Four decades ago, few thought a four-wheel-drive vehicle could be comfortable, stylish, and -- dare we say it -- luxurious. The Range Rover model line, which celebrates its 40th anniversary later this month, turned that notion squarely upon its ear.
The notion of a luxury SUV isn't exactly revolutionary in this day and age, but when the truck launched on June 17, 1970, it certainly was. Most SUVs -- including Land Rovers -- were utilitarian, purpose-built vehicles that excelled as off-road vehicles, but not as a family vehicle. The Range Rover changed that, mixing both creature comforts and aesthetic-driven design into the four-wheel-drive formula.
"The Range Rover is [still] four vehicles in one," Phil Popham, Land Rover's managing director, said in a statement. "It's a luxury motor car, a leisure vehicle that will travel far and wide on the highways and off-road trails of the world, a high-performance car for long distance travel, and a working cross-country vehicle."
The first iteration of the Range Rover proved so successful, it remained in production for 25 years with little change (arguably, the biggest revision came in 1981 when the four-door model was launched). The second-generation Range Rover, which debuted in 1994, lasted until 2001, when a radical new design (spearheaded in part by then-owner BMW) came into being. That third-generation model is still in production, although it received a number of substantial upgrades for 2010, including new V-8 engines, and a revised Terrain Response suspension system.
Although the Range Rover name was originally applied to a single model, Land Rover has worked in recent years to expand the brand. The smaller and sportier Range Rover Sport line launched in 2005, and remains one of Land Rover's most popular models. Another expansion will likely occur later this year, when a small Ranger Rover, based off the LRX concept, will join the portfolio. Look for the baby Range Rover to make its official debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show this September.