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19 January 2010

The Range Rover P38 history (Mk2)


By the mid-to-late-1980s, the Range Rover's transformation into luxury express was well underway; one only had to look at the success of the Vogue editions of it to see this. Cannily, Land Rover tapped into the healthy demand for increasingly plush versions of the Range Rover, and ensured that prices remained relatively high, but not hideously so. This pricing policy ensured that the Range Rover would always remain relatively exclusive, but accessible enough for aspirational customers to feel they could reach one. With this, the future for the Range Rover brand was set. With the lower-priced Discovery under development, the intention was to push the original (and best) increasingly up market, ensuring that the Range Rover would represent the absolute pinnacle of four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In the long term, planners knew that the 1970 original - as smart as it was - would need significant development in order to keep pace the development of rival cars. Work began on the project in 1988, with engineering and styling work being focused upon - but at this point in time, no deadline for launch was set. It was not until 1990, and with a budget of £300 million, that the project to replace the Range Rover was formally started under the codename of 38A. The launch date of late 1994 was set at this time. Technically, meeting the demands of the 1990s would be no mean task, but given the excellence of the original, a firm foundation was already in place. Also, because the relationship between old and new, it would be entirely possible to introduce features bound for the new car into the existing one. It was a ploy that had worked well in the past for Jaguar and Rolls-Royce, so in this respect, the Range Rover was in good company.

Of more of concern, however, was the new car's styling. Rather like the difficulties encountered by Porsche when it came to replacing the 911, Land Rover knew that a major part of the Range Rover's appeal was its styling - and it would absolutely need to be right. Therefore, a great deal of care and attention would need to be employed in the development of the 38A's look... it would need to look substantially more modern, yet be readily identifiable as a Range Rover. George Thomson, Land Rover's styling director was handed the project in 1988, and admitted later that he found the brief both challenging and intimidating. "Recreating a classic like the Range Rover is a great challenge - but not an easy one."

Design competition at Solihull saw a shoot-out between rival studies by Ital Design, Bertone, Hefferman/Greenley (they of the Ssangyong Musso) and Land Rover themselves. Only Land Rover's and Bertone's designs were considered worthy enough to be translated into full-size clay.

Thomson needed to weigh up the conflicting stylistic demands of the new project, stating, "We had to produce a familiar, yet contemporary design that would delight existing customers and attract new luxury car lovers." It seemed that there was no shortage of styling houses that were keen to undertake the task, and with the help of Pininfarina, ItalDesign, Bertone and British designers John Hefferman and Ken Greenley, Thomson's team produced five separate models, which all sat on the upcoming LSE chassis with longer 108-inch wheelbase. There was quite a range of designs, from the evolutionary in-house effort, to an advanced Renault Espace-apeing one-box.

Bertone's design was compared with a similarly coloured Range Rover in order to be evaluated for suitability.
Ultimately, only the Bertone and In-house efforts were developed into full-size models, and it was at this point, that market research and customer clinics were set-up in order to ascertain which would be the more suitable design. In one French clinic, which would eventually prove pivotal to the project, it became clear that the Bertone design just was not "Range Rover" enough. Programme Director John Hall recounted,

"...we showed one of the early design concepts where we put a lot of attention into making it compatible with luxury cars. This Frenchman said: "These carrr, eet 'as lost eets Wellington boots." At that time the rear quarter glass actually wrapped around the tailgate, which is a tremendous styling feature, but it wasn't Range Rover; it wasn't tough. The car also had body coloured bumpers which aren't practical, aren't appropriate on a real 4x4 vehicle."

Of all the prospective and existing buyers polled, the weight of support went for the more conservative in-house design, which came as no surprise to George Thomson: "The other designs provided a lot of inspiration, but our familiarity with the product and its customers gave us the advantage." The truth is that on this occasion, as on so many others, being led by customer clinic results led to a rather conservative car, and it has to be said that the final result was handsome, and it did grow on people - just as Land Rover promised it would - but it was not a leap forward in any respect.

It was this model, Pegasus, prepared by George Thomson's styling team that was picked as the winning design.
With the Pegasus styling scheme chosen, it was a simple task to transpose strong and traditional Range Rover styling cues onto it, in order to maintain that family resemblance so desired by the management. These cues were identified as a low waistline, straight flank feature-lines, dark window surrounds, floating roof and "castle" ridges on the front corners of the clamshell bonnet. This was a successful ploy - and anyone from 100 metres could tell it was a Range Rover... one disappointing aspect, however, was the deletion of round headlamps in favour of large, rectangular items that looked out of place on an expensive car, planned for the 1990s. In fact, they looked to be standard Euro-issue items from 1980 and give the front end of the car a look distinctly reminiscent of the Talbot Horizon.

Wind tunnel testing successfully improved the original’s brick-like aerodynamics from a cd of 0.45 to an acceptable 0.38; this was achieved by subtlety altering the rake of the grille, paying close attention to the glazing and adding small strakes on to the rear pillars.

In terms of body and chassis engineering, the P38A (an amalgamation of "Pegasus" and "38A") retained much of the originals underpinnings. The ingredients were familiar: a ladder-frame chassis (stiffened by 18 per cent) with the body compliantly mounted in the interests of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) reduction. Crash worthiness was also improved, with front and offset impact resistance improved with further chassis reinforcement - the fuel tank was also re-located to beneath the rear seat, and side impact bars were added to all the doors... all in the interests of improved safety.

All of the engines were new: two versions of the Rover V8 were introduced, in 4.0 and 4.6-litre forms. Somewhat rather like the Irish hammer that had several new heads and handles, the venerable and constantly developed V8 continued - the 4-litre version developed 190bhp and 236lb ft torque, whilst the 4.6 developed 225bhp and 277lb ft torque. For the P38A, it was decided to look for a replacement diesel, as the old VM power unit would not cut the mustard in the larger car. Programme Director, John Hall's search for a replacement diesel engine took him to six manufacturers including BMW. "I don't think BMW realised what they had", Hall recalled, "It's probably because the majority of the organization was sporty petrol-engine orientated that the diesel engine is so bloody good." A deal was brokered, and Land Rover gained the right to use the straight-six turbo diesel - some tinkering to the ECU was made in order to give it a more favourable torque curve.

Info gathered from ARonline