It's big, brash and supremely luxurious. Alborz takes the big Range Rover Autobiography LWB for a drive to see if it lives up to its name.
A long-wheelbase Range Rover Autobiography is perhaps the most opulent and practical method of road transport.
It offers all the class and sophistication of car befitting its price, but there’s one tiny little problem that constantly threatens to dethrone the British icon. Even though it’s the British royal family’s choice of transport, at about $250,000, it comes up against some insanely good competitors from ze Germans.
The reason why a full-size Range Rover has always and continues to make sense is simple, it says everything it needs to say to those who are listening, while still offering very viable and useful transportation.
Essentially, it’s what you buy if the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series or Audi A8 don’t tickle your fancy. The problem with those three is that they are no longer regarded as personal transports. They are, in their heart, chauffeur cars, and while the Range Rover Autobiography LWB we are testing here also makes an excellent chauffeur vehicle, no one will bat an eyelid if you’re driving it yourself.
Its greatest asset is that it’s an SUV, and ignoring the antiquated anti-SUV stigma, if you were spending a quarter of a million dollars on a car, you’d want it to be ultra comfortable and overlooking the masses. This does both really well. It's in a class of its own until the new Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 arrive, and even then it would be no easy task to dethrone this king.
Our test vehicle was the Range Rover Autobiography 4.4L SDV8 Diesel MY15.5, which gains 40Nm over the MY15 in the diesel V8 form.
The king of Range Rovers, weighing in at a good 2488kg, does well with 250kW of power and a massive 740Nm of torque. Despite its ginormous size, it can go from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds and Land Rover claims it will only use 8.2L of diesel per 100km, though that is subject to interpretation to say the least. We easily averaged above 12L per 100km.
The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission does its best to cope with the weight and the huge torque, but there’s certainly a fair bit of noticeable turbo lag down low when you first get on the gas. It can be irritating at times if you need to get up and go quickly from the lights, as there’s almost nothing at first before it all comes in one giant wallop. However, when it’s already moving, the torque delivery is far smoother.
An extra $13,300 will get you the supercharged V8 petrol and even though you’ll bring up the official fuel economy to 13.8L of petrol per 100km (realistically about 20L/100km), you’ll enjoy the experience (and sound) much more. At this price range, the little extra is well worth it if the car is for personal use.
Ignoring its powertrain hardware for the moment, what makes the Range Rover autobiography so special is its presence. Though not many realise just how expensive a full-size Range Rover really is (nor do they realise that of an S-Class), its grand size (particularly in this long-wheelbase version) leaves little to the imagination.
It possesses classical looks with a grand front and subtle rear end. It’s the father of the Range Rover Sport, which arguably looks more modern, but is a derivative in comparison.
The interior is the final resting place of dozens of once living (and evidently very well cared for) cows. Everything is covered in leather. Literally everything. While the Germans showcase the bleeding edge of technology integration with interior design, the British have stuck with the tried and tested formula of bringing the cabin alive through the use of materials. Nothing feels cheap inside and with the enormous space at hand, it gives a sense of upmost prosperity.
There is so much room in the second row that you can basically walk through it. We fitted our two child seats in the back and the kids enjoyed a DVD, with each side having their own screen. That’s nothing new in an SUV, but the multimedia system in the Range Rover, which it shares with Land Rover and Jaguar, is perhaps the biggest weakness of the entire car.
The 19-speaker Meridian sound system is excellent, but trying to get it to play a DVD or TV for the rear screens and music for the front seats can be far too complicated while on the go. The system is very slow to respond to touch, as well.
Also, due to the dual-view nature of the front screen (your front passenger can watch live TV while you see the navigation screen… on the same screen… depending on which side you view it from) means the resolution is rather low. Without making a joke about it not being an issue for the intended buyer market due to old age, it could certainly be improved. Thankfully for anyone ordering a car now, it will be the MY16 which has a new infotainment system addressing a lot of the just mentioned issues.
There’s really not much to complain about when it comes to the Range Rover’s interior. It’s big, it’s grand but it’s also a tad old school, in a good way.
During our week-long test the Range Rover Autobiography became the main family vehicle, dropping our four-year-old to kindergarten and doing the shopping trips to Coles. My wife said initially, "There’s no way in hell I am driving that thing. It’s huge" and at 5200mm long, it really is. But after a few hours behind the wheel, you get to realise just how easy it is to steer and park. It’s not so much the parking that’s hard (it has full surround view camera and sensors), it’s just that they don’t make car parks big enough to fit Her Majesty’s royal chariot.
In saying that, our test car seemed to have slightly over-dramatic parking sensors that consistently flat-lined when objects were still a good metre away. This became rather irritating and no setting that we managed to find remedied the problem.
Furthermore, on one occasion, the Range Rover’s automatically folding mirrors refused to unfold when the car was switched on, which resulted in having to stop and do a full shut-down and restart. We couldn’t replicate the issue, however.
On the plus side, ride comfort and general driving dynamics are well suited to a car of this kind. It’s soft on the bumpy stuff and though it tends to lean a fair bit if pushed hard in a corner, it’s a scenario it will unlikely ever encounter in the real world.
It’s bloody quiet, too. With or without the Meridian sound system blasting away you can hardly hear anything from the commoners outside.
It's everything you expect a Range Rover to be. Grand, a little over the top, but excellent. We didn't test it off-road, but mainly because that would be madness.
Private buyers are unlikely to need the long-wheelbase, so stick with the regular version and you won't regret it.