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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Range Rover: Beauty or beast?
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News business reporter

It's not hard to see why Range Rover has fallen victim to headline-grabbing protests. The swanky four-by-four has become the automotive equivalent of fox-hunting.

Range Rover, 1989 model
Range Rover has long symbolised the county set lifestyle

To its fans - and there are many - the Range Rover signals the arrival of an urbane gent (or lady), equally comfortable at home on his country estate and amidst the bustle of the urban jungle.

But gradually, the Range Rover is also becoming a prime target of protesters who see it as a symbol of wealthy arrogance and a lack of regard for traffic safety, the environment and urban congestion.

Whether the Range Rover is a victim of unfair attacks by the irrational emotional, or a legitimate target for responsible citizens, the concern for its maker Land Rover - and its hapless parent Ford - is that controversy can quickly hit sales.

Recovery at risk

This would be bad news for Land Rover, which is just emerging from crisis by means of a substantial restructuring of its Solihull operations.

Greenpeace volunteer wrapping 'climate crime scene' tape around a half-built Range Rover
Greenpeace sees Range Rover as tool for 'climate criminals'

Last month, total Land Rover sales reached 3,140, up from 2,526 a year ago. Range Rover sales, which have been fairly stagnant of late, are expected to soar with the introduction of a sporty version.

Land Rover is enjoying a forward momentum; protesters are keen to derail its efforts to return to the black.

External costs

In a sense, the Range Rover has become a victim of its own success.

There are many sports utility vehicles (SUVs) out there, but protesters have chosen to pick on the leader of the pack.

The Range Rover has earned its reputation as perhaps the best SUV on the market.

It has done this by offering superior off-road capabilities, similar to those of its safari-style Land Rover sister-marque, with the lavish comforts and much of the performance capabilities of its luxurious cousin Jaguar.

Building a 2.7 ton luxury car that can race from 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds involves enormous costs, though.

Range Rover
Range Rover
Price: £45,995 to £72,995
Weight: 2.7 tons
Top model: 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: top model 352 gram per kilometre

For Range Rover owners, the costs include the car's price tag of up to £72,995, plus an astronomical fuel bill of almost £3,300 per 12,000 miles.

In addition, there are the external costs, insist the car's critics.

For one, the car pollutes a great deal more than most: the fanciest Range Rover is unlikely to achieve much more than 13 miles per gallon in town. By comparison, the Honda Insight gets 83 miles per gallon.

Then there are safety concerns. Not for those inside the car; the Range Rover rates well, with four out of five stars for adult occupant safety, according to the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP).

But when it comes to the damage done to pedestrians, the Range Rover - in line with almost all other large off-roaders - is granted just one out of four stars.

Unfairly targeted?

In fairness, EuroNCAP rarely awards more than two stars for pedestrian safety, to any car, and hardly any get three.

Besides, although large SUVs with large engines obviously pollute a great deal, so do many other less conspicuous cars or people carriers with large engines.

It may seem unfair, therefore, to pick on the Range Rover. Yet its symbolic significance means it is hardly surprising.

Is the Range Rover an object of beauty or a dangerous beast? Please share your views.

The comments below reflect the balance of opinion received. This debate is now closed.

Fuel usage is only part of the environmental effect of a vehicle. From personal experience a Range Rover will last twenty years, in which time a Honda Insight will have had to be replaced at least three times and the battery pack probably four or five times with the associated environmental impacts of manufacture and disposal.
Chris, UK

A Diesel Range Rover has similar economy to many normal saloon cars. The vast majority of Range Rovers (and Land Rovers) sold in the UK are diesel. The problem is the Americans who almost exclusively buy the models with the thirsty petrol engines.
Rob Lightbody, Glasgow, Scotland

It's a menace and should be banned from the roads, along with all its 4x4 cousins. In an age where global warming is accelerating, with all the dire consequences that entails, nobody should be allowed to drive such polluting vehicles. And the rich comfort-lovers should use their brains and stop being so selfish, if possible.
Ross Marnie, Japan

It is not up to anyone to tell me what I can or can't drive, regardless of the environmental impact. Maybe there are too many people out there who have been bitten by the "green-eyed monster". As far as I am concerned, there is only one car I shall ever drive and it is my beautiful Range Rover, regardless of public opinion/environmental impact. (Let's face it, Britain could do with being a tad warmer.)
Michael Birt, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

I have a 4x4, I drive five miles to work down country lanes and spend £25 per week on petrol. The guy who sits next to me has a 1.8 saloon, drives 50 miles to work and spends £40 every three days. Why don't we ban long commutes instead of 4x4s?
Steve, Newton Abbot, Devon

This is not so much a car but a status symbol. It states that I'm better/richer than you and it also states that I don't give a toss about the environment. It does well on these statements.
Phil Winfield, Herts, UK

I love this car.
Mohammad Sadegh Amini, Iran

I have to say I love the Range Rover. Always have, and one day I will own one. It will probably be a turbo diesel version as I couldn't run a 4.6litre V8 petrol engined one. They are part of British culture - the 'tally-ho' brigade may have had them for years, and yes, the silly Kensington set who insist on using them for the school runs are a bloody nuisance. The nearest they get to off road is parking on the kerb, but it is still a very endearing car, and I can (and always have) seen why. Long live the Rangie!!!!
Stuart Kelly, London, England

The new Range rover is a fine car, with great breaking system and road handling. In your article you mention safety. I wonder if you could let me know how many Range Rovers have been in a reported accidents compared to other car modules?
Anthony Rea

Right Greenpeace, and all you do-gooders who never do anything wrong, pack your bags and come out here to Russia or indeed the USA and start your moaning and complaints in the two countries that probably pollute more than the rest of the world added together.

I'm sure that a lot of what you do is fair and just but I and probably most of the rest of the decent people from the UK are fed up with your pathetic antics against the average Joe.

Yes we know there are people who buy cars, (and most other possessions) for show and there always will be. You can probably include members of your own family in that category as we all can. PS no I don't have a 4 x 4, I don't own a car at all, but if I did I would love to afford a Range Rover, but I couldn't justify the cost. Moan over. Be happy.
Graham, Novosibirsk Russia

Worse still, EuroNCAP star ratings are related to groups of vehicle and, according to the its website, they should not be compared between groups. Consequently an SUV with a one-star rating is likely to be even more of a threat to pedestrians than a smaller car with a single star.
Marwood, SE5, London

Freedom of choice? Not any more in the UK. Land Rover is one of the UK's most regonised brands in the world. I own a Discovery and yes I acknowledge it is not as eco friendly as my Corsa (other car).

However when Hanley was shut down a couple of years ago due to the snow, it was the public's own 4x4 vehicles that were assisting the police and Staffs Emergency Planning Unit to keep the roads open.

By the way we are not paid for this service we 4x4 owners give as volunteers. So why then do we not ban Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jags (lots of Ministers get driven round in these) as well. Range Rover and Land Rover are designed to do a job and they do it well. People are free to choose whatever car they wish, yet "do-gooders" are telling people what they can and can't do in the name of political correctness. I'm fed up with it. I hope one day I am called out to one of these "greens" to rescue them with my 4x4 and then refuse to assist them as it goes against their mighty principles.
Carl Thomson, Staffordshire

The Range Rover is an icon of British Design and engineering. It is a flagship for all that is best about Britain. It's also a fantastic vehicle.
Andrew Wade-Merrill, Urban

There are still many cars on the road which are not fitted with catalytic converters. These should be taken off the road before picking on new vehicles leaving a factory with such items fitted as standard.
William Rouse, Exeter

Range Rover is a good vehicle. It's two cars rolled into one. Instead of having a normal saloon and a Land Rover Defender (or tractor) people buy one vehicle; a Range Rover.

Greenpeace are jumping on the US bandwagon. A Range Rover is now way close to a GMC suburban in the USA for example. Also, most Range Rover drivers purchase the diesel instead of the petrol, something the Americans don't buy or understand.

Finally, what are Greenpeace thinking about with this cheap stunt? Ford can make the Land Rover anywhere, so Greenpeace need to talk to the thousands of people who are employed directly or indirectly in the production of this vehicle.
Fred, Southampton Hants

I live in the country and have a 4x4, but the fact is that I only really need its capability 7-8 times a year. It is essential on these days. However, I cannot see the point in urban use of 4x4s. I tend to leave mine at the nearest station when travelling into Edinburgh or Glasgow. A 4x4 is completely pointless in an city environment. I completely support taxing them more highly due to their environmental impact. People use them for all the wrong reasons and the Range Rover brigades are amongst the worst.
Pete, Perthshire, Scotland

I made my first trip on my touring motorbike into central London this weekend and found the aggressive cow-bar behaviour of large SUVs, predominantly Range Rovers, sufficient reason not to repeat the experience in the near future. Why modern cities allow such antisocially large, polluting and inefficient forms of transport in congested areas is an indication of a transport policy in chaos. The sooner we phase them out for anyone not working a farm, the better for everyone.
Garry Harper, Sittingbourne, England

The land rover is a superb machine for driving over pot holes and speed bumps. Its also good in confrontational situations. If we had better roads, designed and maintained for cars, then maybe, just maybe people wouldn't buy 4x4s.

If these clowns get their way and ban these vehicles, they will then switch their attention to something else. What next? Luxury vehicles? Automatic cars? Your car?
Ray, Soton, uk

The Range Rover is a beautiful Beast!!! My Range Rover is heavy on fuel, I am sure the climate control does contribute to climate change and 90% of the time I am the only occupant of the vehicle (and no, I don't often go off-road in it). You have to remember, though, if I am prepared to pay for this beast and the extra taxes (on more fuel used & higher VAT due to bigger service bills)on top of road tax, then so be it.

So are Greenpeace asking us to give up 4x4s? A few people that do rely on such a magnificent vehicle (Land Rover included) would suffer. For example, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission, peace keepers, Born Free, United Nations, Oxfam, aid workers, rescue workers, the fire service, the police and, finally, Greenpeace.

They should maybe look inward before criticizing a vehicle that offers so much to so many. Or may they want the web banned as well, as a few use it not for the purpose intended.
Keith, UK

To those who refuse to face up to the environmental arguments there are economic arguments as well. Senior oil experts are predicting that peak oil production could occur as soon as 2008. This is when more than half known reserves have been used up. The repercussions of this economic tipping point are difficult to ascertain, but they won't be favourable. We have to utilise the worlds energy supplies in a much less profligate way. But this applies to all thirsty cars, not just 4x4s, and also to aviation.
Greg, Fife

People that drive 4x4s are sad social climbers with nothing better to spend their money on. Why not get a proper hobby than pollute the world that your kids stand to inherit?
Simon, London

I drive a 1995 Range Rover fitted for LPG which is older and more economical at current prices than many other cars on the road. But even at this age the vehicle has plenty of life left in it unlike your conventional car. Has that been considered in the environmental figures?

I have three children, I'm concerned about the climate change, I commute on a small motorbike, and I like my car. But I don't have multiple foreign holidays a year, a need to drive a new car every year etc. So I say, let the polluters pay. If you feel strongly, canvas for higher fuel prices and we'll all squeal, but Land Rover drivers won't be at the front of the queue.
Shaun, Redditch

Land Rover and Range Rover products are relatively fuel efficient when compared with North American domestic model off-road vehicles, where petrol engine sizes ranging from around 4.0 litre V6 to 6.8 V10 and diesel engines from 6 litre inline 6 to 7.4 litre V8. Some of the larger capacity petrol engines don't get into double figures regarding miles per gallon.
Gavin, Calgary Canada

Spend a day sat next to a junction or busy road in any town or city and just watch the countless vehicles passing by all guzzling fuel. Sure, 4x4s don't help, but the real problem is the fact that millions of us use a car every day just to stay alive.
Mark, Exeter, Devon

I hope that this generates lots of free publicity for Range Rover and boosts their sales accordingly.
Brit in CA,

I grew up on a farm and we never needed vehicles like a Range Rover, even when there was snow. Now we hardly ever see snow. The climate is changing, and the sad urbanites who use vehicles like this to prop up their egos are some of the worst culprits. Dumping your 4x4 for a regular car can cut CO2 emissions by more than half - exactly the kind of cut we need to stop climate change - and stop you looking like a stuck up moron too.
Rupert, Devon, UK

I live in the US and believe me there are many more worthy candidates for this focus than the Range Rover, which is a minnow by comparison.

For example - look at the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator or Chevrolet Suburban. Also Ford and GM recently had their bond ratings revised to junk status mainly because the lucrative SUV market is drying up.

Consumers will eventually find alternatives, which will lead to car companies focussing on other products.

I drive a Chrysler Town & Country Minivan, but with 4 kids I need a car that can take us all. I get about 27 mpg on an open run and although I would like something more fuel efficient its not the only criterion for selecting a car.
Duncan, UK in US

Why does anyone need such a big "van" to run to the shops in or drop the kids off at school? I have NEVER seen a Range Rover off road, which is the primary purpose of the vehicle. The main aim of the Land Rover range now is for "coolness" and as a fashion icon, people should not be so vain and selfish, and think about the future of the planet and the future of other generations. Ford should also stop and think about what they are doing to the world and put the safety of potential customers, and the World in front of profits! That goes for all ¿4x4¿ vehicles.

Perhaps car companies should look to a more future approach and flood lots of capital into the research of environmentally friendly vehicles, i.e. Electric/Hybrids etc¿

So yes the Range Rover and all other "4x4"'s are Dangerous Beasts!
Paul, UK

YES! I have a Range Rover. YES! I use the climate control. YES! It drinks petrol like its going out of fashion.

BUT! I pay the tax on it. We live in a capitalist society, one where we put the pound, dollar, deutschmark or franc before a tree or even a person. Why shouldn't I enjoy the rewards of my hard work?
Ben, Nottingham, England

Well done Greenpeace!

At least you may have made some of those who drive 4x4 vehicles confront the consequences of their choice. How anyone can justify driving a vehicle that is such a threat both to the environment and pedestrians is completely beyond me.

A genuine need for off road capability for farmers, vets etc is fine but the majority of these vehicles never leave our towns and cities.
Alan, Fleet, Hampshire

People who buy 4x4's have about the same sense or style as, say, Jordan! Let's face it, they are unbelievably ugly square boxes that can only be related to a 'tank', both in looks and fuel economy!
Jay, Leicester

Climate change is already killing 150,000 people a year, and is expected to be worse than World War Two, the Plague or indeed Aids. So it's not surprising that Greenpeace should think it ain't on for a handful of people to choose to ignore all this and drive a 4x4 simply for show. To me, somebody driving an SUV in a city like London is far more irresponsible than somebody drinking and then driving.
Joss Garman, London

Yet another bash at a decent British product by the British media. To compare a luxury sports vehicle with a vehicle specially designed for economy is spurious, if you compare it against many other large luxury vehicles the difference is far, far less marked.
Dave, England

Let's all walk everywhere!
Myron Szymanskyj, Rochdale, UK

Storm in a teacup and the media have been hoodwinked into reporting an NGO-generated issue...again. Boring and predictable, but thankfully will probably all be over by tomorrow. I say 'ban everything', just to be on the safe side.
Tonto Kowalski, Zurich, Switzerland

I have no strong objection to Range Rovers, but the type of person that owns one was summed up for me when I was at a picnic area with my fiance last summer and a man walked past with his boy. "That's a nice wheel cover," said the very well spoken boy, pointing to the spare wheel cover of the Land Rover parked next to us. "Yes Arthur, but it would look much nicer on our Range Rover," the dad replied.
Steve, Cambridge UK

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