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IRVINE, Calif., July 3 /CNW/ - Britain's Land Rover has the season's automotive smash hit on its hands. The 2003 Range Rover went on sale June 1 and promptly rolled over the previous one month Range Rover sales record by 150 percent. Land Rover retailers delivered 1223(x) Range Rovers in June, eclipsing the previous one-month record of 1010 set in 1989. "We had a strong order bank at launch based on very positive press coverage and strong word of mouth out of private showings and auto shows," said Richard Beattie, executive vice president, Sales and Marketing for Jaguar and Land Rover, "The interest has steadily grown now that more people have seen and driven it. We knew we had a winner but reaction has been amazing."

The 2003 Range Rover, which has a MSRP of $69,995, is completely new and is a technological tour de force. It has won several awards from automotive enthusiast publications including, "Best Luxury SUV" from Car and Driver, and "America's Best SUV" as voted by the readers of AutoWeek. Britain's TOP GEAR magazine named it "Car of the Year."

One of the hottest markets for any premium vehicle is in Southern California. "I've been in this business more than 30 years and I've never seen such interest in any product," said Alex Bologna, general manager of Hornburg Land Rover in Los Angeles, which counts many Hollywood celebrities among its clientele. Meanwhile, the word from New York is that Range Rover is the vehicle to have in the Hamptons this summer. "We're shipping as fast as they arrive but it will be several months before we can catch up with existing orders," added Beattie.

Developed at a cost of more than $1 billion, the new Range Rover has a 32 valve, 282hp V8 engine, height adjustable air suspension and independent suspension that give it the ride and handling of a luxury sedan along with the off-road capability for which Land Rover vehicles are known. Its interior has been cited for its beauty and innovative design, which takes its cues from classic wooden speedboats and high-tech sailing yachts.

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