We compare the latest Rangie with the first as part of the marque's 40th anniversary celebrations

Land Rover's new 2011 Range Rover marks 40 years since the original off-roader was launched. To commemorate, Autocar pitted the latest third-generation model against one of the late first-generation models to see just how true to the original luxury off-roader the current car remained.

Watch the comparison video of the old and new Range Rovers

Last month, Autocar took the 2011 Range Rover to meet one of the very first originals from 1970. On the face of it, there's not much to link this pair. The latest model is nearly 40cm taller, over a tonne heavier and has roughly two and a half times more power and torque.

See pics of the old and new Range Rovers together

On the other hand, the new 4.4-litre diesel's fuel consumption is around 40 per cent lower and it emits less than two-thirds of its ancestor's CO2.

The original model had a four-speed gearbox that was crude even by 1970s standards; today's introduces a super-efficient eight-speed paddle-shift auto. And whereas the original Range Rover cost £1998, this latest model starts at around the £70,000 mark.

Read Autocar's first drive of the 2011 Range Rover

And yet, park this pair together and their relationship becomes dazzlingly obvious. It extends to every important conceptual aspect: styling cues, swage lines, overhangs, glass-to-body relationship, stance, screen rakes.

Standing on high, lush slopes of the Snowdonia National Park, above Capel Curig, I marvelled at the latest of the 780,000 Range Rovers so far built and, alongside it, a Tuscan Blue two-door model, registered YVB 153H, which has been on displayed for the past decade or so in the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon.

The pair was brought together by Roger Crathorne, one of Land Rover's most experienced and distinguished engineers. Roger played a leading hand in early Range Rover durability programmes, so he remembers the model's gestation very well, and he still works in the company today.

Our mission was to recreate, using both Range Rovers, images from the 1970 photo shoot used in the original press kit. Crathorne had been on site in 1970 to ensure the film crew didn't do anything silly with YVB like driving it down a ravine.

Read what Autocar said about the original Range Rover in its 1970 road test

It's fascinating to see how the old car still informs the new one. The first thing you notice is that extraordinary driving position. There were other tall 4x4 models about at the time (notably Americans like the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wagoneer) but none of them had had it.

The Range Rover's throne-like seats are mounted so high in the car that the top surface of the dash isn't much higher than your knees and the side glass starts around hip height.

The thin pillars, which had no need either to survive modern crash tests or provide monocoque levels of body rigidity (because of the mighty twin-rail chassis down below) afford an amazing panorama as you drive. Range Rover and others have since made much of 'command' driving positions, but no car has since done it quite so well.

That low-rate, strolling ride quality seems as good as ever. Back in the day, coil springs all round represented a revolution. So was permanent 4WD, a traditional Landie system with a lockable centre differential to provide refinement with robustness.

Roger says the coils made it possible for the Range Rover to double a leaf-sprung Land Rover's axle articulation (the ability of the front axle to roll one way while the rear is rolling the other). It also introduced a Boge self-levelling unit into the rear suspension that made low ride rates possible in a vehicle without anti-roll bars. It still works.

Not everything is great, though. The passing of time shows how poorly finished early Range Rovers were, and how cheaply trimmed. The gearbox, and gear whine, is awful. The engine, deemed torquey in the old days, seems smoothly gutless today. And it's very, very thirsty.

But the brakes are decent and the unassisted steering is surprisingly light and accurate on the move, provided you don't try parking. Plastic mats seem a terrible idea now but were an early sop to those at Rover who believed the new car needed a hose-it-out capability. Yet the essence of the Range Rover, its remarkable charisma, is undimmed.

Most of the time, modern cars that spring from classic roots soon leave their family connections behind. But things are different with the 1970 Range Rover. After 40 remarkable years it's still the boss, and that's how it will stay.

Steve Cropley

See all the latest Range Rover reviews, news and video

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Comments
11

19 June 2010

I love the Range Rover but I'm not sure if such a clear visual relationship between the new and old is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it demonstrating an evolution of design over 40 years, or a lack of design innovation?

19 June 2010

I remember a friend of the family having one of the originals in the Tuscan Blue and it feeling big enough to walk around inside.

19 June 2010

[quote AlexF512]I love the Range Rover but I'm not sure if such a clear visual relationship between the new and old is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it demonstrating an evolution of design over 40 years, or a lack of design innovation?[/quote]

There'd be howls of protest if the Rangey just turned into another oversized euroblob like the Cayenne or the Toerag... its iconic style still tells you that it is a very serious off-roader as well as a luxurious family estate car. In a way, it's weird that the original Range Rover, which was, like the original Land Rover, deliberately style-less, has become, like the original Land Rover, a kind of style icon. Long may the look continue.

19 June 2010

It will be interesting to have a weighted price comparison between the 1970 and 2010 models. From what I can remember, as an 11 year old at the time, the first Range Rovers were basic agricultural vehicles – slightly posh Land Rovers with rubber flooring and vinyl seats that could be hosed down if the interior got too muddy. You cannot do that with today’s uber-luxury models.

19 June 2010

Wasn't the LRX supposed to be press released today - to mark the anniversary? What's happened?

19 June 2010

780,000 in 40 years? Surely they've made more than that. MINI is admittedly a different car but they made 1,000,000 in 5 years.

28bhp never felt so fast

 

19 June 2010

".The Range Rover's throne-like seats are mounted so high in the car that

the top surface of the dash isn't much higher than your knees"

This is exactly what I felt when I drove a Mk1 RR many years ago. It seemed like I was sitting ON the car , rather than IN it , and it felt bl**dy dangerous. The fact that it was a narrow road with a drainage ditch at the side didn't really help.Much like riding a horse , which I also did only once.

19 June 2010

The new one consumes 40% less fuel but costs 70k. So "Wheeler Dealer" an old one like they did, say even as high as 10k. 60k buys a WHOLE lot of fuel...

19 June 2010

Once you get them, and get the bug, you.re stuffed! I just bought a 1997 Autobiography. And i cant wait for the Rangey quirks, the challenges of owning one, and the rewards, when you really use them for their purpose.

20 June 2010

Progress - over 1000kg heavy yet 40% more efficient. I suspect much of this efficiency progress had been during the last 10 years too. Having owned a ten year old one now for 9 months I too am hooked. The new one is fab but all that extra outlay will keep mine on the road - hopefully - for years to come. I even have rubber mats which I hose down if I need to - after I remove them from the car......

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