THE RANGE ROVER SDV8 AUTOBIOGRAPHY LONG-WHEELBASE IS A DIFFICULT VEHICLE TO PLACE IN THE MARKET.
We don’t mean ‘place’ as in park around other road users, though with a length of 5.2-metres there is that point too. Rather, it is simply difficult to find a competitor set for this $252,110 (plus on-road costs) four-wheel drive limousine.
With massive rear legroom, televisions (yes, more than one), electrically reclining seats all-round, double-glazed windows and more leather than a Berlin bondage dungeon, the Range Rover should technically be a BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival.
They sell for similar money, but only this Autobiography Long-Wheelbase can (literally) stand tall off-road.
Vehicle Style: Upper Large SUV
Price: $252,110 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/740Nm 4.4-litre V8 turbo-diesel | eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.6 l/100km | tested: 10.4 l/100km
For all its Buckingham Palace-like presence, the latest-generation Range Rover is surprisingly taut and trim. It launched in 2012, but this long-wheelbase version is new to the Range, lobbing only last year.
It was designed for the Chinese market, primarily, as rear legroom equates to status as much as badging does – the longer the name, the higher your social standing.
Explains why this one’s called the Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography Long-Wheelbase. Even when it comes to badges, size matters
An extra 20cm has been added in to both the wheelbase and overall length compared with a standard Range Rover, while a 2488kg kerb weight adds 128kg. It all goes into those back doors that are long enough to double as aircraft wings when extended outwards.
Choosing long-wheelbase over short-wheelbase adds $11,800 to the price on this V8 diesel specification. Below $250K, there’s the $189,100 (plus orc) V6 diesel, while just above there’s the $265,010 (plus orc) V8 supercharged petrol version – but that one’s a case of ‘BYO oil tanker’.
- Standard equipment: adaptive cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, fixed panoramic roof, leather seat trim, 22-way electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seat with heating/ventilation and massage function, 4-way electrically adjustable rear outboard seating with heating/ventilation, heated steering wheel, four-zone climate control air conditioning, centre console fridge, electric rear sunblinds, electric tailgate, automatic dimming rear-view mirror and high beam, automatic on/off headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 8.0in colour touchscreen with front AUX/USB inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, voice control, satellite navigation, digital radio, ‘dual view’ digital television and twin rear 10.2-inch colour screens with wireless headphones and remote
- Options fitted: Sliding panoramic roof ($800)
- Cargo volume: 909 litres, seats-up
Indulgent and expansive – these two words best summarise the Range Rover’s interior, which has barely aged a day in four years.
The ‘command’ seating position perches front passengers high in lush, leather-trimmed buckets that can warm, cool and massage. The steering wheel is massive, and can be heated, too.
The ‘dual view’ centre screen is a low-resolution unit – one of the only real clues to its 2012 vintage – however, as the name suggests, it allows on the one screen for the driver to view information, while a passenger watches television on the other side. It’s as brilliant as ever.
The only other area where the Range Rover is lacking compared with newer (7 Series, S-Class) rivals is in technology.
The headlights are xenon units instead of newer LEDs, for example, and the auto high-beam simply switches on and off when an oncoming or forward car is detected rather than ‘blocking out’ only the beam affecting a particular motorist.
The lane departure warning only buzzes the steering wheel rather than subtly adjusting the wheel to keep you in your lane.
There is so much rear legroom that as a 178cm-tall tester, I can fully stretch my legs behind my own driving position and not touch the seatbacks. Having a fridge perched behind the centre console is handy for ‘refreshments’, while televisions are accessed via a remote control and twin headphones reside in the doors.
The carpets are plush-pile, the seat bolstering thick and the doors even have little leather ‘pulls’ to open and close storage pockets. Of course there are blinds to keep the paparazzi out, too.
Believe it or not, the model we’re testing isn’t the most indulgent Range Rover you can get. For a staggering $90k extra, you can get the $342,910 ‘SV’ Autobiography Long-Wheelbase that offers Rear Executive Class seating that fully reclines, and can even flip over the front passenger seat. There are also calf-rests and fold-out real-wood tables for Sir to enjoy.
By comparison, our test car ‘only’ slightly tilts and slides.
The two-stage tail-gate is fully electric and offers more space and greater practicality – plus a seat to perch on while watching the polo – than any German sedan.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 250kW/740Nm 4.4 V8 turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Dual-range 4WD, multiple terrain modes
- Suspension: Multi-link independent front and rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering, 13.0m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 3500kg (braked)
This Range Rover rolls on 22-inch wheels, with adaptive air-suspension and three height settings – Access (call it ‘pimp my ride’ mode), Normal and Offroad. Frankly, the ride and handling balance is stunning for a 2.5-tonne apartment building.
However, some hired-in riders sitting in the back didn’t find the Autobiography as soothing as expected.
True, it does slightly baulk over larger road imperfections and can ‘nibble’ across smaller stuff. The big rims and a tall centre of gravity has lots to do with that,and the deathly quiet cabin means ride-quality stands out more than it otherwise would.
For the most part, the suspension wafts along, providing superb comfort to match the cushy seats. Yet when the going gets tough on a country road, the same suspension maintains a superior settled control of the bluff body.
And suddenly the Range Rover becomes even more impressive.
Weight transfer when cornering is noticeable, but manageable, and huge grip means it still feels controlled when changing direction quickly. The steering is also light and precise, helping this big four-wheel-drive shrink around you.
With permanent 4WD, clever Terrain Response multi-mode offroad settings, a low-range gearbox and (optional) locking differentials, that this British icon can also go far off the beaten track highlights its breadth of talent.
Despite the size, the Autobiography Long-Wheelbase is eminently enjoyable to drive.
The 4.4-litre turbo-diesel V8 engine is similarly a lovely unit. It does suffer some ‘lag’ off the line, a consequence of the sheer weight it has to shift from standstill, but it teams majestically with the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The noise it makes is distant, but with a classic V8 baritone as it passes all 740Nm of torque to the tarmac (available between 1750rpm and 2250rpm), to the 250kW of power produced at 3500rpm.
The diesel V8 also provides exceptional fuel consumption for its type. Official combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres only blew out to 10.4l/100km on-test. A lap of Sydney’s ringroads also delivered an astonishing 6.1l/100km.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.19 out of 37 possible points
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side, rear-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A 7 Series is newer and sportier, while an S-Class is plusher again. Both have more technology than the Range Rover and fresher, newer cabins. But can they go offroad? No chance.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The latest Range Rover is proof that you can take an indulgent concept – massive four-wheel drive with maximum luxury – and make it (somewhat) socially responsible and car-like to drive.
Despite its size and appointments, its heft is barely inferior to smaller SUVs while consumption from the V8 diesel is definitely no worse. It is expensive at $250k, but it feels its worth in "buying per-kilogram" as much as in its ride and refinement.
If it were to get an update to its active safety technology and infotainment system, the Autobiography Long-Wheelbase would be flawless.
Exterior photography by Alex Bryden.