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Published Date: 31/10/2017

The latest full-size fourth generation Range Rover unarguably retains its crown as the world’s leading luxury 4x4 vehicle - bar none. It’s humbling to think that the original ‘classic’ Range Rover was introduced in 1970, which makes for a fascinating comparison with today’s majestic iteration.

How the Range Rover's iconic exterior design has evolved

Pre-production prototypes of the very first Range Rover were actually given the name Velar, which has been revived for the marque’s latest model. When exhibited at Paris’ Musée du Louvre in 1970, the ‘classic’ original was heralded as an exemplary work of ‘industrial design’, which sounds a far cry from today’s model, marketed as ‘the world’s finest luxury SUV.’

The first generation Range Rover was only available as a 2-door for the first eleven years of its life and its shape was undisputedly boxy with utilitarian workhorse duties foremost in mind. Its design was clever, featuring a clamshell bonnet, continuous waistline and split tailgate for added practicality, with unashamedly circular headlights and a very plain-looking grille.

BMW owned Range Rover by 1994 when the second generation was introduced, with its more modern headlight clusters incorporating two circular lights and flanking a horizontal rather than vertical grille. Even by the time the nautically-inspired third generation came long in 2002, now under Ford ownership with input from sister brand Jaguar, the boxy shape was still largely unchanged.

The styling of today's stunning version

Today’s Range Rover arrived in 2013. Described as conveying a fresh, new and bold interpretation of iconic design cues, with a smoother and more streamlined profile than its predecessors, it’s the most aerodynamic Range Rover to date. Boasting a floating roofline and sleek curves for the first time, the peerless Range Rover’s form has been softened aesthetically. Of course, the latest Range Rover’s relatively sleek design sits on top of off-road hardware as formidable as ever.

Range Rover interiors over the years

The original ‘classic’ Range Rover is still adored by fans the world over and appreciated for its ground-breaking philosophy, but it was by no means as luxurious as today’s Range Rover. Designed with function foremost in mind, carpets, air conditioning and even power steering weren’t introduced to the classic Range Rover until later in its life. Its dashboard was made of plastic and the seats from vinyl, rather than leather, enabling 1970s Range Rover owners to clean the interior with a hosepipe after duties on the farm or elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, its interior was rather basic, decades before touchscreens were invented for cars, so owners simply had off-road buttons and a few other simple controls at their disposal.

On the other hand, today’s full-size Range Rover has – arguably - the most stunning interior in the SUV class. From the softest leather to heated and cooled seats, bespoke wood and other trim materials, keyless entry and start, and a powered tailgate amongst others. It’s the most technologically advanced Range Rover yet, with a large widescreen infotainment system, Wi-Fi, optional rear DVD screens, semi-autonomous driving features and impressive dual-view television system. Long wheelbase, SVAutobiography and Overfinch editions have legroom to rival private planes - and can even be specified with fridges, drinks cabinets and other opulent features.

On-road and off-road ability

Uniquely blending leading off-road ability with a slightly more car-like interior and ride, the original ‘Classic’ Range Rover was ahead of its time. Extensively using lightweight aluminium on its body-on-frame design, its chassis was a ladder type; similar to the Land Rover and other 4x4 vehicles on the market. The original Range Rover broke new ground in its suspension, with the bold decision to use coil springs instead of leaf springs proving successful, making the on-road ride much more comfortable and giving the vehicle better axle articulation on rough terrain. It was also revolutionary in its use of disc brakes on all four wheels to withstand its weight. The 1970s Range Rover provided permanent four-wheel drive for genuine go-anywhere ability.

The original Range Rover was powered by a 3.5-litre petrol V8 producing 130bhp, which was later tuned to produce 155bhp, and then 182bhp. Turbocharged 2.4 and 2.5-litre diesel engines were also offered, outputting 111-119bhp, and in this pioneering vehicle’s latter years, a 200bhp 4.2-litre V8 was introduced. With a top speed of 95mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of around 15 seconds, on-road performance from the Classic Range Rover was unsurprisingly modest, but the 4.2-litre petrol V8 wasn’t a million miles behind today’s models.

The second generation Range Rover boasted even more impressive on-road ability and off-road prowess, partly thanks to height adjustable suspension. Power and performance spanned from 136bhp, 24mpg and a 0-60mph time of 16 seconds from the BMW 2.5-litre diesel through to 221bhp and 20mpg combined from the 4.6-litre petrol V8.

The L322 model that followed saw a major change through the introduction of a monocoque body that was noticeably stiffer and delivered improved handling, while all-terrain agility was once again notched up another level with fully independent suspension and interconnected air springs.

Today’s Range Rover is the most capable off the beaten track while also being the most luxurious in the moniker’s history. Its all-aluminium body, combined with systems including Adaptive Dynamics and Dynamic Response enable much more car-like handling, helped further by a raft of semi-autonomous driving aids. On the rough stuff, the latest Range Rover remains unrivalled at the top of its game. Land Rover’s revered Terrain Response 2 system provides several modes for different surface types, while low traction launch, hill descent control and other functions aid off-road driving further, including a wading depth of upto 900mm.

The latest engines are truly remarkable, too, with the base 3.0-litre TDV6 producing 258bhp, reaching 62mph in just 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. The pick is the 4.4-litre SDV8 that outputs 339bhp, with a remarkable 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds and combined fuel economy at an excellent 33.6mpg. The range-topping 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol model peaks at 550bhp and has performance statistics of 5.1 seconds, 155mph limited and 22.1mpg, which are simply astonishing.

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The original Range Rover was an inspired creation that wowed the world at the time and continues to do so down to this very day, retaining its class-leading 4x4 credentials whilst becoming increasingly opulent and powerful. Few if any vehicles from other segments have remained at the forefront over as many decades as this remarkable vehicle.


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