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Range Rover

Range Rover Published: 7th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Range Rover
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The original Range Rover is the ultimate classic 4x4. But is it really as good as people think almost 50 years on?

The Range Rover is an icon – and there are few out there which can rival it. Built from 1970 to 1995, it’s become part of English Heritage in the same way as the Mini, Morris Minor and MGB have endured the eras. When it was replaced, Land Rover kept building it, such was demand from an ardent clientele – and today values are rising almost as you blink.

Practical and pretty, well-equipped for its era, comfortable and with genuine go-anywhere abilities, the Range Rover’s popularity never waned. Intelligent evolution boosted its case; a diesel option for those with smaller pockets, four doors in place of two, and more toys made the Rangey an evermore desirable concept if less the work and play vehicle it was designed to be.

Most original Range Rovers seen in the UK today are still working vehicles to some degree – whether used by tradesmen, or by families as sensible if thirsty transport. The few cosseted examples tend to be rare models such as the original models, the VELAR, later CSK or the Vogue editions. Few other classics can earn their keep like a Range Rover and why you should want one.

On the move

It’s odd to think that nobody really styled the Range Rover – that iconic form is a refinement of a hastily-developed camouflage body for testing the chassis. And yet the proportions are so right – the angle of the rear window, the little castellations at the leading edge of the bonnet – those features which make a Range Rover so timeless all serve a practical purpose. If anything, it’s even better in late four door form, the inference being that the Range Rover’s shape only gets more handsome the more it bows toward practicality.

The early cars aren’t much to write home about in terms of trim, with a binnacle which could have been lifted from the Marina, a plastic dashboard, hose-down flooring and vinyl seats. But then, initially it was meant to be a utilitarian vehicle as well as a comfortable car that the inside could even be sluiced out when need be – impractical luxury came later. And by the time it got walnut trim, teddy bear seating and colour coded three spoke alloy wheels, it had become an executive car with all the luxury and panache of the contemporary Rover SD1. The seats are wellshaped for comfort, and climbing up into them is ideal if you suffer from back complaints. There’s lots of space, whether you’re in the front or the back, as you’d anticipate and the controls are all easy enough to get at if a bit heavy duty.

Slot it into D, and the Rover V8 allows you to push forward on a wave of torque – the nose lifting and rear sinking in a way we’ve only previously experienced on Rolls-Royces. And while its 182bhp in our 3.9-litre fuel injected test car is never going to make it the fastest road burner on the road, it’s more than enough to keep pace with traffic. It burbles away leaving you to focus on just how nice an experience Range Rovering still is.

It wasn’t always thus. Earliest cars were saddled with a new yet still truck-like gearbox and with no power steering, together meant they were pretty hard work. But as the years rolled on, the advent of slick five-speeds, PAS, a good turbodiesel and air suspension turned this workhorse more into an off-roading executive saloon, so the later the car the more palatial rather than practical it is. Although given the cost of original two-door cars, few folk are going to put theirs to work as they were intended in 1970!

Round the corners

It would be foolish to assume that the Range Rover is capable of cornering like a Mini; a high centre of gravity and sheer mass mean that is never going to happen, although handling kits from the likes of Harvey-Bailey give this big beast respectable handling. Even so, you do have to adjust accordingly – this is a tall car and abusive cornering in adverse conditions would not be wise. But for something so tall, it does steer remarkably well. The steering itself is a shade on the numb side, but as it was developed for off-road use this is desirable. After all, you wouldn’t want to find the wheel snatched from you if you slip into a rut halfway up a mountain. As power assistance goes, it’s well weighted, and you always feel as if you’re in control. Ditto the brakes.

As you might expect, it’s a little wandery in crosswinds, but not scary – it’s wide enough to feel planted whatever the forces of nature are doing. Later models equipped with air suspension are better composed but more complicated to look after – we prefer the simplicity of the coil-sprung original (many are so converted), and it has very little impact on ride or cruising characteristics as the seats lacking lateral support ensures that very few owners are going to drive a Range Rover aggressively despite all-wheel drive grip from the agricultural 4x4 system that’s no Audi quattro in terms of roadability and refinement.

On a quiet cruise, you have all the benefits that high stance offers while the square cut shape means it’s easy to drive and position. It’s a sign of the times that while the Range Rover was considered large in 1970 the original ‘baby’ Freelander nearly 30 years its junior has much the same footprint while the first Ford Galaxy MPV is larger!

GO or no go

There isn’t much in the classic world that is quite so versatile as the Range Rover. It can seat five in comfort, or be used as a van. It looks at home on a housing estate or a country estate. It’s comfortable, easy to drive, easy to get in and out of, and if there’s too much traffic you can take it down the local green lanes instead. If one wasn’t quite so valuable, you might even consider using yours as a daily driver…

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE Brisk enough – if it’s a later V8
CRUISING Well mannered, but high sided
HANDLING Not for chucking into corners
BRAKES Spot on in normal driving
EASE OF USE Thumbs up all round albeit heavy going if lacking power steering

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