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Premier Automotive Group President Wolfgang Reitzle,
Land Rover Design Director Geoff Upex
Londons Design Museum has been the venue of the first preview of the all-new Range Rover. That was not by chance, as the location was considered the ideal place to celebrate the new birth of the third generation Range Rover, now a well-established icon of British design.
A rather passionate, enthusiastic, and committed Wolfgang Reitzle introduced what is meant to be an all-round luxury automobile as well as the most sophisticated off-road machine. The event focused completely on the design. Originated and developed at Land Rovers design and engineering headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, the design project was meant from the very beginning to deliver a real Range Rover. This explains why the look of the new Range Rover is directly inspired by the very first Range Rover launched 31 years ago.
The design of the Range Rover of the third millennium speaks for itself, clearly showing the family DNA. The architecture, the proportions, the simple and clear cut of its shape and that unique British touch.
With great attention to details, the differences are all inspired by the advanced technology that makes the new Range Rover a very modern and advanced vehicle: inside, outside, and underneath. There was virtually no talk of what is under the skin. Everyones attention was on the cars design.
The shape treatment stresses the quality of both design and manufacturing. Reitzle stressed that the car was developed from a white sheet to be a no-compromise vehicle and that some 3 billion DM were invested into its design, development testing and tooling.
Dr. Reitzle conceded that he has always had a special affection for the Range Rover and when BMW bought Rover (with Land Rover) he took a very personal interest in the design of the new Range Rover, set from the very beginning to stand well above the SUV that BMW developed at the same time and alongside the new Range, and known today as the very successful BMW X5.
The project was already accomplished when Reitzle left BMW, early in 1999, but - said Reitzle - BMWs engineers had preserved it absolutely unchanged through the 17months passed from his resignation and Fords purchasing of Land Rover (for some US $3bn).
That was a decision that he strongly supported, convinced as he is, that in association with Jaguar and Aston Martin, Land Rover was the perfect fit for the London based Premiere Automotive Group of which he is in charge. Reitzle also said that the project, entirely developed by BMW with the Land Rover, is running perfectly on time, as it was planned when he was at BMW, with the X5 moving into the market with 18 months lead.
The Range Rover was designed to be positioned above the X5 in the market with a price commanding a 15-20 percent premium over the equivalent X5, with its full all-road capabilities and the additional set of low gears.
Actually Land Rover engineers are positive in stressing that the 2002 Range is significantly superior to its predecessor both off-road (primarily because of the electronic management of the transmission) and on road where it is supposed to cruise at some 220 km/h on German autobahns as safely and comfortably as an S-Class or a BMW 7 series, according to Dr. Reitzle.
In fact Reitzle says this is the all-round car for the affluent: it is both the luxury limousine and the competent off-roader that is perfect for every situation and every occasion: It is two cars in one, and this is going to be my company car.
Prices are expected to range from 47,000 to 65,000 British pounds. The new Range Rover goes on sale next February, after the official unveiling to the public early next year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. At launch time the latest marvel from Land Rover comes with a 4.4 litre V8 gasoline engine and a 3.0 L 6 turbodiesel engine, both supplied by BMW and both matched to an automatic transmission.
Two years later Land Rover should be ready to offer also a bigger V8 turbodiesel yet to be announced and eventually it will be available with a superlative V 12 gasoline engine. Reitzle declined to say whether the V 12 would come from BMW or Jaguar.
The new Range Rover is a bit longer and wider, significantly taller and roomier that its predecessor but the difference is not obvious from the outside whereas it is clear inside the car.
One of the unique feature of the old Range Rover was its commanding driving position, said Reitzle, who went one saying the very thing we look at, referring to Land Rover director of design and the actual designer of the new range, was precisely at setting the driving position of the new vehicle. That was the starting point of the whole project.
Asked if the final design came straight from the beginning or there had been a number of alternatives developed through the project Geoff Upex replies yes to both questions. There actually were a number of different proposals considered, primarily to put the winning proposal in perspective with other potentially attractive projects. That was done to allow for a comfortable and properly considered decision from the top management but Upex knew from the very beginning that this was the car Land Rover needed.
Now he says: I have always had in mind this car, the new Range Rover could only come with this sort of design, faithful to the original and yet very modern.
Was it easy? We asked him. Not at all, actually it was much more difficult that designing an all-new car with reference to the past. We had to be careful at giving a completely new life to a design icon and avoid plain retro design. The new Range had to be what we see today: traditional and romantic in its style but simple and clean, progressive and long lasting in design. It took a lot of work and dedication to make everything perfect and so sophisticated, Upex hastened to stress.
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Photos: © Archivio Perini