of new variants. 2004 saw the launch of the Range Rover Sport while 2011 saw the introduction of the Range Rover Evoque. The Range Rover Velar, a mid-size crossover with a unique roof line that shares the platform of the Jaguar F-Pace, was unveiled in March 2017.
Celebrating 50 Golden Years
The Range Rover has endured half a century of evolution and continues its tradition of being a dependable road car with off-road capabilities. It has added more performance, luxury and technology as its status elevated, but it has also shown its continued relevance in an ever-changing world.
All British Cars, Inc., the Philippine distributor of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), commemorates the Golden Anniversary of the Range Rover by making the range of models more accessible to enthusiasts. For a limited time, the prices of some specific Range Rover units were adjusted to celebrate the special occasion.
All Range Rover vehicles come with a 5-year or 130,000-kilometer Land Rover Care service plan that covers all the costs of scheduled services including labor, parts and oil. For more details, visit the Jaguar Land Rover showroom at 1008 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), Greenhills, San Juan City, 1502 Metro Manila, or call them at (+632) 8784 5000 or visit their website at www.landrover.ph
Happy 50th Anniversary, Range Rover! Here’s looking forward to the next 50 years!