This Was America’s First Taste of Range Rover
Luxury SUVs looked a lot different 30 years ago.by Mark McNabb, on
It was 1987 when Range Rover first invaded America’s shores. But unlike any previous British invasion, this luxury SUV offered comfort and convenience for citizens brave enough to associate with anything related to The Crown. And brave they would have to be – the Range Rover cost $30,000 in 1987, a hefty sum back in those days. Range Rover didn’t expect to find many of these brave souls, either, as only 5,000 examples were initially allotted to the U.S. each model year. What’s more interesting is how novel the concept of a premium SUV was at the time. MotorWeek’s host, John Davis, opens this segment by saying, “It seems no one though a luxury 4x4 could succeed in the U.S.” Boy, how times have changed.
The times have also changed the definition of luxury. Compared to a modern Range Rover, or even the least-expensive compact car from 2017, this SUV is downright spartan. It has cloth seats, laughably basic gauges, and low-buck plastic panels covering nearly every inch of the interior. The “luxury” touch consisted of wood trim on the door panels. Despite the relativity of luxury, the Range Rover was far cushier than most SUVs of the 1980s. Only the Jeep Grand Wagoneer could really compete.
But like modern Range Rovers, the 1987 model was far more capable off-road than its competition. Coil-spring suspension and solid axles gave it good articulation while its full-time 4WD system with low range kept all four wheels turning. Power came from a Buick-derived, all-aluminum 3.5-liter V-8 with an electronic fuel injection system. The old V-8 made a then-respectable 150 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Of course, that’s nothing compared to Range Rover’s current 510-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. Power was routed through a four-speed automatic transmission.
Despite its flaws, the 1987 Range Rover started a trend that continues today. Luxury SUVs are definitely ingrained into modern car culture and won’t likely be going anywhere anytime soon.