By on November 27, 2012

When he make it drip drip, kiss him on the lip, lip. Picture courtesy the author.

Halfway across the stream, there was a crunch and a GRRRRRRIND and my little Freelander came to a halt, steering wheel frozen in place by a log or a rut or the Kraken or something. Immediately I heard advice from both sides of the water. “Go forward! Harder!”

“No, wait! Backwards!”

“We’ll strap you up, hold on!”

“No time for that! You’ll stall the motor! Just DO SOMETHING!” The water in the passenger compartment was three inches high and rising. I was more than ten miles from the nearest trailhead in any direction and more than two hundred miles from home. The recovery would be long, difficult, and expensive. I chose to briefly slam the transmission into reverse and give the miniature V-6 a brief moment of full-throttle before selecting low gear and driving forward into whatever had stopped me before with twice the momentum I’d had previously. Thankfully, this time the obstacle gave way and moments later I was four-wheel-scrabbling for grip up the streambank. A narrow escape. Who’s stupid enough to take a unibody CUV hardcore off-roading? This guy.

Sadly, that’s just one of my “Rover stories”. I have dozens. Maybe more. For eight years I drove a Land Rover of some type on a daily basis, starting with a five-speed ’97 Discovery SD and ending with an ’03 Discovery 4.6 SE. I even tried out a Freelander (mentioned above) in ’02. It was a bad-ass little trucklet and could go a lot of places — see previous paragraph — but it was a little small and cramped for long trips to BMX or mountain-biking destinations. After a year, I sold it for half what I’d paid and considered myself lucky to get that much. I mean, it had rock scrapes, water damage, crooked bumpers, you name it. I used it hard. Believe it or not, the Rovers were mostly trouble-free. Emboldened by my positive experiences, My father bought a ’99 Rangie and then let me have it when he got tired of driving it around and dealing with the electrical issues. We got almost ninety thousand miles out of that one. Everything else I sold before the warranty expired. Hey, I’m not that stupid.

When my knees got too bad to cycle competitively, I traded in my last Rover on my first Phaeton and never looked back. What’s the point of having a truck that can get you to any trailhead out there if you’re not going to a trailhead anyway? Well, there was more to it than that. I’d driven the new-for-2003 Range Rover and the Discovery-replacing LR3 and hated them. The LR3 was a bland Lego-brick pig that dwarfed the hundred-inch-wagon Discovery while providing almost no additional usable space. It was massively crass both inside and out. And its sibling? My father’s Range Rover had been a civilized, luxurious vehicle; the ’03 was a whorehouse on wheels, a twisted parody of a Range Rover that never truly existed, a white-leather joke wrapped up in a body that resembled the original Rangie the way Adele resembles Audrey Hepburn. When I saw how much they wanted for the thing I was certain that every last one of them would rot on the showroom floor while the cognoscenti beat the bushes for Callaway 4.6 “P38″ Rovers and the motherlode of replacement suspension airbags it would take to drive them until the coming collapse of civilization and beyond.

Boy, was I wrong. Let’s play that game where we pick images that confirm the point we’re trying to make, shall we? Start with this:

And now…

Range Rovers being driven by welfare cases! And by “welfare cases” I mean Queen Elizabeth and the dependably offensive Prince Philip. By contrast, NBA player Stephen Jackson is a taxpayer who contributes to society and brightens the lives of millions through his talent and his commitment to his community. Where was I? Oh yeah. Regardless of Mr. Jackson’s merits as a human being, that Range Rover of his should be nuked from orbit. Both of them, because he has two identical ones. Nuke them both from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

What happened? Well, in 1992 the Land Rover global product range was like so:

  • Land Rover Defender – A nice coil-spring off-road truck. Like a Jeep Wrangler, only slightly better at doing everything but not breaking. Available in specifications from beach cruiser to military ambulance across three wheelbases.
  • Land Rover Discovery – A 100-inch-wheelbase family wagon with stellar off-road capabilities and 3/4 ton load capacity. Once I put no fewer than forty-two Compaq tower computers in my Discovery. Another time I loaded it floor to ceiling, rear gate to back of front seats, with cat litter for a local shelter. Didn’t bother the Disco in the slightest. Tough as nails.
  • Range Rover – All the capability of the Discovery with more luxury and a 108-inch wheelbase variant for rear passenger comfort.

Very easy to understand, right? The Defender is a working truck. The Discovery is a family truck. The Range Rover is an aristocratic truck. All three were body-on-frame trucks with aluminum panels. Have I repeated TRUCK enough for you? Good. They were trucks.

In the thirty-some years during which the original two generations of the Range Rover were sold, the vehicle acquired quite a bit of social credibility, as did its owners. The prestige that came from owning a Range Rover had to do with the assumption that one owned property, or participated in a lifestyle, which required the Range Rover’s capabilities. The original Range Rovers were not terribly luxurious vehicles. They were terribly capable vehicles. That was the sales pitch. Go anywhere. Do anything. Let the proles squat on the concrete slabs; we’re off to the country estate. There was no reason for that pitch to change. In fact, with the increasingly active lifestyle enjoyed by our overlords in the fabled one percent, one could argue that the market for Land Rovers of all types could only increase.

Instead, the serial custodians of the brand — BMW, Ford, and now Tata — decided to milk the brand for all the “prestige” it could provide while slowly letting the product wander into irrelevance. Let’s look at the lineup now:

  • The Defender. You can still get this in some markets. Until they drop it. Which will be any day now. And of course the Wrangler with which it competes has been completely revised three times since the Defender was released. Everything the Defender has ever had, the Wrangler has now, plus more.
  • The LR2. This replaced the Freelander, which was a Honda Civic (I’m not kidding) hacked-up to create a kind of low-cost all-weather wagon. It was cheap and capable enough in bad conditions. The LR2, by contrast, costs forty grand and can’t go everywhere the Freelander could go, because it’s bigger.
  • The LR4. Lipstick on the decade-old pig known as the LR3. The most charmless station wagon in history. Monstrously sized, hugely thirsty, too big to be useful off-road. It’s simply offensive. I wouldn’t want to be seen in one. Better to drive a Suburban. At least you can put something big in a Burb, like a drumset and two groupies.
  • The Range Rover Sport. What’s the point of this? It looks like a Range Rover. But underneath it’s an LR4. It’s cheaper than a Range Rover. But it weighs more. And it’s not supposed to go off-road. Because a Range Rover without off-road capabilities is just as useful and desirable as a Porsche truck, no doubt to the same loathsome people.

That’s all just kind of sad to people who love Land Rovers the way I used to, but I’m not willing to call for the death penalty yet, Your Honor. Let’s focus on the real villains. Start with the “Range Rover Evoque”. It’s a RAV4 for people who could afford two RAV4s but for some reason only want to have one. What possible reason in the world could one have to buy this thing, other than to try to convince one’s neighbors that one can afford a Range Rover? It looks like it’s been squashed. Whatever giant creature tried to squash it should come back and finish the job. It’s not a Range Rover. I know it, you know it, your daughter’s friends know it. You’re embarrassing yourself. Nobody is fooled by this. It’s the perfect “Range Rover” for people who wear imitation Rolexes and Photoshop their LinkedIn profile pictures to remove their moles. And I know you call it the “Range Rover” when you’re referring to it at parties. Because “front-wheel-drive mommy-wagon with a thyroid condition” just doesn’t pack the same punch. “Oh, we were driving the Range Rover the other day…” No you weren’t. Stephen Jackson was driving the Range Rover the other day. You were driving a CX-5 as reimagined by a PCP addict with two crayons, a Burger King wrapper, and access to a recent issue of “The DuPont Registry”.

What’s worse than a fake Range Rover? The All New Real Range Rover. It’s advertised on Land Rover’s own website like so:

Putting that photo up where PEOPLE CAN SEE IT is approximately as stupid as me posing topless with “Marky Mark” Wahlberg and making sure every single mother in America between the ages of 22 and 35 gets a copy of the photo in her mailbox tomorrow. I would think most people in 2012 would say, “Hey, can I get the smaller vehicle with more ground clearance and more tasteful styling? How much more does that one cost?” I have a better idea for the ad:

No, wait. Looking at that photo just makes me want to buy another Flex, which can be had with all the same stuff a Range Rover has, plus a twin-turbo engine, for $40,000 less. Maybe a Flex isn’t any good off-road, whereas the Range Rover has had all sorts of wonderful press trips in remote and exotic locations where a group of trained experts who could get a Gallardo through the Rubicon Trail talk journalists through carefully stage-managed experiences, but does it really matter any more? Who’s going to take that piggy, ribbed-for-nobody’s-pleasure Range Roaster off-road? Who’s going to put muddy boots inside it? Who’s going to put it four feet deep in a Pennsylvania creek for laughs?

The current Land Rover range has no relevance whatsoever. The brand has no relevance whatsoever. Any prestige or pride in ownership one might possibly feel from owning a Rover is surely mitigated by the Tata ownership and the never-ending parade of douchebags “flossing” them on MTV and double-parking them outside Whole Foods. The outlandish size, weight, and consumption of the entire range, pun intended, is an affront to any notion of sustainable co-existence with the wild outdoors on which the brand built its tarnished image. Inside and out, the vehicles are gross parodies of their ancestors and not worth considering for a moment by anyone with a smidgen or taste or decency. Time to close the doors, sell the remaining stock to the Chinese, and slink away quietly.

The saddest part of all this? The market for the original Rovers — the genuine article — still exists, you know. One of my dearest friends works as an attorney in a rural area, making good money and restoring a beautiful century-old home. She likes to visit her family back home in Iowa and drive the unpaved roads there. We are planning on hiking up Mount Elbert in the summer, and in order to start from the highest trailhead you need something with four-wheel-drive and nontrivial ground clearance. For that and a variety of other reasons, she decided to buy herself a new truck. She wanted a rugged, all-purpose vehicle that would allow her to go anywhere. She wanted to keep it for a long time. She wasn’t terribly concerned about what it cost, although she’s a Midwesterner at heart so she appreciates value.

The vehicle she chose does everything a Land Rover should be able to do, and more. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s worth the money. And we saw other people driving them. People of all types. She waves at them. She loves “Serenity”, her new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara six-speed manual, the way I loved my Land Rovers. During a recent weekend, we gleefully drove it up and down steep grass hills and even down a small set of stairs at an abandoned office park. “It seems like this Jeep can go anywhere!” she exclaimed.

“Sure, but let’s keep it out of deep water, okay?”

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72 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: Won’t someone please put Land Rover out of my misery?...”


  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I wonder if anyone would take today’s LR Evoque or Range Rover where you took them back then. All those fancy leather interior, fancy electronics…

    • 0 avatar
      hf_auto

      *raises hand*
      I used to take my 2005 RR HSE out with my Jeep friends. In stock form it could handle “more difficult” trails, but not “most difficult”. My biggest problem with it was that the suspension was too complex to economically lift the thing, and the brakes were too big to downsize the wheels and fit proper tires on. The other problem was the traction control working too hard on slippery terrain and overheating the brakes (which dumps the air suspension, for “safety”,dropping the vehicle onto whatever obstacle you were negotiating).
      Even without a lift and MTs, I still drove it through the middle of the Tahuya mud pit about as deep as that picture with the freelander.
      Contrary Mr. Baruth, I absolutely loved my MkIII RR. I do wish they still had something in line with the old school Disco, but the modern RR has it’s charms.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        It’s nice to hear from someone who got use out of their MkIII. Whatcha think about the new one?

      • 0 avatar
        hf_auto

        Not a big fan of the new one, if I wanted an Explorer I’d buy an Explorer… but I need to see it in person to pass final judgement. I do hope they upped their game on the interior, I always thought the MkIII/refresh interior was beautifully designed but felt really chintzy (see cupholders, “metal” trim and center console). My GTI of the same year feels comparatively bomb-proof and that’s not right. The cheap plastic grilles and flaking plasti-metal door handles need to go too.

        But overall I have to admit the 2003-current models just don’t make good trail rigs here in the Northwest. That car made me smile every mile I drove it (I can’t overstate how much I clicked with it), but I think it’s realistic limit was the trailhead and not the trail beyond. For the trail, I’d take an old RR or Discovery any day. Hopefully they don’t drop the ball on the Defender and they start sending some our way.

        I think there was just a discontinuity in their philosophy between P38-MkIII. Instead of a truck with a nice interior, it became a 7-series wagon that you could slog through the mud. Looking at it through those glasses, I think it’s great. Right up until the point the steering column breaks… or the valley plate warps… or the water pump eats a bearing… ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        typ901

        Used to love taking my ’95 Range Rover LWB out in the sand dunes in Indiana and Michigan. Not too sure I am as romantic about the past, and upset at the current models as JB. I own a ’06 LR3 and enjoy it. The ’95 was great, but Lucas electrics and rust made it too tough to keep up with. My ’99 Disco II suffered from blown head gasket, and the 3 amigo’s which was common. The ’06 LR3 has been reliable when compared to the previous two. The old solid axles were great, but the cooling systems and electrical gremlins made it more of a chore to take them out than an enjoyment.

        Guess then if JB is upset about people not off-roading their Rovers’ or Land Cruisers etc.. then I should get pissed at people not driving sports cars to their 10/10th at a track? Even a Wrangler can top 40k new. As far as inefficient, my ’95 averaged 10mpg. 9/14 city/hwy. The LR3 is after 70% suburban 30% highway at 16mpg-its a more refined pig (lipstick).

        What the hell was so great about these old trucks that folks feel they were so great. When you spend your own time/money fixing them, unique gives way to problematic. Then problematic becomes chronic/habitual. If you love it-let it go.

  • avatar
    JoelW

    Interesting commentary as always, Jack.

    And just wanted you to know that at least one person caught the very subtle “Aliens” (the movie) reference.

    Nice.

    • 0 avatar
      Windy

      an excellent article on the decline of a once great car company

      In 2004 I sold the Range Rover 1989 that My mother had bought to be her last car after it sadly turned out to be… it was the perfect auto for her she called it her little grey elephant and as she lived on nantucket island and loved to drive its soft sandy beaches for bird watching and picnics with her friends… well I can not think of a better one for a woman in her 70s and 80s in 15 years she put about 75,000 miles on it (and about 1/2 half of them were in low range grinding along the beaches and the soft sand roads in the middle of the dunes.
      She rescued an average of 1 person who did not know how to dive in those conditions almost every week most of the time with 100 feet of 3/4 inch nylon spring line.

      aside fro problems with the electrically heated windshield which were fixed after 3 attempts the first winter (they would crack across the lower right or lower left corner when the defrosters were turned on and the temp was less than 20f) and the replacement of about 6 or 7 front seat control switches it was quite trouble free.

      as I was retiring and could not afford to live on Nantucket island (the joke at the time was “where the Millionaires cut the lawns of the Billionaires) with out having 3 full time jobs I sold it privately for $8,500 to someone who knew its history and bought myself what for me is the perfect car (a 2004 MINI cooper S with all the options… with luck it will be my last car I drive it from Maine to Santa Fe NM each year to visit my sister and do only about 4000 local miles each year additional… so far (knock wood) it has only required the replacement of a leaking viscoelastic engine mount)

      but my family was taught to be religious about maintaining our cars. the Range rover due to its hard dusty service had its oil changed etc. every 3,000 miles like clockwork…. I recall my Mother looking at a late 90s Range Rover and actually being angry and what they had done to what she considered a perfect car.

      BTW she drove like a bat out of hell on the mainland highways and some how always talked her way out speeding tickets in her youth before WW II she drove a blue Packard Convertible like the one in the Banacek http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banacek TV series and she always loved cars and driving.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …and just wanted you to know that at least one person caught the very subtle “Aliens” (the movie) reference…..

      Of course, its the only way to be sure…..

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Yawn. Yesterday we learned that a 1795 Porsche is the authentic one. Today we learned that an old stodgy RR driven by Prince Charles on quaint English country roads on his way to some pompous event is the authentic one.

    From what I see on the roads, the big Range Rovers really like to haul ass, unlike any other SUV I’ve come across. They go fast, quiet and flat, while sitting on tall cushions. Considering they could’ve been cramped into an E class or a 5 or 7 class for the same money, or even into an VW dressed up as an Audi, they made the sensible choice.

    • 0 avatar
      tatracitroensaab

      I have a soft spot for the Range Rover, but then again, I am strangely partial to European bling SUVs, like the G-Wagon. Ackkk glorious. I agree that the Evoque is a little silly with its high beltline and sloping roof.

      Jack, while I am very partial to your taste of classic vehicles, curvy women, and understates, fine luxury items that will last a lifetime, I dont think that this is where the market is going, and I think that Land Rover would be wise to follow the tides.

      The fact is that NO current line up maintains the understated classiness that was once in style — Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Landie, etc. etc. etc. have all moved towards a more showy definition of luxury because thats what sells. The only ones (in my opinion) that are still not too blingy are Jag and Volvo, and those are both performing mediocrely, while Land Rover has been touted as making a turn around.

      This trend doesnt have too much chance of stopping any time soon as the newly rich in the developing world will eagerly snatch up things that show their wealth.

      Like it or not, Jack, bling is in, and those who do not go for bling are stuck in a less profitable niche market. Dont fight it and embrace the modern Brougham era, or (more likely) embrace the luxury of looking down at rich tasteless people. It’s a glorious time, and life is a lot more fun people-watching the ridiculousness than ithe boredom that would ensue if everyone of wealth had taste.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        Yeah, just get an old narrow Scout that’ll fit between the trees and run through foot-deep puddles without missing a beat. That’s what you really need for the backwoods.

        Oh, you wanted to drive it on highways too…?

    • 0 avatar
      BigDuke6

      From what you see on the roads? What roads? Hauling ass on a highway is NOT what the Land Rover was intended for, as Jack was saying. Go back and read over again……

  • avatar
    slance66

    I like the Evoque. I wouldn’t consider paying for one, but as a small, upscale suburban AWD wagon, it’s nice. If it were free. Fortunately, it should depreciate like mad.

    Everything else has become obscene. At a time when manufacturers are finally considering downsizing, LR takes bloat to a new level.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Am I the only one who thought “Explorer” upon seeing that side view of the “All New Real Range Rover”?

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Ford has done a good job keeping the LR design for themselves. I was under the impression that the LR3 (which replaced the Discovery) was based on the last generation Explorer…which really is a capable SUV in V8 form.

  • avatar
    johnharris

    I love the look and feel of Range Rover/Land Rover, but despise the value proposition. I bought a fully-optioned Ford Flex instead and have enjoyed all 55,000 miles so far.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    the photoshop pic with the Flex is a nice touch

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    “Who’s stupid enough to take a unibody CUV hardcore off-roading?”

    Did they (auto industry) ever make a BOF CUV?

    Land Rover and Jeep are my top mainstream choices for off roading. Sure an H1 will crush them both, but for the sane money, LR and Jeep are the only choices.

    • 0 avatar
      FJ60LandCruiser

      An H1 is too wide, too heavy, and too long to be of any use off road.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Did they (auto industry) ever make a BOF CUV?”

      Depends what you call the Grand Vitara, (prior-gen) Sorento. I suppose you could make an argument for the first-generation Mazda MPV and (very possibly) a few of the boulevardierish GMT360s.

      It’s kind of hard to argue where the dividing line between CUV and SUV is drawn.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        As a fan of the GMT360s (short wheel base, V8 form only), I can tell you that these are not CUVs.

        They are just a 5 seat SUV. Proper RWD, 6 cylinder and proper V8 engines, proper towing capacity, etc.

        Trying to find a replacement for a vehicle like this now a days is very hard. Most of the appliances in the category have a very weak tow rating (Edge can only tow 3500 pounds??? Same as a 4-cyl Escape???). Some people need to tow 3500+ pounds. My boat and trailer weighs around 3700-3800 pounds. But the Edge and the Lincoln rebadge, Journey, Equinox, etc do not have adequate tow ratings. Detroit wants people to buy vehicles like the mediocre Flex or overpriced Explorer all of which are too big for one person with a boat.

        That being said, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a very nice alternative and far better than the similar Edge/Explorer/etc.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        I would say a transfer case, longitudinal engine, and covered cargo area are the defining characteristics of an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      You’d be surprised, I once saw a stock Ford Escape with highway tires drive over Mosquito Pass in Colorado without much trouble. Granted it isn’t the most difficult of trails but certainly a workout for most high clearance “real” SUVs. Knowing how to skillfully negotiate obstacles can go a long ways towards making up for a lack of vehicle capability.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        That’s true. I used to drive trails in my Monza 2+2. It would amaze the jeep guys to meet me on the trail – at least once I had my baby daughter sleeping in her car seat beside me. I’ve been in a lot of interesting places with Honda Accords too. While I had my 68 Chevy pickup, 6 4-speed positraction short narrow box, I had no problems with trails except where it wouldn’t fit between trees.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        fincar1, I’m with you. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had off road was in vehicles that were never intended for it.

        One of my favorites was a ’91 Sunbird with a 3.1L V6. The K-frame was so wide and sturdy that you could plow over trees and rocks without causing much harm to anything.

        A 4.6L Grand Marguis with weld on the teeth of the spider gears and snow tires does wonders up muddy trails as well.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        Doesn’t the Grand Cherokee offer near the luxury and more than the go anywhere ruggedness that you wish the Land Rover range still had?

        The Toyota Landcruiser does too, without the reliability issues that Land Rover has.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Doesn’t the Grand Cherokee offer near the luxury and more than the go anywhere ruggedness that you wish the Land Rover range still had?”
        In a word no. The Grand Cherokee is used as a SUV Caravan tug in Australia for pavement and smooth dirt surfaces.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    The comments section indicates that no one today has ANY intention of taking an LR anywhere off pavement, and therefore the vehicles currently on sale reflect that. After all, what kind of moron would put 20” factory rims on an off road vehicle? The first rock would tear the bead off of the low profile Z rated street tire.

    …also replace Land Rover with Land Cruiser and you have the bloated turd the current 200 series has become.

    What are these? Monstrously heavy, wasteful tall wagons with no ground clearance and sophisticated 4WD drivetrains that can’t go off road due to conflicting design considerations?

    Can a modern LR even be modified to be as useful as their ancestors? Does anyone even care?

    Prolly a “no” to both questions.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s worth noting that Toyota will still sell you a Lexus GX or LX, which actually do the traditional Land Rover thing better than any modern and most older Land Rovers.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Actually BOTH Land Rover’s and LandCruisers are used Off Road in Australia. Toyota’s products dominate the Australian Off Road Landscape

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        As does Toyota in Africa, South America and huge chunks of Asia.

        I find it odd to see Jeep vs Land Rover comparisons because that’s a cross shopping experience very few people anywhere in the world ever make. It’s always been Land Cruisers vs Land Rovers.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “I find it odd to see Jeep vs Land Rover comparisons because that’s a cross shopping experience very few people anywhere in the world ever make. It’s always been Land Cruisers vs Land Rovers.”

        Exactly. They are the major protagonists Off Road Globally, Toyota being dominant in Africa, Europe , Oceania and Asia

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        Does anyone actually notice that the Land Cruisers in Africa and Australia are old-school 70 series that you can’t buy in the USA and don’t share a single design element with the luxobarge American market Land Cruisers and their Lexus clones?

        There hasn’t been a Land Cruiser on sale in the USA with a solid front axle since the 90s.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        @FJ60LandCruiser

        We’ve discussed this before, but the Toyota Land Cruiser line matches up better against the Land Rover line, model for model.

        Land Cruiser 70-Series/Land Rover Defender Series, right down to the troopie bodies vs pickups.

        Land Cruiser Prado (Lexus GX in North America)/Land Rover Disco/LR3 series for mid size SUVs.

        Land Cruiser proper/Range Rover for full size, full on luxury SUVs.

        In terms of the world market, that’s about the way it goes, except for specific local markets where Nissan Patrols and Mitsubishi Pajeros might hold sway.

        Don’t get me wrong, I can see where the SWB/LWB Wrangler and Grand Cherokee might match up against LR Defenders and Range Rovers, but that’s a comparison shop that I’ve never had to make on four continents.

        While I agree with Jack’s sentiment that the Wrangler is very capable vs the Defender, you can’t get the Wrangler in a pickup configuration ala the LC79/Defender 110, much less a Defender 110 crew cab pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Does anyone actually notice that the Land Cruisers in Africa and Australia are old-school 70 series that you can’t buy in the USA and don’t share a single design element with the luxobarge American market Land Cruisers and their Lexus clones?”
        Well your partially correct but “Luxobarge” LC’s and Lexuses are taken off Road in Australia, although they are firmly planted on the trarmac in North America.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Though the 80 series in North America generally came with all of the bells, whistles, and leather that typical North American SUVs were equipped with, it was still underneath designed to be used offroad. The Solid Front Axle, massive amount of suspension travel, and built to outlast the zombie apacopalypse inline six motors reflect this. The 100 series with it’s IFS began the transition (though still capable unless you find yourself in the rocks) to a truck that was more comfortable on the road to the current Sequoia on steroids abomination. Unfortunately we are never likely to get the 70 series in the US. Fortunately 60′s and 80′s will last forever with proper care and feeding and the fact it is long paid for means I can actually afford gas for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        @ mkirk

        The oldest Land Cruiser 70 Series models are over 25 years old, so you can legally import one into the USA.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    There’s nothing wrong with matching your shorts with your ride.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    “It’s a Passat for people who could afford two Passats but for some reason only want to have one.”

    I like the Evoque better than the Rav4. 4 cylinders too.

    “What possible reason in the world could one have to buy this thing”

    Oh come on.

    “as desirable as a Porsche truck, no doubt to the same loathsome people”

    *hates Cayenne Turbo with a passion*

    “Nobody is fooled by this”

    Many are fooled by it

    “he outlandish size, weight, and consumption of the entire range, pun intended, is an affront to any notion of sustainable”

    It’s 4 cylinders.

    “The saddest part of all this? The market for the original Rovers — the genuine article — still exists, you know.”

    I thought they all broke?

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I really wish you could get a Defender in NA.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Supposedly you will be able to in a few years:

      http://www.autoblog.com/2012/10/02/land-rover-defender-will-return-to-u-s-in-next-generation/

      Still to early to tell how capable and true to the original it will be.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Just another symptom of the underlying reality which is that selling expensive cars means selling to new money douchebags who want douchebag cars.

    The restrained landed gentry is mostly fiction and what actually exists of it long since paved their road and bought a Lexus. Or maybe a Subaru. Working land owners drive pickup trucks. Outdoorsmen rarely buy new cars at all, certainly not expensive ones.

    Who’s going to buy those honest Land Rovers?

  • avatar
    carguy

    Sad but true. Land Rover has gone the way of Bentley – peddling garish overpriced junk to night club owners, footballers and rappers.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    > Range Rovers being driven by welfare cases! And by “welfare cases” I mean Queen Elizabeth and the dependably offensive Prince Philip.

    Hee hee hee. That’s a great pic.

    BTW, OT, but CPGGrey’s Youtube channel has an awesome explanation about the misconception that the royal family costs the UK taxpayer money. They generate far more cash for the country in tourist and licensing revenue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhyYgnhhKFw&list=PLqs5ohhass_QZtSkX06DmWOaEaadwmw_D&index=25&feature=plcp

  • avatar
    Pan

    I enjoyed your entertaining article on Land Rovers and their many versions over the years. They have certainly moved with the times. Too bad about the frequency of repair.
    A correction on your snide reference to Queen Elizabeth and “welfare”. You are historically inaccurate. Read your history text on the Crown Estates agreement of the 1780′s. The nation actually makes several times the amount paid out to the Crown. Of course, if you are a socialist and don’t believe in private ownership, then those facts would be irrelevant.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Actually the royal family got into more debt than it could afford, and handed its land over to Parliament in return for Parliament covering its debt and keeping the royal family on the dole.

      If you’re a Brit I appreciate your thin skin about the remaining symbols of the collapsed empire, but if you’re an American then defending the inbred royals is just amusing. The founding fathers are radicals that stole land from them.

      Jack’s setup on that joke was brilliant.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        Actually, if you read history, one third of the American colonists SUPPORTED the monarchy (“royalists”), one third wanted independence, and one third were indifferent.

        The fight wasn’t about land, or “stealing land”, but about taxation without representation.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        Jeffzekas: Read the Declaration of Independence. It is about much, much, much, more than that. Very few rants of that caliber exist in the world. Fewer have had as great of an impact.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    They are going to have issues with the brand eventually if everyone who does serious off road trips switches to jeeps. Too bad the new defender looks like it will be unibody.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Seems like Jeep is providing fewer options now, too. Cherokee’s gone. Liberty never had the ground clearance of the Cherokee. Grand Cherokee isn’t nearly as capable as it once was. Your choices are Wrangler or stretched 4-door Wrangler.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Jack, a fantastic lament for a loved brand that has lost its way.

    Now someone pass this on to Top Gear’s Clarkson and Hammond. They seem to love the new Range Rovers in all of their garish glory. Clarkson even tore a fresh two-track up a Scottish mountainside trying to get one to the top. Thought he really accomplished something, too, despite getting it hopelessly stuck several times due to a combination of his poor offroad skills and the vehicle’s lack of true off road capabilities.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This is where Isuzu screwed up by deserting the non-commercial market. I love my Trooper. It’s a mountain goat. It’s got perfect lines, both inside and out. Sure, fixing it nowadays is expensive with a number of the parts.

    At 200k+ miles, it’s reliable as all get out. Only a bad starter has left me stranded. All other electricals are original and fully functional.

    Personally, up until the current generation, I always thought the Landcruisers were very classy…..

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    This might be one of the best articles I’ve read on here all year. Great stuff.

  • avatar
    david42

    The design of the old RRs is magical–certainly among the best SUVs ever–but it’s hard to imagine taking such an unreliable vehicle into the wilderness.

    I wish the old RRs had been made by Toyota. The old Land Cruisers are handsome, tall, and capable, but a bit too rustic for me. I like the specs of the “fat” Land Cruisers. (Yeah, I want full-time 4wd and power windows and heated leather seats. So sue me.) But I don’t think it would fit in my garage.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “The LR2. This replaced the Freelander, which was a Honda Civic (I’m not kidding) hacked-up to create a kind of low-cost all-weather wagon.”

    Not true. One of the early mock-ups was based on Civic Shuttle. The production vehicles used some Maestro pressings but nothing from Honda.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Well, one GOOD aspect of all this: because the NEW LR’s are so crappy, folks keep restoring the OLD ones!

    PS- Jack, loved this line: “a whorehouse on wheels, a twisted parody of a Range Rover that never truly existed, a white-leather joke wrapped up in a body that resembled the original Rangie the way Adele resembles Audrey Hepburn…”

  • avatar
    Sydcam

    I don’t understand why Land Rover would go against a strategy that’s making them so much money. They’ve got a better profit margin than many of the German lot last thing I heard. The remaining companies manufacturing cars in the UK either do the volume sector in Europe, or charge a relative fortune (see Mini, JLR). Why would they take a risk to go downmarket in the middle of a crisis at home?

    They needed to make the Evoque anyway to cut their average emissions to satisfy the EU regulations. Besides that, it sells very well in Europe, the best seller in the UK at least.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Damn I love your writing…although I have to admit I enjoy it a bit more when I think you are wrong. Here though, here you make a series of really good points. I’d absolutely love to see a side-by-side with a Wrangler and a manufacturer fleet Rover, mostly so I can imagine the PR manager’s head exploding when he gets to read the finished work. In the aftermath we could all go to his personal facebook account and watch you insult his…ok, bad idea.

  • avatar
    Les

    The Evoque doesn’t look like a squashed Range Rover to me, it looks more like a widened Kia Soul with a smaller greenhouse.

    Reminds me of when I first went shopping for new cars recently and was first personally introduced to the Soul, what a mess that was.

    I still had only nebulous ideas of what I wanted at the time the first time I went to kick tires at local dealerships, I kinda-sorta wanted a mini-SUV like those Suzuki Sidekicks and Isuzu Amigos I remembered from my high-school days and expressed such interest when the nice man at the local Ford/Kia dealership asked me what I thought I wanted. I of course had not gotten the memo about how that particular market-segment/niche had for some time been thoroughly abandoned and left to just the 2-door Jeep Wrangler and… the 2-door Jeep Wrangler.

    So he shows me the Kia Soul. It’s not bad, spacious, yet compact. Has a nice stance for what I want from it, good options list and all that.

    “Where’s the transfer-case lever?”

    There wasn’t one, it was 2WD.

    2WD, on an SUV? That just didn’t make any sense to me.

    “How much is the 4WD version?”

    There wasn’t one, the deuce you say! An SUV that doesn’t even Have a 4WD/AWD option? Blasphemy!

    I left the dealership loathing and despising the Kia Soul, it was the worst possible vehicle I could ever have imagined, the least-sensible sensible SUV imaginable and at that point I wouldn’t have taken one if you’d paid me to take it.

    About a year or so later of deeper research into the automotive market, my realization of my needs had matured, and I’d gotten a greater understanding of what was available and for what price-point. It was at this time I flipped through a copy of the Car&Driver buyer’s guide and found the Kia Soul listed not in the SUV section.. but in the Hatchback section.

    Hatchback? Oh, yes… Of Course! It makes perfect sense now! Small, economical, loads of room. The Kia Soul is a Brilliant Hatchback!

    And that’s how I turned around and became the proud owner of a 2012 Hamstermobile, in spite of someone trying to sell it to me as something that it wasn’t. ;)

  • avatar
    denisk

    I share the frustration with the current LR lineup, especially so in the US. One important omission in the article/viewpoint is DIESEL. Most of the current Rovers I see in Europe are running on Diesel engines, which makes matters a lot different: suddenly they are very very reasonable on thirst, even economical, while being super torquey! Put on those NAVY steels with some rude rubber and go offloading all you want! I just wish they were available here. Completely beats me why LR left this sector (diesel that is) to be dominated in the US by MB, Audi, VW and BMW. Whats so hard about adding the urea into the exhaust system to meet the US emissions req’s? Nothing, easy as pie, must be some sort of a deal they reached or could not reach with whoever controls the car market here. Jeep is bringing a diesel onto its JGC next year (with an 8 speed tranny), and my guess is that eventually I will leave my 2001 Disco SE for that. Note that I am a realist enough not to even use the word “trade” in this equation:) . Until then I will keep my Disco running, my love/hate relationship with the slurpy beast is going strong. Did you know most of its body panels are made of aluminum to shave weight? The similarly looking G-class is all metal, making it half a ton heavier, and even much more thirtsier. PS: LR has teased us with a bit of a promise with the new DC100? /defender concept, but sadly I think it will not materialize any time soon.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Meh, I am a Jeeper back to Willys Overland. Land Rover Pffft

  • avatar
    Nick

    ‘and double-parking them outside Whole Foods.’

    Are you SURE you don’t live in Oakville, Ontario, Canada?

  • avatar
    hifi

    Uh, so what is Land Rover supposed to do? Continue to be unprofitable, unreliable and niche? I’ve owned a number of British cars. Jaguars, a TR6 which is awesome and I still have. I had a TR7 which was awful. Jaguar survived because they managed to build cars that people want. Triumph never figured out how to do that.

    In my neck of the woods, Range Rovers, LR4s and Range Rover Sports are as common as Camrys are in other places. So I never would have considered anything from this brand until I saw the Evoque at the NYIAS. And that’s their plan, to acquire a customer who wouldn’t have considered them before. When I test drove one, I drove it right down the paved highway, onto a dirt road, then onto the beach. I drove it though the sand, along the packed sand, back through the soft sand where surfers parked their Wranglers, Discoverys and Tahoes, and back to the parking lot. It handled it beautifully, and I bought one crammed full of every option.

    I really don’t care about the memories someone has about a brand or what their dad drove. I also don’t care whether someone thinks I overpaid and that I should have bought something ridiculously outside of this category altogether, like a CRV or Rav4 or an Escape. And I don’t give a damn that some trashy new money basketball player or that useless British royalty buys the same brand. I have an Audi too, in spite of the fact that Prince Charles (or is it the red headed one?) has one. For many people, a brands history means only so much. Besides that, it really comes down to how good the product is.

    Land Rover has most of the product categories covered. The LR2 at the entry level, the LR4, Evoque and RRS at the various mid levels, and the mack daddy RR at the high end. And that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do.

  • avatar
    damian2050

    “Who’s stupid enough to take a unibody CUV hardcore off-roading?” you say, the Russians. Lada came out with the first monocoque CUV. It is still being sold and is apparently very good off-road.


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