A handful of off-road icons are known worldwide had their beginnings in the midst of, or just after World War II. Such was the case with Jeep, and the first Land Rover prototype of the iconic Series I was reportedly even based on a WWII army Jeep. Since that humble beginning in 1947 in the UK, the brand has gone on to produce some of the most prestigious and luxurious off-road vehicles on the market.
It wasn't until 1987 that the brand officially made its way across the Atlantic to the U.S. market, in the form of the upscale Range Rover luxury SUV. Although the Range Rover continues to be one of the most-recognized models in the U.S. thanks to the affinity of celebrities and royalty for the posh SUVs, the company has since introduced several other variants in the U.S. market to expand the brand's presence and popularity. Here is a list of some of the most noteworthy Land Rover models sold in the U.S.
1. 1987 Range Rover -- Long before the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Porsche Cayenne, and BMW X5, the Range Rover set the stage for the luxury SUV craze of the 1990s. Although the basic design had been around for 17 years overseas before it came to the U.S. market, the 1987 Range Rover's distinctive, angular styling struck a chord with upscale buyers. This first-generation model featured front and rear live axles, but in a break from convention at the time, coil springs at all four corners, and four-wheel disc brakes.
The 3.5-liter aluminum V-8 engine, based on a 1960s Buick design, produced 150 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, modest by today's standards. Fuel economy was anything but modest, at a thirsty 13/15 mpg city/highway (12/14 mpg by current standards). But with the average price for a gallon of gas under $1 at the time, few seemed to care about its appetite for fuel.
2. 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 -- Long the standard-bearer for the brand in foreign markets such as Africa, Asia, and South America, the Defender did not come to the U.S. until 1993. The Defender 110 was a four-door model riding on a 110-inch wheelbase and powered by a 3.9-liter version of the tried-and-true aluminum V-8. But in a break from its more patrician cousin, the Defender 110 was equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, and manual windows. The only comfort and convenience amenity of note was air-conditioning. Its rugged nature was further emphasized by an external roll cage, standard steel wheels, and an external spare tire.
Despite this Spartan level of equipment, the Defender 110 carried a steep $39,990 retail price in 1993. Just 500 models were officially sold in the U.S.
3. 1994 Land Rover Defender 90 -- The Defender 110 was followed by the two-door, short-wheelbase Defender 90, sharing the same basic drivetrain as its larger sibling. The Defender 90 was initially offered with a soft top, but later become available with a metal hardtop.
Also later in the model run, a four-speed automatic transmission was offered as a concession to U.S. market preferences. U.S. safety regulations spelled the end of the Defender in the U.S., with the 1997 model year being the end of the line for the "original" Land Rover. Although many compared the Defender 90 to the Jeep Wrangler due to the two vehicles' similar size and configuration, the Defender 90's $27,900 MSRP was roughly double that of a comparable Wrangler, limiting its mass-market appeal. Nonetheless, the Defender 90 remains highly sought-after among off-road enthusiasts.
4. Land Rover Discovery Series II -- Following the discontinuation of the Defender 110, the more utilitarian role in the Land Rover lineup was taken up by the Discovery in 1994. Although it rode on the same short 100-inch wheelbase as the original Range Rover, its taller, boxier shape gave it up to 7-passenger capacity with side-facing rear jump seats.
The Series II of the Discovery debuted in the U.S. for the 1999 model year, and the company claimed more than 700 changes for the model, although it looked very similar to its predecessor externally. In an indication of where the SUV market was headed overall, the added length of the Series II, designed to improve cargo utility and capacity, slightly compromised its off-road capability. Its eventual successor, the Discovery 3 (sold as the LR3 in the U.S.) would move even further in the direction of suburban comfort and convenience that typified the SUV market in the late '90s and early 2000s.
5. 1995 Range Rover Classic -- Just as the all-new P38A-chassis Range Rover began to appear in showrooms, the "original" Range Rover soldiered on alongside it, but with some changes to its original form. In its final years in the U.S. market, the Range Rover "Classic" was offered in a 108-inch long-wheelbase version, which also came with a larger, 200 hp 4.2-liter V-8.
The 1995 model featured driver and front-passenger airbags in a redesigned dashboard. Later Classic models also featured air suspension that allowed for multiple ride height settings, and can be identified by their noticeably lower stance when parked.
6. 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 - The 1997 model year was the end of the line for the Defender 90 in the U.S. Increasingly strict safety regulations made it unfeasible to redesign the model for the new standards. The 1997 model dropped the manual transmission for a four-speed automatic, and featured a new 4.0-liter V-8 engine. The displacement of the engine was technically the same as its 3.9-liter predecessor, but used the 4.0-liter designation to signify the extensive internal changes that would pave the way for the larger 4.6-liter version of the engine that would be used in the P38A Range Rover and later-year Discovery II models.
7. Range Rover Sport -- The Range Rover Sport was introduced in 2005 and, although it shared some styling similarities to the regular Range Rover, it actually shared many of its components with the larger LR3 model. Despite its relatively compact 108-inch wheelbase and 186.5-inch length, it weighed a crushing 5670 pounds, nearly 200 pounds heavier than a contemporary Chevrolet Suburban 4x4!
Despite its shocking weight, the Sport was a surprising performer, offering a choice of naturally aspirated or supercharged V-8 engines, ultimately being offered with a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 producing 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. This powerhouse engine, shared with Jaguar's performance-oriented R-line models, rocketed the pudgy SUV from 0-60 in less than six seconds, giving it genuine performance credibility. Of course, the combination of nearly three tons of weight with more than 500 horsepower doesn't usually equate to great fuel efficiency and the Sport Supercharged bears this out with a less-than-stellar EPA rating of 12/17 city/highway mpg. But considering the original 1987 model's 12/14 rating with just 150 hp, you could say more than triple the power for about the same fuel economy is progress.
8. Land Rover LR2 -- The first-generation Freelander compact SUV launched in Europe in 1997, and proved popular. By the time it came to the U.S. market in 2002, it was not the resounding success that the brand had hoped for. For the 2008 model year, the LR2 replaced the Freelander in the U.S. market, and the all-new platform and design featured changes and concessions to help it appeal to U.S. consumers. The somewhat underpowered 2.5-liter Rover V-6 was replaced with a 3.2-liter Volvo-sourced transverse-mounted I-6 which produced 230 hp and 234 lb-ft of torque, a substantial increase over the 2.5's 174 hp and 177 lb-ft. Following in the footsteps of its bigger brothers, the LR2 was offered in an upscale HSE trim, which featured 19-inch wheels, and upgraded interior trim and a 440-watt sound system.
9. Land Rover LR4 -- The Land Rover LR3 introduced for the 2005 model year in North America was a radical change from the live-axle Discovery II. Its development under Ford corporate ownership is apparent in its 4.4-liter, 300-hp Jaguar-sourced V-8, while its Range Rover cousin still used a BMW engine of the same displacement at the time.
The LR4 represented more of an evolutionary change, at least externally, although engineers claimed it had more that 1300 new parts differentiating it from its predecessor. One of the most significant changes was under the hood. The LR4 adopted the 5.0-liter direct-injection V-8 shared with the Range Rover and Range Rover sport models, producing 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. This allowed the chunky midsize SUV to hustle from 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds, making it one of the quicker models in the segment. Despite its tall top-heavy appearance, the LR4 was a remarkably nimble handler on-pavement, while retaining the brand's legendary off-road capability, and keeping a low-range 4WD mode while many others in the class have abandoned it.
10. Range Rover Evoque -- Considered by some as the most radical departure yet from the brand's historic roots, the Range Rover Evoque has nonetheless been one of its greatest successes. Sharing some of its parts with the LR2, the Evoque wears fashion-forward sheetmetal, giving it a totally unique look for the brand, as well as for the entry-premium crossover segment. Although still relatively new, the Evoque turns heads wherever it goes.
Barely changed from the concept LRX model shown at the 2008 Detroit auto show, the Evoque is offered in both three-door and five-door form, powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, a first for a Land Rover sold in the U.S. Based on the LR2's transverse, unibody architecture, and lacking the traditional low-range four-wheel drive, the Evoque is clearly aimed toward a more urban audience, but thanks to the high-tech wizardry of its Terrain Response system, the Evoque is still surprisingly capable off-road, and was impressive enough to earn it Motor Trend's 2012 SUV of the Year award.