Its design stayed pretty much unchanged until September 1994, when a replacement model was launched on a public that, it has to be said, was underwhelmed. The distinctive chunky looks had given way to ordinariness and a true icon had, in one swift stroke, been diluted. But the looks were the least of Land Rover's problems, because quality was a word seldom mentioned in the Solihull factory. Quality was something the Germans did; the Range Rover, despite being one of the best-designed cars in the world, remained one of the worst built.

It's been a long haul, but finally things seem to have come right. The one true indicator of this is the amount of warranty claims received, which are at an all-time low. If the current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models are anything to go by, it shouldn't be a surprise. They are truly superb cars. Granted, they're unlikely to be Al Gore's choice of daily runabout, but Land Rover takes the whole green issue seriously and operates an extensive carbon-offset program for its new vehicles.

In recent times, real advances have been made not only in how the cars are bolted together, but the way in which they are powered. The car here has a supercharged gasoline V8. It's truly rapid, but it makes little sense in the UK, where gas costs the equivalent of about $10 a gallon. Here, the new twin-turbo V8 diesel comes into its own. It's quiet, refined and fabulously responsive, yet costs a lot less to run. Some respected British journalists have even championed the diesel Rangie as being the best car on sale today anywhere in the world.

The looks were well and truly addressed, when the BMW-developed, third-generation Range Rover launched in early 2002. The influence of the classic original is easy to see and it's a handsome, distinctive vehicle once again. On tarmac the performance is quite sensational, helped by the lofty driving position. Air suspension keeps the car firmly planted through tight bends and the massive brakes work wonders in stopping the colossus. Yet off-road the basic Land Rover principles are still very much to the fore. They are simply incredible in the most extreme situations imaginable. You feel invincible in one of these.

You also feel pampered by the finest luxuries available in any car: TV, DVD, listen to an iPod, keep a couple of adult beverages in the centrally situated refrigerator-who needs a house? And the dashboard architecture is still the most exquisite anywhere in the world. Looking at Huey, the ancestor of this fantastic silver Range Rover, it's almost impossible to see the lineage, yet it's there-in the purity of purpose and engineering ingenuity. It makes me realize just how important Huey is. This is one of the world's most important, most influential vehicles and it's been a privilege to spend time with it.

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