Land Rover's Rich History and Heritage

Land Rover's Rich History and Heritage

British vehicle maker Land Rover was conceived by the Rover Company in the waning days of World War Two. The original SUV, which carried the designation "80" when it started production in 1948 was inspired by the American Willys Jeep that had dominated reconnaissance transportation in the war.

The 80 here is pictured with Sir Winston Churchill standing next to it. Churchill was gifted one of the originals by The Rover Company.

The British military was a big customer for Land Rovers right away, being deployed in India, Africa, Korea and the Suez Canal zone. To this day, Land Rovers are still very big with the military, hunters, ranchers and the well-to-do in Africa, India and Australia.

The iconic Land Rover is the Defender, which is the current-day successor to the 80. It has not been sold in the U.S. Land Rover in the U.S. has been known as purely a luxury SUV, selling not only leather-lined Land Rovers, but even pricier Range Rovers, to the fat-wallet brigade.

Though Land Rovers rival Jeep for off-road and bad road capability, few American buyers ever deploy the comprehensive off-road system of Land Rovers and Range Rovers on road surfaces more challenging than Rodeo Drive on Black Friday.

Land Rover has had what many would call "ironic" ownership since the mid-1990s when The Rover Group was acquired by German automaker BMW AG. Winston Churchill surely would have cast a jaundiced eye toward the sale of his beloved Rover to the maker of German Luftwaffe aero engines and German military motorcycles. But one wonders what he would have thought when it went it then went into the hands of Indian conglomerate TaTa in 2008 after a decade of ownership by Ford Motor.

In fact, TaTa has so far been a very good owner of both Land Rover and Jaguar since acquiring the brands from Ford. Not only has the company brought out a new Evoque model that won MotorTrend "Truck of the Year," but it is moving deliberately with a Defender concept that the U.S. is likely to see by 2013 or 2014.

Check out the following Land Rovers, including the Defender that was Lara Croft's ride of choice in the Tomb Raider films.

2012 Range Rover Evoque
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Range Rover Evoque

MSRP: $43,145 - $44,145
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City / 28 mpg Hwy

National Average Base Selling Price: $42,588

At 171.9 inches long, 83.7 inches wide and 64.4 inches high, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is the most diminutive Range Rover ever. Cradling a four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower between its front fenders, it is also the least powerful Range Rover. With MagneRide magnetorheological suspension, an 825-watt Meridien sound system, a body that contains almost 100 pounds of recycled and renewable materials that helps get the baby all-wheel-drive to 28 miles per gallon on the highway, it is the most advanced Range Rover ever. How's that for a package of contradictions? Doesn't matter, though, as it all adds up to a terrific ride.

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2012 Land Rover Evoque
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Land Rover Evoque

Underneath is really where the Evoque takes its stand as a brand-new kind of Range Rover, even as the Evoque sports Range Rover features like a surround camera system; adaptive and auto-dipping headlights; a heated windshield, steering wheel and seats; an 825-watt Meridian stereo system and rear seat entertainment package.

The off-road capability you would expect from a Range Rover, however – even if you'll never use it – is tough to marry to the best on-road manners you'd ever get from a Range Rover. Making that union work is where the biggest portion of brainpower went. That's where you get the Boron steel-infused body, the magnetically-tuned damping system seen on Ferrari and Corvette models, the isolated subframes, the electrically assisted power steering, the regenerative charging and clutchless air conditioning compressor, and the fenders and tailgates composed of polymers and composites. It was everything Range Rover could throw at it in order to make sure that old traditions got along with the new wave.

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2012 Range Rover Evoque
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Range Rover Evoque

The Evoque trim range is broken into three main design themes: Pure with a black badge, Dynamic with a red badge, and Premium with a silver badge. On top of that, a Premium package can be added to each theme. This is no superfluous use of the word "theme," as each level is paired with specific details and interior tonal ranges to showcase its philosophy. A Pure interior comes in neutral colors, Prestige gets two-tone color schemes and better leather and stitching, and Dynamic gets things like a different bumper and sills outside and perforated leather and "sports detailing" inside.

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2012 Range Rover Evoque
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Range Rover Evoque

It's the plushest entry in the segment--it's roomy, it's comfy, it handles the road quite well and it goes off-road with brand-burnishing aplomb. The biggest question we had came halfway through our drive on the first day: Even with the familiar lines and familiar knobs, can it really be called a Range Rover? That depends on what those two words, "Range Rover" mean to you. The Evoque, by necessity, cannot be many things one might associate with a brand built on royal backs of King Range Rover and Prince Range Rover Sport. The Evoque isn't big. It isn't heavy. It doesn't have throne-in-a-penthouse seating or a giant V8. That means more wind and tire noise, and a hard-working exhaust note instead of a hard-charging one. It also means feeling more regular and less royal.

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Lara Croft's Tomb Raider Defender

Lara Croft's Tomb Raider Defender

Lara Croft's Tomb Raider Defender, used in the recent "Tomb Raider" films,  is based on a high-capacity pickup version of the Defender 110 a Defender with a 110-inch wheelbase  that was specially modified by Land Rover Special Vehicles in conjunction with Paramount Pictures. Bonatti Gray in color with aluminum tread plates and bumpers, this unique, open-top Defender was fitted with a "Heritage"-type grille and four Safari driving lights mounted on the front of the roof rack. Extra accessories included an expedition tool kit, fender-mounted shovel and axe, winches at the front, rear and sides, a dash-mounted notebook computer, a GPS navigation system, a GSM telephone and emergency kill buttons. Only 250 of the Tomb Raider Defenders were built, and can be found on auction websites from time to time. They are powered by Land Rover's five-cylinder turbo-diesel rather than the gas-burning V8 in the movie truck.

Land Rover built two specially outfitted Defender 110s to be used by video game character turned movie star Lara Croft in the films. Each vehicle cost approximately $175,000 to build.

2012 Range Rover
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Range Rover

MSRP: $79,425 - $94,820
Fuel Economy: 12 mpg City / 18 mpg Hwy

National Average Base Selling Price: $75,087

The Range Rover is Land Rover's most prestigious offering, a luxury sport utility vehicle with a long history of quality craftsmanship and legendary "go anywhere" off-road prowess.

The five-passenger Range Rover is available in two trim levels: HSE and Supercharged. The HSE is powered by a 375-hp 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine, while the Supercharged trim boasts a 510-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Both powerplants feature direct fuel injection and are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with CommandShift manual mode; full-time four-wheel drive with Land Rover's acclaimed "Terrain Response" system and an electronic air suspension help tackle a wide range of off-road conditions.

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2012 Range Rover Sport
  • Image Credit: Land Rover

2012 Range Rover Sport

MSRP: $60,045 - $75,245
Fuel Economy: 13 mpg City / 18 mpg Hwy

National Average Base Selling Price: $57,410

The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is an athletic SUV designed to bring on-road performance driving to the traditional Land Rover off-road experience.

The five-passenger Range Rover Sport is available in two trim levels: HSE and Supercharged. The HSE is powered by a 375-hp 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine, while the Supercharged trim boasts a 510-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Both powerplants feature direct fuel injection and are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with CommandShift manual mode; additionally, Supercharged trims get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Full-time four-wheel drive with Land Rover's acclaimed "Terrain Response" system helps tackle a wide range of off-road conditions, while Supercharged trims add Adaptive Dynamics with variable suspension dampening for sportier handling.

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2012 Land Rover LR4
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

2012 Land Rover LR4

MSRP: $48,900
Fuel Economy: 12 mpg City / 17 mpg Hwy

National Average Base Selling Price: $46,482

The LR4 is Land Rover's fourth generation of versatile mid-size SUV, replacing the previous generation LR3 model. It combines responsive on-road performance with go-anywhere off-road capability in a single rugged vehicle that still retains typical Land Rover levels of comfort and luxury.

The five-passenger LR4 is offered in one well-equipped trim level. Power is supplied by a 375-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine with direct fuel injection, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with CommandShift manual shift control. Full-time four-wheel drive with Land Rover's acclaimed "Terrain Response" system, an electronic air suspension and hill descent control help the LR4 tackle any off-road situation.

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Land Rover Defender DC100 Concept
  • Image Credit: Autoblog

Land Rover Defender DC100 Concept

Land Rover is continuing to explore how to approach the next generation Defender, as evidenced by this updated version of its DC100 Concept that was initially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The latest version features new 20-inch wheels shod with Cooper all-terrain tires and a new Heritage Blue paint scheme with a Candy Weiss roof.

Land Rover Chief Designer Gerry McGovern, who unveiled the new DC100 Concept to the Los Angeles Auto Show crowd, stressed that while the company is serious about building a new Defender, this particular concept may not be representative of the future production version. "The reality is that we're serious about putting this vehicle into production – not necessarily this design, but a Defender into production," he tells us. "It's one of several design studies under consideration at the moment."



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