Ask most people to picture a luxury suv and the unmistakable silhouette of a Range Rover forms immediately in their mind’s eye. The very epitome of opulent off roading, the Land Rover Range Rover occupies a rarified place in the annals of automobiles.
Surprisingly, the luxury we’ve come to expect from today’s Range Rover was not always a given. While they were always intended to be robust vehicles with a healthy dollop of civility, the earliest Range Rovers, introduced in 1970, used vinyl upholstery and plastic dashboards. Carpet, power steering, a/c, leather upholstery, and wood trim were notably absent from their spec sheets. Those earliest Range Rovers were about utility first, designed as they were — literally — to be washed out with a garden hose.
With a reputation forged as the go-to vehicle for African safaris, traversing continents (a squadron of Range Rovers were the first production-based vehicles to drive from the top of North America to the tip of South America), and basically going anywhere a regular car had no shot at making it back from, Range Rovers quickly became the de facto “Rolls-Royce” of SUVs.
The fact their asking price was so high only served to make them more desirable.
In the forty-plus years since that first Range Rover emerged from Solihull, England, there have been but three generations offered. In fact, during the time the Range Rover has been in existence, the Land Rover company has seen more different owners (four to be exact, British Aerospace, BMW, Ford, and Tata) than generations of the Range Rover. For the purposes of this article, we’ll cover the two most recent, built from 1994 to the present (2011).
Introduced in 1994, as an all-new 1995 model, the first year of sales of the second generation Range Rover model overlapped with certain iterations of the first generation. Thus, when responding to an ad for a 1995 Range Rover you have to make sure which model you’re going to see. The 4.0 SE model is the true GEN2 model. The 1995 County Classic and County LWB are carryovers from the 1st generation.
Developing 190 horsepower and 236 ft-lbs of torque, the 4.0-liter V8 installed in the 1995 Range Rover was connected to a four-speed automatic transmission and (of course) fed an all-wheel drive system.
With decidedly more upmarket intentions for this new one, than the model it replaced, Land Rover specified the Range Rover should come fully loaded with an extensive list of standard features. Leather-lined and burl walnut adorned, the interior of a ’95 Range Rover 4.0 SE was a very special place to be. The climate control system was set and forget automatic, the self-leveling suspension system rode on air (literally), and traction control limited wheel spin on less than ideal surfaces.
For 1996, the 4.6 HSE model debuted with a 225-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8, producing 280 ft-lbs of torque. And while this sounds like a lot, it’s important to keep in mind these Range Rovers were pushing the 5000-pound mark in terms of curb weight. All wheel drive and a four-speed automatic transmission comprised the 4.6 HSE’s drivetrain.
In addition to the larger engine, HSE models were differentiated from SE models by dint of 18-inch tires and wheels, mud flaps and a chromed exhaust tip. With all that going on, 1997 was a pretty light year for changes, a few new colors were introduced, along with a wireless transmitter for electric garage doors and security gates, in addition to a leather shift knob. Model year 1998 ushered in a new audio system from Harmon-Kardon and new stitching for the seats and dash.
Two additional trim levels bowed for 1999, as did a navigation system for the first time. The audio system was swapped for a 300-watt Alpine unit with a six-disc CD changer.
The Range Rover 4.0 S and 4.0 SE, both running the 4.0-liter V8, now upgraded to produce 250 ft-lbs of torque (although horsepower dropped to 188), were introduced.
The S model was intended for drivers more intent on doing dirt, offerimg features like a brush bar, roof rack, rear light guards, and 16-inch mud-and-snow tires. The 4.0 SE was geared more for the street, with 18-inch wheels and low(er) profile tires. There was some controversy about the claimed 225-horsepower output of the 4.6 models, so Land Rover contracted Reeves Callaway to produce a 240-horsepower version of the 4.6 HSE. The base 4.6 HSE engine was upgraded to make 300 ft-lbs of torque — however, like its 4.0-liter sibling, it too experienced a horsepower drop in the process, from 225 to 222.
The last Range Rover of the 20th century got an interior redecoration with more chrome trim, new graphics for the instruments, and updated cupholders. The 4.6 HSE came with its own cell phone (a big deal back then). An even more upmarket 4.6 “Vitesse” trim package added heated, power folding outside mirrors, a body-colored grille, and a navigation system. The previous year’s S package was renamed “County”.
The 4.0-liter V8 was dropped for 2001 in favor of the 4.6-liter. Additionally, the lineup reverted to its two-trim roots, with only the SE and the HSE being offered. With identical engines, the difference between the SE and HSE became equipment, the HSE offering more standard features. Similarly, for 2002, the last year of production for the GEN2 Range Rover, the SE trim level was dropped. Only the HSE was offered for 2002.Used Land Rover Range Rover: 2003 – 2010
Benefiting tremendously from Land Rover’s sale to BMW, the 2003 Range Rover was thoroughly re-engineered by the Bavarian firm. Even to the extent of offering a 282-horsepower, 4.4-liter BMW V8 (modified to deal with the vagaries a Range Rover must be expected to endure; extreme angles, locust-like clouds of dust, 20-inch deep pools of water, and etc.) The engine produced 325 ft-lbs of torque.
And while Land Rover had been sold to Ford by the time the 2003 Range Rover emerged, it was (and still is) essentially the most luxurious and capable BMW suv ever imagined. And, it came absolutely loaded; voice-activated navigation/entertainment system, a six-disc CD changer, a choice of wood and leather trims, dynamic stability control, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, side curtain airbags and park distance control were all standard equipment. The only options were xenon headlights, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.
The suspension system was revised to an all independent configuration, endowing the 2003 Range Rover with the customary outstanding off road capability expected of the marque, while simultaneously ensuring it went down the road with the agility of a vehicle a fraction of its size. A BMW-engineered five-speed automatic transmission routed the engine’s output to all four wheels.
For 2004, the Range Rover went even more luxe, with a finer grade of leather for the seats and 14-way adjustable thrones were specified as options. The limited edition “Westminster” model swathed the dash and center console in leather in addition to featuring polished wood trim, 20-inch wheels and “smart” windshield wipers.
The electronic systems went fiber optic in 2005, and a VGA display was specified for the navigation system. A new offroad driver interface showed the positioning of the front wheels , suspension setting and compass orientation of the vehicle (aka direction of travel). Bluetooth was introduced and the surround audio system got 710 watts to work with for feeding 14 speakers.
Ford finally got around to kicking the BMW engine to the curb for 2006, and used Jaguar designed engines instead. (Ford got Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover as part of its buying-up-all-of-the-exclusive-British-brands-binge in the early part of the 21st century.) This endowed the ’06 Range Rover with a pair of new engines. The base powerplant was a 305-horsepower, 4.4-liter unit. A new trim level, Range Rover Supercharged, was crafted around the 400-horsepower, supercharged 4.2-liter V8.
With new engines came of course the need for further differentiation of the models. The “base” Range Rover featured 19-inch wheels, high-intensity discharge headlights, a three-zone automatic climate control system, leather seats, wood trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12-way power-adjustable driver seat, a 10-way power front-passenger seat, adaptive headlights, Bluetooth, and a rearview parking camera. The nav system carried over from 2005, as did the 710-watt audio system.
If you opted for the Range Rover Supercharged; you got 20-inch wheels; smart, rain-sensing wipers and leather Contour seats. If you flipped for the Luxury Interior Package you rode away with 16-way power contour seats with upgraded leather, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and adaptive headlights. The rear-seat entertainment package added a six-disc DVD changer with a monitor mounted in each of the front headrests.
A complete interior redesign was the big news for 2007, along with the introduction of Land Rover’s vaunted Terrain Response system. Permitting the driver to customize powertrain, suspension and electronic systems to best handle off-road conditions, the Terrain Response System took much of the guesswork (some might also say the challenge) out of negotiating mud, snow, trails and climbing over boulders and the like in a Range Rover. With all of that going for it, 2008 was uneventful, no changes were made to the product. Similarly, 2009 only saw the introduction of an ultra-luxe “Autobiography” trim level, softer leather, and new designs for the wheels.
Under the ownership of a new conglomerate, the Tata corporation of India, for 2010, Land Rover introduced new, more powerful engines for the Range Rover; as well as reworking the automatic transmission, re-designing the interior, and replacing the instrumentation with an infinitely reconfigurable LCD unit. Additionally, the suspension, terrain response, and stability control systems were recalibrated.
The new base engine displaced 5.0-liters and made 375 horsepower and 375 ft-lbs of torque. Released from the yoke of playing second fiddle to Aston Martin in Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, Jaguar unleashed the true power of its V8 engines and the Range Rover benefited mightily by extension. With a supercharger affixed, the 5.0-liter V8 made 510 horsepower and 461 ft-lbs of torque.
Current Model (2011)
After such an extensive redesign for 2010, there wasn’t a lot to do for 2011. The rear seats recline now and there’s a 19-speaker audio system available — if 14 speakers aren’t quite enough for you.used Land Rover Range RoverUsed Land Rover Range Rover: Summary
As highly vaunted as Range Rovers are, their reputation for reliability is well — they don’t have one. And while they do have extraordinary notoriety, they are also extraordinarily notorious.
Plus, it can be amazingly expensive to repair a Range Rover. Replace a window frame in a 2nd generation Range Rover can cost as much as $1400, and it’s a part known to frequently fail.
That said, if you’re thinking to get one, you’d best go in with your eyes open. Range Rovers burn a lot of gas and they burn a lot of cash. If it were our money we’d go Lexus LX470, or Infiniti QX56 before we sprung for a used Range Rover.used Land Rover Range RoverUsed Land Rover Range Rover: Still not convinced?
Do yourself a favor and make sure you get the object of your intention inspected by a trusted professional Land Rover mechanic before you buy. There have also been a number of recalls, you’ll want to make sure you run an Internet search for “Range Rover recall” delineating the model year of your interest as well.
Range Rovers absolutely drive like a dream, this is undeniably true. But when they break, which they do quite often, that dream can become a series of restless nights if you aren’t financially well-set.