Range Rover turns 40

"It is one of the most important vehicles in the history of motoring."

Out of the vast collection of city cars, superminis, saloons, SUVs, MPVs and crossover vehicles on our roads today, there are few cars that could genuinely make the above claim.

But for one iconic model, it is perfectly justified. I am, of course, talking about the Land Rover Range Rover, which will be celebrating 40 years of luxury on and off-roading on 17 June 2010.

The above quote is from Land Rover managing director Phil Popham, who labelled the Range Rover the ‘most significant vehicle we have ever launched.’

The Land Rover created an entirely new market when it was created in 1970 for the European market. It was the first off-roader to be equally comfortable on the road and came with a premium design never before seen in a 4×4 SUV.

Coupled with a V8 engine supplied by General Motors, the Range Rover took Europe by storm. According to an early press kit:

‘One has only to experience the thrill of driving straight off the road and across a rough field with no slackening of speed and little change in the car’s ride characteristics to realise that the Range Rover is a very special kind of vehicle’.

The Range Rover has evolved in the last 40 years. It started out as a relatively Spartan 4×4 vehicle and the luxury interior expected in a Range Rover today was only added later once it became clear the car’s sales justified the extra expense.

New V8 engines were added to the first generation model, which lasted an incredible 25 years in production. It was finally replaced by the second generation – known as the P38a after the building it was built in – which in turn preceded the current third generation model.

A Sport version was introduced in 2005 and a third model, a ‘baby’ Range Rover, will complete the line-up later this year.

The Range Rover has been used by Pope’s, musicians, sports stars and even royalty. In fact, Land Rover says the inclusion of a cover for the tool kit in first generation models was partly influenced by advice from Buckingham Palace, which was worried one of the Queen’s corgis could be hurt.

The secret to the success of the Range Rover is because if its quality, practicality and versatility, says managing director Phil Popham.

“The Range Rover is really four vehicles in one,” he said. “It’s a seven-days-a-week luxury motor car; a leisure vehicle that will range far and wide on the highways and noways of the world; a high performance car for long distance travel; and a working cross-country vehicle.”

Land Rover has hinted at two-wheel drive and hybrid models as the Range Rover keeps evolving. However, it is sure to remain an iconic and popular choice for anybody looking for a luxurious off-roader with on-road capabilities for the next 40 years.

Read our Range Rover review