Once upon a time, if you wanted a rugged 4×4, you went out and bought a Landcruiser. If you wanted something with comfort, luxury and style, you opted for a Jaguar or a Rolls Royce.
Then the Range Rover came along.
It’s been over 50 years since the first Range Rover arrived, and over that time it’s built itself as a British icon. The self-proclaimed original luxury SUV, its seen off everything that’s been thrown at it and remained on top.
Few off-roaders are as capable and luxurious as the Range Rover, and subsequent models have only gone on to cement its offering over the years.
Combine this with its illustrious history, and the Range Rover is one of, if not, the most desirable SUVs in the world.
So where did it all start?
A brief history of the Range Rover
When Land Rover started work on its seminal 4×4 in 1966, the Range Rover had the memorable working title: “100-inch Station Wagon.”
Thankfully, by the time 1969 rolled around, Land Rover had rethink the name, and the first Range Rover was born.
At the time, it’s fair to say that Land Rover didn’t have luxury in mind. With a different front grille and headlight configuration, the interior was packed full of amenities such as axles and drum brakes. It wasn’t until their second prototype arrived on the scene that it started to look a little like the Range Rover we all know and love today.
By the time 1970 rolled around, the first-generation Range Rover was launched. It still wasn’t nearing luxury standards; with its vinyl-covered seats, but it was certainly more comfortable and refined.
Fitted with a 130bhp engine, it was modern and airy. And the world loved it.
Over the next 20 years, Range Rover went from strength to strength. The arrival of power steering, an automatic version of the 4×4, the addition of fuel injection, diesel and anti-lock brakes – every addition and tweak edged it nearer to some sort of perfection.
Come 1992, still unrivalled, the Range Rover introduced the long-wheelbase model, including air suspension and traction control. With more space than ever, luxury had hit a new level.
The mid-90s saw BMW take the reins at Rover Group, so when the second-generation Range Rover launched, it came with an option of BMW’s six-cylinder turbo diesel engine. It had more features than ever and was truly the start of its venture into the luxury SUV market.
There were many innovations throughout the early 2000s for the brand. There was the introduction of the first sports SUV, along with the launch of the legendary Evoque.
By the end of the first decade, Range Rover was ready to launch its fourth-generation SUV, swiftly followed by something brand new – the Range Rover Hybrid.
In a bid to prove that the first Hybrid in the family not only delivered on fuel economy and reduced emissions but remained just as capable, the new Rangie embarked on a 16,000km journey from Solihull to Mumbai via the Himalayas. So, point proven, really.
Now, after more than five decades in business, it doesn’t look like Range Rover is ready to give up its crown as the king of luxury SUVs.
Range Rover models
Range Rover Evoque
When the Range Rover Evoque was first unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January 2009, it was clear that the brand had come a long way.
Off-roading met glamour in this subsequent series of subcompact luxury crossover SUVs. And the brand has chosen to stay pretty true to the original design ever since; although aspects of the more up-market models have slowly crept in since.
The Evoque is the best looking car in its class, as well as being safe, sporty, practical and four-wheel-drive – if you choose it. You couldn’t really ask for much more. Merging charm with futuristic styling, the Evoque is suave and sophisticated.
Dual exhaust pipes, big grilles, narrow headlights and huge alloy wheels give it an aggressive, but approachable king-of-the-road sort of status.
Inside that aggression gives way to class. Everything is soft and seamless with chrome detailing and brushes aluminium pedals. It’s a high-quality machine, and with leather seats as standard, it’s an extremely comfortable place to be.
All models also come as standard with cruise control, electric heated mirrors, climate control, heated seats, Bluetooth, MPW/iPod connectivity, alloy wheels, an RDS CD drive, ABS, ESP, side and passenger airbags and rear parking sensors. Phew. So whatever trim level you decide on, you’re getting a lot for your money.
With two diesels, three petrols and a plug-in hybrid engine to choose from, you’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to power.
Regardless of which variant you eventually plump for, the Range Rover Evoque boasts good economy and emissions for its size, which should help with the long-term running costs. If you’re looking to save fuel, as we’ve already mentioned, you could go part-electric with the plug-in hybrid.
Read: Range Rover Evoque Review
There’s plenty of space too. Fold the seats down and you have 1,383 in the boot alone. Throughout the car, there are also generously sized storage bins and a large cubby under the centre front armrest for storage.
All in all, the Range Rover Evoque is everything every other compact SUV wants to be. It’s the top of its class, and honestly, it looks as though it’s there to stay.
There are two variants of the Range Rover Evoque.
Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover Sport is agile, powerful and contemporary. Its redesigned bonnet vents and sport wheel options give it a powerful, clean look. And, as you’d expect from this luxury SUV, it comes with an extensive array of colour, finish and detailing options to help create your own personalised vehicle.
It’s shorter and lighter than the regular Range Rover, but that doesn’t make it any less capable. With air suspension and four-wheel drive, it stays close to Land Rover’s roots.
And while you’re taking it off the beaten track through thick mud and rough terrain, you can simply relax in the sumptuous interior with seats for up to seven.
The entry-level trim comes with 20-inch wheels as standard, while moving up through the specs sees 21 and 22-inch wheels become available.
The layout inside is minimalistic and high tech with a pair of 10-inch touchscreens on the centre console to give you complete control over your cabin.
The detail in the Range Rover Sport is also impressive, with leather upholstery, intricate stitching and metal inlays all featuring as standard and helping to emphasise the car’s top-tier status.
Reaching further inside, there’s a generous amount of seating space for five, with an optional third row of seats for seven.
There’s huge amounts of storage space throughout, including two generously sized glove boxes and a large central stowage in the armrest. Plus when you fold the seats away, you’re left with a monstrous 1,686 litres of boot space – more than enough for your weekly shop.
Then comes the drive. As you may expect, ride comfort in the Sport is outstanding. It’s simply excellent for comfortable, smooth long journeys. And all versions of the Range Rover Sport feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox with a sportier S setting for when you want to put your foot down.
Under the bonnet, you have a choice of both petrol and diesel power units, as well as a hybrid option if you want to save a little and be kinder to the environment.
Really, no matter which engine you choose, you’re going to be on the receiving end of a superb driving experience. However, just so you actually have some money to enjoy your Range Rover Sport, we’d recommend the diesel or hybrid options; as the petrol is really rather thirsty.
There are four model variants of the Range Rover Sport.
Range Rover Sport HSE
Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic
Range Rover Sport HST
Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic
Range Rover Velar
The Velar is quite possibly the most stylish and sleek SUV on sale right now. It’s everything a luxury Range Rover should be.
Back when the first Range Rover was built in 1966, the designers and engineers were desperate to keep the prototype top secret, so came up with a code name for the project: Velar (derived from the Italian word ‘velare’ meaning to veil or cover).
Decades later, Range Rover, looking nostalgically to its past, picked the name for its newest model.
There’s no denying that the Velar is quite expensive. But it looks it, bringing slightly more than a touch of glamour to the proceedings. It’s smooth, sleek, pared-back and pure. It’s more akin to a Range Rover Sport than anything, but with a faster silhouette.
Inside you can find one of its key selling points – the Jaguar’s latest Pivi infotainment technology. Two 10-inch HD touchscreens feature prominently on the centre stack. With incredible graphics, it gives you access to the latest updates, including maps, apps and vehicle software modules.
Look around and you’ll see an uncluttered, precision-crafted interior. There’s plenty of leather and soft-touch plastic trims.
Top-spec versions are afforded plush leather upholstery and there’s also a selection of aluminium, carbon fibre and ash trims on offer too.
It’s opulent and comfortable, with a driver’s seat that can offer up to a 20-way adjustment, heating, cooling and massage functions. And to ensure you have the very best in quality, there’s also a new cabin air filtration system that runs throughout.
The Velar is built on the same IQ platform as the Jaguar F-Pace, a massive success in its own right.
Link rear suspension provides agile handling and smooth ride comfort. It houses a base P250 petrol unit, or if you opt for the diesel range, the D200. And the six-cylinder options showcase the brand’s latest mild-hybrid 48V technology.
With a ground clearance of 251mm and wading depth of up to 650mm, the Velar does well to stay true to Range Rover’s roots of offroading. But whether you’d want to drag this show car through the mud, we’re not sure.
It’s not the most economical SUV of the bunch, but the brand’s new mild-hybrid tech at least brings the efficiency readings down.
The base P250 model boasts 29.2mpg and 218g/km, while the base D200 diesel variant manages 43.9mpg and 169g/km of CO2.
Meanwhile, the plug-in hybrid boasts a colossal 130.3mpg according to WLTP figures, although you’d have to do a lot of Sunday driving to hit those heights.
Bigger than the Evoque, but smaller than the Sport, there’s no doubt the Velar has made an impact. It’s luxurious and can beat most with its off-road capabilities.
All in all, it’s the perfectly refined Range Rover for a new generation.
There are four model variants of the Range Rover Velar.
Range Rover Velar
Range Rover Velar S
Range Rover Velar SE
Range Rover Velar HSE
Something about leaving the best until last? Well, you, of course, can’t talk about Range Rover models without including the one and only Range Rover.
The ultimate in refinement, class and technology, the original is always hard to top. And when it comes to Land Rover’s luxury lineup, that sentiment continues to ring true.
Calling a car of this quality entry-level seems a bit harsh, but that’s exactly what the Vogue is in the Range Rover range. But even it has more kit and quality than most other top-spec SUVs out there.
To start, outside, it has Matrix LEDs, a fixed panoramic roof and body-coloured accents, which are all joined my chunk 20-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the high-end feel continues, with 20-way heated reclining perforated leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, three-zone climate control, two 10-inch touchscreens an interactive driver’s display and a rear camera. It’s less car and more luxury apartment on wheels.
Surprisingly, there is more to add to the Range Rover as you climb the specs. The Vogue SE, for instance, brings with it bigger wheels, upgraded leathers, and parking and driving driver aids.
Then, if you really want all the bells and whistles, there’s the Autobiography, which adds upgraded LED headlights, a sliding panoramic roof, nicer wheels, an extra zone of climate control, heating and cooling elements to the seats as well as a massage function and a 360-degree camera system.
Under the bonnet, both the Vogue and Vogue SE come with five engine choices; ranging from the introductory 300bhp D300, all the way up to the plug-in hybrid P400e.
Meanwhile, the Autobiography’s powertrain choices are wider, with all options featuring mild hybrid technology and the addition of a 525bhp 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine – which breaks 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds.
Of course, though, you can’t say it’s a great Range Rover unless it can perform off-road. But despite its truly monstrous size, plush interior and plethora of tech, the Ranger Rover can still tackle rough terrain better than almost anything else.
The Range Rover comes with a wading depth of 35.4 inches – or 90cm – electronic air suspension and Land Rover’s superb Terrain Response system, which changes the vehicle’s setup depending on which terrain you’re attempting to tackle.
Really, then, we had saved the best until last. But the Range Rover isn’t just the best in its small family of four. No, for our money, it’s the best all-round SUV you can buy.