50 years ago, the Range Rover kicked off the luxury SUV revolution
Just about every luxury automaker has an SUV or crossover in their range these days. Who would have thought brands such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, or even Lamborghini would come up with high-riders of their own?
But the luxury SUV and crossover market wouldn't be where it is today thanks to one that was launched 50 years ago. That SUV we're talking about is none other than the Range Rover.
First launched in June of 1970, the Range Rover story actually started all the way back in the 1950s with the Road Rover. The Rover company actually wanted to build an upmarket version of the Land Rover Series 1 as early as that but the continued success of the latter meant it wasn't of top priority at the time. Despite that, development continued, albeit at a snail's pace, in the 1960's.
During its development, its name changed from Road Rover to simply the 100-inch Station Wagon. By the late 60's, Rover presented the first mock-up of the SUV and was subsequently approved by management. After that, road-going prototypes were built and were badged Velar, a name that's used by Land Rover now.
Just before its launch, it had finally adapted the name Range Rover as the company had intended to make it an off-roader that's also suited for on-pavement use. It used utilized a body on frame design and had aluminum for most of its panels. All launch models used a 3.5-liter Rover V8, which was derived from a Buick design. The rear suspension was a bit of a revolution at the time too as most off-roaders used leaf springs. In the case of the Range Rover, it came with coils, a design most pick-up-based SUVs come with nowadays.
Land Rover did not intend for the Range Rover to be a luxury vehicle, so what happened? As it turned out, people saw the Range Rover more as a large station wagon with off-road capability. The term SUV hasn't been coined in 1970 either so it was a niche product at the time too. Those who saw it and rode in it liked the high driving position and, for one reason or another, it became a bit of a status symbol in England. That notion was further reinforced when the British Royal Family began using them.
When it was released, it carried the price tag of £ 1998, which is about £ 31,000 in today's money or Php 1,848,352 at current conversion rates. It definitely wasn't touted to be a luxury car but the market changed over the course of its production. When the second-generation Range Rover came out in 1994, it was a full-bred luxury SUV. Leather seats, wood cappings, advanced technologies from BMW, and even air suspension were just some of the standard features of the second-gen model known as the P38. Then there's the styling with its more rakish appearance bringing it to the modern age.
An all-new Range Rover was launched in 2003 which simply kicked up the luxury and tech features. Land Rover then added the Range Rover Sport as a (slightly) smaller alternative to the original model. Not content with that, the British automaker expanded the range with the Evoque.
2012 saw the arrival of the current-gen version and it's still the staple of royalty, members of parliament, and the wealthy. But despite the move upmarket, the Range Rover has kept its off-road abilities by blending it with technology.
Given the Range Rover's status, the next 50 years might just go by so fast for this high-riding symbol of Britishness.