The Range Rover was launched 50 years ago in the summer of 1970. With its permanent four-wheel drive, all-round disc brakes, advanced safety features and a V8 petrol engine giving it a maximum speed of nearly 100 mph, it caused a sensation. Five decades later, the Range Rover is in its third generation and a brand in its own right. We examine the Range Rover’s journey to the top of the 4×4 world
With trouble the over Rover lost Company military in contracts and the poor financial performance of its car range, a project is approved to introduce a new Land-Rover model. The ‘Interim Station Wagon’ has a 100-inch wheelbase and a coil spring suspension inspired by Rover’s Chief Engineer, Spen King driving a Rover P6 car across a ploughed field. By July, a full team is in place to develop the vehicle.
The first prototypes are complete and begin testing on road and off road at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. They are powered by the 3.5-litre V8 all-alloy engine recently acquired from General Motors. The torque output of this engine demands a permanent four wheel drive transmission which comes from the military 101-Inch Forward Control. The project is now known as the ‘100-Inch Station Wagon’.
The vehicle is launched as the Range Rover —a name coined by designer, Tony Poole. Suspension is by long-travel coil springs, endowing the vehicle with good road manners as well as remarkable articulation for off-road agility.
With its 3.5-litre petrol engine giving the big vehicle a top speed of nearly 100 mph, permanent four wheel drive, and dual-circuit hydraulics with all-round disc brakes it is in real supercar territory . Its two-door body features Land Rover’s trademark aluminium panels on a steel frame and embodies Rover’s latest safety technology including seat belts integrated with the front seats. The Range Rover’s interior trim reflects the vehicle’s utility roots with its easily cleaned PVC coverings.
The Range Rover is awarded gold medal for its coach-work while its safety features are recognised by the award of the Don safety trophy.
The Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement. Using two Range Rovers, the British Trans-Americas Expedition leaves Alaska in December heading for Tierra del Fuego. One of the last great car journeys of the world left to be done, the real challenge lies in the jungles of the Darien Gap in Central America. After many struggles, the Darien Gap is conquered.
The Range Rover is offered with brushed nylon seat trim and carpeting is added to the gearbox tunnel to reduce noise.
Land Rover Limited is created as a separate operating company under independent management within the state owned British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). Government funding is promised to allow for Range Rover production capacity to increase by 50 percent.
The four-door version of the Range Rover is launched. Based on a design by Monteverdi of Switzerland, its extra doors are accommodated on the same chassis and wheelbase.
Following a photo shoot in Vogue magazine featuring an upgraded Range Rover, the ‘In Vogue’ limited edition is launched with metallic paint and an improved interior with full carpeting and wood detailing. It also includes a special picnic hamper.
Range Rover production reaches 100,000. An automatic transmission option is offered with the introduction of the 3-speed Chrysler ‘Torqueflite’ gearbox. A second ‘In Vogue’ limited edition showcases the new 4-door and automatic gearbox as well as having improved trim and a unique branded cool box
A5-speed manual gearbox is introduced. Central door locking is now available on the four-door. The third – and last- generation of the ‘In Vogue’ limited editions debuts with the choice of the new manual or automatic transmissions. This time the features list includes both the picnic hamper and the cool box.
Following the success of limited editions, the ‘Range Rover Vogue’ is introduced as the top of the line model.
The 3.5-liter V8 engine receives a new fuel injections system. The Range Rover’s automatic option is upgraded by the introduction of a ZF 4-speed gearbox. Following an intensive study, the company concludes that a big opportunity exists for the Range Rover in North America, and that the vehicle can meet the demands of the market.
To boost sales in Europe, a diesel powered version of the Range Rover is launched with a 2.4-litre turbocharged VM engine. The benefits of the new engine are underlined when a diesel Range Rover breaks 27 speed and endurance records under ‘Project Bullet’.
Across the Atlantic, a newly-formed company, Range Rover of North America, is preparing for the launch of the vehicle on the continent. BLMC is renamed the Rover Group as the Government prepares it for privatisation.
The US specification Range Rover debuts at the Los Angeles auto show. The comprehensive specification includes air conditioning as standard along with power seats and an upgraded interior.
The Range Rover benefits from work being done on ‘Project Jay’, which will be launched as the Discovery and which shares a common structure with the Range Rover. Improvements include a new pressed floor, a welded sub-structure, and a revised fuel system.
The gear-driven transfer box with manual locking center differential is replaced by a Borg-Warner chain driven unit featuring an automatic viscous coupling. The Rover Group is sold to British Aerospace.
The Range Rover’s engine has its capacity enlarged to 3.9 litres, giving the vehicle a useful power boost. Detail design changes give it a sleeker profile with concealed front door hinges.
The 20th anniversary of the Range Rover is celebrated by the introduction of a four-wheel, four channel ABS braking system, the first in the world designed for optimum performance off- as well as on-road. The anniversary is also marked by the ‘CSK’ limited edition named after Charles Spencer King, the ‘father’ of the Range Rover. The black two-door has special interior trim and anti-roll bars to take advantage of the extra power of the 3.9-litre engine.
North America becomes the largest export market for the Range Rover.
Following a protracted development programme, the long wheelbase Range Rover LSE is launched to the press and dealers in Morocco. The vehicle -known as the ‘County LWB’ in America – showcases several ‘firsts’ for an off-road vehicle including variable height air suspension and electronic traction control.
The LSE also features a 4.2-litre version of the V8 petrol engine. The VM diesel engine is replaced by the home-grown 200 Tdi.
The Range Rover receives a new facia and air bags for the driver and front passenger as well as new steering column with tilt adjustment. The diesel engine is replaced with the improved 300 Tdi.
Later in the year the New Range Rover debuts with the previous model remaining in production as the ‘Classic’.
The second generation vehicle has a long wheelbase chassis and an electronically controlled air suspension system with a semi monocoque body for rigidity. Power comes from developments of the V8 petrol engine with a BMW 6-cylinder diesel alternative.
Both manual and automatic transmissions are offered with a 2-speed transfer box and viscous coupled centre differential. Additional off-road capability is offered by an improved electronic traction control system.
The Rover Group, including Land Rover is acquired by the German car maker BMW.
Production of the Classic Range Rover ceases with a 25th anniversary limited edition model. Aplanned mid-life update of the New Range Rover, featuring a new facia, re-styled front end, and new power units — including a V12 petrol engine, is cancelled in favour of a completely new model. A team of Land Rover engineers is sent to Munich to work with BMW on the new vehicle.
A limited edition Range Rover is launched to mark the 50th anniversary of Land Rover.
The V8 petrol engines are modified for the 1999 model year with improvements to the ignition system alongside a new induction system to improve torque. The front light units receive a minor styling change.
Several limited editions are introduced. Most significant are the Holland & Holland, produced in co-operation with the famous shotgun manufacturer and the Range Rover Linley, designed by David Linley, son of HRH Princess Margaret. At 100,000 it is the most expensive Range Rover to date.
The Rover Group is sold by BMW with Land Rover being acquired by the Ford Motor Company, joining Aston Martin, Volvo, Lincoln, and Jaguar in the Premier Automotive Group. Former Manufacturing Director at Solihull in the 1980s and lately Managing Director of Jaguar Cars, Bob Dover, is named as CEO.
The new third generation Range Rover is revealed to the press in November. Its investment cost of 1 billion makes it the biggest project carried out by the British motor industry.
The new vehicle is very different from its predecessor. It is larger and of monocoque construction, making much use of aluminium in the structure to save weight. The suspension uses air springs but is independent all round with an innovative linked system to maximise off-road articulation. The vehicle is powered by two BMW engines — a 3.0-litre 6-cylinder diesel and a 4.4-litre V8 petrol. Only 5-speed automatic transmission is offered with a 2-speed transfer box incorporating a Torsen™ centre differential. The dramatic external styling, inspired by power boat design, and its stylish interior epitomise presence and luxury.
The new Range Rover has its public debut in Detroit. Range Rover production notches up its 500,000th vehicle in May.
The Range Stormer concept vehicle, heralding a new Land Rover design direction, is revealed at the Detroit Motor Show.
The first extension to the Range Rover brand, the Range Rover Sport debuts. It uses similar architecture to the Discovery 3 with revisions to the suspension to improve on-road handling. A Jaguar-derived 4.2-litre V8 petrol supercharged engine developing 390 horsepower is offered.
The exterior design has all the drama of the earlier Range Stormer concept vehicle while the interior is configured around four people with the driver being treated to a cockpit feel engendered by a high centre console and well placed instrument panel. The Range Rover Sport is equipped with the Terrain Response™ system which, at the turn of a knob, optimises the vehicle’s engine, transmission, and traction control to a variety of on- and off-road conditions.
The Range Rover’s BMW petrol engine is replaced by an all-new power unit of similar capacity but based on the engines used in the Discovery 3 and Range Rover Sport. The 4,2-litre supercharged version is also available. The petrol engine variants are now fitted with a new transfer box featuring an electronically-controlled centre differential. Minor styling changes accompany the new engines.
The Range Rover 2007 model year vehicle introduces a new V8 diesel engine. The 3.6-litre TDV8 is based on the technology used in the smaller V6 but uses twin turbochargers to provide virtually the same performance as the petrol engine versions but with vastly improved fuel consumption. The engine is also available in the Range Rover Sport. Along with the new engine, the transfer box is replaced with the same unit previously fitted to the petrol engine variants. With the new engine and transmission line up complete, the Terrain Response system is now standard.
Having previously sold Aston Martin, the Ford Motor Company reveals that Tata Motors will acquire Jaguar and Land Rover. The latest Land Rover concept vehicle steals the limelight debuts at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
Conceived as a premium car, appealing to new customers from the luxury and executive sector, the three-door LRX cross-coupé is of compact size and class-leading efficiency thanks to its low weight, slippery shape and the use of hybrid technologies previewed in the Land_e concept.
Created entirely in-house, the LRX is the first concept vehicle designed under design director, Gerry McGovern. The LRX features Range Rover style cues such as the ‘floating’ roof and clamshell bonnet but also looks to the future with wrap-around glazing, tapering blade indicator clusters and concealed door releases. Its stance emphasizes its breath of capability from sophisticated urban to challenging off-road environments.
The specification showcases Land Rover’s latest technologies including Terrain Response which gains a new ‘Eco’ mode, and Electronic Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) that uses electric power to drive the vehicle at low speeds. Although LRX is of compact dimensions, the interior is roomy, versatile and sophisticated. Trim materials are of premium quality from sustainable resources and include chromium free, vegetable-tanned leather and felt carpeting. Extensive use is also made of easily recycled aluminium.
The 2010 model year Range Rover is launched. It features a new, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine which is also fitted to the Range Rover Sport. There are also changes to the external appearance with a new front bumper, grille and front light unit, which now feature LED ‘signature lights’. The interior is also upgraded with a new Thin Film Transistor (TFT) instrument display which shows ‘virtual’ dials and other information. The top of the range model is dubbed ‘Autobiography’ —a name previously associated with the Range Rover’s customisation programme.
It is also announced that the LRX concept vehicle will go into production at the company’s Halewood plant under a Range Rover nameplate.
Further improvements to the Range Rover include reclining rear seats with four-way lumbar control, heating and cooling, and new head restraints.
Land Rover holds an ‘official’ 40th birthday of the Range Rover on 1st July with a sumptuous event at Kensington Palace. The guest list includes British celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Prince Michael of Kent, Zara Philips, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
The company uses the event to reveal the production model of the LRX concept car as the Range Rover Evoque. Dramatically, few concessions have been made to get the vehicle into production with the Evoque closely resembling the earlier concept.
The 2011 model year Range Rover is announced. Featuring a new 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine, is also has an advanced eight-speed auto gearbox with the combination achieving significant improvements in fuel consumption and emissions.
At the end of September, the Range Rover Evoque is unveiled to the public at the Paris Motor Show.
To crown its 40th Anniversary year, Land Rover celebrates as the one millionth Range Rover rolls off the Solihull production line. Sadly, Spen King, the man regarded as the ‘father’ of the Range Rover having led the original design team, dies after being injured in a road accident.
The latest generation of the Range Rover is launched. With an all-aluminium monocoque architecture, it is over 400kg lighter than its predecessor. The air suspension system features double wishbones and the front, multilink at the rear to give Range Rover’s trademark articulation.
Both V6 and V8 diesel engines are offered alongside a 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol engine driving through an 8-speed ZF gearbox. Technology includes Terrain Response 2 which automatically senses the optimum setup for the driveline and suspension according to conditions. The interior is sumptuous while in-car entertainment includes dual-screen TV and a Meridian 1700 watt hifi signature reference system.
A hybrid variant of the Range Rover is launched Based around a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, electric power comes from a motor integrated in the transmission and fed by a 1.7kWh battery. Along wheelbase variant of the Range Rover is launched into the executive limousine market.
A new generation of the Range Rover Sport is launched. Based on an all-aluminium monocoque, it is 40% lighter than the original model. Power units are similar to the parent model although the V6 diesel is offered in two states of tune. The 8-speed gearbox is from ZF while the new Range Rover Sport is offered with either a 2-speed or single speed transfer box with Torsen differential control.
The air suspension features alloy components with active dampers and an array of control systems.
The interior retains the grand tourer theme of the original and is complemented with new technology in the form of the In Control system which includes call assist, stolen vehicle tracking and a mobile wifi hotspot.
The Range Rover Sport SVR is launched. Powered by a 550 hp V8 petrol supercharged engine, it becomes the fastest SUV to lap the Nuburgring race circuit.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is launched. With power coming from a 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and the in-house Ingenium 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre diesel, it is the world’s first luxury open top compact SUV. The hood can be stowed in 18 seconds and the model features automatic roll over protection.
The Range Rover Velar is launched at the Geneva International Motor Show. Based on an aluminium platform shared with the Jaguar F-Type, it fills the gap between the Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Sport. Styling incorporates iconic Range Rover design cues in a sleek profile enhanced by flush door handles. The design makes it the most aerodynamic Range Rover model.
The Range Rover Velar is powered by a range of engines including two Ingenium diesels, an Ingenium petrol engine and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol supercharged completing the line-up.
Suspension is similar to that on the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport but features coil springs with air suspension on 6-cylinder models.
A Coupe version of the Range Rover is shown at the Geneva International Motor Show. To be built to special order, it has a 240,000 price ticket but the project is later cancelled. The second generation of the Range Rover Evoque is launched. Based on a new midrange architecture, the design builds on the success of the original model while providing improved refinement and driving dynamics.
Power comes from a range of Ingenium engines and features a mild hybrid system while the new Evoque’s off-road credentials are assured by Terrain Response 2. Driver visibility is improved by Ground View Technology allowing for an ‘invisible bonnet’ and the ‘Clear Sight’ rear view mirror system.
The Range Rover Sport is offered with a 400 hp 6-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine boosted by an electric supercharger. The HST launch model also features a mild hybrid system.
The Range Rover celebrates 50 years since its launched.
Watch this video for Five Decades of Range Rover Innovation