Range Rover P38A Development

  4.0SE



Introduction

1987
1993
1994



Photo: John's 1995 4.0SE with factory expedition roof rack
 and factory winch with cover

 


Introduction
Development of a "new" Range Rover model seemed overdue by the late 1980's, when the original had already been in production for almost 20 years. But even if Land Rover had been able to draw upon unlimited resources, the original Classic RR was a very tough act to follow. This  page traces the development effort which eventually resulted in the launch of the P38A/4.0/4.6 Range Rover.

1987

The Range Rover Classic first went on sale in the United States with the first one sold on March 16th 1987. Of the 21,225 built Worldwide 1,542 were sold in the U.S.  After the successful launch of the Range Rover in the United States, Land Rover started to focus more attention on the replacement model with the code name “Project Pegasus”.

A design competition was held with entries from inside and outside the company. The winning design was the in-house Land Rover proposal, with a relatively conservative body shape (later to be criticized as too bland and similar to many other SUV body shapes). Although sharing few components with the Classic, the new design was mechanically very similar, with an aluminum body on a separate (stiffer) chassis, beam axles located by radius arms and Panhard Rods, and the same old engine and transmission, but expensively and subtly refined. The stated goal was to draw buyers away from Jaguars and BMWs, but the final result was an anemic power to weight ratio, with any gains in power achieved by the engine upgrades largely negated by the extra weight of the new vehicle. The main practical differences between the Classic and the new model were improved aerodynamics, a greatly improved interior, and refinement of mechanical and electrical components including more pervasive electronics. Such endearing features as the agricultural slop and clonks in the drivetrain of the Classic were largely eliminated, as were the tendency to wander from side to side at speed, the blowing of freezing cold air on the occupants by the "heater", the clonks from the suspension bushings when off-roading, and the propensity for surging due to malfunction of the engine's idle air bypass valve. The air conditioning/climate control now functioned fairly well rather than being an obvious afterthought. While the development of the new model dragged on beyond the original timeframe, some of its features were introduced on the soldiering-on Classic models, such as the longer 108 inch wheelbase and the electronic air suspension.

1993

Land Rover introduces Electronic Traction Control (ETC) or Electronic Traction Control System (ETCS) and Electric Air Suspension (EAS) or Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) with auto leveling and ride height adjustment is on all top of the line Range Rover LWB models and firmed up plans to include the air suspension on all new models now known as “Project 38A” or “P38A” since the project workers were in building “38A” on the Land Rover Solihull site.  Range Rover expert James Taylor reports that the P38A code name was chosen since it would attract less attention than the previous “Project Pegasus” code name.

1994

BMW announces purchase of Land Rover (and Rover cars) from British Aerospace on January 31st 1994.

Land Rover completes a new $107 million assembly line for the Range Rover in building 38A on the Solihull site and begins selling the new 1995 model year “Range Rover P38” in Europe in the last quarter of the year.  It is reported that the total investment in the development and production of the P38A project was approx. $450 million.  In Europe the Range Rover was available with a BMW 2.5L Diesel Engine as well at the Land Rover 4.0L and 4.6L V8 engines.

Soon after the new model was launched, it was clear that it would not have as long a life as the original Classic, as the luxury SUV market segment was heating up and other SUV manufacturers were rapidly catching up. Accordingly, the new BMW owners of Land Rover, led by CEO Wolfgang Reitzle, transferred resources and priorities from replacing the Discovery to developing a truly revolutionary Range Rover -- eventually to emerge in 2002 after Land Rover's corporate ownership had changed once again.

 



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Page revised February 10, 2012