► Feisty 503bhp Range Rover tested
► In opulent and tech-laden Autobiography spec
► A cool £100,350 before options
Autobiography is Land Rover shorthand for comfy and well-appointed. And while there’s truth in the ‘drawing room on wheels’ cliché, Range Rover luxury runs deeper than a bit of lacquered timber. Really it’s about a wonderful sense of serene detachment.
Seen Fury, the Gladiator-in-tanks Brad Pitt vehicle that respected historical accuracy in the same way that Sebastian Vettel observes team orders? A repeated motif was the clanging down of the Sherman’s hatch; cue adrenalin, ricocheting shells and tracked cavalry charges across rain-lashed French fields. The Range Rover equivalent – climbing into the leather-bound commander’s throne and pulling the tall, weighty door to – signals quite the opposite: the immediate dislocation of the outside world and all its noise, stress and tumult.
Range Rover Autobiography on test
Long one of the Range Rover’s defining virtues, this gladdening automotive isolationism is ramped up to 11 in lavish Autobiography spec, and with the muscular yet muted 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 in the engine bay. The top of Range Rover’s specification tree, Autobiography brings still-more adjustment to the beautifully upholstered seats (22-way, plus massage), various bits of Autobiography-specific trim (illuminated tread-plates, embossed seats, smart carpets), increased tech in the form of Land Rover’s InControl Apps system, blind-spot monitoring and reverse traffic detection and, on the supercharged V8, a set of spectacular diamond-turned 22in wheels.
The Ranger Rover’s is a remarkable interior, a genuinely mood-lifting place of light (the sliding panoramic glass roof, a no-cost option, is the size of a patio door), space and a luxuriousness born not of deeply carpeted, wood-paneled claustrophobia but of clean, uncluttered minimalism. It’s an ergonomic triumph, the centre-console in particular, which manages to play home to myriad controls, from Terrain Response to air-suspension ride height adjustment, while also retaining an admirably Bauhaus absence of clutter.
Only the low-res and disappointingly clumsy touchscreen interface lets the side down. You’ll get there in the end, whether you’re programming the sat-nav (voice control is an effective alternative to prodding in mangled postcodes) or changing station, but nothing’s quite as intuitive as it should be, nor as one-touch effortless. Volvo’s pretty fabulous new XC90 cockpit, with its iPad-esque interface, shows the Range Rover up here.
A supercharged 5.0-litre V8 – you sure?
It’s the brave choice, admittedly. More popular are the 3.0-litre diesel V6 or the 4.4-litre diesel V8, for obvious reasons; a claimed 40.9mpg and 33.6mpg respectively. But the force-of-nature petrol V8 is virtually flawless bar its thirst. RR claims 22.1mpg on the combined cycle, and when your fuel gauge is showing a third of a tank but your remaining range just 126 miles, you know the car’s six-figure list price is just the beginning, rather than the end, of its fiscal burden.
But you won’t care once aboard and behind the wheel. The V8 roars into life with just the right amount of drama – it’s a sophisticated noise but impressive enough to raise a smile. Twirl into Drive, drop your armrest and move away with a toe-prod. Ease stealthily up to speed or gun for 60mph as quickly as possible (5.4 seconds) to an orchestra of melodic mechanical hard labour.
Find the space and the engine’s turn of speed is deeply impressive, temporarily rendering the RR’s weight and size inconsequential so long as your foot’s mashed into the carpet. With 503bhp, the temptation is there to charge around like a wild rhino, at first at least, but you soon calm down, revel in the engine’s immaculate manners and its broad, satisfyingly meaty delivery (461lb ft from 2500rpm to 5500rpm). Needless to say, smile-widening acceleration is only ever a moment away, regardless of the virtual needle’s position on the digital instruments.
Like piloting a runaway train then?
Far from it. Get clumsy and the Range Rover’s composure will give way to a little heave and roll, but the rest of the time the car’s body control is impressive. And the ride quality is sublime. The steering isn’t the last word in tactility, but it lets you put the car where you want it. Handy, given the size of the thing.
A Range Rover in this spec is capable of generating quite astounding levels of smugness. You look down on the rest of the world. You can effortlessly travel every kind of road, in absolute comfort, be it a manicured, jet-black A-road of pristine tarmac or an unpaved track so rough it’s littered with stranded mountain goats. And should you need to, you can pile on speed like a sports car.
An indulgence then, the V8 supercharged Autobiography, and an unforgivable one in many eyes I’m sure. But for its otherworldly ability to remove all fatigue, stress and jeopardy from modern road travel, there’s little to touch it.