Land Rover remains the world’s only major car maker that only produces four-wheel drive vehicles. It has always been a leader in the field, frequently trying out new technologies which are then copied by less ambitious manufacturers. While Land Rover vehicles have always held an edge when it comes to being trendy and with-it, build quality problems and several financial take-overs have taken their toll. It is my belief that the advent of the Range Rover in 1970 ushered the birth of what we now call the immensely popular 4×4 SUV.
IN THE BEGINNING…
The concept of a light, dual-purpose workhorse crossed the Atlantic in 1946 when the British Rover Company developed the Land Rover. Its designer, Maurice Wilks, then chairman of the Rover Company, was using an ex-military Jeep for work on his farm. He conceived the idea of a British equivalent – so the imperishable story of the “Landy” was born. The original Land Rover was announced in April 1948 and was remarkably like the Jeep. Fifty years later Land Rover Ltd is the world’s only vehicle manufacturer building nothing but four-wheel drive vehicles.
What made the Land Rover unique was its ability to accept power take-offs for driving agricultural equipment such as pumps, saws and winches, and it was marketed as a lightweight tractor that could also carry passengers. Its body was made of Birmabright (developed in Birmingham England) alluminium as a means of overcoming the government’s steel rationing and as an aid in production as it could be hand-shaped, obviating the need for new machine presses. To save time the prototype was built on a Jeep chassis and had its steering wheel located in the middle. The idea of this was that farmers familiar with tractors would immediately be at home behind the wheel and there would be no need for right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive versions. This idea was soon dropped and the production vehicles had a standard layout and an all-new welded box section steel chassis made for it. Listed among the first model’s optional extras were doors, side screens, weather protection, a passenger seat, cushions, a heater, a starting handle and a tyre for the standard spare wheel.
Land Rover’s design, being simple and easy to maintain, gave it the potential for worldwide use, and complied with the British government’s post-war stipulation that new projects should be geared for export. It is ironic that the Land Rover idea was originally a stop gap to keep the Rover company busy until steel was available to produce more of the luxury sedans for which it was famous. Thirty years later it was the only part of British Leyland still turning a profit.
By the end of 1949, 8000 Land Rovers had been delivered. These vehicles, known as the ‘Series One’, continued to be manufactured until 1958, with the only changes being to the engine and transmission. In 1950 the transmission was changed from its original permanent 4WD system that had a free-wheel inserted between the front propeller shaft and the transfer box to overcome the windup when driven on a sealed surface. The new system was truly selectable, allowing the driver to engage the front prop-shaft at will. This system continued until 1983 with the release of the full-time 4WD system in the newly developed Land Rover One-Ten, now known as the Defender.
Watch a humorous look at Land Rover owners
LAND ROVER SERIES 1, 2, 2a and 3
In 1954 the first change was made to the chassis. Still designated the Series One, the new wheelbase was increased from the original 80 inches to 86 inches. The overall length increased from 11ft to 11ft 8.7 inches and the vehicle was 2.6 inches wider. The unladen weight had increased by over 200 lbs. 1954 also saw the introduction of the first long wheelbase version, its wheelbase measuring 107 inches. With 41 inches of additional load space and vastly increased payload it would keep the peace with the sales department. In less than four years this wheelbase was extended by two inches, from 107 to 109 inches, in order to allow the fitting of the first engine alternative – a diesel unit producing 51 bhp at 3500 rpm and a torque of 87lb/ft at 2000 rpm.
This option added 195lbs to the curb weight. The short wheelbase vehicles also undertook a chassis change for the same reason – the 86 inch wheelbase became 88 inches.
In 1957, nine years after it was launched, management decided that the Land Rover should be thoroughly reappraised and, owing to increasing pressure from the sales force, major improvements be made. The results appeared in April of 1958 and came in the form of the Series-Two. Still very much a Land Rover, the changes in appearance were obvious. The front wings and body sides were slightly curved and the bonnet had a somewhat subtle shape change. The chassis frame and exhaust, once visible from the side, were hidden by adding additional bodywork below the side panels and doors.
For the first time, concessions were made to driver comfort: easier operating pendant pedals, sprung seats, glass side door windows instead of Perspex and, on the 109 inch version, an adjustable driver’s seat. Even a carpet covering the transmission hump between the two front seats was offered as an optional extra.
At this time the chassis layouts stabilised with the long wheelbases measuring 109 inches and the short 88 inches, which stayed this way until 1984. With the Series Two the track was increased by 1.5 inches and the rear springs were hung from the side of the chassis rail instead of directly beneath it. This gave an extra two inches of vertical wheel travel. Perhaps the most important mechanical improvement was to the engine line up. A new overhead valve 2.286 cc petrol engine was offered, although a few early Series Two 109″ machines still had the older 1.997cc engine fitted.
During 10 years of Land Rover production the engine power had risen by 40% and engine torque, so important to a working four-wheel drive, had increased by 50%. The price had increased too – by 40%. In the first year of production, 28 000 Series-2 machines were produced. Just 17 years after it was first produced, the half millionth Land Rover was built. By today’s standards it does not sound a lot, but for the ‘50s, it was quite an achievement. Only two years after the Series-2 was announced, vehicles with minor suspension refinements, known as the Series-2A were in the showrooms.
After the Land Rover 109-inch Forward Control came a military derivative in the form of the 101-inch wheelbase Forward Control light troop carrier. These vehicles have become collectors’ items and are outstanding in off-road terrain. They are powered by the Rover 3500 V8 with Range Rover transmission components and solid axles on leaf springs. They are noisy and uncomfortable on the road but very versatile for the serious outback adventurer as the chassis layout offers enormous versatility for the fitting of additional fuel and water tanks, spare wheels, stoves, beds and all manner of other safari equipment.
In 1967 a six cylinder engine, originally fitted to the Rover 95 passenger car, was squeezed into the Land Rover’s engine bay. The 2625 cc unit’s output was reduced from that of the saloon car version. Camshaft timings were adjusted and the compression ratio was reduced to, in some cases, as low as 7:1 for Third World use. The engine was rated at 83 bhp at 4 500 rpm and a torque of 128 lbs/ft at 1 500 rpm. A high capacity oil bath air filter was also fitted and the engine produced the smooth pulling power famous in Rover’s saloon cars, it was only offered with the long wheelbase version.
In the Land Rover Series-3, the most noticeable change was a new look front end with the head lamps being moved outwards (although this modification appeared during the last months of Series-2a production) and a brand new radiator grille. In Australia many outback travellers complained about the new plastic grille that could no longer be used for cooking over a fire.
With the new design, however, water cans could now be fitted
in the recesses next to the grille without blocking the head lamps. In the cockpit the instruments were shifted from the centre of the dashboard to directly in front of the driver. It also featured a brand
new gearbox with revised ratios, synchromesh on 1st and 2nd, bigger and better brakes and improvements to the seat cushions
and ventilation system.
In June 1976 the one millionth Land Rover, a specially painted Series-3 short wheelbase version, was driven off the production line by the Mayor of Birmingham during a grand ceremony at the Solihull plant in the English Midlands. Production of the Series-3 ended in 1984 following the introduction in 1970 of the Range Rover and in 1983 of the One-Ten.
Many of these workhorses are bought and sold second-hand. If they are well maintained, and you are prepared to spend some time keeping them running, they are a good purchase and are sure to last almost indefinitely. Although the body is aluminium it does corrode. Pay special attention to the chassis, which must be inspected closely. Areas prone to rust are in the area of the spring shackles and the rear cross member. By modern standards, they are unsophisticated vehicles and Series-1 versions are now collectors’ items. Series-2 versions are prone to axle half-shaft breakages and spares should be carried to remote areas. Clean Series 3 versions can make an excellent second-hand purchase.
A South African version of the Series-3 appeared in the form of the R6 – a 109-inch wheelbase chassis and a 12-seat station wagon body. Behind the very attractive flush grille was a 2.6-litre six-cylinder car engine and Spanish-assembled gearbox. It was a troublesome vehicle from the start and no matter how much redesigning work was done the overheating problems could not be overcome. They are common second-hand purchases and most continue to plague their owners with overheating. Another Land Rover that shared the flush grille of the R6 was the V8. This was the predecessor to the One-Ten. It had a V8 engine and Range Rover transmission but with leaf spring suspension. As not many were built they too have become a favourite with collectors.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90/110/130
In 1982, with the success of the Series-3 and the Range Rover behind them, Land Rover decided to combine the two designs. Having made no significant change to the traditional Land Rover design for so long, this was a giant leap forward. The result was the Land Rover 110 (One Ten) and 90 (Ninety). The new vehicle was faster, better on the road and better off. It was smoother, stronger, more comfort with less noise. Although the vehicle appeared to be a Range Rover-Land Rover hybrid, it did not share as many components as one might think. The chassis design was Range Rover but, unlike the Range Rover, it was built to be strong enough for military use. Like the Range Rover coil springs, panhard rods and radius arms located the axles but the gearbox was new, although it also had full-time four-wheel drive. Much of the body was common to the Series-3 but, because the new axles had a wider track, wheel arch eyebrows were added. Engine options were a 4-cylinder 2.1/4-litre and 3,5-litre V8 petrol.
In 1990 both the One Ten and Ninety were named ‘Defender’ and produced in three wheelbases: 92,9, 110 and 130 inches, called the Defender Ninety, One Ten and One Thirty respectively.
The Defender is a truck. Its close cousins, the Discovery and Range Rover, are off-road cars, so the Defender can best be described as an off-roader with acceptable road manners. It is not altogether suited to everyday suburban motoring and, although not uncomfortable, it is big and turns like a school bus. Luxury packages are called County or Hi-Line and include cloth seats, carpeting and air-conditioning.
Between 1988 and 1991, V8 Defenders were fitted with a Spanish-assembled LT85 5-speed gearbox. A high percentage of these gearboxes were faulty due to under-sized bearings being fitted in the factory. These gearboxes are good for only about 80 000kms, though many have failed much sooner. Purchasing a second-hand vehicle fitted with an untouched LT85 gearbox is risky. Virtually all Defenders have or have had waterproofing problems. I guess this is the last remnant of a 1950′s design.
In later years engine options were a 2800cc 6-cylinder BMW petrol, three versions of a 2500cc 4-cylinder turbo-charged diesel and a 5-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, the TD5. The first diesel was the ’100′ engine and was plagued with over-heating problems. The second version, the ’200′ was a vast improvement, offering reliability combined with excellent economy. The last 4-cylinder, predictably called the ’300′, was again an improvement. A cam-chain tensioner modification to the 300 engine was necessary and if considering a second-hand purchase, make sure this mod has been done. If not, the clock is ticking to a huge engine rebuild bill should the timing belt fail! The BMW engine is thirsty and way overpowered for the chassis.
With the TD5, 5-cylinder diesel gone was the tractor-like thump of the older diesels and almost gone, the severe turbo lag. Lots of low down torque and improved cruising made a great improvement. It is controlled by electronics and the control unit is located under the passenger seat. What an absolutely absurd place to put it. Don’t Land Rover know that Defender drivers like going off-road and this includes deep water and that electronics and water don’t mix? An unbelievable oversight or they could find nowhere else to fit it. This I think is the most likely scenario.
The double-cab 110 variant is another incarnation of the design, practical and ideal for expedition use. It is supplied with a very trendy and good looking but otherwise almost useless canvas canopy. Back seat passengers quickly complain of lack of leg and head room and an overly high seating position. Double cabs are also built on the longer 130 high-capacity chassis.
Late 2007 brought in a major update with most of the changes hidden under the familiar body. The interior has seats, in the true sense, as well as a real dashboard, instead of the unmistakable inside of a Land Rover, which is a bit of a pity. Parts of it are taken from Discovery-3, so the new dash looks odd to say the least, but it’s functional and I am sure will be acceptable to all but the die-hard Defender owners. It also has a restyled bonnet, although one could be forgiven for not noticing. However, gone are the splendid, delightful but leaky and truly unique opening air vents below the windscreen. The good news is gone is the troublesome TD5 replaced with a Ford 4-cylinder, common-rail 2,4 turbo-diesel engine as used in the Ford Transit, an engine already with a reputation for a long life of hard work. It is coupled to a six-speed gearbox, without doubt overkill for such a vehicle, because on all but a downhill, the engine doesn’t have the power to pull it in sixth. Its anti-stall electronics makes descending very steep slopes a really horrible experience because the brakes are often not powerful enough to slow the vehicle and it charges down at its own, and not the driver’s pace. I hated this new feature of the Defender! Didn’t the boys who develop Defenders for off-road use notice this horrible tendency? Other than this, the update is a significant improvement. However, safety, handling and comfort remains the same: well below any other vehicle on the market today.
A few things taint all Defenders: The driving position for large people is uncomfortable because the front seats are positioned so close to the doors that broad-chested drivers find that their shoulders constantly rub against the centre (b) roof pillar: Many people just do not fit into the seat of what is not a small vehicle. But more significantly, and sadly, over the past 20 years, the build quality of Land Rovers has deteriorated to the point that they now have a widely held reputation of unreliability. Unlike in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when electrics were a common but fixable problem, repeated failures of engines, gearboxes and drive-trains are tainting the reputation of what once was the icon of strength and dependability. The result is scores of Land Rover owners are now driving Japanese replacements, which while they lack the character and pose of a Defender, are well ahead in almost everything else.
Despite still loving the Defender and in some ways wishing I still operated one, due to my lone excursions into the African wilderness, reliability has to be on the top of my priority list, and no Land Rover can meet these demands.
More SUV buyers are disappointed in their Freelanders than any other SUV, for two reasons. Firstly its badge has the capacity to confuse: This is a Land Rover that is not an off-roader, and this surprises some buyers. Secondly, it has a reputation for appalling reliability issues: Buying a pre-owned Freelander is a risky business as costly transmission failures are common. Late models of the first Freelander had a mostly ineffective traction-control system and a hill-descent control that engages at 7kph, far to fast to be of any real use. Early engine options include a 4-cylinder 1,8 petrol and 2.0 diesel and a 2,5 V6, petrol. The three body styles included a 5-door station wagon and a 3-door softback or hardback. I didn’t see the point of the softback because driving with the rear window open is never an option because of exhaust fumes sucked into the cabin.
In 2007 Freelander-2 was launched, a bigger, roomier, even more stylish vehicle. it is quite a lot better off-road with more effective clearance, better hill-descent control and a slimmed-down version of Discovery-3’s Terrain Response traction system. Freelander-2 has two engine choices: A 3-litre, 6-cylinder in-line petrol called the i6 and a 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo diesel called the TD4. The Freelander-2’s new look is fabulous and thankfully the high driving position remains one of the best features of the Freelander. Time will tell if its reliability issues are a thing of the past, which at the time of writing, looks promising.
In 1989 Land Rover developed a vehicle to compete in the rapidly expanding SUV market, in a segment lying between the Land Rover (Defender) and the by now very luxurious Range Rover. This was done ‘on-the-cheap’. The Range Rover chassis and drive-train was used almost unchanged. The body shared components with other Leyland vehicles, such as the rear lights from the Austin Allegro and the door handles from the Morris Marina. It was first offered with the 3500cc V8 or a 2500cc four-cylinder Tdi-200 turbo-diesel engine. The interior was all new, but the packing space and load bay ergonomics is best described as dismal. What were they thinking? Clearly, not clearly!
The Discovery joined a range of top-spec leisure vehicles like the Pajero, Isuzu Trooper and Toyota Land Cruiser SW. Like all these vehicles, off-road ability and on-road comfort trade-offs had taken place. Compared with the others the Discovery was better suited to off-road use, with the associated on-road performance penalties. Interestingly, while it shared the early Range Rover chassis its on-road comfort was far superior but off-road was inferior.
The 1994 face-lift introduced an all-new interior, new light lenses, an uprated 3,9-litre V8 engine and improved on-road manners with the fitting of anti-roll bars to the suspension; a worthwhile improvement. But the Discovery remained cramped inside and the rear springs have never carried a load particularly well. A joy to drive in all surfaces other than currugations, where the Discovery has a nasty, fishtailing tendency that can be frighteneing and dangerous. Lock the centre diff and lower the tyre pressures solves the problem. Old Discos sell cheaply and for the beginner who is happy to spend some time working on the vehicle, the Discovery makes an excellent introduction to the world of off-roading. While it does not offer the reliability of many Japanese competitors it sells for less and is a great all-rounder.
The launch of the Discovery-2 in early 1999 introduced the same wheelbase with a longer and wider body with some new technologies. In addition to HDC (Hill Descent Control) new vehicle management systems namely HPI, EUI, ECM, ACE, ETC and FTC, the details of which go beyond the scope of this book, were introduced. Even without ACE (Active Cornering Enhancement), Land Rover’s new stabilising system is better than ever on-road. Off-road, however, is a very different story. It features ETC (Electronic Traction Control) which is combined with a centre differential that cannot be locked. This utterly ruined the Discovery and I grew to loath driving or even driving with this vehicle. To put it briefly, ETC is a system that relies on traction being lost before it engages, for traction to be regained. How preposterous! It goes against everything I know about off-road driving, where keeping traction is done at all costs. When coerced into traversing wheel-lifting terrain, it spins its wheels and digs holes into the earth before moving over it, normally in a huge cloud of dust. The trouble is that a well set-up vehicle in the right conditions can perform quite well but, a poorly set-up vehicle (ETC setup, which is extremely difficult to get right), which almost all of them are, are worse than poor performers off-road and in some cases are outperformed by 4x2s with rear diff locks! That said, the auto gearbox models with their viscous centre transmission out-perform the manual versions by a large margin.
In 2002 Land Rover announced the Series-3: (not to be confused with Discovery-3). This had mostly cosmetic changes and most importantly of all, the centre diff-lock returned. The Discovery moved back to where it once was, at the top of the off-road ladder, an excellent performer on rough terrain and a very nice road cruiser. I still find this Discovery small and a bit cramped and three adults in the back is not a serious option for long trips. The Discovery has a reliability issue that has followed it since it was introduced and while it has been one of the best-selling SUVs in the world, it is severely outclassed by all the Japanese and German manufacturers in this department. When selecting a used Discovery, make low mileage the primary concern, and select petrol over diesel and auto gearbox versions over manuals.
Introduced in 2004, Discovery-3 is considerably larger than its predecessor and has all-round height-adjustable independent suspension. At last they got the Disco’s ergonomics right: Now it is a big vehicle inside as well! It has a new traction system called Electronic Terrain Response. The system reminds me of a modern digital camera, where the photographer just points and shoots and is guaranteed a pretty good result every time, but when lighting conditions get tricky, performance is not great. It works like this: See the terrain ahead, select from between five terrain settings on a knob on the console, and then drive. The software then makes most of the decisions; the only decision left to the driver is how much to turn the steering. Even the throttle opening is sometimes controlled by the computer. Other decisions made by the software are what differential to lock and when. It is fascinating to watch, especially when in my opinion, the decisions are clearly the wrong ones and the vehicle stops in its tracks, or other occasions when it works brilliantly. A large screen in the centre of the dash explains what is happening, wheel by wheel, as it tackles the terrain. When I drove the vehicle in sticky, gooey mud, I kept yelling, “Why can’t you keep the rear diff locked?!” The system is clearly not as clever at as the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Drive-2, but because of everything else about the Discovery, including its adaptable clearance, it is a much more versatile vehicle and leaves its American rival choking and spluttering in its very classy dust. On-road it is easily as good as any in its class, if not better. I really do like this vehicle a lot.
What is truly fantastic about Discovery is the on-road drive. It truly is brilliant and matches the best produced by its competitors. But its letdown, and it’s a serious one, is this: The auto-ride height that drops the suspension to the low, high-speed setting at a puny 50 kph. Anyone having toured Namibia or Mozambique will know that a bit of extra clearance at 70 kph is a really useful thing. The result can be real frustration on sandy tracks as speeds often have to be kept far lower than would otherwise be wanted. Secondly its low profile tyres can’t be used for anything more than basic off-road exploration and they must be changed, which can be difficult as the large brake calipers restrict the fitting of wheel rims smaller than 17″.
Engines include a 4.0, V6 petrol, 2.7, V6 turbo-diesel and a 4.4, V8 petrol. The diesel is almost as quiet as the petrol and more frugal, but not as frugal as some of its competitor’s diesels, probably because of the Discovery’s almost three-ton kerb weight.
Discovery-4, launched in 2009, looks like a Discovery-3 with a Range Rover Sport front end. Engine choices include a new Jaguar 3-litre V6 diesel. It has enhancements to its traction control, larger brakes, more performance and improved emissions. Unfortunately the ride height still drops at a far too low speed and electronics keeps the Disco in the town-car 4×4 category, and its complex design excludes it from being suitable for advanced overland expeditions. Performance on road is as good, if not better, than any vehicle in its class. Off-road, despite the problem mentioned, it is a truly remarkable machine. The ride height control, extra clearance provided by the ‘extended setting’ and the brilliant traction-control give the DIscovery-4 outstanding off-road ability. This is a truly impressive vehicle.
As part of my test of the Discovery-4, I challenged it to drive Southern Africa’s roughest public road. Here are the results of that test:
This is the vehicle that I credit with the birth of the now huge 4×4 leisure industry. The Range Rover represented a departure from the norm when it was introduced in 1970, being a completely new vehicle in both design and concept. The idea first came to light as early as 1952 when a truly civilian version of the Land Rover, called the Road Rover, was built but never released. Rover intended to produce a vehicle that would combine the off-road abilities of a Land Rover with saloon-like comfort. Development of the Range Rover began in earnest in 1965 and in less than five years the showrooms were bursting with customers. Range Rovers were displayed with pride at motor shows all over the world and the motoring press announced a triumph for British engineering.
The Range Rover was a combination of powerful lightweight engine, full-time four-wheel drive incorporating three differentials, and long-travel coil spring suspension. It was concluded that coil springs would not only produce a more acceptable ride on tar but also offer greater axle articulation to greatly improve traction over rough ground. Contributing to its almost revolutionary performance was the alloy 3,5-litre, V8 engine bought from General Motors in 1965. This engine, or forms of it, stayed in the Range Rover until 2002. Owing to the high torque produced by the V8, no existing Land Rover gearbox was suitable, so a totally new transmission had to be designed and built. Full-time four-wheel drive gave the new vehicle the advantage of improved traction, cornering and wet weather handling in all conditions. In the rough the driver could decide at any time to lock the centre differential and prevent slip between the front and rear axles. This made the Range Rover far easier to drive off road than any other 4×4 of the time.
Land Rover made sure that no one was in doubt as to the Range Rover’s pedigree – the early models displayed a badge on the tailgate: “Range Rover by Land Rover”. The brilliance of the design did not go unnoticed and the vehicle won several engineering and automotive awards. And in 1970 its stylists were recognised as an ambulance derivative was even honoured by the Louvre Museum in Paris.
With the birth of the 4×4 leisure industry advertisers made the claim that there are four types of car: “A luxury car, a performance car, an estate car and an off-road car,” and that the Range Rover was all of these. The press responded by asking: what about economy cars? The V8 was thirsty, far more so than the four cylinder Land Rovers in production. The early Range Rover interior was spartan – there was no carpet, vinyl seats and some instrumentation missing. In 1973 when the Mark-2 version was released the interior design was completed.
The Range Rover remained unchallenged for so long that improvements to the design came very slowly. It soon became apparent that this vehicle was very much a status symbol and for almost a decade the changes made were largely cosmetic.
Range Rovers were built in Kenya, Brazil and from 1979 to 1985 in South Africa. In most countries quality control was poor and many vehicles earned a reputation for unreliability. Payload is 680 kgs and the roof requires supporting if a heavily loaded roof-rack is to be carried as the maximum roof load is just 50kgs. To increase the Range Rover’s payload, fit Discovery rear springs, and if that’s not enough, an OME suspension kit. The last Classic Range Rover rolled off the Solihull production line in 1996.
In 1994, for the first time in its 24-year history, the Range Rover underwent a major styling change. Most models do the same in 10! The brief given to the new vehicle’s designers was to create a vehicle that matches if not exceeds its predecessor’s off-road ability, improve its comfort and loadability, while making sure that what is created is unmistakably Range Rover. The result was a far more complex machine that once again set the standard in 4×4 luxury vehicles. Models came with 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission, and pneumatic cylinder ride-height controllable suspension and three engine variants which include 4.6 and 4.0-litre V8 petrol and a BMW 2.5-litre turbo diesel. Early, second generation Range Rovers suffered reliability problems but after a year or so of production things improved, so if you are considering one for purchase, look for models later than 1998.
The third edition Range Rover was released in 2002 and the vehicle was again a radical departure. All-round independent suspension on a hybrid frame and monocoque chassis with every conceivable luxury keeps the Range Rover leading the 4×4 fashion world. The big question is: Is it soft off-road? No, the Range Rover still has adequate clearance and low gearing. In future models I anticipate that the clearance will be the first to go, followed by the low gearing. It is undoubtedly styled for the huge US market: Silky smooth, powerful and while awesome to drive does not have the agile feel of the similar-sized Cayenne. The payback is superior off-road performance, albeit only marginal. A large vehicle can be cumbersome off-road and the independent suspension lifts wheels even in modest axle twisters. Very few take the Range Rover into the rough anymore: I guess its makers reckon that the Discovery and Defender do that well enough, so the Range Rover can stay at home and keep warm.
Engine options include a 3.6 litre, V6 turbo-diesel, a V8 turbo-diesel, a 4.4 litre V8 petrol and a supercharged 4.2 litre V8 petrol. Post 2004 models include Discovery’s Electronic Terrain Response system.
RANGE ROVER SPORT
Under the skin the Range Rover Sport is more Discovery-3 or 4 than Range Rover. It is a high-performance semi-compact, real off-road SUV sports car. How about that! As a sports car it grips brilliantly, although leans quite a lot in the corners, it is comfortable but not spacious inside and as an off-roader it relies on electronics for traction using Discovery’s Terrain Response system, which is sometimes outstanding in its ability to pull the vehicle through difficult terrain and at other times extremely frustrating. (Read Discovery-3) I am pleased that the Range Rover Sport is still a true-off-roader as its clearance when the off-road setting is selected is adequate for some real off-road fun. However, it large wheels and tyres handicap it greatly off road, and because the brake calipers are so large, fitting smaller wheels is not possible. So, it should not be considered a true off-roader.
40 YEARS OF RANGE ROVER
(Many photos are mine, while many were released by Land Rover as part of Land Rover’s celebration of 40 years of Range Rover)