Range Rover turns 45: a look at an icon

Range Rover, the forefather of all luxury SUVs out there in market today — and still the most competent off the beaten path — turned 45 this week.
- shares

The iconic British-based marque has now been in production since 1970, a year in which the almost equally segment-defining Land Rover Defender (nee Ninety) was already 22. Clearly Land Rover (Range Rover’s parent) knows when it’s onto a good thing and sticks to it...

Over the ensuing decades, the Range Rover has come to define a segment that today is widely populated with high-end rivals, most notably from Germany. It began in the Sixties, as Land Rover looked to revolutionise the growing 4x4 leisure market. Production of the first prototype began in 1966 and the finished car was launched in Cornwall four years later.

First-generation – Classic (1970 – 1994)

The first generation model was originally only available as a two-door, and went on sale in 1970 with a lightweight aluminium V8 engine, full-time four-wheel drive and all-round disc brakes. Numerous variants and upgrades were introduced during its vast 25-year lifespan including the addition of a four-door model in 1981 and an automatic gearbox in 1982.

The first diesel Range Rover arrived in 1986 and in 1989 it became the world’s first 4x4 to feature anti-lock brakes (ABS). Then in 1992 it became the first SUV with electronic traction control and automatic, electronic air suspension.

In 1972 it became the first vehicle to complete an 18,000 mile (28,800km) Trans-America expedition, staged by the British Army. This was followed in 1974 by the successful completion of a 7500 mile (12,000km) trek across the Sahara Desert in 100 days. It won its class in the London-Sydney marathon in 1977 and the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally in 1979.

The original Classic model was cited as an ‘exemplary work of industrial design’ when it became the first vehicle to be displayed at the world famous Louvre museum in Paris.


Second-generation – P38a (1994 – 2001)

So-named because it was developed in building 38A in the Solihull factory, the second-generation Rangie (pictured second from right, in the above image) arrived in 1994 with “a more luxurious interior, greater on-road ability and off-road capability”.

It retained the signature silhouette, floating roof, clamshell bonnet, split tailgate and continuous waistline that all endure to this day. There was new height adjustable suspension and an enhanced engine line-up, with a 2.5-litre diesel, and 3.9 and 4.6-litre versions of the V8 petrol.

In 1999 Land Rover created the most luxurious Range Rover yet with the Linley special edition. It was one of the first luxury cars to feature satellite navigation and even included a television.


Third-generation – L322 (2001-2012)

The third-generation Range Rover (pictured top left, in the above image) “delivered significant improvements over its predecessor in every department,” claims Land Rover. The interior is said to have been inspired by high-end yacht designs, fine furniture and first-class airline seating. Its maker called it “the most luxurious vehicle interior in the world”.

It came with a ‘dual-view’ infotainment display, allowing the driver to follow the sat-nav instructions while the passenger watched DVDs.

As engine technology advanced, Range Rover added powertrains. First came the 4.2 V8 supercharged petrol engine in 2005, the TDV8 diesel engine in 2006, followed by all-new 5.0-litre V8 petrol engines three years later.

Range Rover SV 3

Fourth-generation – L405 (2012-)

The current fourth-generation model was launched in 2012 as the first SUV in the world to feature a lightweight all-aluminium body, and shortly after also premiered hybrid technology for the badge.

Last year, it debuted Land Rover’s innovative All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) system – technology designed to enhance off-road capability by automatically maintaining an ultra-low crawl speed over obstacles.

Read our various Range Rover reviews here.

The 45th anniversary of the Range Rover comes shortly after the six millionth Land Rover — a Range Rover Vogue SE — rolled off the Solihull production line in April. The two millionth Defender was recently announced.


Range Rover Timeline

  • 1966 Work begins on the first Range Rover prototype, known as the '100-inch station wagon'
  • 1970 The original two-door Range Rover – known as the Classic – goes on sale
  • 1972 The Range Rover is the first vehicle to cross the Darien Gap on a British Army Trans America expedition
  • 1974 Range Rover completes west to east Sahara desert expedition
  • 1977 Range Rover wins 4x4 class in the London-Sydney Marathon, the longest ever speed-based car rally
  • 1979 A specially modified Range Rover wins the first Paris-Dakar rally (Range Rover wins again in 1981)
  • 1981 First production four-door Range Rover appears
  • 1982 Automatic transmission becomes available
  • 1983 Range Rover five-speed manual gearbox is introduced
  • 1985 Diesel-powered Range Rover 'Bullet' breaks 27 speed records, averaging more than 160km/h for 24 hours
  • 1987 Range Rover launches in North America
  • 1989 Range Rover becomes the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS
  • 1990 Limited Edition CSK – named after founder Charles Spencer King – launches as a sportier Range Rover
  • 1992 Range Rover Classic is the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with electronic traction control
  • 1992 Long-wheelbase LSE (known as County LWB in the US) launches
  • 1992 Automatic electronic air suspension is introduced
  • 1994 Second-generation (P38a) Range Rover launches
  • 1996 Range Rover Classic ends after total production of 317,615 units
  • 2001 Third-generation (L322) Range Rover launches
  • 2002 Half-millionth Range Rover produced at the Solihull plant
  • 2005 Second model line – the Range Rover Sport – launches
  • 2006 Terrain Response and TDV8 diesel are introduced
  • 2009 Range Rover features all-new 5.0-litre V8 and 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engines
  • 2010 Range Rover celebrates 40th anniversary
  • 2011 Third model line – the Range Rover Evoque – goes on sale
  • 2012 Fourth-generation (L405) Range Rover launches
  • 2013 Long-wheelbase Autobiography Black Edition is unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show
  • 2014 Long-wheelbase Range Rover Hybrid makes its world debut in China
  • 2015 Range Rover SV Autobiography launches at New York International Auto Show