Hailed as the world’s first SUV the Range Rover has marked a motoring milestone by celebrating its 45th birthday.
Now in its fourth generation the vehicle proved a ground-breaker for Land Rover when it was launched in 1970.
The Range Rover heralded the start of an expanded line-up for the Solihull-based firm, which up until that point had only produced its rugged and utilitarian Land Rover, now badged as the Defender.
The Range Rover tapped into a hitherto unexplored market for a capable 4x4 vehicle that also offered a comfortable and luxurious environment.
Its success spawned scores of imitators, paving the way for the abundance of SUVs and crossovers that are now part the fastest growing automotive segment worldwide.
From the outset the Range Rover became a favourite of the ‘country set’ and over the decades it has won legions of fans from footballers to the Royal Family.
Launched on June 17 1970 the original Classic model was cited as an ‘exemplary work of industrial design’ when it became the first vehicle to be displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris.
Now the Range Rover is more luxurious and refined than ever, though it still boasts off-road capability worthy of the famous Land Rover badge.
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 in Cornwall in 1970.
The first generation Classic, originally only available as a two-door, featured 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.
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 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. This was followed in 1974 by the successful completion of a 7,500-mile trek across the Sahara Desert in 100 days. In 1979 it won the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally.
The second-generation Range Rover arrived in 1994 delivering an even more luxurious interior, greater on-road ability and off-road capability.
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.
The arrival of the third generation Range Rover delivered significant improvements over its predecessor and was bigger too.
It 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.
A 4.2 V8 supercharged petrol engine was unveiled in 2005, the TDV8 diesel engine in 2006, followed by all-new 5.0-litre V8 petrol engines three years later
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.
It is now powered by a range of state-of-the-art petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains.
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.”
Range Rover Timeline
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
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. The six millionth Land Rover produced is a Range Rover LWB SE Vogue destined for China.