Range Rover III Development

Three RR Designs
Introduction: the Need for a New Model                     Photo: The RR III posing with the two previous designs

Dr Reitzle's Key Role
                                                                       (from official press photo)
Body Development
Mechanical Development
Development Chronology
More Information

Special thanks to Kevin Kelly for information on these pages

Wolfgang Reitzle with new RRIntroduction: The Need

When BMW took over Land Rover in 1994, their top officials soon recognized that a replacement for the then "new" Range Rover model (introduced in 1995) would be needed in a few years time. The luxury SUV market was becoming increasingly crowded, and the P38 was unlikely to enjoy the long and successful production run achieved by the original "Classic" model. Accordingly, in 1996 development was begun on a replacement.

Dr Reitzle's Key Role
The new model was to be a "clean sheet" design which would once again place the Range Rover head-and-shoulders above the competition. The effort became a pet project of BMW's product development manager Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, who pushed hard for its development. We owe a lot to him as the new Range Rover's "godfather".

Official press photo: Dr Reitzle with the new RR.

Dr. Reitzle later conceded that he has always had a special affection for the Range Rover and when BMW bought Rover (with Land Rover) he took a very personal interest in the design of the new model, set from the very beginning to stand well above the SUV that BMW developed at the same time, the very successful BMW X5. In 1999 Dr Reitzle left BMW and moved to Ford and became president of its Premier Auto Group. By then the project was basically complete, but 17 months later he was able to help once again in getting the new Range Rover into production when Ford took over Land Rover for $3bn in 2000.Unfortunatly Dr.Reitzle ("The Wolfman to his friends) left Land Rover and the Ford Premier Auto Group in 2002 before the new Range Rover went on sale (some sources say he was forced out while others say he quit after Bill Ford told him he would be never be CEO).

Body and Interior Development
Veteran Land Rover designer Don Wyatt was mainly responsible for the body design concept, penning  a bold, modern interpretation of the classic Range Rover theme. The key designer of the original Range Rover, Spen King, was also consulted. The resulting design was 9.3 in. longer, 2.6 in wider, and 1.8 in taller than its predecessor, on a wheelbase of 113.4 in. (a 5.3-in. increase).  It retained all the traditional Range Rover body cues, such as the low waistline with high seating position, black pillars giving a floating roofline, castellated hood/bonnet, and tailgate. But the execution marked a return to the sharply drawn lines of the Classic Range Rover. Unlike the P38/4.0/4.6 model this Range Rover would never be mistaken for a Ford Explorer.

Breaking with tradition, a monocoque design was used, with an integrated chassis. The resulting structure was over twice as stiff in torsion than the one it replaced. Continuing Land Rover tradition, however, was the use of aluminum on the hood and doors. In theory the monocoque body and aluminum panels would save weight, but the new model was actually considerably heavier than is predecessor, reflecting the sturdiness of its construction.

2003 interiorThe interior won all kinds of applause from the motoring press as perhaps the best interior ever designed, taking cues from expensive yachts. While the result was slightly more spartan and Teutonic in appearance than the older models, with wood somewhat less in evidence, it had a feeling of spaciousness, luxury and panache, with much better ergonomics than the earlier, notoriously quirky controls.

Mechanical Development
With the project under the direction of BMW, it was natural to share some of the mechanicals with BMW's X5 sport utility, then also under development. Both used the BMW 4.4 litre V8 engine, a modified version of that used in the 7-series sedans. The venerable 1960's-era pushrod Rover V8 was finally to be replaced. (As it reached the end of its long development history, it had acquired an enviable reputation for blown head gaskets and slipping cylinder liners).
In 1992, BMW had introduced a new line of aluminum block "Nikasil" V8 engines with the designation M60, using a Nickel and Silicone coating in the cylinder bores to prevent wear. Complaints soon came in from some US M60 owners that the engines had a rough idle, traced to high sulphur content in the gasoline -- especially in the south where Gulf of Mexico crude oil was used -- eating away the Nikasil coating. In 1996, the problem was solved with a new line of engines designated M62, replacing the problem coating with a heavy duty one known as "Alusil". This had been used in the BMW V12 (M70) engine since 1986 without any wear problems. Accordingly, by the time the M62 V8 was pressed into service in the new Range Rover, the bugs had long ago been worked out and Kevin has not heard of any premature wear problems either in BMWs or Range Rovers with the Alusil aluminum V8 engines.

Thus the BMW V8 was a proven but state-of-the-art engine, complete with such features as variable valve timing.  For use in the Range Rover, the tuning was adjusted for the required low speed torque for off roading, and the sump was strengthened considerably to allow for its use as a mount for the front differential.

The four speed auto box was replaced with a 5-speed unit incorporating BMW's convenient tiptronic manual override system. The new electrically shifted chain driven transfer case allowed shifting from hi to lo at up to 10 mph, and lo to high at up to 30 mph. It incorporated a Torsen torque-sensing differential, with a mechanical torque-apportioning mechanism offering more  pro-active operation than the viscous locking differential used previously. 

As radical as the adoption of a monocoque body was the use of all-round independent suspension. Traditionalists were worried this would mean compromising ground clearance and articulation, but the cross-coupled air springs made the suspension behave much like a beam axle setup when off road. Articulation was far greater than even that of the Classic. On-road, the independent suspension coupled with the new rack-and-pinon steering greatly improved handling and precision. The resulting vehicle was generally agreed to possess the widest range of capabilities ever seen, on and off road.

Development Chronology
BMW announces purchase of Land Rover (along with Rover and MG 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

In the United States LRNA first sold the 1995 model year Range Rover P38 4.0 SE in March and the 1996 model year Range Rover P38 4.6 HSE was first sold a few months later in September 1995. BMW executive Wolfgang Reitzle (who joined BMW in 1976) was appointed chairman of the Rover group.


Development starts on the new Range Rover model. Also this year BMW introduces the M62 V8 with the improved Alusil coating solving earlier wear problems (see above)

Wolfgang Reitzle left Rover and returned to Germany where many said he was being groomed run BMW when current CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder (whose great-uncle Sir Alec Issigonis designed the Mini) decided to step down.


Development complete; Dr Reitzle leaves BMW. Most sources say that Dr. Reitzle quit BMW when the board did not appoint him CEO after they fired CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder.  Dr. Reitzle was quickly hired by Ford to run the new Ford Premier Auto Group (PAG).


BMW announced that they were selling Land Rover to Ford and "selling" the money loosing Rover/MG group (not including Mini) to a British investment group called Phoenix Venture Holdings for ten British pounds (but also included a loan package worth over $800 and over $100 million in other payments). Land Rover became part of Ford's Premier Auto Group, under Wolfgang Reitzle. Contracts were set up between Ford and BMW for supply of the V8 engines for the Range Rover until 2005, to allow time for Ford to substitute a suitable powerplant of its own.

Production of the new Range Rover L322 began with volume production starting in December of 2001.  All the new L322 Range Rovers were powered by BMW gas and diesel engines (the Range Rover P38 only had BMW engines in diesel models that were never imported to North America).

On February 9, 2002 the last production Range Rover P38 (a North American Spec. 4.6HSE) rolled off the Lode Lane assembly lone and drove along side the first production Range Rover L322 model to the Heritage Museum at Gaydon where they will both join other Land Rovers and Range Rovers in the permanent collection.  The 2003 Range Rover made its official debut in the United States in June 2002 as a 2003 model. Unfortunately its main creator Dr.Reitzle left Land Rover and the Ford Premier Auto Group in 2002 before the new Range Rover went on sale. 


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Page revised February 10, 2012