Generation Gap: Mapping Land Rover’s 6 Most Important Designs

Which classic Land Rovers have played the biggest role in shaping the brand’s future?

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Land Rover has long stood alongside Jeep as the originator of the SUV, and it has established a worldwide reputation for producing unstoppable four-wheel drive trucks that can be adapted to almost any driving situation.

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However, it took several decades before the company was able to evolve from a basic 4×4 supplier to the luxury powerhouse it is today. Along the way, she has designed a number of memorable models that have stood the test of time as key chapters in Land Rover history, whether in building the brand’s off-road reputation or by polishing the brass of its range of premium Range Rover vehicles.

Which of these classic Land Rovers has played the most important role in shaping the brand’s future? Here are our picks for each milestone in the design and styling of the British automaker.

Series I / II / III

1968 Land Rover Light
1968 Land Rover Light Land Rover Photo

the you are beautiful -Land Rover, if you will, is the Series I and its Series II / III suites. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the design of the Land Rover Series I also inspired the look and mission statement of the Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol when they first hit the scene just a few years ago. after the Series I debut in 1948 (as well as the last Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen).

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The I-Series (which itself borrowed from the WWII Willys Jeep) featured square proportions, a removable canvas roof, and ease of repair that would become a common feature of almost any early SUV. Leaf springs and four-wheel drive were standard, and the doors could be removed and the windshield folded forward. Unusual for the time, Land Rover sport utility vehicles were built from aluminum, the result of a steel shortage in a Britain still rebuilding from the ravages of war.

As the I-Series evolved into the II-Series and III-Series, it gained a hardtop, four-door wagon body style, the availability of an open pickup deck, and the option of three rows of seats. This was in addition to the countless variations meant to satisfy farmers, forestry workers, search and rescue operations, and utility companies, all drawn to the Land Rover’s incredible versatility. This robust entry into the automotive lexicon was produced until 1983 and has remained an indelible design icon that informs the brand’s stylistic language to this day.

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Range Rover Classic

Land Rover Range Rover
Land Rover Range Rover Land Rover Photo

Eager to enter international markets where less agricultural driving experience was required to compete in the rapidly growing SUV segment, Land Rover spent the second half of the 1960s developing the Range Rover Classic. Originally marketed simply as ‘Range Rover’, the goal was to create a wagon with a 100 inch wheelbase that could go anywhere, do anything, and of course turn heads. with its combination of presence and style.

The Classic differed from the I-Series in almost every respect, with its fixed roof, slanted windows and pillars, and sculpted sheet metal. A two-door arrived in 1970, followed by a four-door in 1981, and the Range Rover Classic was an instant hit that finally found its way to North America at the end of that decade. Positioned alongside the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, it helped break into the premium sport utility market, in large part thanks to its recognition that rugged trucks did not need to offer Spartan interiors or luxury experiences. conduct stripped.

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On sale for 26 years in a row, like the I-Series, the Range Rover Classic continues to serve as a spiritual inspiration for the brand’s trucks. It was also the thin end of the wedge that opened up the hugely profitable US market for the automaker.

Defender

Land rover defender
Land rover defender Land Rover Photo

The vehicle most directly inspired by the I-Series appearance was the Land Rover Defender which arrived in 1983 as a replacement. Sold as “One Ten” and “Ninety” to reflect the four- and two-door wheelbases, the Defender took the I-Series model and modernized it. Rounder and better finished than its predecessor, the Defender nevertheless retained the same heavy-duty character that made the old Land Rover such a hit with those who regularly walked where the road went.

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Built until 2016, the Defender has become something of a notorious anachronism among the jet set (much like the G-Wagen), with a sharp distinction between those who bought the truck to tackle commuting in mud and mud and those who just wanted to flash at the valet. This dichotomy persisted despite the Defender’s basic driving character, which certainly did not prioritize comfort or on-road dynamics over its ability to eat dirt and smile. The Defender became a visual shortcut for the brand’s commitment to off-road excellence and has remained the closest connection to Land Rover’s roots even as the company soars higher and higher in the stratosphere. luxury year after year.

Discovery / Discovery II

Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery Land Rover Photo

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Recognizing that not all SUV buyers needed the full capabilities of the Defender (which had a limited audience among growing US buyers), and wanting to serve customers looking for a cheaper and better alternative Range Rover Classic, Land Rover introduced Discovery in the late 1980s.

The Discovery borrowed much of the Range Rover’s chassis elements, but offered more modest engine options combined with a smoother driving experience. Like the Classic, it started out as a two-door, but quickly added a four-door to the mix, eventually installing a third row of folding seats for maximum convenience. The exterior shape was a unique blend of the Range Rover’s square front with a rounded, extra-high roofline that culminated in an enlarged greenhouse at the rear incorporating Land Rover’s ‘safari windows’ to reduce claustrophobia among rear passengers.

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The Discovery and its successor Discovery II did more than any other vehicle in the Land Rover family to increase volume, making it an attractive target for the series of acquisitions that began in the 1990s and ended with the stability of Tata Motors ownership in 2007.

Freelander / LR2

Land Rover Freelander
Land Rover Freelander Land Rover Photo

The Freelander is not a particularly legendary branch of the Land Rover family tree. However, the pint-sized soft-roader was a turning point for the brand by introducing the unibody design into its showrooms, allowing for greater comfort and handling on the road.

Not only was the Freelander (also sold as the LR2) the most affordable Land Rover of the lot, it was also the most forward-facing in terms of looks. Arriving in the late 90s, the Freelander’s sleek, round styling eventually became standard on most of its models. The Freelander predated the more aerodynamic full-size Range Rover by more than a decade, and unibody construction would be incorporated into almost all Land Rover models over the next 15 years.

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Range Rover Velar

Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Land Rover Range Rover Velar Land Rover Photo

After the Freelander’s design concepts reached their peak with the exceptional full-size, fourth-generation Range Rover (which remains on sale today), the brand has grown in a new direction with the Velar.

In some ways, the Land Rover Range Rover followed the same four-door SUV trend that had swept through German showrooms over the previous decade. When it first appeared in 2017, however, the unique combination of the Velar’s slanted and sloped roofline and classic Range Rover styling cues gave it a fluidity that was lacking in bulkier interpretations of this body form. At the same time, he focused on the latest cabin equipment from the automaker, particularly the flat, almost buttonless instrument panels and the center console that are found in almost every other Range Rover product.

Sleek and svelte, the mid-size Velar paves the way for the next step in Land Rover’s design evolution.

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