What would be your first choice when it comes to choosing an SUV? Well for many people, top of the list will be the Range Rover, which is considered to be the most desirable SUV in the world, with its sleek design, sophisticated refinement and luxury and supreme all-terrain capability.
Last Wednesday 17th June, the Range Rover celebrated its 50th (golden) anniversary and to commemorate it, the launch of a special edition model to celebrate half a century of design and engineering excellence. The special edition ‘Range Rover Fifty’ model will be limited to just 1,970 examples globally, as it was on the 17th June 1970 that the first Range Rover rolled off the production line.
Five decades on and now in its fourth generation with over a million vehicles sold world-wide, the Range Rover has evolved into a family of desirable and most capable luxury vehicles seen the world over. Its evocative blend of design, refinement and engineering innovation has set the benchmark when it comes to luxury SUVs. And over the last half a century, the Range Rover has achieved many world firsts and completed numerous impressive feats. For example, it was the first SUV to feature a permanent 4WD system when it was launched, and in 1989 was the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes. Then in 1992 it became the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC) and automatic electronic air suspension. It’s also won the Paris-Dakar rally twice. In 2012, the most recent generation Range Rover became the world’s first SUV to feature an all-aluminium lightweight construction, making it lighter, stronger and more efficient as a result. And believe it or not, the Range Rover has also been displayed the Louvre Museum in Paris! That’s quite some resumé.
While the Range Rover of today is a far cry from the original model in looks and size, it still retains its clamshell bonnet, distinctive floating roof, split tailgate and trademark front fender vents, which can be traced back to its roots of the 1970 original.
Prof Gerry McGovern OBE, Land Rover Chief Creative Officer, commented that: “In the world of luxury vehicles, the Range Rover has always stood apart as peerless and enduring. Its unique and pioneering sensibilities together with an unrivalled engineering approach have been the intrinsic values which our customers have admired since the first of the breed was revealed in 1970.”
Thus, the Range Rover Fifty features a number of bespoke exterior accents in Auric Atlas as well as two unique 22-inch wheel designs. The badging features a ‘Fifty’ script created personally by Prof Gerry McGovern, which will appear on the exterior of the vehicle and throughout the interior on the unique “1 of 1970” centre console commissioning plaque, headrests, dashboard and illuminated treadplates.
The vehicle will be available in both standard and long wheelbase body designs, and you will be able to choose from four carefully curated exterior colours which include Carpathian Grey, Rosello Red, Aruba and Santorini Black. In extremely limited numbers, Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations is also offering the Range Rover Fifty in one of three Heritage exterior solid paints reproduced from the original Range Rover paint palette. Tuscan Blue, Bahama Gold and Davos White.
There will also be a range of powertrain options, including petrol, diesel and a plug-in hybrid P400e version.
History of the Range Rover
During the mid-1960s, in an attempt to revolutionise the growing 4×4 leisure market, the Rover car company’s engineering chief for new vehicle projects, Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King, who was nephew of the founders of Land Rover, formulated a plan to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover saloon with the off-road ability of a Land Rover.
And so the development of the first 100-inch station wagon prototype began during the late 1960s, with the first model being released to the world’s media to critical acclaim in 1970. It was an instant hit with its ability for motorway cruising, off-roading, and even towing in style and comfort.
The first-generation Range Rover (1970-1996) was originally only available with two doors when it went on sale in 1970. It wasn’t until 1981 that the four-door model was introduced and a year later, an automatic gearbox became available. The first diesel powered Range Rover arrived four years later in 1986.
1994 saw the launch of the second-generation Range Rover known as the P38A. This new version was fitted with an even more luxurious interior without compromising its on-road ability and off-road capability. It also featured enhanced height-adjustable suspension as well as a 2.5-litre diesel and 3.9 and 4.6-litre versions of the V8 petrol, giving the Range Rover far better performance.
It wasn’t until the new Millennium and 2001 that the third generation Range Rover was born with a wealth of improvements on previous versions. This included a stiffer monocoque body, which replaced the traditional 4×4 ladder frame and fully independent suspension with interconnected air springs. The vehicle’s interior was even more plush, inspired by high-end yachts, fine furniture and first-class airline seats, and provided passengers with more space and luxury.
2012 saw the launch of the current fourth generation Range Rover. It was the first SUV to feature lightweight all-aluminium construction, saving 420kg in weight compared to its predecessor. The vehicle was also fitted with a wealth of new off-road innovations such as automatic Terrain Response™ 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control. It also includes efficient new electrified Ingenium engines, a plug-in hybrid electric version and advanced innovative infotainment and safety technologies.
Over the last five years, the Range Rover SVAutobiography has been at the top of the model line-up, offering the most powerful and refined vehicles in Range Rover’s history. Produced by Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division, you can choose from the Range Rover SVAutobiography and SVAutobiography Dynamic, which are fitted with powerful V8 engines and finely crafted cabins.
For more information on the Range Rover Fifty, please visit: www.landrover.co.uk
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Land Rover UK