Spending $300,000-plus on an SUV may seem like madness, but that’s only if you've never sat in a Range Rover SV Autobiography. If you did, you would immediately change your mind.
You might be thinking I've gone mad, heaping such praise on the 2017 Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic. After all, the Bentley Bentayga is regarded as the ultimate when it comes to SUVs - a statement I, myself, have previously made.
While that still holds true, we are talking about a $100,000 to $150,000 difference between an optioned-up supercharged V8 Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic to a W12 Bentley Bentayga, and while some may wish to stretch both their budget and their taste towards the Bentley, the ultimate Range Rover offers up a lifestyle choice that is, in itself, a definition of luxury motoring.
So it’s extremely refreshing when you jump into a car such as this Range Rover from the special vehicles department of the famous British brand, you don’t need to justify what makes it luxury because it oozes it willingly.
If you’ve sat in any variant of a current Range Rover, you would know that its cabin quality is top notch. Not in the sense that things won’t fall apart or stop working – it’s British after all – but more that everything feels exquisite, both in terms of tactility and presentation.
Its boxy shapes allows for a very airy and spacious feel, which Range Rover has refined to the point where you’re no longer really in a vehicle, but rather a nice lounge chair looking down on those that dare to look up.
Take all of that and multiply it by a factor of two and you get the Range Rover SV Autobiography. At $316,000 (plus on-roads), it’s not for the masses. In fact, our test car was $336,210 (plus on-roads) with its list of options (which you'll find at the end of this article), so if you’re looking to buy one of these you’re really not overly fussed about the purchase price.
From the outside, the SV Autobiography Dynamic is differentiated from the standard Range Rover (starting at $183,300) by the ‘graphite atlas’ finish on the side vents, bonnet finisher, grille and front bumper accents. If you look even closer, you may notice the Range Rover script and tailgate finisher are also finished in the same dark silver. Our particular test car was presented in 'Ruffina Red', a gloss ultra metallic paint that cost $8500.
There is a choice of 21- or 22-inch alloy wheels (ours is fitted with the larger size for an additional $2500), complemented by the red brake calipers from Brembo, a first-ever for the British brand.
Being powered by a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 405kW of power and 680Nm of torque, means you get a set of quad exhausts out the back, which, while sounding great (though not nearly as loud or dramatic as the Range Rover Sport SVR), look a little out of place considering the otherwise understated and highly classy nature of the vehicle. They would look a lot neater if they were housed in an integrated rear diffuser in the same fashion as the SVR.
There’s no doubt the Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic looks imposing and sophisticated from the outside, if in an understated manner. You must know your Range Rovers in order to tell this one apart from other variants and appreciate that its owner has spent considerable sums for its acquisition. You’d be delighted to know, however, that its owner probably doesn’t care less whether you realise its value or not from the outside, because this Range Rover’s interior is where the story starts.
Indeed, when you jump inside this car you realise the old saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ and in this case, there is not one millimetre of this Range Rover’s cabin that looks cheap or poorly finished. The folks at Range Rover must have killed an entire herd of cows to cover this car in leather, because even the roof screams of murder.
It’s not just regular leather either. It’s so insanely soft to touch you almost don’t want to sit on it. Not to mention the diamond quilting and contrast stitching (available in four exclusive colourways) that go hand-in-hand with the ebony perforated leather headliner.
Even the rotary shift controller (that you use to select Drive) shines with its sophisticated, knurled finish, also used on the start stop button, pedals, armrests and the button for the glovebox.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine turned off is similar to being seated at a three-star Michelin restaurant. So long as you don’t touch anything, the ultimate Range Rover is perfect.
It’s only when you try and use the front infotainment system or attempt your darned hardest to get the back seat entertainment screens to do anything useful that frustration sets in. Frankly, after trying for a good 20 minutes to get both rear seats to play ABC Kids to keep the little ones quiet, and failing miserably, we resorted to just using an iPad.
The front screen is fine – albeit painfully slow – to use and it has some useful features like dual-view allowing your passenger to watch TV while you moan about needing to see the sat-nav, but the rear screens simply refused to do as instructed.
During our test, one would simply freeze and not broadcast any TV channel, while the other was stuck on Channel Nine (thankfully), and would not change. Simple and obvious features like being able to quickly set all screens to the same station and have the sound broadcast out of the main stereo are not available or readily accessible.
Using the infotainment system became so frustrating we resorted to the Range Rover handbook for advice, which was in itself presented in the same diamond quilting and contrast stitching leather as the seats. This impressed us so much we stopped caring about Peppa Pig freezing on the left screen and pressed the engine start button.
Say whatever you want about the advancement of electric cars and the impending death of the internal combustion engine, but we challenge any true lover of automobiles to sit inside this Range Rover, start her up, and not feel a sense of satisfaction from the idling, monstrous, beast residing under the bonnet.
Speaking of which, our particular Range Rover SV Autobiography test car was fitted with possibly the world’s most useless option, a $4100 carbon-fibre engine cover, which – all British car jokes aside – you should never see. So as much as you may like your service manager at the local Land Rover dealership, it seems almost entirely crazy to reward him with an expensive engine cover.
And while the engine may be regarded as a dinosaur or the last of its kind to some, for us, it’s the ideal finale to what has been the most glorious era for V8s we are ever going to see and as car enthusiasts we must thank the folks at Jaguar Land Rover as they have, for one last time at least, stuck to brute force without the urge to turbocharge to save fuel and appease the politically correct crowd.
So, at this point you may expect us to say this Range Rover is a boat, maybe an ultra-luxury boat, but a boat nonetheless. Fortunately, that’s not the case. There is a tremendous amount of dynamic competence here we were not expecting for an SUV that weighs around two and a half tonnes.
Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division has managed to fine-tune the suspension so it no longer feels like it's floating around bends, without losing any of the comfort factor. It’s somewhat unnerving to push a beast as large as this fast into a corner, but unlike previous full-size Range Rovers we have tested, this one didn’t scare us to death at the limit.
Some of this new-found athleticism is achieved by lowering the ride height by eight millimetres – thanks to major revisions to the knuckles, links, springs and dampers – while some of it is achieved via the SV Autobiography Dynamic’s response system that actively works to reduce body lean mid-corner.
Range Rover says its adaptive dynamic system can read both the road and driver inputs up to 500 times per second to provide the optimal body control via independent controls on the front and rear axle. That sounds like good marketing spin, but whatever it is, it works rather well for this is now actually fun to drive with a bit vigour.
Unfortunately, the sound proofing in the SV Autobiography is so good you need to wind the windows down to get a real sensation of the engine note. We would love it if Range Rover would offer a true hooligan package by having the SVR’s exhaust system fitted, for that would create the world’s loudest and most luxurious SUV.
Ultimately, however, there is little to fault with the Range Rover SV Autobiography. If you can afford it. Ignoring the InControl infotainment system that brought about urges of murder, this particular SUV is one you would dearly love to own, for it’s a mobile billboard for what it means to travel in luxury and unrivalled levels of understated class. It's also the last of its kind and we love it more just for that.