It’s hard to utter the words ‘Range Rover’ without feeling a little smug.
The iconic nameplate conjures images of wealthy country folk and Hollywood celebrities. In saying that, ownership isn’t as exclusive as you might think: the L322 generation featured here is arguably the bargain of the century.
Travel back to the late 1990s and you’ll find Land Rover under BMW ownership and this third-generation Range Rover in development. The posh high-rider was revealed in 2001 featuring a 281bhp 4.4-litre V8 petrol and a 174bhp 3.0-litre diesel made by BMW, despite the British brand having been bought by Ford that very year. It retained those two engines until 2005 – a year after its BMW 5 Series electronics had been ditched for Jaguar ones.
Speaking of Jaguar, its 296bhp 4.4-litre V8 replaced the BMW unit, while the 4.2-litre V8 from the XK8 joined the line-up. With 385bhp, this supercharged lump is quite the powerhouse, allowing the two-and-a-half-tonne land yacht to rocket from 0-60mph in 7.2sec
You want even more performance? For that, turn to the supercharged 5.0-litre, introduced in 2009. Thanks to 502bhp, it has a 0-60mph time of 6.0sec and a top speed of 140mph. This V8 sounds like a bat out of hell under harsh acceleration, too.
Other engines include a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 with 375bhp, as well as a pair of Ford-built diesel V8s – a 268bhp 3.6-litre and a 309bhp 4.4-litre. For the best blend of performance and (semi-reasonable) fuel efficiency, these latter two units are your ideal options. That said, perhaps you should buy a Toyota Prius if economy is your top priority.
The more alluring aspects of an L322 lie elsewhere. For instance, there’s a reason you see this SUV wafting around London, tackling muddy tracks and coping with the school run. It’s because they’re so extremely versatile yet such a joy to drive or be a passenger in.
Drive it on the road and you’ll swoon over the plush leather and comfortable, limousine-like ride, and the car’s tall but straight sides make it remarkably easy to place despite its width. You feel like royalty, with a high driving position and cool, calm and collected driving dynamics. What’s more, when the road disappears, the incredible four-wheel drive system and its talents will astonish: Land Rover has always taken its go-anywhere reputation very seriously, and that’s overtly evident here in the Range Rover’s expert off-road ability.
From new, this generation of Range Rover soared close to £90,000 in tip-top forms. Today, used prices start at less than £2000 and rarely exceed £30,000. Forgive us for sounding like a home furniture advert, but the value for money is truly out of this world. Here we have a luxury SUV icon that goes for less than a new Dacia Sandero in many cases.
The Range Rover is a sure-fire future classic, too – one boasting owners such as Jeremy Clarkson and the Queen – so pick one up before they rise to silly money. Just make sure you read our ‘Buyer beware’ section below, and brace your wallet for some potentially stomach-churning fuel bills. Apart from that, your royal chariot awaits.
What we said then
9 January 2002: “Performance is brisk enough, the V8 pulling cleanly from low revs and remaining smooth all the way to the limiter. There’s a little more mechanical noise allowed into the cabin than you might expect of a true luxo-barge, but the sound is pleasant enough to be marked down as an asset because you never think of it as harshness.”
How to get one in your garage
An owner’s view, George Hill: “With prices the way they are, the L322 is a tempting proposition. My advice would be that if you are tempted, ignore the doomsayers and go for it – but do your research, choose the best you can afford and ensure the car has a full history. Set aside some money, too, because this is a big and complicated luxury car that will require as much maintenance as an ageing Labrador. Mine is an early facelift Vogue with the 4.4-litre Jaguar petrol V8. I chose it for its sound, easy-going nature, lack of turbos (which commonly fail on other engines) and ULEZ compliance. There really aren’t many cars out there that offer so much for so little. If properly looked after, the L322 will do anything you throw at it.”
Engine: Listen for whining turbos and injector misfires on the 3.0 TD. The 3.6 TD can suffer turbo actuator issues. Check the water pump was replaced at the cambelt change. On 4.2-litre cars, listen for a rattle from the supercharger at idle. Inspect for exhaust wear and check the catalytic converter isn’t breaking up.
Cooling system: Look at the coolant expansion tank. The BMW 4.4 petrol suffers failed O-ring seals at the water jacket housing behind the engine. This can cause overheating and coolant leaks into the gearbox.
Gearbox: This is a big area for problems. Warning signs include stubborn changes accompanied by dashboard lights. Disregard the ‘sealed for life’ sticker: regular fluid and filter changes will help. On early cars, check it was recalled for fitment of a CV joint on the front propshaft.
Suspension and brakes: Check the air suspension scrolls at three height settings noiselessly, and that the bellows aren’t leaking (park the car and see if it sinks). Scrutinise workshop bills to see when the air compressor was checked or replaced. Listen for the front wishbones knocking under braking. Listen for the rear hub bushes clonking over bumps. Check brake disc and pad life.
Body: Inspect the underside for off-road damage and the tailgate for rust, in addition to damage from people sitting on it.
Also worth knowing
Trims range from well-equipped HSE to ultra-luxurious Autobiography. There are hundreds of used L322s for sale, most of them diesels. Those wanting the most confidence as they head into their Range Rover purchase should seek out examples that have not only a full service history but also proof of recall and technical service bulletin rectification, as well as drivetrain and suspension refurbishment.
How much to spend
£1500-£2999: Early cars. Questionable conditions and mileages north of 150,000 in some cases. Mainly 3.0-litre diesels.
£3000-£4999: A wider range of model years and engines, including petrols. Conditions better though not always respectable. Mileages remain high.
£5000-£7999: Respectable conditions and high mileages. A mix of private sellers and independent dealers.
£8000-£9999: Mileages wavering around 100,000. Later cars enter the fold here, and many examples that have been well maintained.
£10,000-£12,999: Mainly good, later cars in middle to high trim levels.
£13,000-£19,999: Great conditions, with mileages dipping ever further below 100,000.
£20,000-£30,000: The best of the best examples, with range-topping trims and engines.
One we found
Range Rover 4.4 V8 Vouge, 2002, 14,000 miles, £14,995: You can get early 4.4-litre cars in Vogue trim for considerably less, but you won’t find any with a mileage this low – it’s remarkable for a 20-year-old car. This example also seems to be in respectable condition.