2008 is the 60th anniversary of storied British SUV manufacturer Land Rover, and to mark the occasion the company has embarked on a "Choice of Experts" tour showcasing its capabilities. The other day we caught up with them at the historic Astor Courts in Rhinebeck, N.Y, designed by Stanford White as a country retreat for John Jacob Astor IV in 1902. It was the perfect setting for a brand that has come to signify rugged elegance and luxurious rusticity, and while there we got the opportunity to drive a new Range Rover Sport on a hazardous off-road course that showed style and comfort needn't sacrifice anything in the way of practical ability.
We've owned both Land Rovers and Range Rovers over the years, and though these days we don't particularly miss pulling up to the gas pump we certainly pine for them whenever the weather turns particularly nasty or we're called upon to do even the slightest bit of off-roading, so it was something of a treat. Land Rover and especially the Range Rover is the automotive embodiment of a distinctly English aesthetic - regular readers of The Classicist will recognize this as a recurring motif - as portrayed in books like Bernhard Roetzel's British Tradition. The luxe Range Rover was first introduced in 1970, expanding upon the utilitarian Land Rover first designed by the Wilks Brothers in 1948.
The Queen of England drives a Range Rover in the country, and Prince Charles is a longtime enthusiast. His 1978 Range Rover was auctioned off on eBay in 2005. While out for sport in inclement weather he is said to have simply opened a special "huntsman" sunroof, stood on the back seat and poked his Asprey shotgun out to shoot from the comfort of the cabin. We can't say we've ever tried that maneuver and we daresay it isn't the sort of thing encouraged by the company these days. In any case there was unfortunately no shooting to be had at Astor Courts, only demonstrations about cooking and decorating and so forth, but such are the depredations of the modern era.
Gallery: Land Rover's 60th Anniversary