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The Range Rover is a four-wheel drive luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) produced by Land Rover in the United Kingdom, owned by the India-based Tata Motors. It was first introduced in 1970 and is still in production today. There have so far been three major generations. The original model was known simply as the Range Rover until almost the end of its life, when Land Rover introduced the name Range Rover Classic to distinguish it from its successors.
The second generation had the internal Land Rover code name “P38A”, and the latest generation is internally designated “L322”. This article deals primarily with these latter two generations.
The original Range Rover of 1970 was not designed as a luxury 4×4, in contrast to the way that other utility vehicles such as the Jeep Wagoneer of the United States were. While certainly up-market compared to preceding Land Rover models, early Range Rovers had fairly basic, utilitarian interiors with vinyl seats and plastic dashboards that were designed to be washed down with a hose. Features such as power assisted steering, carpeted floors, air conditioning, cloth/leather seats and wooden interior trim were only fitted later, when it was realised that it had a far larger market as a luxury vehicle than merely as a more comfortable alternative to the Land Rover Station Wagon. The Range Rover introduced advanced features such as all-coil spring suspension and disc brakes, whereas its competitors retained leaf springs and drum brakes for years thereafter (although some American SUVs featured automatic transmissions and power steering, which the original Range Rover lacked).
The Range Rover was built on a box section ladder type chassis, much like the contemporary Series Land Rovers, but utilized coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, permanent four-wheel drive, and disc brakes all round. In the latest iteration, it uses a monocoque body structure. It was originally powered by the lightweight Rover V8 engine. Early models of the L322 were powered by a BMW V8 of 4.4 litres, until the introduction of a 3.6 L TDV8 engine.
In 1972 the British Trans-Americas Expedition became the first vehicle-based expedition to traverse the American continent from north-to-south, including traversing the infamous roadless Darien Gap. The specially modified Range Rovers used for this expedition can be seen in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust collection at Gaydon, Warwickshire, UK.
Before 1987, Land Rover vehicles were only sold in the United States through the grey market. The Land Rover company began selling the Range Rover officially in the U.S. March 16, 1987. From that time until 1993, the U.S. marketing was all in the name of Range Rover, that being the only model offered in the American market. In 1993, with the arrival of the Defender 110 and the imminent arrival of the Land Rover Discovery, the company’s U.S. sales were under the name “Land Rover North America”.