There are few brands that have achieved the universal influence of Land Rover. From helping us win wars and transporting aid to the furthest corners of the world, to perfecting luxury travel and pioneering engineering innovation, iconic is an understatement.
"There are few brands that have achieved the universal influence of Land Rover..."
But, even along this road of steady and dependable manufacturing, there have been certain points at which Land Rover surprised even us. Moments when our own high expectations were exceeded — especially of late — when the British brand rolled out certain developments and projects that were both unexpected and very, very welcome.
This week, we celebrate 70 years since the first Land Rover was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show. Much has happened since 1948, with these hardy cars trundling triumphantly over the rough terrain that was the 20th century, and defiantly into the 21st. So, to mark this milestone, here are our favourite models produced by the legendary Land Rover.
1958 Series II, when things moved up a gear
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: We have nothing against the original Series I Land Rover. In fact, we love it. But there’s just something about the confidence and style of the Series II that colours us impressed.
Engineering had obviously come first, but once those dependable basics were down, this became the first Land Rover to roll into the styling department. For the first time, we saw the ‘barrel side’ waistline, improved cab and the curved side windows and roofs still seen on the cars to this day. It’s a blueprint for all modern Land Rovers and Range Rovers — that venerable great grandfather whose influence is felt by the whole family.
Range Rover Classic, the dawn of luxury
Why do we, a luxury men’s lifestyle magazine, feel such an affinity for this, the world’s first luxury SUV? It’s simple, surely? For the first time since the Land Rover name had been established, the choice was made to take the cheap, simple to manufacture and hardy car and make it a little more showy. And who was going to argue with that?
Whipped up from lightweight aluminium, this was a new dawn in off-road driving. The car was produced using American SUVs as a template, but with more speed and comfort. And just look at the revolution this boxy first gen Range Rover kicked off — the marque remains the gold standard of the luxury 4X4 market to this day.
Discovery Series II, the perfect blend of utility and luxury
Again, not the first model in the Discovery line, but the second. Why? For much the same reason as we prefer the Series II Land Rover over the Series I. This was when the Discovery had really got into the swing of things, allegedly changing ‘720’ things from the first iteration to create a less utilitarian, improved vehicle.
You just can’t go wrong with a ’98 Discovery. It got the Range Rover V8 to give it a little more pizzazz, and became an icon on British roads: An emblem of hardiness and dependability, but one with twin sunroofs, heated windscreen and a six-disc CD player — which was, believe us, the peak of luxury in 1998.
2011 Range Rover Evoque, the Land Rover no-one expected
We probably all remember the day we first saw an Evoque rolling down the road. It’s as if this model was made to see how many double-takes it could get, and that’s the reason we love it. Sure, we could talk about the pioneering EcoBoost engine, the efficiency-improving e_Terrain tech or the inspired integrated starter generator, but why would we? Just look at it.
That whole body was a departure from Land Rover’s de rigeur body-on-frame construction, and designed with improved handling and ride quality in mind. Aluminium meant the whole thing weighed over 100 kilos less than the Freelander, and the optional contrasting roof colours was bespoke on a level Land Rover had never before attempted. A milestone if ever we’ve driven one.
Land Rover Defender, the legend of legends
If you had to choose the most iconic Land Rover of all time, it would be the Defender. Don’t argue with us on this. We know, you love the Discovery, have a soft spot for the original Range Rover and wouldn’t say no to an Evoque — trust us, neither would we — but the Defender is the king of all Land Rovers. Unquestionably.
Boxy but beautiful, this is a car that never really changed up until it stopped production in 2016. It had tweaks, of course, and alterations in the engineering, but the spirit remained. You really could throw anything at this car and it would never, ever give up. And what more could you ask for in an off-roader?
Range Rover Velar, the head-turning wayward cousin
A landmark design move, the Velar ushered in a new age of Land Rover’s aesthetic. It took its name from a line of pre-production Range Rovers developed in 1969, which was a nice nod to the car’s heritage, and was the fourth distinct model in the Range Rover line. Like the Evoque before it, it turned many heads, and was the first time we really saw a crossover between Land Rover and their sister company, Jaguar.
The interior was where we noticed this merger most notably. Influenced by the I-Pace, there were three touch screens and a generally more luxurious feel. It may have strayed reasonably far from the utility of the original Land Rover, but the spirit was still there — an education in respecting your roots whilst pushing forward.
Range Rover SV Coupe, the sleek reinvention of the luxury SUV
The latest addition to the family, the SV Coupe returns to the look of the original 1970 Range Rover by removing the back doors. Sporty, sleek and sophisticated, this beast rolled out of Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations refining department. And that, in a word, is why we love it: It is refined.
Under the bonnet, in the cab, and in its body, this is one of the most understated, chic and refined cars we’ve ever seen. It shouldn’t be — we hasten to add — it’s still a big car. But whether you’re staring adoringly at it from afar or sitting pretty behind the wheel, it feels as lithe and feline as a supercar. It’s just a supercar with incredible off-road capabilities…
Miss the Defender? Watch the icon receive an upgrade in this exciting video…