Range Rover Mk1 (1970) retro road test

The road test of the original Range Rover was published in our 12 November 1970 issue. Want to know what we said at the time? Read on…

With the launch of the facelifted Range Rover, which promises a better mix of luxury and off-road capabilities than its predecessors, we thought it only right to republish an Autocar road test for the Mk1 original. The unmodified words from our 12 November 1970 issue follow…

Eagerly awaited, the new Range Rover has fulfilled and even surpassed the high hopes held for it.

The combination of an over-90mph maximum speed with the ability to go cross-country mud-plugging as well is not new – the Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer did all this when we tested it in 1964 – but will seem revolutionary to many.

What is so good about the Range Rover is the way it carries out its multiple functions, serving equally well as tug, load carrier, cross-country vehicle and, by no means least, as an ordinary car suitable even for commuting in heavy traffic.

Range Rover gets a facelift and new plug-in hybrid variant

It is often forgotten how seating positions have been lowered over recent years, to keep waist and roof levels down, and it takes something like the Range Rover, in which one see over the roof of the car ahead, to make one appreciate the value of a higher sight line.

The ability to see what is happening much farther in front, and to be able to look down on the flat bonnet with its clearly defined corners, means it is easier to appraise traffic situations and to place the vehicle accurately. This good view all round goes a long way to compensate for the rather large turning circles and 5ft 10in width.

Comment: why the new Range Rover needed a plug-in hybrid variant

Also unexpectedly good is the standard of ride comfort, an education in what can be achieved with live axles front and rear. On most surfaces the car rides with surprisingly little vertical movement, and there is only occasionally a trace of front-end pitch – short crisp bounce rather than any suggestion of floating.

A big contribution to the ride is undoubtedly made by the Michelin radial M+S cross-country tyres fitted. They absorb small irregularities and always look a little ‘squish’ when inflated to the recommended 25psi.

One of the biggest improvements noticed by anyone familiar with the Land Rover is the very much better ride in cross-country work. Long travel coil springs front and rear, with huge telescopic dampers, absorb rough tracks and field conditions extraordinarily well, and without any of the violent bucking and bouncing of an ordinary leaf spring Land Rover.

The other respect in which the Range Rover is far superior, of course, is its much greater speed potential. The true level road maximum is 91mph, at which the speedometer reads 95mph, while on a downhill straight we obtained an indicated 104mph. The natural cruising speed is 85mph, when engine noise is pleasantly restrained and the car feels relaxed and unstressed.

Equally impressive is the acceleration and the Range Rover gives a smart step-off in traffic, which belies its size and makes it often the quickest car away from the lights. Through the gears it accelerates briskly to 80mph in under half a minute, and the 19.1sec time for the standing quarter mile is much better than many more lithesome saloons, and only 1.2sec slower than the Rover 3500.

The engine is almost the same all-aluminium V8 of 3528cc as is used in the 3500 and 3.5-litre saloons, but has Zenith-Stromberg CD2 carburettors instead of SUs, and the compression ratio is lowered from 10.5 to 8.5 to 1, suiting it to as lower as 91 octane fuel (or 85 octane with reset ignition timing). A pull-out manual enrichment control is provided for cold starting, near the door hinge on the right, and can soon be pushed in after a cold start.

Through the test starting was generally immediate, only once a bit reluctant from cold when standing on a slope. To prevent vapour lock in very hot conditions, particularly with hard work at low speeds, the fuel is recirculated from the right-hand carburettor back to the tank.

Not surprisingly, the V8 engine seems even smoother in this big car than in the Rover 3500, and its lusty low speed torque enabled us to take acceleration figures in top gear from 10mph with only mild protest. There are no vibration periods and the noise level is always fairly low. At tickover there is some tremor and slight lumpiness gently rocking the car.

Although the 3500 is only available with an automatic transmission, the Range Rover is supplied with a four-speed manual gearbox. There is effective synchromesh on all four gears but the gear change itself is very heavy, has rather long travel, and is a bit notchy; at least it goes well with the heavy duty nature of the car. During performance testing it became very difficult to hurry the changes and in ordinary use a slow, rather deliberate movement, preferably with double-declutching both up and down, helps the gears to go through more easily.

The ratios are well spaced and recommended change points are shown on the speedometer at 26, 43 and 71mph. Considerably more revs can be used in safety, true maxima for the gears being 30, 49 and 79mph before the hydraulic tappets begin to pump up. Clutch take-up is smooth, and at 40lb the operating load is not too heavy, even for traffic use. However, towards the end of the test trouble was experienced with the clutch hydraulics, it sometimes tending not to release and at other times being reluctant to engage.

Unlike the Land Rover and other cross-country vehicles, on which four-wheel drive causes transmission wind-up if used on metalled roads, that on the Range Rover is permanently engaged. Small variations in front-rear wheel revolutions are accommodated by a Salisbury Powr-Lok limited-slip differential installed in the transfer gearbox, and a notice below the facia warns of the special …read more

Source:: Autocar