Few people would look at a Range Rover and demand even greater craftsmanship, performance and cosseting luxury. But as the saying goes, nothing succeeds like excess.
The Range Rover SVAutobiography launched in Australia this week as the new pinnacle of the Range Rover line-up. One might see it as Jaguar Land Rover gently responding to the challenge laid down by the Bentley Bentayga. Ornamental rifles at dawn?
The story behind this Range Rover variant is simple enough, once you get your head around it. The SVAutobiography brand is the luxury wing of JLR’s new Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) bespoke sub-brand, joining the performance-driven SVR and off-road-focussed SVX divisions.
The flagship Range Rover SVAutobiography was revealed at the New York motor show in early 2015, so it’s been a long time coming to Australia. But since JLR Australia expects to sell about a dozen of these each year, it affects one per cent of the one per-centers.
Like high-roller transport such as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the SVAutobiography is available in both standard and long-wheelbase bodies. As we found in our last review of the Rangie LWB, you could easily think of this car as a high-riding limousine. All the better to lord over the riff-raff.
Over the Autobiography, the SVAutobiography brings exclusive perforated leather seats; particular ambient cabin lighting; leather-bound mohair floor mats; different trim finishes and switches; SV exterior accents and kickplates; adaptive xenon headlights and unique 22-inch alloys. There’s even a polished key fob.
There’s also the option of two-tone body paint and a 405kW supercharged V8 petrol engine — the latter two options were not on our test car. What a tragedy. More on that later.
But first, the cabin. Up front, things aren’t all that different to the regular Range Rover Autobiography, the former range-topper. Everything is typically sumptuous, but the layout is generally recognisable. The leather headlining is a bit special, but the cheap-feeling buttons on and around the steering wheel are not.
Standard equipment includes a heated steering wheel, four-zone climate control, panoramic roof, 360-degree camera and park assist, blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise, soft-closing doors, an 8.0-inch screen, TFT driver’s instruments, head-up display and an orchestral 1700W Meridian surround-sound system.
But it’s really in the back where the SVAutobiography excels.
Standard on the LWB we tested are aircraft business class-style leather seats that recline beyond 45 degrees, and have massaging and heating functions. They are flanked by electrically deployed tables, and give you a view of two flat screens with digital TV reception.
There are also privacy blinds, a USB charging input, and deep plush-pile carpets. It’s all just like a Mercedes-Maybach, with a more commanding road view and bigger windows. Oh, and there’s a console deep enough for a bottle of Moet or Bollinger, which it chills.
The cargo area is a little bit special as well. Open the gesture-powered tailgate and you can have a walnut or Macassar loadspace floor, and outward-facing flip-out seats to give you that ideal polo-watching vantage point.
The white behemoth you see here, which we very briefly had a go in this week, was the LWB variant with the company’s barnstorming and sonorous 250kW (at 3500rpm) and 740Nm (from 1750rpm) 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel engine matched to an eight-speed auto.
It’s an engine that moves the Rangie along with monocle-popping alacrity (0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds isn’t bad, really), which shouldn’t be overly surprising, given the 2.5-tonne weight isn’t all that much heavier than a smaller Ford Everest. The joys of aluminium construction…
The 405kW V8 petrol does the dash in 5.5 seconds, for what it’s worth. We’ll have to grab the key to one of these soon. Perhaps against a 447kW/900Nm Bentley Bentayga?
The LWB drives pretty much like other Range Rovers, with the highlights as ever being the commanding road view and outward visibility. The steering remains light but relatively direct, while the body control is about half way between a BMW X5 and a yacht.
As with all Rangies, you get variable air suspension with adjustable ride heights. While this system does a great job of cosseting you from the road, there are only so many bumps you can iron out on 22-inch wheels… At least there’s a serene quietude at a cruise.
Being a Range Rover, you also get JLR’s Terrain Response system and genuine off-road ability, though the huge wheelbase will naturally impact the break-over angle. It’s sufficient to get you to a mansion that a Maybach owner could only reach by chopper. Which they probably own. You can even have a locking rear diff (a laughable $1120 option).
Remember, the Bentayga is excellent off-road, so the Rangie has to match.
Now the price. There's that tired aphorism "if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it". But just if you're curious, the SWB diesel is $330,410, and the LWB an additional $12,500 at $342,910. It's about $25,000 extra for the V8 petrol versions ($356,210 SWB and $368,710 LWB). Keep in mind, this makes the SVAutobiography between $90,000 and $100,000 more expensive than a 'regular' Autobiography. Which is a little funny.
It still undercuts the $420k Bentayga, though it lacks the ultimate badge cred. More importantly, it's also much less than a Mercedes-Maybach V12 ($448,610). You can see the appeal of going for a taller, more imposing and off-road-capable limo like the Rangie, right?
The reality is, our first crack at the Range Rover LWB SVAutobiography was brief. But for the buyer who needs more Range Rover from their Range Rover, it feels pretty perfect.