Land Rover Origins
The first Land Rovers were developed as agricultural and utility vehicles based on the American Jeeps used during WW II. These first vehicles were very basic inside since it was used for farming and light industrial work. Meanwhile, Rover planned to produce them for only a few years to increase cash flow.
Rover realized the public may need the abilities of the Land Rover with a comfortable interior. Soon after, the company developed vehicles with four doors instead of two and seating for passengers in the rear. Driving quality improved because of the newly-added leather seats, heater, and interior trim.
Land Rover Through The Years
Throughout its history, Land Rover acquired many owners. In the late 1960s, Rover was attained by the Leyland Motor Corporation and became part of British Leyland in 1968. When British Leyland broke up in the 1980s, Rover and Land Rover was sold to the British Aerospace in 1988. Then BMW acquired both vehicles in 1994, but in 2000 sold Land Rover to Ford. Land Rover is now owned by Tata Motors.
From 1947 to 1985, Rover Company developed the Land Rover vehicles and produced several different models called Series I, II, and III. The British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy all have fleets of Land Rovers in varying numbers. The Series models evolved into the current line of Land Rovers, which are the Defender, Freelander, Discovery, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover Evoque. In America, the Freelander 2 is called the Land Rover LR2 and the Discovery 4 is called the Land Rover LR4.
The Defender series was launched in the U.S. in 1993, making it the first time since 1974 that Land Rover had sold a utility vehicle in America. These Land Rovers had to be modified to meet the stringent regulations of the United States Department of Transportation. The U.S. Defender series was in production until 1998 when regulations regarding air bags halted production, and adding air bags would require a major modification. Only small numbers of these vehicles had been sold, so it was determined the alteration was not economically viable. Consequently, the Defender is no longer sold in America.
Land Rover Models
In the late 1980s, Land Rover began research into Freelander so it could enter the compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) market. In 1997, the first Freelanders were produced as a luxury four-wheel drive vehicle. The Freelander was in production until 2006, with the last models sold in America being the 2005 models. In 2006, the Freelander 2, or the LR2 in the U.S., was launched. This is the current model still in production. It differed from the initial Freelander in that it has a higher ground clearance, so it is better able to handle offroad conditions. It also has a higher quality interior and more safety features than the previous version.
There have been four models of the Land Rover Discovery, with the current model being the Discovery 3 or the LR4 in America. The Discovery series was in production since 1989, and the current model was produced in 2004. In 2008, the LR3 was renamed to the LR4, while it remained the Discovery 3 elsewhere. The Discovery series allowed Land Rover to enter the midsize SUV market and provide a vehicle with four-wheel drive and offroad capabilities.
Range Rovers are large SUVs in production since 2002. It launched when Land Rover was owned by BMW to provide an offroad luxury four-wheel drive SUV. Unlike other models, the Range Rover only came with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Range Rover Sport is a luxury SUV targeted to the midsize SUV market. Finally, the Evoque is the latest model to enter the compact SUV market in 2011. It was designed for city dwellers to meet increased emissions and fuel economy requirements.
The current concept vehicles from Land Rover are the DC100 and the DC100 Sport. The car is being developed as a replacement for the Defender Series in the North American market. These are rugged vehicles that have taken design cues from the original Defender vehicles and were modernized for standards and aesthetics.