If you’ve come this far, I commend you. Seriously, I do. You’ve logged on to Jalopnik today, you’ve seen a dozen articles about exciting, car-enthusiasty topics, some of which probably include Russian dash cam videos where vehicles fly through the air, and you’ve chosen to click on a story which asserts that the Range Rover is, in fact, the same vehicle as the Porsche 911.
Now, I’m fully aware that the reason you’ve clicked on this story might be one of anger. Maybe you’re about to scroll furiously to the bottom of the page, where you’ll write a long-winded comment about how the Range Rover is not the same car as the Porsche 911, and you’re certain of this because you own both and by God only one of them has four doors.
And you’re right. They’re not literally the same vehicle. One’s engine is in the back, while the other’s is four feet off the ground on a lift at the dealer service department. One’s suspension is finely tuned for driving excellence, while the other’s is finely tuned to break the moment the warranty runs out. I could do these all day.
But they’re more similar than you might realize. And I’m going to prove that to you using my usual strategy: gross hyperbole and libelous half-truths. Let’s get started.
We begin with a little history. As I recall, the Porsche 911 was created in the early 1960s by a designer working alongside a team of engineers who were too afraid to point out that the engine should be in the front, largely because the designer’s last name was “Porsche.”
As Porsche updated the 911 over the next few decades, it was clearly a car for enthusiasts. You know, real drivers. People who could forgive the fact that the rear seats were cramped, the interior was mediocre, and at one low point during the 1980s, the steering wheel looked like two horizontal crossbars held together with a center-mounted harmonica.
While the 911 aged into its iconic design, Land Rover debuted one of its own: the Range Rover. Initially out in 1970, the first Range Rovers allowed rural British farmers to be highly comfortable as rainwater leaked onto their faces. But for all its flaws – and there were many – it was a capable, purpose-built off-roader.
For years, the two cars soldiered on, roughly the same, mostly because their increasingly iconic shapes meant their automakers had absolutely no idea how to redesign them. The Range Rover was a legend among off-roaders; the Porsche 911 held the same position among car enthusiasts.
But something happened in the late 1990s that put both of these vehicles on a collision course for similarity: they got luxurious.
It hit the Range Rover first. The 1995 model year saw the debut of the “P38,” which traded the Range Rover’s characteristic lumbering ride, loud engine, and soggy interior dome lights for spry suspension and a high-end cabin. In 1998, luxury spread to the 911 when the all-new “996” model came out. Out went the dull horizontal dashboard, and in came Porsche’s take on luxury, which for some reason included buttons made from the same plastic as RoseArt children’s markers.
But the added luxury didn’t stop Land Rover and Porsche from continuing business as usual.
Consider styling, for example. So, yeah, OK, there was that one 911 with headlights shaped like fried eggs. And the current Range Rover looks a lot like the Ford Flex, except with eyeliner. But in both cases, there’s a clear resemblance between the modern vehicle and the original. Porsche likes to emphasize this in its advertisements, all of which show the current 911 next to about seven previous models in case anyone forgets that Porsche has been making sports cars for a really long time.
The cars also retained their legendary capabilities. The Range Rover can still climb hills and ford streams and transport at least two medium-sized foxhounds. (This is a unit of measurement in Scotland and parts of Wales.) And the 911 is still a track-day genius that will transform normal guys, such as myself, into people who pretend to know what an apex is.
So the Range Rover and the 911 remain mostly true to their roots, except now they have infotainment, which sounds like the kind of thing the Russians would’ve been sending into space back when the two cars were launched.
The only problem: the roots don’t remain true to the Range Rover and the 911. The farmers with wellies have long ago abandoned the Range Rover. And while it may be subject to some debate, many will agree the 911 is hardly the enthusiast car it once was. In reality, both cars are now used for largely the same purpose: driving slowly in populated areas while talking on the phone.
In other words, both the Range Rover and the 911 started off as purpose-built enthusiast cars with a timeless shape – and they remain purpose-built enthusiast cars with roughly the same timeless shape. But somewhere along the way, they lost the actual enthusiasts. These days, they’re mostly just boulevard cruisers with a lot of unused capabilities. And, in a rather sad way, that makes them very much the same car.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.