August 2010 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
I recently visited Goodwood for the Festival of Speed, which is an amazing motorshow although, in the past, hasn’t been much known for its 4×4 content.
These days, however, there is the lure of a ride in a Dakar Rally vehicle, courtesy of the expert driving team at Bowler Off Road, and several manufactures showcasing their 4x4s to tempt the off-road enthusiast. For instance, this year we got to take a peek at Mini’s Countryman 4×4 – a rather bizarre-looking vehicle; Nissan was showing off its Juke Crossover; Mercedes exhibited its new G-Class, and the superb Hilux that took the ‘Top Gear’ North Pole challenge was there on Toyota’s stand. It’s good to see an ever-growing 4×4 presence and even better, the famous hillclimb was graced by Bowler’s new road-legal Nemesis EXR, which was, very prestigiously, allowed to race alongside the super cars on its debut!
What was noticeably missing was Land Rover’s 2011 Range Rover. The global launch was happening a day after the Goodwood show, so you can forgive Land Rover for making us wait. And the new Evoque, that you can see along with the 2011 Range Rover in our news pages, also didn’t show. That was unveiled at a swanky do in London, in association with Vogue magazine.
I was a big fan of the LRX concept from which this new, smaller Range Rover model – available in two and four-wheel drive – has evolved and I think it looks incredibly stylish; and, no doubt, will sell well. What does, however, slightly dismay me is the news that Victoria Beckham has been drafted in to design a special edition of the new model that is available next summer.
Not a massive fan of the original Range Rover Sport, partly because of its rather naff ‘footballer’ associations, to me this latest nod to Britain’s rather absurd obsession with the personality culture somewhat takes the shine off what I am sure would otherwise be an extremely classy and desirable new vehicle. Thank goodness, however, that the latest Range Rover does retain its aura of elegance, although, like the gents on ‘Top Gear’, I feel that new front-end styling has slightly tarnished the otherwise impeccable image. Ah well, if that is the way our market is going, I guess we have to lump it, and hope it’s a design fad that will fade away in due course…? It would be interesting to hear some of readers’ views on that. The launch of the new 2011 Range Rover and release of pictures of the new Range Rover Evoque have, unfortunately, coincided with some very sad news.
It was only a few months ago that we were paying tribute and saying goodbye to an off-road racing legend – Ray Kempster – who was tragically killed while racing in a Comp Safari. And now we have to perform a similarly sad duty once again this month.
As you’ll see in our news section, and have no doubt picked up on the many online forums, this month we are carrying an obituary to Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King, known as the ‘father’ of the Range Rover. Spen was involved in an accident with a van while riding his bike and never regained consciousness, and died from conditions brought on by the shock of the accident. He was 85, and it is tragic and very poignant that he died so close to the marque’s 40th birthday celebrations. Spen was a hero among the Land Rover community and shaped what we now know as the modern ‘large SUV’ genre which has proved such an enormous success for Land Rover.
He wasn’t over-keen on how the Range Rover has developed into the lifestyle accessory we have today – the new Evoque that has just been unveiled is a tribute to him too, but he might not have approved! In 2004 he was, apparently, critical of those who drove SUVs in urban areas and said the Range Rover he created was never intended as a status symbol and didn’t like the fact that the later versions of his first design were now intended for that very purpose. Many had a lot of sympathy with his views. I wonder what he would make of the ‘Beckham’ link to the Evoque?
Spen was a giant in the motoring industry, having contributed to the success of the Triumph Dolomite and Stag. His death was a shock to the 4×4 world and Land Rover fans particularly; he will be sadly missed. We send our condolences and thoughts to his many friends at Land Rover and deepest sympathy to his family. Rest in peace, Spen. Your legacy will live on for a long time to come.