And thus I bring you my favourite family car of all time, bar none, all things considered, king of the hill, lord of the manor, master of all it surveys, the Range Rover P38!
Why do I love this car so much when the original was a classic that changed the world of motoring? Because it combined an updated version of that original winning design with some of the perks and premiums of the 1990’s. The Classic Range Rover is indeed a fantastic machine, and one of those rare instances where sense and logic perforated into the ranks of British Leyland. But by the time I was born in the early 90’s the car was very much looking its age, a tired 60’s design mixed with what was starting to become a comparatively under-equipped interior. The only way the Range Rover was going to survive the 90’s was to shape up, and thus in 1990, Rover Group (the descendant of British Leyland) put together a plan to design a new car under the chassis codenumber P38A (or just P38 for short). Four years of development and £300 million later, the car was launched to a whirlwind of critical acclaim.
Launched in 1994, the Range Rover P38 was the last Land Rover machine to be designed by Rover, and included the very best in cutting-edge technology to mix the go-anywhere
do-anything raunchiness of the Classic, with the luxury and majesty of an upmarket saloon car. The first major difference between the old and new was the option of engines. For those who didn’t intend to take these cars to the mountains and go driving off cliffs, then there was the humble BMW 2.5L V8, but for those who wished to conquer Everest and still have enough time in the day to lacerate the rest of the Himalayas, there was the original 4.5 & 4.6L Rover V8 from the original. Another later addition to this fray of power units was what was later dubbed the ‘Overfinch’, which was powered by a 5.7L General Motors V8, for if you wanted that extra edge. Jeremy Clarkson once demonstrated the power of the Overfinch by having a drag race with a Ford Focus, whilst pulling a trailer upon which was another Ford Focus, to which the Range Rover won by an absolute mile!
However, what people were interested the most was on the inside. The interior of the Range Rover P38 was very much similar to that of the original, with 5 seats, good space in the boot, and various other trim options depending on your preference. However, the new Range Rover came with a more personal touch, this being dubbed the ‘Autobiography’ service. For a little extra, Land Rover would happily fill out your preference for any optional extras or personalising of your machine. Leather on the seats, wood veneer, paintwork, these were just some of the features that you could select, not to mention the number of gadgets you could insist on as well, including reclining
seats, on-board engine management systems, SATNAV, remote control locking that also resets the seats to their original position, etc. The car is also incredibly safe too, a 6-foot, 3 ton block of steel hurtling through the countryside, and the high driving position meant that you could feel a sense of security and comfort as you looked down on lesser mortals in their normal cars.
So, to summarize, the Range Rover P38 is the best car in the world bar none because it is big, safe, comfortable, very well equipped, extremely reliable, powerful, beautifully designed and all around the best thing anyone could possibly drive…
…if they could afford it!
The problem with the P38 is that it is a very, very, very expensive car to both buy and run. At £40,000 it wasn’t an easy car to get your hands on when new in 1994, especially after a massive recession, and if you went for the Long-Wheelbase ‘Vogue’ or SE (Special Equipment) versions, you’d be forking out more towards £50,000, and if you went for an ‘Autobiography’ job or an Overfinch if you were really edgy, you’d have to be an eccentric millionaire!
Next was actually running it. These days when you come across Range Rover P38’s you’ll find that most people have the 2.5L BMW engine because of the fact that it was less expensive in terms of fuel consumption. The Rover V8 and Overfinch versions on the other hand, you’d be very lucky to get yourself 9 Miles to the Gallon out of them! You’d be spending more time at Petrol Stations than anywhere else!
And then there’s the image when owning a Range Rover. Today modern Range Rovers are very mundane cars in comparison to what they were back in 1994. If you owned a brand new P38 back in 1994, everyone would notice, and everyone would hate you! They’d hate you on a cellular level, on an atomic level even! If you were a person on the street, you’d think ‘Egotist’, if you were an environmentally minded person, you’d think ‘Planet homicidal murderer’, if you were any other motorist, you’d think ‘Wideboy’. The fact that you had the audacity to go out and buy a gas guzzling luxury SUV which chewed up petrol at 9MPG, had an interior lined with 4 cows and half the New Forest, and was generally a bigger car than theirs in more ways than one, they would absolutely loathe you!
However, the seeds with the P38 were sown and the Range Rover found itself into the hands of a newer, wider ranging audience, this audience being the celebrities and superstars of the 1990’s TV and Music scene. No person with a regular salary could possibly risk the Range Rover, but the new money lapped them up like warm milk. With this new demographic in mind, Land Rover very much changed their attitude on the
Range Rover, moving it from being a practical ground-covering all terrain vehicle to an item of ‘bling-bling’. In 2002 the P38 was replaced by the newer L322, and it was clear from the start that this new Range Rover was built not to climb mountains, but to climb over legions of fans as they huddled around the celebrities of Hollywood and Dubai. Chances are a modern L322 Range Rover and the later L405 have never seen a muddy puddle, and chances are they never will, but their comfortable lives in the spotlights of celebrities can all be owed to the endearing design of the original P38 that dominated the 1990’s, and brought that original British Leyland dream of an international conquering car to reality…
…24 years late mind you but ho hum…