Two ot the most often voiced critisms of the Range Rover in its 11 years lifespan are that it has but two doors for the five-seat accommodation, with awkward access to the rear seats for those who no longer have the agility of youth, and that it drinks petrol. Thus the introduction of a four-door version of this most versatile vehicle and the announcement of a remarkable improvement in economy, resulting from engine and transmission revisions, are especially welcome.
The four-door arrangement fits within the same wheelbase as the current two-door version. This has been achieved by shortening the existing doors, moving the closing posts forward to suit and strengthening them to carry the rear doors. A closing post has been fitted, rising from the centre of the rear wheel arch, and the rear seat has been moved back by some three inches. This, coupled with the re-alignment of the footboard, gives easy access to the back seats. There is a slight loss of load carrying space with the seat in the upright position, but, if it is folded down, the luggage capacity is the same as the two-door version.
To improve fuel economy the compression ratio of the V8 engine has been increased to 9.35 to 1 by using the piston assemblies for the Rover car engine. Used in conjunction with a revised camshaft, giving lower lift, the result is a considerable improvement in the torque characteristics, especially at low speeds. This has made it possible to revise the transfer ratio from 1.113:1 to 0.9962:1 which gives a new overall gearing of 23.72 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear, against the existing 21.23 m.p.h./1,000 r.p.m. Additional improvements to economy and driveability stem from the use of sliding contact-breaker ignition and alterations to carburation. The overall improvement in economy is claimed to be some 20%. Engine noise has been reduced by use of a much stiffer crankcase.
Land Rover have taken advantage of the opportunity for change afforded by the new transfer ratio to improve the levels of transmission noise. By revising the machining of the helical gears in the transfer box, considerable reductions in internal mechanical noise have been achieved, while the improvements introduced last year to the previously very lorry-like gear-change remain, making for smoother changes. The famous Range Rover “clonk” on the change from drive to overrun is still noticeable, however. A five-speed gearbox and an automatic option are rumoured to be in the pipeline, gestation is likely to be some 18 months. Other improvements include a revised windscreen wash / wipe control, the installation as standard equipment of door mounted speakers and aerial, complete with wiring, and a most useful transmission tunnel mounted cubby box. A special option pack is available at £750 to enhance the four-door, comprising metallic paint, alloy wheels, carpeting in the load space and door cappings of wood veneer. The two-door version continues in two guises, in Fleetline form, for commercial use, where such gentile items as carpeting, power assisted steering, velvet style seat facings and so on are deleted, and in normal clothing, where these items are standard.
The new four-door version costs £14,260, the standard two-door £13,505 and the fleetline £12,670. — P.H.J.W.