Monday, November 29, 2021

Range Rovers were the first to start the SUV trend, and they’re still easily the top 50

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“They have always been expensive, but over the past 30 years the model has grown into a huge range of fast, ubiquitous luxury vehicles.”

The great British road trip The exhibition essentially celebrates a century of British automobile manufacturing from 1920 to the present day.

Recently, for lack of a better word, I visited a novel auto museum near Matlock in Derbyshire on the edge of the Peak District. I say it for lack of a better word because not only was I able to get very close to the exhibits, but visitors were also able to take some of the cars outside and drive them.

You can admire the small family cars of the 1920s and 1930s Austin 7s and Morrises, through the eye-catching Americanized models of the 1950s and 1960s Fords, Vauxhalls, Triumphs, Rovers, Hillmans, Humbers and always Jaguars. Then there are the less exciting products made in British Leyland in the 1970s and 1980s to the heavily discounted vehicles produced in the UK for the past 30 years. However, aside from the nostalgia, I noticed that most of these cars were family sedans.

If you look at the lists of new cars in. look up Which car Magazine and similar publications there are very few sedans left for sale. Certainly no family sedans are for sale, only luxury sedans such as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Audi – although even these manufacturers usually list hatchbacks, MPVs, station wagons and SUVs. The best-selling cars of 2021 are all family hatchbacks or SUVs, with the exception of the BMW 3 Series sedans.

I thought about it after the recent expansion of London’s ultra-low emissions zone, where my daughter lives, resulted in a real need to change my car. When I bought a family car for the first time many years ago, the choice was easy: limousine or station wagon.

Later we had a hatchback and a station wagon and then, when the kid stuff just got too much, we had the so-called People Carrier, in the USA family vans. While practical, I can’t say I really enjoyed them – difficult to park and lurching from side to side on corners. The first of these was a Renault Espace, which was labeled a new type of car in the late 1980s, and the last was a Renault Scenic, although automakers at the time called them MPVs, or in the case of the Scenic, compact MPVs.

At first I thought that maybe this is exactly what I need this time: a medium-sized multi-purpose vehicle to go to the supermarket, to the garbage dump, to the B&Q and to see the grandchildren. The computer says no: only 11 cars are currently listed as vans and only four or five of them are medium-sized. The rest are, frankly, multi-seat vans with windows. You can’t even buy a Renault Espace or Scenic anymore – at least not if you don’t live in the EU.

So instead I looked for some cars that I had seen and thought they could do it. This British perennial favorite, the Nissan Qashqai or maybe the Kia Sportage or Ford Puma? It seems that these are family SUVs, and SUVs are everywhere – you can get small, family, large, and luxury SUVs. Even Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and now Lamborghini (yes, really) do them.

What on earth is going on, I thought? Why is a sports utility vehicle the thing that everyone seems to want? Why is a Dacia Duster for £ 15,000 in the same category as a Nissan Qashqai for £ 25,000 or a Range Rover Vogue for £ 92,000? Most of this SUV stuff is to blame for a great UK success story – the Range Rover.

First released – an astonishing 50 years ago – as a fairly functional two-door hatchback, with a waterproof interior that could literally be hosed down, a four-door version with more interior comfort had to be made by 1981. By 1990 Land Rover had sold over 250,000 of them. Range Rover now sells more than that number worldwide each year.

They have always been expensive, but over the past 30 years the model has grown into a huge range of fast, ubiquitous luxury vehicles. Originally known as all-wheel drive vehicles, each of the eight series is now referred to exclusively as an SUV. Manufactured in several factories around the world, you can almost guarantee that a photo of traffic in one of the world’s major cities shows a Range Rover.

Other manufacturers have clearly seen an opportunity. Many, yes, most drivers cannot afford a new Range Rover, so why not just sell their own ambitious SUV? In fact, it’s very clever. Take a hatchback, put on some bigger wheels, put up the suspension, mount some sporty roof racks and body rails and there you maybe have it.

What did I buy in the end? It turned out that my old car was an SUV and my new one was also an SUV, although I didn’t know it. Which brings me back to the Matlock Museum. Although my almost new Subaru is categorized as a family SUV, it serves pretty much the same purpose as all of those family cars that go back over nearly 100 years. Would I trade it for a Range Rover if the lottery ticket turned out well? You bet.

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