Light the candles and pop the bubbly – Land Rover’s iconic Range Rover moniker turns 45 this week. The Range Rover currently sits atop nearly every other luxury SUV and crossover in terms of features, amenities, and sheer capabilities – both on an off the beaten path. The same can be said for the original Range Rover when it debuted in 1970.

Back then, SUVs were far more utilitarian in nature, constructed from steel with strong ladder frames, torquey engines, 4WD, and almost nothing to speak of in terms of creature comforts. The Range Rover changed all that. The original Range Rover, now known as the Classic, combined all the rugged, go-anywhere attributed with a plush interior normally found in a premium sedan of the day.

“Range Rover was the first luxury SUV in the world in 1970 and 45 years on it continues to lead the way, says Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s Director of Global Engineering Operations. “The latest model is the most desirable and sophisticated Land Rover ever, mixing peerless comfort with cutting edge technology to provide the ultimate luxury SUV experience.”

Obviously biased but speaking much truth, Rogers is right about the latest Range Rover’s comfort and technology. The current 2014 Range Rover combines some fairly sophisticated technology in order to provide a smooth ride on the highway, sporty experience in the twisties, and a surprisingly capable platform on the trail.

In the last 45 years, Range Rover has managed to maintain its direction and stay true to its original mission. There’s a lot to be said for that. So for history’s sake, let’s take a look at where the Range Rover came from and what interesting details lurk in its four generations.

Continue reading for the full story.

First Generation (1970-1994)

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Land Rover Range Rover Turns 45 Exterior
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Spanning an impressive 24 years, the “Classic” Range Rover is what but Land Rover on the luxury map. The original design only featured two doors and its now iconic sloping rear hatch. The SUV came powered by an all-aluminum V-8 mated to a manual transmission. During its two-decade tenure, the first generation ‘Range introduced segment-first things like Anti-lock brakes in 1989, and Electronic Traction Control and automatic electronic air suspension, both in 1992.

The four-door variant came along in 1981 and the automatic transmission in 1982. Diesel power became available in 1986. While these innovations were rolling out, titles and trophies came rolling in. The Range Rover was the first vehicle to run the Trans-America expedition, running from South America to Alaska. It also completed the 7,500-mile journey across the Sahara Desert in 100 days in 1974. Various other accomplishments include winning the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally in 1979 and claiming 27 speed records in 1985 with the purpose-built Range Rover “Bullet.”

Second Generation (1994-2001)

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The second generation Range Rover carried the original’s DNA and heritage into the 21st century with an updated design that still recalled the looks of the Classic. Codenamed the P38a to pay homage to the building in which it was developed – building 38A at the Solihull factory in the U.K. – the updated SUV carried an even more luxurious interior that furthered its hold on the high-end market.

It’s dominance there was extended even further when Land Rover introduced the Linley special edition in 1999. The special edition was limited to only 10 units and featured an ultra posh interior designed by the famed furniture guru Lord Linley. Selling for £100,000 – or roughly $157,000 when translated to dollars without accounting for inflation – the Linley Range Rover was one of the first luxury vehicles to include satellite navigation.

The second generation came with its own set of powerplants as well. The 2.5-liter diesel, along with a 3.9-liter and 4.6-liter versions of the V-8 were offered throughout the years.

Third Generation (2001-2012)

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The Range Rover took a bounding leap into luxury with its third generation. Land Rover says its interior was inspired by that of high-end yachts while its seats were crafter after those in first class airlines.

Improvements were continually finding their way into the Range Rover’s cabin, including the industry’s first “virtual” instrument cluster in 2010. The Range Rover’s infotainment system also provided the first dual view screen where the driver could monitor navigation or other parameters while the passenger watched movies on the built-in DVD player.

Big horsepower also came into play during the third generation. Range rover introduced its 4.2-liter supercharged V-8 in 2005, giving the SUV the muscle to keep up with many sports cars. On the torqueier side of things, the TDV8 was introduced in 2006 and enjoyed a big following in Europe.

Fourth Generation (2013-present)

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Range Rover continued to grow in both popularity and in size. The fourth generation proved that with the addition of the extended wheelbase version which offered limo-like legroom for rear seat passengers. Top-trim Autobiography models featured a rear center console peppered with controls that operated everything from the heated and cooled seats to the power sunshade on the panoramic sunroof.

A new 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 came into play and offered up an impressive 510 horsepower. Like the third generation, the Range Rover came standard with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system and variable-height air suspension. Both features gave the SUV outstanding off-road abilities.

Now as Range Rover celebrates its 45th anniversary, the brand is producing more powerful, more luxurious, and more capable machines than ever. Thanks to JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations, customers can order a Range Rover with nearly any paint option, interior upgrade, and personalized touches they care to pay for.

Nevertheless, the Range Rover still holds true to its original intent and design cues that made the vehicle so popular four decades ago.

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Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read More
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Press Release

The iconic Range Rover celebrates its 45th birthday today. Reaching the important milestone is the latest in a series of 2015 highlights for the world’s most desirable luxury SUV.

Land Rover Range Rover Turns 45 Exterior
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At the New York International Auto Show in March, Land Rover revealed a new Range Rover flagship in the form of the exclusive SVAutobiography and the landmark six millionth Land Rover was a Range Rover Vogue SE, which rolled off the Solihull production line in April.

Over the last 45 years Range Rover has delivered a series of industry firsts as it has evolved into the peerless SUV we know today. As well as introducing a host of advanced technologies, many of which have since become industry standards, 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.

Now in its fourth generation, the Range Rover sits at the pinnacle of the Land Rover brand and matches class-leading off-road capability with a range of state-of-the-art petrol, diesel and Hybrid powertrains to deliver an unrivalled blend of refinement, comfort and capability.

Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover Director Global Engineering Operations, said: “Range Rover was the first luxury SUV in the world in 1970 and 45 years on it continues to lead the way. The latest model is the most desirable and sophisticated Land Rover ever, mixing peerless comfort with cutting edge technology to provide the ultimate luxury SUV experience.”

The original 1970 Range Rover combined excellent refinement and on-road handling with uncompromised all-terrain capability for the first time, and subsequent generations have maintained its status as the most capable and desirable SUV in the world.

The current fourth generation model was launched in 2012 and was the first SUV in the world to feature a lightweight all-aluminium body, which brought enhanced efficiency to the range.

The SVAutobiography brings a new level of design sophistication to the line-up and is produced by Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division. It is the most luxurious and powerful series production Range Rover in the vehicle’s 45-year history and is available with distinctive Duo-tone paintwork and a 550PS V8 petrol engine. This year also marks the 21st anniversary of the introduction of the exclusive Autobiography designation.

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Last year, Range Rover became the first vehicle to feature Land Rover’s innovative All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) system – a world first technology designed to enhance off-road capability by automatically maintaining an ultra-low crawl speed over obstacles, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering the vehicle.

Range Rover through previous generations

The Range Rover story 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 to critical acclaim in Cornwall, in 1970. In a special photoshoot, Land Rover has brought together four generations of the Range Rover to show the evolution of the vehicle.

First Generation – Classic (1970 – 1994)

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

Innovations continued at a pace. The first diesel Range Rover arrived in 1986 and in 1989 it became the world’s first 4x4 to feature anti-lock brakes. Then in 1992 it celebrated another SUV first with the introduction of Electronic Traction Control and automatic electronic air suspension.

The Range Rover’s reputation for unrivalled all-terrain capability was cemented by a number of high-profile endurance tests. In 1972 it became the first vehicle to complete an 18,000-mile Trans-America expedition, staged by the British Army, which included the perilous crossing of the Darien Gap in South America. This was followed in 1974 by the successful completion of an epic 7,500-mile trek across the Sahara Desert in 100 days.

This reputation was enhanced with victory in the 4x4 class of the 18,750-mile London-Sydney marathon in 1977 and by winning the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally in 1979. Then, in 1985, the diesel-powered Range Rover ‘Bullet’ broke 27 speed records.

Second Generation – P38a (1994 – 2001)

The second-generation Range Rover or P38a – so named because it was developed in building 38A in the Solihull factory – arrived in 1994 delivering an even more luxurious interior, greater on-road ability and off-road capability. Key design features made it instantly recognisable as a Range Rover and the iconic silhouette, floating roof, clamshell bonnet, practical split tailgate and continuous waistline endure to this day.

Technological highlights included the addition of 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 providing greater performance than ever before.

In 1999 Land Rover created the most luxurious Range Rover yet with the Linley special edition. Inspired by furniture designer Lord Linley, only 10 examples of the £100,000 model were produced. All featured black paintwork with matching black leather upholstery, deep-pile carpets and piano black interior trim. It was one of the first luxury cars to feature satellite navigation and even included a television.

Third Generation – L322 (2001-2012)

The arrival of the third generation Range Rover delivered significant improvements over its predecessor in every department. Bigger and more spacious than the P38a, the interior was inspired by high-end yacht designs, fine furniture and first-class airline seating. The result was the most luxurious vehicle interior in the world.

Technological highlights included the addition, in 2010, of ‘virtual’ instruments. It also became the first vehicle to provide a ‘dual-view’ infotainment display, allowing the driver to keep tabs on the sat nav instructions while the passenger watched a DVD.

As engine technology advanced, the third generation Range Rover line-up expanded. 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.

Timeline – A Brief History

1966 Work began 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

1971 Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement

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 – 7,500 miles in 100 days

1977 A modified Range Rover wins the 4x4 class in the London-Sydney Marathon, a gruelling 30,000 km (18,750 miles) event and the longest ever speed-based car rally

1979 A specially modified Range Rover wins the first Paris-Dakar rally (a Range Rover wins again in 1981)

1981 First production four-door Range Rover appears along with the first factory produced limited-edition Range Rover – the ’In Vogue’

1982 Automatic transmission becomes available on Range Rover

1983 Range Rover 5-speed manual gearbox is introduced

1985 The diesel-powered Range Rover ’Bullet’ breaks 27 speed records, including a diesel record for averaging more than 100mph for 24 hours

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1987 Range Rover launched in North America

1989 Range Rover is the world’s first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes

1990 Limited Edition CSK – named after founder Charles Spencer King – is launched 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) launched

1992 Automatic electronic air suspension introduced, a world first for a 4x4

1994 Second-generation (P38a) Range Rover launched

1996 Range Rover Classic bows out after total production of 317,615 units

1999 Limited Edition Range Rover Linley appears at London Motor Show

2001 Third-generation (L322) Range Rover launched

2002 Half-millionth Range Rover produced at the Solihull plant

2005 Second model line – the Range Rover Sport – launched

2006 Terrain Response and TDV8 diesel introduced

2009 Range Rover features all-new 5.0-litre V8 and 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engines

2010 Range Rover celebrates its 40th anniversary,

2011 Third model line – the Range Rover Evoque – goes on sale

2012 Fourth-generation (L405) Range Rover launched - the world’s first all-aluminium SUV

2013 Long-wheelbase Autobiography Black Edition unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show

2014 Long-wheelbase Range Rover Hybrid makes its world debut in China

2015 Range Rover SV Autobiography launched at New York International Auto Show. 6,000,000th Land Rover produced is a Range Rover LWB SE Vogue destined for China. Autobiography designation used to identify flagship models celebrates 21st anniversary

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