Range Rover marks 50 years of all-terrain luxury

Range Rover celebrates 50 years of pioneering innovation, refinement, and go-anywhere all-terrain capability with the introduction of the new Range Rover Fifty.

Half a century after it made its global debut, the Range Rover remains the benchmark for design, refinement and engineering innovation, with that sole luxury 4x4 model now having evolved into a desirable family of SUVs.

Over its peerless 50-year lifespan, the Range Rover has achieved many world firsts and completed numerous impressive feats, including being the first SUV to feature a permanent 4WD system. 

The Range Rover, the original luxury SUVhas defined the market since 17 June 1970. Five decades on, the modern Range Rover still represents a compelling blend of design, refinement and engineering innovation that has ensured its place as the benchmark for all luxury SUVs.  

This month Land Rover is celebrating the Range Rover’s 50th birthday with a special Range Rover Fifty limited edition model, which features anniversary-specific colours and detailing, and will be limited to a run of just 1,970 units worldwide. 

“Range Rover remains the benchmark for design and pinnacle of luxury SUVs,” says Steve Kenchington, General Manager, Jaguar Land Rover New Zealand. 

Today, the Range Rover family has evolved into four desirable and capable vehicles which thrive in the New Zealand market. The Range Rover Sport continues to hold our number one spotmaking up 54% of the Range Rover family.”  

As the pinnacle of the wider Land Rover family of vehicles, the Range Rover has adopted many innovative firsts brought to market by the esteemed British manufacturer. The original 1970 Range Rover was the first SUV to feature a permanent 4WD system when it was launched, and in 1989 was the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes.  

Later, in 1992, it became the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC) and automatic electronic air suspension. In 2012, the latest generation Range Rover became the world’s first SUV to feature an all-aluminium lightweight construction, making it lighter, stronger and more efficient.  

Capable as well as luxurious, the Range Rover has also overcome many physical challenges. It has crossed the notoriously impassable ‘Darien Gap,’ was the first vehicle to ever be displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris and has even won the Paris-Dakar rally – twice. 

With its clamshell bonnet, distinctive floating roof, split tailgate and trademark front fender vents, the Range Rover of today can still trace its roots back to the 1970 original. In its golden anniversary year, it is now the most efficient, connected, luxurious and capable yet.  

The Range Rover became a family in 2005 with the launch of the Range Rover Sport, which was designed to combine the luxury and capability of the larger Range Rover with a sporty and engaging driving character.  

In 2010, the compact Range Rover Evoque made its debut, aimed at a more urban customer base, while seven years later the family grew once again with the introduction of the Range Rover Velar. Taking its name from the first Range Rover prototypes, the Range Rover Velar broadened the Range Rover portfolio with a streamlined take on the classic SUV’s silhouette and a technology-rich interior. 

So, back in the late-1960s, how did the plan to launch the original Range Rover come about? 

Charles Spencer King (nephew of the founders of Land Rover) noted the growth in the emerging 4x4 leisure market at the time and hatched a plan to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover passenger car with the off-road ability of a Land Rover.   

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.  

Its blend of ability – motorway cruising, off-roading, and even towing in style and comfort – ensured its instant popularity. The original classic even became the first vehicle to be displayed at the famous Louvre Museum in Paris in 1971.  

The first-generation Range Rover (1970-1994) was originally only available as a two door when it went on sale in 1970. During its 26-year lifespan the Classic continued to evolve with the introduction of the four-door model in 1981 and an automatic gearbox in 1982. The first diesel Range Rover arrived in 1986. 

The second-generation Range Rover arrived in 1994 and was instantly recognisable thanks to its familiar silhouette, floating roof, clamshell bonnet, practical split tailgate and continuous waistline; all of which continue to this day.  

The vehicle also displayed an even more luxurious interior without compromising on 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, providing greater performance than ever before.  

The third-generation Range Rover (2001-2012) delivered a wealth of improvements on all predecessors during its 11 year period. Engineering innovations included a stiffer monocoque body (replacing the traditional 4x4 ladder frame) and fully independent suspension with interconnected air springs (at the time nearly all 4x4s had rigid axles). The interiors of these vehicles were inspired by fine furniture and first-class airline seats, providing more space and luxury.  

In 2012, the fourth generation and most recent Range Rover debuted. It was the first SUV to feature lightweight all-aluminium construction, saving 420kg in weight compared to its predecessor. Featuring a wealth of off-road innovations such as automatic Terrain Response 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control, it has evolved to include efficient new electrified Ingenium engines, a plugin hybrid electric version and innovative infotainment and safety technologies.   

The last 50 years of Range Rover development have certainly seen plenty of innovation, mixed with a distinct heritage-focused through-line that endures today. 

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