Since the early days of Range Rover in the United States our founder, John Brabyn, has his finger on the pulse of all things Range Rover. Thanks to his far reaching contacts RangeRovers.net was often the first place that many enthusiasts learned of upcoming events, model changes and new automotive technologies.
Below is a sampling of articles, information and opinions posted by John from 2000 to 2009.
June 22, 2009 Land Rover Still at Bottom of Heap in JD Power Quality Rankings
Disappointingly, Land Rover is next to last once more in the latest JD Power survey of initial quality, beating only the Mini brand for last place. Lexus gained top honors with only 84 problems per 100 vehicles, while Land Rover scored 150. The data are supported by a recent Consumer Reports study of used vehicles: "On average, three-year-old (2006) models had about 43 problems per 100 vehicles. The most reliable three-year-olds, the Lexus SC and Toyota’s Highlander and Prius, had about 13 problems. The worst, the Land Rover Range Rover, had 140 problems". The constant talk about quality improvement coming out of the factory at Solihull may well be true, but the other brands have improved more, leaving Land Rover in the familiar position of being the laughing stock of the auto brands when it comes to quality and reliability. Of course, Customer Satisfaction is another matter entirely -- due to their unique panache and excellent dealer service, Land Rover models consistently score very highly on that measure!!
June 14, 2009 2010 Range Rover Sport Upgrades make it more like a Real Range Rover
The Range Rover Sport will get the same new 5 liter V8 engines, upgraded transmission, and improvements to Terrain Response, nav system and portable audio interface as the 2010 Range Rover (see below). It will also include the new Surround Camera, Tow Assist, and High Beam Assist technology. But not all the other Range Rover mechanical and electrical upgrades will carry over to the Sport. Instead of the Range Rovers new 12 inch TFT instrument cluster display, for example, the Sport will get a 5 inch display that replaces part of the cluster.
On the exterior, cosmetic appearance adjustments make the 2010 Sport look more like a real Range Rover (see official press photo at right). The interior has been comprehensively refurbished with more leather and soft-touch surfaces to meet more appropriate Range Rover standards and finally get rid of the cheap looking plastic Discovery/LR3 type trim that adorned the original Sport models.
Overall, the new Sport will be more like a real Range Rover, while retaining its more sporty personality!
June 4, 2009 2010 Range Rover to get New 5 litre V8 Engines
RangeRovers.net has learned that the 2010 model year Range Rovers will be getting a new and much more powerful 5 litre engine. There will also be other new technologies, such as the 12" TFT instrument cluster. "The 2010 Range Rover remains the benchmark and continues to set the pace in its segment,” says Phil Popham, Land Rover Managing Director.
The 2010 Range Rover has two brand new 5.0-liter LR-V8 engines – the top of the range 510 bhp supercharged unit, and the 375 bhp naturally aspirated version. Both engines were developed in-house by the Jaguar Land Rover powertrain team, with the requirements of the Range Rover in mind from day one. The standard naturally aspirated form will make 375 HP and the Supercharged models will make 510 HP. This will finally give the Range Rover the power edge over the lesser models that it has long needed. The new standard engine matches the performance of the existing Supercharged, while the new Supercharged model will now have a 0-60 time in the 5.9 second range. Hopefully, no compromises have been made to off road performance in order to achieve these figures, but time will tell.
Aside from the new engines, 2010 enhancements to the Range Rover will include the following: Re-tuned transmission with Intelligent Sport mode that senses and adapts to driving patterns Subtle exterior design changes to the headlights, grille and front bumper (see photo) plus LED-stripe side indicators Replacement of the physical instrument cluster by a 12 inch TFT screen with virtual dials and information displays Adaptive Dynamics technology with electronically adjustable shocks (standard on supercharged, optional on standard model) New brakes Updated Terrain Response including sand launch control, prevention of digging in to sand, and faster response times preventing freewheeling on rocks. Improved Dynamic Stability Control including rollover prevention Trailer Stability Assist" to prevent fishtailing when towing Adaptive cruise control, emergency brake assist, optional automatic high bean assist that dips the headlights automatically for oncoming traffic Blind spot monitoring system using radar sensors, and optional surround camera system Updated touch screen and voice control systems Enhanced sound system with optional HD radio and Portable Audio Interface New nav system with hard drive for faster response...... Stay tuned!!
December 15, 2008 Range Rover Sport wins Northwest SUV of the Year Competition
The 2009 Range Rover Sport won the 2008 Northwest SUV of the Year award, along with the Best Off-Road SUV award, at the Northwest Sport Utility Vehicle of the Year Competition, most commonly known as "Mudfest"™. The event was held October 2-3, 2008 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash. Twenty automotive journalists from the Washington, Oregon and British Columbia region drove and evaluated 22 sport-utility and crossover-utility vehicles. Each vehicle was tested on three separate venues, including off-road, on-pavement and a specially-designed track for stability and handling assessment. Packaging, versatility and overall value for money are also evaluated. The award is determined by compiling the journalists' overall scores. The presentation took place December 15th at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
December 2008 2009 Sees Cosmetic Updates for Range Rover and Sport Models
This month the updates for the 2009 model year have been announced and displayed at the Los Angeles Motor Show. For the full-sized Range Rover, the updates are minor and cosmetic. New softer dash leather, improved door seals, a modified color palette, and new wheel designs were the main changes to the standard models. Also, a new Autobiography Package for the Supercharged edition was introduced in the US. Named after the Autobiography edition long available on Range Rovers in the UK since the earliest models, this was a US-style pre-ordained luxury option package rather than a customized set of features, trim items and colors that could be uniquely chosen by the owner as in the UK Autobiography Edition. The package included special leather and wood trim, the 4-zone climate control and insulating glass options (introduced in 2008), the rear-seat entertainment package, a new wheel design, and an Autobiography tailgate badge. For an in-depth look at the various changes. Full technical specifications for 2009 are provided on the 2009 Technical Specs Page.
For the Range Rover Sport, a more major facelift has been in the rumor mill, including a 5 litre engine and different headlight treatments. However we suspect these updates will be reserved for the 2010 model to be introduced later in 2009. Meanwhile, the 2009 model year introduction at the Los Angeles Motor Show in December 2008 was limited to minor cosmetic upgrades including cosmetic interior enhancements, new wheel options and a cosmetically refreshed rear exterior. All models continued to include the Terrain Response, and the Supercharged continued to add the Dynamic Response technology, otherwise known as automatic roll stability control. Full details of the upgrades are provided on the 2009 Range Rover Sport Model Year Details Page.
Sept 5, 2008 Range Rover III Front Diff Replacement Program
Land Rover has instituted a free replacement program for the notorious front diff problem on the BMW-engined RR III models manufactured from 2002-2005. Beginning in May in the UK and Europe, the program spread to the US in July. A phased program was evidently needed due to the wait for the necessary parts to be produced in sufficient quantity.
As documented by many RangeRovers.net forum members and readers, the diff failure problem often happened suddenly, resulting in a loss of power and the vehicle becoming totally immobilized. The front driveshaft/diff design, derived from the BMW X5, relied on very accurate alignment of the diff input shaft with the front prop shaft/drive shaft. When alignment drifted away from perfection, the splines at this connection would be subject to excessive wear and eventually disintegrate. Several service campaigns to realign the diff did not seem to solve the problem permanently, and recurrences kept being reported. When the 2006 models came out, using the Jaguar engines, the front driveshaft design was changed to eliminate this reliance on accurate alignment.
The new front diff replacement program replaces the front diff and prop shaft (drive shaft) with new components that eliminate the stress that used to cause failure of the drive shaft splines where they connected with the differential. The new drive shaft has the same flexible joint at the transfer case end but also has a new CV joint at the front end where it connects with the diff. The new design eliminates the need for the front diff to be aligned so accurately. According to RangeRovers.net readers and forum members who have had the job done so far, Land Rover is also offering a $150 credit towards other work on the vehicle.
In our view, Land Rover's original design was perfectly reasonable from an engineering point of view, since the engine and transmission were all bolted together as one unit and theoretically would not need provision for flexibility in the drive shaft. Once the failures started to happen, it took a long time for Land Rover to admit there was a problem and implement a permanent solution. During this time aftermarket driveshafts with the necessary flexible joints at both ends were produced by third party manufacturers. Now that Land Rover has made an official solution available, we applaud the company for this action which should close the door on the whole episode and help enhance Land Rover's reputation for reliability. For full details and photos of the recall solution, please see the Front Diff Recall Page.
August 21, 2008 Jaguar Land Rover Happy Under New Management
Tata Motors officially took over Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in early June, paying Ford $2 billion for its British brands. Unfortunately high prices for gasoline have since caused large vehicles to fall out of favor at least temporarily, and Land Rover’s sales in the US have fallen by 31% in the year to July. But rising demand in Russia and China have compensated so that worldwide sales are only 2.7% down on 2007. During the second half of 2008 Land Rover’s production is being scaled back by 25-40% in anticipation of lower sales.
In spite of this oil-based gloom, JLR is in an upbeat mood, emphasizing the advantages of the agility of a smaller firm in comparison to the bureaucratic ways of an ailing car giant. Tata seems willing to give JLR a lot of autonomy. Strategy is now set by a board consisting only of David Smith (JLR's CEO), Mr Smith, Mr Tata and Ravi Kant, the head of Tata’s automotive business. Mr Smith’s strategy has three main elements; customer service, being the best in its chosen field, and reducing emissions. A new small Land Rover, based on the LRX concept-car, is likely to go ahead. Both marques are likely to go even further up market.
With regard to emissions, Mr Smith expects a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency over the next few years just by refining existing engines. But JLR is also investing $1.5 billion in hybrids which will appear around 2012. Land Rover’s “e-terrain” technology, a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain with an electric rear-axle drive system, are touted to give future Land Rovers even greater off-road ability while cutting emissions by 30%.
For the past few decades, Land Rover has changed owners about every 5-10 years. Each successive owner has made its mark, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds.
March 2008 Land Rover Sale to Tata Becomes Official
According to a March 26 press release from Ford, the sale of Jaguar/Land Rover to Tata Motors is now official. According to Ford, "The transaction is the culmination of Ford’s decision last August to explore strategic options for the Jaguar Land Rover business, as the company accelerates its focus on its core Ford brand and “One Ford” global transformation."
The sale was expected to close by the end of June and was subject to regulatory approvals. Tata Motors was to pay about US $2.3 billion in cash, but would get a bout $600 million from Ford as contributions to the Jaguar Land Rover pension plans, making the net price about $1.7 billion.
Ford apparently wanted to use the sale to raise some cash and concentrate on its core Ford brands. As part of the transaction, Ford will continue to supply Jaguar Land Rover for differing periods with powertrains, stampings and other vehicle components, in addition to a variety of technologies, such as environmental and platform technologies. Ford also has committed to provide engineering support, including research and development, plus information technology, accounting and other services. In addition, Ford Motor Credit Company will provide financing for Jaguar and Land Rover dealers and customers during a transitional period, which can vary by market, of up to 12 months.
Mr. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Motors, commented: "We are very pleased at the prospect of Jaguar and Land Rover being a significant part of our automotive business. We have enormous respect for the two brands and will endeavor to preserve and build on their heritage and competitiveness, keeping their identities intact. We aim to support their growth, while holding true to our principles of allowing the management and employees to bring their experience and expertise to bear on the growth of the business." Jaguar Land Rover’s employees, trade unions and the UK Government have indicated their support for the agreement.
Speaking on behalf of Jaguar Land Rover, Geoff Polites, chief executive officer, said: "Jaguar Land Rover’s management team is very pleased that Ford and Tata Motors have come to an agreement today. Our team has been consulted extensively on the deal content and feels confident that it provides for the business needs of both our brands going forward. We have also had the opportunity to meet senior executives from Tata Motors and the Tata group," Polites continued. "They have expressed confidence in the team that has delivered significant improvements in Jaguar Land Rover’s business performance. We feel confident that we can forge a strong working relationship with our new parent company, and we look forward to a bright and successful future for Jaguar Land Rover."
January 9, 2008 Land Rover Sold to Tata Motors?
Rumors and press reports abound that Tata Motors of India is to be the new owner of Land Rover and Jaguar, sold by Ford as part of their ongoing restructuring plan. India is becoming an increasingly major player in the global automotive scene, and among other things is said to have helped GM overcome its quality problems.
Although Land Rover does not publish separate financial figures, it is rumored to be making a profit of $1 billion a year. It appears that Ford needs to sell this profitable and successful division in order to shore up its shrinking and money-losing operations in the US.
Land Rover is accustomed to changing owners about every 5 years, and the present change repeats the pattern of recent history which has seen the company successively owned by British Leyland, British Aerospace, BMW and Ford. If the rumors are true, the new owners are extremely savvy operators and are likely to propel the Land Rover name to further success.
October 19, 2007 Land Rover Global Sales at Record High Amid Sale Speculation
With rumors afoot about Land Rover's troubled parent (Ford) trying to sell off its "Premium Brands" including Jaguar and Land Rover, Land Rover itself is enjoying considerable sales success. Land Rover sold 26,000 vehicles around the world in September, an increase of 34% over the same month last year. For the year to date, sales are up more than 15% over 2006, and sales of Range Rovers are up even more. Whether or not the Land Rover division of Ford is profitable may be another matter, but its sales records at least provide a few bright spots in Ford's bleak overall outlook.
Whatever happens is unlikely to bring about earth-shaking changes at Land Rover, if past history is any guide. Being bought and sold at regular intervals is a familiar experience for the company, which in recent years has been owned successively by British Leyland, British Aerospace, BMW and Ford. Ford has kept the company for an average amount of time and it is past time, based on recent history, for a new owner to come along. None of the owners has managed to lift Land Rover above the bottom of the vehicle reliability rankings, but all have improved the brand in their own way, and have certainly added to its sales success. We await with interest the arrival of the next foster parent!
October 2007 2008 Range Rover Model Year Updates Summary
Announced as early as June this year, the changes to the 2008 model year Range Rover are minor compared to the past couple of years of major updates. This time the enhancements are confined to some additional luxury features.
Four-zone air conditioning enables rear seat passengers to control their individual heating and ventilation. Special 'climate control' windscreen and side glass is now available in conjunction with automatic rain and headlight sensing. The special glass cuts infrared heat transmission into the vehicle, reducing heat build up when the vehicle is parked in the sun, allowing the air conditioning to function faster on startup.
A redesigned rear seat armrest provides extra stowage space (including a dedicated location for an optional rear seat entertainment remote control), and there is additional leather trim on the heating and ventilation unit and centre console.
There are now a total of seven real wood veneers to choose from, all sourced from sustainable forests, and additional wood veneer elements have been applied to the rear of the centre console. A matching wooden gear knob has also been introduced on some models.
Other trim details include new tread-plates and revised graphics on the touch-screen and instruments. A new interior colour is available, called Storm, as well as two new exterior colours, Alaska White and Lucerne Green, and a fresh set of "designers' choices" for recommended interior and exterior combinations. There is also a new, highly polished 20" alloy wheel design.
The Range Rover has been achieving sales records worldwide, especially since the introduction of the acclaimed TDV8 diesel engine (not available in North America). Sales in the first four months of 2007 were already 19% up worldwide over 2006. For more details and pictures see the Model Year Details pages here on RangeRovers.net.
MMay 6, 2007 Range Rover Tuner Peter Cameron Dies
We are saddened to learn that Peter Cameron, founder and owner of Cameron Concepts (more recently known as Special Vehicle Concepts) passed away suddenly on Sunday April 29, 2007. His company was famous among Range Rover Owners for its high-powered supercharged versions of the vehicle.
Peter was the beloved son of Gwen, and the late Teddy of New Zealand. Survived by his wife, Marie; daughters, Ashleigh and Brittany; and young son, Teddy. Also survived by his sisters, Julia (Rex), Lauree (Ken), and Briar (Michael); and his nieces and nephews. He was an energetic entrepreneur, with a gregarious personality and zest for life -an instant friend to all that met him. Sadly, just before his death his business (Special Vehicle Concepts) had gone through extremely hard times and had to close.
May 4, 2007 Range Rover Sport Scores Highly in Owner Satisfaction
In the 2007 Consumer Reports ratings, the Range Rover Sport kept up Land Rover traditions by scoring very poorly in predicted reliability but very well in customer satisfaction. In the midsize SUV category, the RR Sport came 12th in Owner Satisfaction in a field of about 65 contenders. 76 percent of respondents said they would buy one again. This compared with 82% for the top scoring Lexus RX330 fwd, and 43% for the Volkswagen Touareg. The median score was 64%. Interestingly, all 11 vehicles ahead of the RR Sport were made by Toyota (including Lexus) or Honda (including Acura). The only other non-Japanese contender to finish in the top 25 was the BMW X5 in 24th place.
This is a considerable achievement and goes far to explain the popularity of the Range Rover Sport, which has outsold even the Discovery 3/LR3 to become Land Rover's best selling model. While the Sport is now being surpassed by its competitors in on-road performance, it is still formidable in this category and no other vehicle offers such superb pavement ability combined with the Sport's established superiority in off road performance. This is a winning combination that encourages customers to overlook higher than average reliability problems to enjoy the unique capabilities of Land Rover vehicles.
April 2007 NHTSA Begins Investigation of Range Rover Front Diff Failures
The NHTSA has begun an investigation of the epidemic of front diff failures that have occurred on 2003 and up Range Rovers. It is common knowledge that many if not most of the Range Rovers produced in 2002-2004 have had to have their front driveshafts and diffs replaced due to excessive wear, or in some cases catastrophic failure. (See the common problems and fixes page of RangeRovers.net for many owner reports of the problem). Due to the small number of owners who have taken the trouble to report the problem to the authorities, it has only recently come to the attention of the US government body charged with investigating such problems.
The problem appears to be caused by the lack of a flexible joint on the front end of the front driveshaft. The splines become excessively worn and stripped on the front end of the driveshaft, eventually resulting in catastrophic failure, immobilizing the vehicle and usually requiring replacement of both the driveshaft and the front diff. (For more details of the mechanics of the problem, see the RangeRovers.net RR III Front Diff Problems & Solutions page). In 2006 Land Rover changed the design to include such a joint, apparently eliminating the problem. However on the 2003-2005 models no such cure has yet been implemented, except by an aftermarket source, Rover3 Drivelines, who have stepped into the vacuum and made available a redesigned driveshaft for these earlier models.
RangeRovers.net began learning of the front driveshaft and diff problems soon after the new model was introduced. Aside from the numerous reports on the common problems and fixes page, an informal poll of forum members with Mk III Range Rovers indicated that about 40% had experienced the problem. Discussions with dealer service personnel indicate the problem is even more pervasive. In an effort to cure the problem, Land Rover implemented a succession of solutions based on realignment of the front diff, implementing service campaigns to inspect and realign them under warranty. These campaigns apparently sufficed to carry most of the affected vehicles through the end of the warranty period, but recurrences continued and many owners are now on their second, third or fourth diffs. And, for those whose warranty has expired, Land Rover seems to have ceased paying for the necessary repairs.
August 6, 2006 Range Rover and LR3 Rated "Least Reliable" Luxury Vehicles
A new "top ten" compilation by Forbes Magazine, using data from both Consumer Reports and J. D. Power, rates the LR3 and the latest 2006 Range Rover as the least reliable luxury vehicles sold in the US. This will come as no surprise to many owners of the new Jaguar-engined Range Rover which seems to be plagued by significantly more problems than its BMW-engined predecessor. Consumer Reports usually refers to models with the lowest reliability scores as "less reliable than average," but in October 2005 it described the LR3 and Range Rover as flat-out "unreliable." J.D. Power gives the 2006 Range Rover below average ratings for all its manufacturing quality categories -- mechanical manufacturing quality, body and interior manufacturing quality, and feature and accessory manufacturing quality.
Most problem reports we have received at RangeRovers.net are not disabling, but are quite annoying to owners who have paid somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000 for a new Range Rover and expect it to be reliable transportation. The frequent problems are also rather embarrassing in a vehicle that is supposed to be suitable for expeditions in the remote backcountry. Systems such as the air suspension, which are most likely to disable the vehicle off road, are among the least field-repairable of any vehicle, since even if a failed spring is replaced the vehicle remains on its bump stops as its computer cannot be reset without a trip to the dealer. Good luck getting a flatbed truck to take you to the nearest dealer when you are halfway up the Rubicon Trail!
Land Rover is undoubtedly aware of its longstanding quality image problem, and keeps saying it is striving to overcome it. Although its record has improved somewhat in the years since the Ford takeover, its competitors have improved more, leaving it stuck at the bottom of the heap. The latest substantially new Land Rover vehicle, the new Freelander, is to be produced at the Jaguar factory rather than the traditional quality-plagued Land Rover one in Solihull, so it will be interesting to see if this ploy serves to improve reliability. With overhanging issues like the continuing unresolved premature front differential failures on 2003-2005 Range Rovers, and the new spate of problems with the new Jaguar-derived drivetrains in the 2006 models, the Rover reputation will unfortunately persist for some years to come even if it miraculously starts producing reliable vehicles today.
Meanwhile, if you purchase or own a Land Rover product, whether new or used, make sure you get the longest possible Extended Warranty.
May 24, 2006 2007 Range Rover Facelift Preview
The new 90 degree V8 is 3630cc with 32 valves, twin turbos, twin camshafts and is rated as one of the world's quietest and smoothest diesels. It will probably be available everywhere except the US, where emissions regulations are too strict.
A redesigned dash and cabin trim are part of the package, even though the original RR III interior was an award winner. The new dash looks slightly more cluttered, with the ignition switch moved up on to the dash, the loudspeaker on the top of the dash replaced by air vents, and more switches. A nice Range Rover logo also graces the passenger side of the dash, with two glove boxes controlled by electric switches.
The air conditioning system is said to be improved (it certainly has more vents), and there is an option of cooled front seats. The center console is modified with the gear shifter moved slightly to the left, making room for a new storage container to its right. Wood trim is added to the sides of the console. Also new are the controls for the "Terrain Response" system that is handed down from the Disco 3 / LR3.
Other hand-me-downs from the existing Disco3/LR3 and Sport models include the electrically locking rear diff.
May 2006 Range Rover Sport Outsells Discovery/LR3
The latest Land Rover sales figures for April 2006 indicate that the Range Rover Sport is easily outselling the so-called LR3 in the US (known as the Discovery 3 worldwide). The sporty Sport has special appeal to the well-heeled younger set -- a recent poll on the RangeRovers.net forum indicates that more than half of Sport owners are in the 20-35 age group. During the month of April 2006, Land Rover sold 1,548 Sports, compared to 1,254 Disco3/LR3's and 929 Range Rovers.
Interestingly, while sales of the "real" Range Rover are at an all-time high, sales of the Disco 3/LR3 are down 35% from a year ago, suggesting that the Sport has taken a lot of sales away from the LR3.
January 2006 Nokian to Make Tires in Range Rover Sizes
I have always thought it odd that no all-terrain tires are available for the new Range Rover, a vehicle that is supposedly designed for all terrains. The stock tires supplied with the vehicle are rated even by the manufacturer (Goodyear) as 5 out of 10 in off road ability. Even winter snow & ice choices are relatively few, and non-existent in the 255/55R19 size most commonly found on Range Rovers. On Nokian's website there is a solicitation asking what sizes people would like them to produce, so I sent in an inquiry regarding the 255/50R19 that is standard on most Range Rovers. They recently informed me that their intention is to start making this size very soon. They already make their "SUV" pattern in in all sizes used by the Range Rover Sport, and in the 255/60R18 size used on base model RRs in many markets .
January 2006 Range Rover Sport Runner-Up in "Four Wheeler of the Year"
Four Wheeler magazine's annual "Four Wheeler of the Year" competition this year included the RR Sport, Hummer H3, Jeep Commander, Suzuki Vitara and Toyota Land Cruiser. The Toyota came out with top honors, with the Range Rover Sport as runner-up.
The Sport did well on the pavement sections of the test, although it only registered a 10.48 second 0-60 time, about the same as a Classic RR could do with the standard 3.9 litre engine 17 years ago. Where it lost points relative to the Toyota was in off-road testing, mainly due to sidewall destruction on its very unsuitable low profile tires (255/55R19 on 19x9 rims), its harsh ride when the suspension is put into high profile, and the "steep learning curve" of the "terrain response" system. The Toyota also had better ground clearance and wheel articulation. The editors opined that they might just have given the Sport the nod if they had been given the Supercharged version and stouter tires.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show, the G4 Challenge versions of the Discovery 3 (called LR3 in US) and Range Rover Sport were unveiled. The winch-equipped Range Rover Sport is pictured at right and at top of page in official Land Rover press release photos. (Photo at top of page is on a scouting expedition for the event). The G4-equipped Sport also has Goodyear 255/55R19 MT/R mud terrain tires, skid plates, an expedition roof rack, and rocker panel guards, all of which will become official Range Rover Sport accessories. The Sport is surprisingly adept off road, as witnessed in our recent RangeRovers.net off-road test drive. Each G4 vehicle is also equipped with a kayak and bicycle, since this event is a multi-modal affair which tests the contestants' endurance and skill in more than just off-roading.
For those who don't remember, the G4 Challenge is the 21st century replacement for the Camel Trophy, which was the ultimate serious off-road endurance event. The difference is that the G4 is somewhat watered down and a bit more "Politically Correct", not being sponsored by a cigarette company. Not being a pure off-road event, it generally lacks the extreme four wheeling that characterized the Camel Trophy. As part of its new-found PC flavor, it includes fitness and physical endurance tests involving rock climbing, kayaking and bicycling. Also in contrast to the Camel Trophy, different parts of the event are held in different venues around the world. To appeal to the spandex warriors who tend to donate heavily to organizations trying to close down off-roading, each G4 Challenge vehicle (there are over 130 altogether in the fleet) has a kayak and a bicycle on the roof.
The G4 Challenge was inaugurated in 2003, when the new Range Rover was the star of the show. For the 2006 event, the Range Rover Sport will be the contestants' vehicle in the Thailand and Laos segments of the competition, likely to include some of the toughest off-road segments. (The Freeloader will be used in Rio de Janeiro and the Discovery 3/LR3 in Bolivia). More information on the event is available on the official G4 Challenge website.
July 2005 Land Rover 2nd to Last in Dependability Among All Vehicles, and 3rd to Last in Initial Quality
Land Rover scored worse than all other vehicles except Kia in the 2005 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey. In the more familiar JD Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), Land Rover came third to last for the 2005 model year.
The Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) measures the number of problems over a 3 year period. Thus, the 2005 VDS covers the 2002 model year. In the words of the JD Power press release (June 29, 2005), ""While the Initial Quality Study [IQS], which measures problems experienced in the first 90 days of ownership, can be an indicator of how models will perform over time, our studies consistently show that long-term durability is a tremendously important factor to consumers," said Chance Parker, executive director of product and research analysis at J.D. Power and Associates. "As the number of problems owners experience with their vehicles increases, repurchase intent and the number of recommendations owners will make to others decreases. The study also finds that long-term durability can have a significant impact on a vehicle’s retained value.""
In the 2005 VDS, Land Rover owners reported 395 problems per 100 vehicles, narrowly beaten for the bottom spot by Kia with 397. The most dependable brand was Lexus with 139, and the industry average was 237. In the 2005 Initial Quality Study, Land Rover was beaten for dead last by Mazda and Suzuki, but managed to achieve 149 reported problems per 100 vehicles compared to 81 at top-scoring Lexus.
The dependability results are particularly embarrassing for a maker of vehicles designed to be taken into the outback, far from the nearest dealer or mechanic. Ironically, Land Rover continues to advertise its vehicles as suitable for remote expeditions while neglecting to make them either reliable or repairable in the field. A prime example is the famous electronic air suspension system -- when a problem occurs, the computer goes into "hard fault" mode and the vehicle sinks to the bump stops. Even if the cause of the problem (such as a pierced air spring bellows) is fixed on the trail, the owner cannot reset the fault without the expensive computer test equipment used by the dealer, so the vehicle remains on the bump stops, effectively bringing an end to the off-road expedition. It would be very simple to provide a means of resetting such faults in the field after repairs are made, but even the latest models show no such facility, making owners wonder if they are only suitable for off-road expeditions at the demonstration course on the dealer lot, or within a very short distance of it!
In view of Land Rover's class-beating off-road prowess, it is unfortunate that its higher likelihood of breakdown compared to other 4x4s, coupled with its built-in computerized barriers to reparability, make remote off-road expeditions in a Land Rover more of a challenge than for other brands.
April 2005 Range Rover Sport Nears Launch
An avalanche of details is now becoming available as the new Range Rover Sport model approaches its projected June 2005 on sale date. Of course, you can already order one, and many people have (over 3,000 so far in the UK). Pricing has been announced and will be as follows: UK: Turbo Diesel Model (2.7 liter V6) £34,995 4.4 Liter V8 Model (i.e. Discovery engine) £44,885 4.2 litre supercharged model £57,495 US: HSE Model (4.4 liter 300 HP V8 Discovery/LR3 engine) $56,750 Supercharged Model (4.2 liter 390 HP V8) $69,750
Levels of trim will probably vary according to market. In the US, all models will have DVD-based touch-screen navigation, bi-xenon headlights, sunroof, and a Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 audio system. The basic models will have 19 inch alloy wheels, while the supercharged models will have 20-inch wheels, a different grille, different seating surfaces, power vents, chrome exhaust extension, Dynamic Response, Brembo front brakes, adaptive front lighting, the cold climate package, and black-on-silver badging.
Several further details that may not have been clear earlier are now available. While the Sport shares the combined body and frame construction used on the new Discovery (called the LR3 in the US in an apparent effort to shed the Discovery's reputation for unreliability), its wheelbase is 6 inches shorter and the body is smaller overall. Normally, the shorter wheelbase would improve off-road performance, but the stance has been lowered to improve on-road performance, reducing off-road ground clearance and break over angles.
The same Terrain Response system introduced on the Discovery is used, augmented for on-road use by a Dynamic Response system that intervenes to save your life when a wheel threatens to lift off the pavement while negotiating a bend at 130 mph. The system is pretty advanced, sensing cornering forces and acting on the anti-sway bars to improve body control in corners; the bars are decoupled on the straights for greater ride comfort and off-road for maximum wheel articulation -- another advance in Range Rover suspension design innovation. The Dynamic Stability Control system is also manually switchable.
In an initial road test., the ride was reported to be a bit firm and fidgety on poor surfaces, indicating that the engineers have not yet mastered the art of providing the velvet ride quality of the Classic in an updated form, but this model is clearly aimed at the sports enthusiast who probably will not mind. Off-road ability, while possibly compromised by the low ground clearance, is still sufficient to leave the competitors (in this case the BMW X5 and its ilk) stuck in the ditch.
February 2005 Land Rover Spins Off Older Genuine Parts Operation: "Classic Parts" Program Launchedd
Throughout 2004 we were hearing rumors about the discontinuation of genuine parts supplies for older Land Rovers and Range Rovers, including the Classic. This was a huge shock for owners used to knowing they could rely on long-term parts support for their Rovers. Ford apparently wanted to drop support for all models more than about 8 years old, as is customary in "run-of-the-mill" US car companies. Most US cars don't last much longer than that before going to the wreckers anyhow, and most owners of older models do not go to the dealer network or generate profits for the parent company.
Surprisingly for a company that seems to understand brand values like Ford does, it apparently did not realize that part of the attraction of the Land Rover brand is the tradition of vehicle longevity, which cannot be separated from long-term parts availability. While Land Rovers are notoriously needy of service and parts, one of the few logical reasons to own one has always been its basic longevity and the long term availability of parts for even the very oldest models. (As noted elsewhere on this site, if Land Rover steadily strips away the real reasons for owning a Land Rover, it will be left competing on such factors as price, performance, fuel economy and build quality where it is clearly inferior).
The internal debate on the parts issue evidently led Ford to compromise somewhat. What finally happened in October, 2004 was that Land Rover UK and NA spun off the genuine parts operation for "older" Land Rovers to Unipart (the well-known parts manufacturer/supplier in the UK). Under the deal signed with Land Rover, Unipart is taking over the manufacture and distribution of all genuine parts for Range Rover Classic as well as Euro-spec Discoveries through 1994. Most likely, US spec. Discovery I vehicles will soon be added to this line as well. Ford is calling the Unipart line the Land Rover Classic Parts (LRCP) program.
As the dust has started to settle, the meaning of all this is slowly coming into focus. For starters, LR UK has deleted all RR Classic parts from its database and technical information. Dealers cannot order the parts through Land Rover UK or LRNA any longer, but have to order them through Unipart. For UK dealers this is an inconvenience, but for US and overseas dealers it is only possible if they set up a separate account with Unipart in the UK and import parts by their own container freight arrangements. To further madden the dealers, when the program started, the only thing Unipart had in stock was a parts catalog CD for the line - (but no parts!) and dealers, who carry very little parts stock on hand, do not like the importing via container arrangements! Because of pressure from dealers who are still servicing Range Rover Classics, Unipart and Land Rover North America will most likely work out some compromise to ease this situation.
Naturally, the advertising gurus at Land Rover have been putting a positive spin on all these developments, with press announcements such as the one at http://www.classiccar.net/npps/story.cfm?ID=78, trumpeting the program as if it is a new enhancement to guarantee eternal parts support for their loyal customers, rather than a scheme to get rid of a supposedly less profitable section of its parts operation.
Rovers North and British Pacific are official suppliers for the "new" Classic parts line, while other US parts suppliers are taking their own active steps to ensure that owners of older vehicles will get continuing parts support even for the oldest models. For example, Atlantic British has announced its own branded parts line called Atlantic British Legacy Parts. These will include genuine parts, quality aftermarket parts, and performance upgrade parts.
January 2005 2006 Range Rover Details Released
Land Rover has released pictures of the 2006 Range Rover, showing some striking new exterior details -- front grille and bumper, power vents, lamps and wheels -- and the long-awaited heart transplant from Jaguar in two versions, a knock-off of the Discovery/LR3 4.4 litre engine for the base model, and a 400 HP supercharged 4.2 litre version more worthy of a Range Rover. The new model is expected to be on sale starting in about April of 2005, depending on market, continuing the tradition of model year exaggeration that Land Rover has sometimes adopted in recent times.
Both engines use a new torque-based engine management system that, together with drive-by-wire throttle control and variable camshaft phasing (on the normally-aspirated model), continually adjusts the engine to optimize performance, fuel economy and emissions. Due to the increased sophistication, the new engines should provide better fuel economy than the outgoing adaptation of the BMW 7-series V-8.
Along with the new engines are some cosmetic changes, with a new front bumper design, new headlamps (which swivel when you turn the wheels, like the old Citroen DS21) and taillights, a slightly different front grille and revised power vents with three vents instead of two. . There are also additional color combinations, and the inevitable revision in the style of the 19 inch alloy wheels. The supercharged models also get a special mesh design on the grille and power vents (as shown on the photo above), 20-inch alloy wheels, and special black-on-silver badges.
Other changes under the skin include "sharper steering, crisper braking performance". The air suspension is said to be "improved", although it is not clear what has been changed as yet. There is more sound deadening, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. A rear-view camera projects directly to the front-fascia screen, and the driver can use touch-screen control for audio, phone and off-road driving information. In an effort to catch up with the aftermarket suppliers, there is also an available rear-seat entertainment package with a six-disc DVD changer, twin screens and headphone pods that are all fully integrated with the vehicle's sound system. If the interior photos are anything to go by, it looks as if the last remaining vestiges of wood have been removed.
The updated model will be officially unveiled at the North American International Auto Show. It and the Range Rover Sport (see below) will be available in North America in the summer of 2005. For spy pictures, see this link. For more information and photos on RangeRovers.net, see the Mk III Range Rover page.
December 2004 2005 Range Rover Model Updates
While we await the major drivetrain changes expected in mid-2005 as 2006 models, some minor updates have appeared in the 2005 model. These mainly involve the navigation system and associated components, as follows: Voice-activated DVD-based navigation system 4x4 Driver interface Touch Screen interface Upgraded harman/kardon® LOGIC7™ surround sound M.O.S.T.® Fiber-Optic System Integrated telephone system with Bluetooth™ capability
The copper wiring network that supports the information and entertainment features has now been replaced with a new fiber-optic harness called "MOST" or Media Oriented Systems Transport. This interconnects the GPS navigation with the security system, the car telephone with the entertainment system so it will mute when a call is received, etc. The nav/entertainment system now uses a touch-sensitive VGA screen with 3.5 times higher resolution than the LCD screen it replaced. The GPS system is now voice activated and DVD-based, with a single DVD covering the entire US. It augments GPS signals with dead-reckoning and map-matching techniques when the vehicle loses sight of the GPS satellites. The off-road mode guides you to your destination by degrees and keeps track of where you’ve been by setting trace points which can be followed when returning to your start point.
4x4 Driver Interface: In addition to the usual trip computer functions such as fuel consumption, tank range, average speed and the like, the 2005 system has a 4X4 Driver Interface that graphically displays vehicle settings and positions, such as the angle of the front wheels, the suspension setting and direction of travel. Knowing front wheel position is especially useful when slogging through deep mud ruts.
The harman/kardon® LOGIC7™ surround sound system has 14 speakers using 710 watts of amplification. The six-disc CD changer in the glove box can play MP3 discs as well. The system can be controlled by voice command, steering wheel controls or the touch screen. The personal telephone integration system allows owners to use their own mobile phone in the car either via an integrated cradle or with the wireless convenience of Bluetooth™ technology.
On US models, the three existing options remain in place: Heated Accessories Package (heated front and rear seats, an integrated ski bag, and heated steering wheel) Luxury Interior Package (includes Heated Accessories Package plus 16-way adjustable contour seats & upgraded dashboard, door pull and cubby box lid leather) Optional 20" alloy wheels with a full-size spare.
As before, there are two wood finishes and six leather colors. American cherry or burled walnut wood can be paired with a multiple of leather choices including: Parchment, Navy, Ivory, Aspen, Sand and Charcoal. For the exterior, Tonga Green replaces Epsom Green and the remaining colors carry over, so the choices are Java Black, Giverny Green, Zambezi Silver, Chawton White, Adriatic Blue, Tonga Green, Alveston Red, Maya Gold and Bonnati Grey.
The MSRP is $73,750. Pricing for the 2005 Westminster will be $86,000 excluding taxes, title and license fees.
November 2004 Range Rover Sport??
It seems like it is now official -- everyone knew Land Rover was working on something based on the "Range Stormer" concept vehicle, and now the official company website has pictures of it, under the moniker of "Range Rover Sport". (To see the pictures, go to Landrover.com and click on "Something New is Coming". Ron Beckett also discovered an article about it that came out November 26th on msn.cars; see this link for the article and pictures.
From the information available so far it appears that the new model, to be introduced in mid 2005, will look a lot like a Range Rover Mk III, but will be based mostly on the new Discovery/LR3 platform, using the same 4.4 liter Jag-derived engine. An option will be a supercharged 4.2 liter version producing 385 HP, also to be used in the 2006 Range Rover (see above). This is probably the engine destined for the genuine Range Rover as soon as the contracts for the current BMW-derived engine run out (probably 2006). It will be priced in between the Discovery and the Range Rover, and use some Range Rover-class luxury trim and features mixed in with cheaper plastic parts from the Discovery/LR3.
The RR Sport, as the name suggests, will emphasize on-road performance, but will retain the push button Terrain Response off-road system from the Discovery/LR3. The company claims it will have off road capability "better than any competitor", but since the new model is designed to compete with "soft road" ski field parking lot pretenders like the BMW X3 & X5, Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes ML, the bar is pretty low.
We were hoping Land Rover would not use the Range Rover name on something with less than superior off road capabilities -- if they did it would debase the Range Rover name in the same way the Freelander did with the Land Rover name. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case, but let's hope the Range Rover Sport is not another step in that direction. Hopefully, it will retain the full off road capability of the original -- otherwise PLEASE Land Rover Call it Something Else!!!
November 2004 Will Discovery 3 / LR3 Impact RR Sales?
For the third time in a row, Land Rover has come out with a new Discovery model that borrows heavily from Range Rover technology, and does so good a job of it that it exceeds the level of power and (in some ways) sophistication of the original. The new model is so good that it recently won the Motor Trend SUV of the Year award. All the key features of the new Mk III Range Rover are there -- including the independent air suspension with cross-coupling for improved off road traction and ride. Embarrassingly for Land Rover and for Range Rover owners, the new Jaguar-derived V8 engine has more power than a Range Rover. The LR3 is still somewhat lacking in some aspects such as ground clearance, and does not come close to matching the Range Rover in attractiveness of design, but its pricing level in between the old Discovery II and the Range Rover places it in an interesting niche, competing against other luxury SUVs. It will be interesting to see if some potential Range Rover buyers will plump for the Discovery 3 / LR3. Conversely, a lot of potential Discovery buyers may be put off by the higher pricing and go for a J**p Grand Cherokee instead! Don't be surprised if a new model turns up to fill the gap now opened up in the medium priced segment. Meanwhile, we can assume Land Rover is working feverishly to put more power into the Range Rover so it won't continue to be outclassed by its cheaper sibling.
June 2004 Range Rover Wins On/Off Road SUV Comparison Test
The Range Rover is back to its old ways, winning magazine off road comparison tests. In the July issue of Motor Trend, the vehicle is compared to the other full size luxury SUVs -- the Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LS470, and Infiniti QX56, in a test that includes running the dunes and crawling the rocky trails in Death Valley. The Range Rover won hands down, in a unanimous vote of the testers. One of them, Mark Williams, writes "Pretty damn amazing on gravel and dirt roads, and when pushed on pavement, it feels smooth and locked down. Getting such outstanding ride and handling performance from a hulking SUV is a stunning feat of engineering". The testers found that "when the pavement gives way to boulder-strewn canyons, the Rover marches on utterly unperturbed." As Williams stated, "any time I find myself in butterflies-in-the-stomach driving situations, I want the Range Rover".
May 2004 Feedback to Solihull: Please Make EAS More Field Recoverable
We have been receiving a steady stream of complaints from owners of the new 2003 and up Range Rovers about their air suspensions collapsing to the bump stops and leaving them stranded. This pathetic scenario is reminiscent of the same situation that happens with monotonous regularity on previous Range Rover models, and we were hoping that Land Rover would realize this is not acceptable on a vehicle designed for off road use in remote areas. One owner in Africa had to drive literally hundreds of miles to the nearest dealer to get the computer reset. It has happened to me twice in Nevada, 400 miles from home and 200 from the nearest dealer. Please, Land Rover, provide us with a manual means of resetting the EAS computer when we replace an air spring or fix the EAS problem. Or provide us with some other way to get around the embarrassment of having to abort our off road trips and drive home on the bump stops.
January 2004 "Range Stormer" Concept Car at Detroit Motor Show
The first ever Land Rover concept car is to debut at the Detroit Motor Show. Named the "Range Stormer" for the purpose of the car show, the vehicle is intended as a definite preview of an additional model line. From the photos available so far, it looks like a road-biased model, with better off road ability than the average all-wheel drive vehicle but not intended as a serious off-roader. Some hopeful signs are a return to a separate chassis rather than a monocoque design, and use of a Jaguar-based supercharged V8 engine that has been optimized for low speed torque and running at off-camber angles. Also featured is a new variant of the air suspension used on the Range Rover -- with so-called "Terrain Response" technology developed by Land Rover, allowing selection of six different "terrain settings". The normal setting is for ordinary driving, while "dynamic" is for high speed or winding sealed highways. Other settings include "sand", deep ruts", "rocks" and "grass/gravel/snow". The more highway-biased features include 22 inch wheels with custom Goodyear tires (yet another model that it will be hard to find tires for).
The new model may be a harbinger of efforts by the owners at Ford to capitalize on the Land Rover brand to produce more high sales volume models, but if the brand name is identified with ski field parking lot posers it will inevitably be weakened in the long run. If the new vehicle is not a Class A off-roader, the use of the word "Range" in the name is of concern as it could seriously weaken the Range Rover image. If, indeed, the new model is to be highway-biased and follow in the footsteps of the Freelander, we hope Land Rover gives this model line a name that clearly distinguishes it from the real off-road models it has traditionally produced, in order not to dilute the Land Rover and Range Rover brand names. Use of the word "Free" in the name would be a possible alternative.
July 2003 Land Rover Scores Second-to-Last in JD Powers Initial Quality Survey
The latest JD Powers survey of initial vehicle quality (July 2003) placed the Land Rover nameplate at the second to the bottom of the list in initial quality, with 190 problems reported per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. The top rated Lexus brand scored 76 per 100 vehicles. (For a report on the survey in USA Today see this link, and for the rankings of nameplates see this link. This is an all-too-familiar result, but it is interesting to note that the Ford-owned Jaguar brand is now comfortably in the top half of the rankings. This gives room for hope that the situation at Land Rover will improve under Ford ownership. Indeed, a recent visitor to the factory in Solihull reports that much more up-to-date statistical quality control measures are now in place on the assembly line, compared to an earlier visit several years ago when quality control amounted to patching up problems after assembly. One thing is for sure -- if you are at the bottom of the list, the only way you can go is up!
August 2002 New Range Rover In Demand, Wins Accolades
The new Range Rover is beating all sales records with 6 months production allocation already sold in the UK before the vehicle hit the showrooms, and a backlog of 3,000 orders in the US. The 500,000th Range Rover was produced in May this year. This is reminiscent of the introduction of the original Range Rover in 1970 -- the new vehicle was so popular that it took years for the factory to catch up with demand. In all, 317,615 Classics were produced (1970-96), followed by 167,259 P38 models (1994-2001).
The new model has also won the praise of the on- and off-road motoring press. It has been voted best vehicle of the year by BBC Top Gear and others. In a Land Rover Owner International Magazine off-road match-up against the Land Rover Defender (usually considered to occupy first place in purely off-road capability), the new Range Rover won! The attention Land Rover has paid to enhancing off-road ability has really paid off. Buyers know they are getting the world's best off-roader, rather than just another gadget-laden luxury SUV like the other offerings that now crowd the upscale sport-utility segment. Much like the Ferrari's 180 mph top speed, extreme off road ability may be fully utilized only by a relative few, but without these characteristics both vehicles would lose their attraction. The backlog of orders confirms that the new vehicle is truly perceived as the most capable all-round vehicle in the world.
July 2002 Baby Range Rover???
With the growth in size of the Mark III Range Rover to Toyota Land Bruiser proportions, it has been rumored that Ford is targeting a new "Baby Range Rover" for around the year 2006. The idea would be to fill the price gap between the new Range Rover and the upcoming Discovery Series III, providing a smaller ultra-luxury SUV.
However, initial gossip indicates this model would not be a real off road vehicle, as it would have no low range gears!!! If so, let's hope they don't call it a "Range Rover" and devalue the name!!
The strategy of attempting to increase sales by using car-like models to exploit the Land Rover name to the maximum is understandable, and perhaps inevitable in the pressure for sales and profits. The Freelander has already taken Land Rover a good distance down this road. Overall sales have indeed increased, but the strategy has led to negative reviews such as that in the July 11, 2002 issue of USA Today entitled: "Phony Freeloader, er, Freelander Falls Flat" . Even reviews like this by regular automotive columnists can see through Land Rover's marketing ploy in offering a vehicle that "lures with the Land Rover name but lacks characteristics that make that name so credible". The Freelander is described as "a parasite, riding the brand's good name without the goods to back it up". Indeed, this model appears to lag behind even its small SUV competition in both on and off road utility, placing it poorly in magazine comparison tests with other SUVs. If this strategy is taken further with the introduction of a "Baby Range Rover", the Range Rover name will certainly be devalued.
Perhaps a differentiation in Land Rover model designations between real off-road models and those with more modest capabilities would help preserve Land Rover's reputation while allowing it to exploit the wider market for SUVs that are not real off-roaders. This could be done, for example, by continuing variations of the Freelander name (Freedom, Freelance, Freestyle, etc) on the pavement-oriented models, to make it clear to customers that these models are ideal for the average customer's all-weather and low-traction situation needs, going to the ski fields etc, but do not pretend to offer full-scale off road capabilities. In this way the negative public perception of "pretender" models may be avoided.
July 30, 2002 New Range Rover Model Launched Successfully
The launch of the new Range Rover model has been a great success. Since going on sale on June 1 in the US, the vehicle has been very well received by both the buying public (with waiting lists for delivery) and by the motoring press. Details of the new model appear on the Range Rover Mk III page of this website. Most of the information in the pre-release rumors (see below) has proven to be true, and the new vehicle is fully worthy of the Range Rover name.
November 6, 2001 Land Rover Releases Photos of Next Range Rover
LRM magazine reports that Land Rover has released several photos of the new model which is to be officially unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January. The photos confirm the look of the new model from the spy photos and technical details previously reported here. Shots of the interior have also been released, showing a clean modern arrangement without an intimidating array of controls except on the steering wheel which is festooned with buttons. Land Rover confirms the use of the 4.4 litre V8 as predicted below and states that the new model will be built in Solihull on a new production line. Importantly, improvements in both on and off road ability are claimed by the manufacturer.
Updated September 17, 2001 2002 Range Rover Model Rumors
The next Range Rover is now ready for production. It was due to be introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, but will now probably be introduced to the press in December, and its official public introduction may be at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January. The present model may get a modest facelift and continue alongside it through 2002 or 2003. The recent takeover of Land Rover by Ford was too late to materially affect the new design, so the next RR is largely a BMW creation mechanically, involving build agreements between Ford and BMW. Auto magazines, spy photos, common sense and "informed sources" have by now given us a good idea of the main features of the 2002 Range Rover, but the information below is my opinion only.
1. Body: The overall size is slightly larger than the current model, with a 2 inch increase in wheelbase to 110 inches and an increase in body length to nearly 5 meters (16.5 feet), making it even bigger than a Toyota Land Cruiser. To keep body weight down but retain the necessary stiffness for of road use, Land Rover is reportedly using Karmann - developed racing car construction techniques with an aluminum and composite body shell bonded to structural foam and aluminum extrusions, probably with steel subframes for the suspension mountings. Total weight is only slightly more than the present model.
Spy photos show a new shape very similar to the present one, but more angular and less bland, with a return to the "Classic" styling cues including round headlights, more prominent castellations on the hood, and squarer topline & rear pillar. (Rumor has it that Spen King, designer of the legendary Classic, has been consulted). Large (probably fake) air vents grace the sides of the front wings or doors. The rear overhang is shorter and slopes upwards for a better departure angle. The interior is naturally upgraded from the present and past ergonomically quirky, rattle-and-squeak-prone tradition. It is rumored to be described by a senior Ford designer as "the best interior I've seen on any car, ever". The superb tailgate design is retained, a relief for those of us who use it for off road camping and picnic table duty.
2. Engines and Transmission: Due to the advanced state of development by the time of the Ford takeover, the BMW 4.4 liter V8 is being used as planned. A deluxe model may use a turbo version originally designed for the Bentley, and a special high powered diesel engine will also be available. These engines should at last improve the Range Rover's 0-60 times from its traditional economy sedan acceleration. The engines are retuned for the low end torque needed in four wheeling. In 2003 or 2004, Ford family engines -- the 4 liter Jaguar V8 and the 6 liter Aston Martin V12) should start replacing the BMW-derived power plants. Land Rover is re-engineering the Jaguar engines for the torque and other characteristics needed for off road vehicles. Reportedly, the "H" gate transmission lever design of the current model is being replaced by a button on the dash to select low range.
3. Off-Road Ability and Suspension: It is a given that the 2002 Range Rover will sport every possible luxury for its passengers, but in today's crowded luxury SUV market its main selling point will be its reputation for superior off road performance as the "King Off Road". Spy photos confirm that suspension is independent all round, (probably based on highly modified components from the BMW X5) with ride height adjustable over a wide range, combining low-slung highway performance with a tall off-road mode giving awesome clearance and articulation. Suspension travel is reputed to be extreme, far exceeding that of any previous or current civilian 4x4. Spy photos indicate that wheel and tire sizes are increased over the current model, probably to 20 inch wheels and 31 inch tires. There may even be room for enthusiasts to fit "33's" if such tires can be found for 20 inch wheel sizes.
Normally, independent suspension has an inherent disadvantage over a beam axle off road; the differential's height off the ground is not fixed, and traversing bumps and obstacles can lower it relative to the wheels, bringing it into unpredictable contact with rocks and other aspects of terra firma. In the new Range Rover, this problem is rumored to be largely overcome by programming the electronic air suspension to articulate in a fashion very similar to that of a beam axle in off-road mode.
Other features of the suspension include automatic raising of ride height when the sensors detect large, rapid vertical wheel movements. Electronically adjustable shocks allow damping rates to be reduced at low speeds and off road to eliminate the 4.0/4.6's harsh ride over small bumps, hopefully returning to the Classic's velvet off-road ride quality. At highway speeds, ride height is lowered and damping rates increased to provide the necessary firmer control. Swaybar operation is controlled hydraulically as on the Disco II (hopefully with improvements to eliminate any traction-robbing swaybar effects off road). Use of air springs also allows reduced spring rates in off road mode, improving ride quality and enhancing traction. Four wheel traction control and the Disco/Freelander hill descent control is included.
Recent insider reports confirm that supreme off-road ability appears to have been retained, even improving on the current model in this paramount area of performance. If true, this will be a great relief to Range Rover fans all over the world. One magazine reported that the off-road performance of a test mule spotted in the Middle East was quite remarkable, and better than any previous Land Rover product.
4. We hope the break over and departure angles are NOT compromised as they have been on the Series 2 Discovery. (The dealer off-road demonstration courses had to be modified to allow the new Discovery to negotiate them!!!) Fortunately, current spy photos indicate that departure angle has been improved. So far, however, break over is uncertain, and will not be helped by the longer wheelbase.
5. Pricing: The new model will continue the tradition of Range Rovers in going further up-market and up in price, sporting a slew of luxury options to try and keep ahead of the competition. However, it is unlikely to command the $160,000 mentioned by The Times in a recent interview with Ford's head of Premium Brands. Such figures make good news copy, and probably serve a purpose in deterring customers from waiting for the next model before buying. However, if any significant sales volume is to be achieved in today's very competitive SUV market, the "base" price will have to be at or near present levels. If a decision were really made to elevate the Range Rover to the Rolls-Royce price category, most buyers wanting an ultra-luxury SUV with very good off-road capability would switch to Lexus and the like, while those wanting really superior off-road ability would go for the pending 2002/2003 mini-Hummer (H2) to be produced by GM. Realistically, the base model will come in somewhere around the present price levels, with the higher powered versions costing more.
Summary Overall, I expect the new Range Rover to have four main features: a) Much improved acceleration. b) Better looks. c) Better Off-Road Capability, and d) Better ride quality. If off-road ability is compromised, the main selling point (like a Ferrari's 180 mph top speed -- vital even though few might use it) will be gone. Customers will soon drift away to the competition, which can easily outdo Land Rover in most other respects.
March 17, 2000 (Updated June 9, 2000) Range Rovers to be Made by Ford
BMW is selling the Land Rover division of Rover to Ford, while transferring the remaining (extremely unprofitable) parts of Rover for a token 10 pounds sterling to the Phoenix Group, a new company headed by a former Rover executive. After rumors that the deal might fall through, Ford Motor Co. announced on May 24, 2000 that it finalized its purchase price for Land Rover, from BMW AG at 3 billion euros, or about $2.73 billion. It was revealed that Land Rover (traditionally the only money-making part of Rover) has itself been losing money for the past two years, even though market conditions for its Sport Utility Vehicles have been exceptionally good. Ford anticipates returning it to profitability in its third year of ownership. The Land Rover business will become part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which includes Lincoln, Volvo, Jaguar and Aston Martin. (Ford has also made its own cars in Britain for decades at its Dagenham plant).
Thus, Range Rovers will henceforth be manufactured and sold by Ford Motor Company, headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan. The addition of Land Rover to its stable should not cause direct competition with Ford's existing products, since its current SUVs are not intended as serious off-road vehicles. In earlier times, however, Ford did pioneering work in off-road vehicle development; indeed the early Bronco's front suspension design was copied in the design of the Range Rover Classic.
How will the sale affect the launch of the next Range Rover model (see below)? It has been widely assumed that the new Range Rover will use a BMW engine and other parts from the BMW X5; some have even said it would be assembled in BMW's US Spartanburg plant alongside BMW's new quasi-SUV. Development of the new model is by now far advanced, and recent comments by Wolfgang Reitzl, formerly of BMW and now chief of Ford's Premium Brands division, indicate the model launch will go ahead as planned sometime in 2001. A price range over 100,000 pounds sterling (or $165,000) was mentioned for the next in the Range Rover line, which he described as "the ultimate luxury off-road car with the Lawrence of Arabia touch", and the "Rolls Royce of four wheel drives".
It is difficult to reconcile the mooted price with Ford's desire to expand sales volume for the Land Rover brand. However the intention is to increase the number of Land Rover models, and expand the US share of sales. Production in a BMW plant is also hard to imagine, so actual production may be in Solihull or in Ford's Dagenham plant in the UK. It also seems very possible that a suitable Ford engine will be slotted in at some point.
Regardless of how these matters are worked out, I am encouraged by the manner in which Ford has treated its Jaguar, Volvo and Aston Martin subsidiaries, which have turned out some distinctive and universally acclaimed models since Ford acquired them. It is very likely that the same thing will happen at Land Rover, and I look forward to seeing the resulting stream of new and improved Range Rovers!
January 2000 Dealer Off-Road Courses Softened Up for New Models
In a disturbing development, Land Rover dealers have had to make their off-road demo courses easier so the new Discovery Series II models can make it over them. Is this an ominous portent for the rumored new Range Rover?
The redesigned Land Rover Discovery Series II, while possessing many fine off-road features (eg more wheel travel), has worse rear overhang, reduced departure angle and reduced ramp break over angle compared to previous Discovery and Range Rover models. Consequently, dealers have had to modify the concrete ramps in their demo courses to make them easier to negotiate. The modifications are cleverly done, by embedding rocks in the transition zone at the bottom of the ramp, so the course looks more rugged. However the real effect is to ease the transition between flat ground and the steep slope, reducing demand on vehicle approach and departure angles. As anyone who frequently goes off pavement knows, the rear end is the most common point of contact as you drag the tail through ditches and washouts.
Now that Land Rover has lowered the bar for ultimate off road clearance, Will Land Rovers gradually lose their main marketing distinction -- superior off road capability? Just as people buy Porsches for their superior speed (even though they might not use it), people buy Land Rovers for their superior off-road ability. If the off-road ability of future models is gradually "dumbed down" to merge with other SUVs, most buyers will gradually switch to the less expensive, more fuel efficient, more reliable, faster mass market alternatives, while those who really use their vehicles off-road will have to buy Hummers!
I receive a lot of emails from people wanting to know what the next Range Rover will be like -- and writers express the same desire not to see it go the way of other SUVs. We are hopeful that the next Range Rover will have more rather than less off-road clearance and capability compared with the existing model. The Range Rover tradition of suspension innovation should allow improved break over, approach and departure angles while retaining good on-pavement geometry. We hope those "helper rocks" can be removed from the demo courses when the new Range Rover emerges. If necessary, an easier bypass section could be included for the Discovery and Freelander -- but the main route should be made harder, not easier, so that Range Rovers are the only vehicles that can negotiate them!!
Solihull -- please do not compromise on the vital ground clearance, approach and departure angles. These are very often the limiting factors off road, no matter how many electronic traction-aiding features the vehicle has. All Range Rovers to date have had at least a 29 degree ramp break over angle -- we would not like to see this reduced as it was on the latest Discovery. Please give us at least 30 degrees for approach, break over and departure angles!