Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review

By Phil McNamara 01 January 2013

By Phil McNamara

01 January 2013

The all-new Range Rover is here: royalty, Premiership footballers, country gents, drug dealers, social climbers and car enthusiasts rejoice! That cast list sums up the broad appeal of the original luxury 4x4, which this fourth-generation seeks to extend with a technical breakthrough: it’s the world’s first SUV with an all-aluminium body. That helps make it some 350 kilos lighter than the outgoing model, with Land Rover claiming commensurate improvements in acceleration, economy, emissions and agility. Read on to find out more.

CAR has only tested the extreme V8 petrol so far; we hope this runs a diesel…?

It sure does. The base diesel is the 3.0-litre V6 (from £71,295), with 442lb ft of torque, 37.7mpg and a CO2 emissions figure just under 200g/km. But we’ve tested the 4.4-litre V8 in flagship Autobiography trim, which cranks up the price to £94,695, the CO2 figure to 229g/km, smothers the cabin in the hides of an entire cattle market, and packs a bigger punch. Peak torque of 516lb ft is summoned at a lowly 1750 revs, effortlessly sailing this 2360kg liner up to the speed limit. There’s a suave V8 growl in the background, but it’s as genteel as a butler’s interjection, ensuring this model won’t offend the royalty/country gent demographic. The eight-speed transmission is a suitably cultured companion, smoothly blurring the rapid shifts if you’re pootling along, or hanging onto gears and spinning up to the redline if it gets the signal from a heavier throttle. Standstill to 60mph takes 6.5sec, and the official combined fuel consumption figure is 32.5mpg (besting the economy and CO2 figures of its only V8 diesel rival, the Audi Q7).

It’s still big, it’s still heavy – how does it ride and handle?

The Mk4 feels like a tauter version of the third-generation car, which rode supplely like a cork bobbing on a stream, but with lashings of body roll on CAR’s 52-plate long-termer. All new Range Rovers have air suspension with continuously adaptive damping to soften or stiffen the ride according to road conditions, and the SDV8 (and supercharged petrol) get ‘dynamic response’ active anti-roll bars. This two-channel system operates on both front and rear axles, to stop the body rolling over in corners. And it works: occupants no longer sway languorously back and forth, like a willow in the wind. This tauter set-up means you hear and feel potholes more than I remember in the Mk3, but the Range Rover is still a smooth-riding car.

Don’t go thinking the handling is transformed though: this is still a car you pilot rather than hustle, like a ship’s captain bringing a cruise ship into port. The new, electric power-assisted steering is beautifully weighted, light and easy at manoeuvring speeds, more resistant and measured as the pace quickens. But it’s never quick off the dead ahead, which makes you drive in a relaxed manner. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially in a 2.4-tonne car, where you’re pushing a long bonnet stuffed with eight-cylinders into every corner. The incisive brakes are utterly transformed – an obvious benefit of the much reduced mass –with just a gentle prod slowing the Range Rover; the Mk3 felt like you needed sixth-sense anticipation and an elephantine stamp to stand any chance of avoiding a rear-end shunt.

What about the cabin?  

The old Range Rover’s Achilles heel was that a car nearly 5m-long forced its cramped rear occupants into Guantanamo-style stress positions. While the new car is barely longer than the outgoing model, its extended wheelbase frees up 118mm more legroom in the rear. It’s more comfortable, and with your knees in the recessed seat backs and toes slotted beneath, a long journey is now tolerable. But the forthcoming stretched Range Rover should elevate rear legroom to the cabin’s otherwise high standards, and make this the ultimate chauffeur’s car. Our Autobiography spec test car had heated and moveable rear seat backs with lumbar support, plus the £1900 rear screen package for watching satellite TV or DVDs. The enveloping, winged head restraints feel like something out of a Lear Jet, while the Range Rover’s width, tall glasshouse and £1500 glass roof make this one of the most luxurious and airy cars on sale. Throw in the piano black wooden inserts in dash and doors, three shades of neatly sewn leather (red seats, black dashtop and ivory roof lining) and you have a cabin that won’t make life easy for Bentley when it tries to muscle in on the SUV market.

Nothing’s perfect though: the powered split tailgate is pernickety, and makes piling in the Christmas gear harder than it need be. As the doors close in like the Death Star’s walls, you have to pull out the limbs propping up clobber at the last minute, and if it senses something in the way – even if it’s as compressable as a pillow – the doors won’t close: all very awkward. An automatic opening boot is all the automation we need: let humans judge whether a door will close safely or not, by hand. And the devil is in some small details: the digital dials don’t have sufficient class for the Range Rover. And between the beautiful aluminium surround for the rotary gear selector and the park brake toggle resides a foul plastic plaque emblazoned with the Range Rover logo – switch this to aluminium please!


It’s hard to match the feelgood factor of wafting around in the new Range Rover SDV8. It’s quick, comfortable, classy and capable. The Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL might have the stature but they can’t eclipse the SDV8’s performance and can’t come close to its imperiousness; a BMW X5 4.0d demolishes this Rangie on economy, acceleration and top speed but it feels Championship division compared with the Champions League. The Range Rover’s list of acolytes should grow ever longer. It remains peerless, the iconic luxury 4x4.


>> Browse Range Rovers for sale at LRO.com


How much? £94,695
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4367cc V8 32v turbodiesel, 339bhp @ 3500rpm, 516lb ft @ 1750-3000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 6.5sec 0-60mph, 135mph, 32.5mpg, 229g/km
How heavy / made of? 2360kg/aluminium
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4999/2073/1835


Handling 3 out of 5
Performance 4 out of 5
Usability 4 out of 5
Feelgood factor 5 out of 5
CAR's Rating 4 out of 5


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  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
  • Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography (2013) review
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