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Driven: Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography. Image by Land Rover.

Driven: Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography
The world’s leading luxury 4x4 is under threat - can the 2017MY Range Rover respond?

 



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Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: As opulent in all regards as you would expect of a high-end Range Rover

Not so good: As expensive in all regards as you would expect of a high-end Range Rover

Key Facts

Model tested: Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography
Price: Range Rover range starts from £76,705; SDV8 Autobiography from £100,950, car as tested £121,975
Engine: 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 219/km (VED £1,200 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 135mph
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Power: 340hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 740Nm at 1,750- to 2,250rpm

Our view:

Aah, Range Rover. Is this a machine that's a victim of its parent company's complacency? Possibly. You see, the 'Rangie' has been around since the dim and distant 1970s, ruling the roost as the only true luxury 4x4 in the world. Even when it went through its 1994-2002 Metrocab phase for the Mk2, when it was at its weakest for eight years, it was still head and shoulders above anything the opposition could muster up.

The arrival of the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes ML (now GLE), Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 in the 2000s will have shaken the British firm, but in truth a Range Rover always felt that bit more opulent than anything else with a tall body and four-wheel drive. Therefore, after more than four decades unbeaten, it's perhaps no surprise that Land Rover felt confident in the RR's proposition; after all, such a long time at the top is enough to make any company sit back on its laurels.

Bearing in mind, though, that the Range Rover - no matter how immensely talented it is, both on road and off it - has always been something of a status symbol to customers, it is now seriously threatened by a new wave of ultimate SUVs with the sort of badge cred to finally depose the king. The Bentley Bentayga. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The Lamborghini Urus. You could even argue the Maserati Levante; all of them come from marques with more prestige than Land Rover can summon up. Sorry, we love LR, but that's just the truth - 40-plus years of 4x4 superiority will not be enough for the Range Rover.

Updated for the 2017MY and sampled in isolation, though, it remains a remarkable thing. This Autobiography model with the SDV8 engine and some options weighs in at a frankly phenomenal £121,975, but yet it feels worth every single penny. The interior is as wonderful as ever, this model a four-seater with the full executive vibe going on in the rear (screens, tables, a centre armrest, electrically adjustable chairs), while the subtle tweaks to the outside keep a very familiar shape feeling fresh and cutting edge. We're not certain about the Rio Gold Ultra Metallic Satin paintwork with black detailing of the car we tried, though. It costs £6,000... no, hang on, we ARE certain about it, and it looks bloody awful. It's wholly unbefitting for the elegant exterior of the Range Rover and the sort of finish that is bound to invite mutters and behind-the-back comments along the lines of its owner peddling mind-altering substances as a profitable sideline to their main form of employment.

Still, that can easily be remedied if you're buying an Autobiography, by simply ticking a less distasteful paint box on the order form, and the underlying vehicle remains an absolute stunner. It's not the sharpest thing in the corners, of course, but it's a lot better than you might expect - yet the undeniable strength of the Rangie is its unbeatable refinement. On its all-corners, constantly variable air suspension, the Autobiography just wafts along in a completely unflustered fashion, no matter what rubbish road surfaces are passing beneath its tyres. The 4.4-litre V8 diesel serves up great gobs of useable torque with the merest flex of your right foot, propelling the big SUV forward with a commendable alacrity, and yet you'll never hear anything more than a muted grumble from that powerplant when you're inside the cabin. Wind and tyre noise? They're just not an issue at all.

We spent 471 rewarding miles behind the two-tone wheel of the Autobiography and loved every single minute we spent there, with 29.7mpg overall not a bad return for 2.4 tonnes of mobile leather-lined luxury. On the motorway, that economy can even climb into the high 30s, which is excellent for a 340hp V8. So we can't really fault the dynamic experience, nor the undoubted feel-good factor in owning and running one of these palatial 4x4s.

Yet the Range Rover is simply not as jaw-dropping as the Bentley; OK, the Bentayga W12 we drove (see 'The Rivals' below) was £204,000, but when you're up beyond the £100,000 mark, saving however many tens of thousands of pounds in purchase price does not matter to the well-heeled folk who buy these sorts of cars. They just want the best experience possible. And when the Rolls-Royce Cullinan hoves into view, the Range Rover's previously impregnable superiority looks even more threatened.

Therefore, it's a sad thing to have to write, especially as the RR is approaching its noble 50th birthday, but it is no longer the absolute king of the SUVs. And that's probably about the most surprising thing we've ever written in our time as a motoring review site, a seismic change in the understandable order of the automotive world. You don't get those sort of paradigm shifts very often and it's a pity it's the Range Rover that's on the receiving end this time around.

Alternatives:

Audi SQ7: The problem for the Range Rover is that top-end, seven-seat Germanic 4x4s start to look good value in comparison. The SQ7 murders Rangie for dynamics and costs £100k with everything on it.

Bentley Bentayga: The Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Lamborghini Urus will make life even more difficult for the Range Rover in months to come, but the Bentayga already trumps the SDV8 for opulence.

Mercedes-Benz GLS: Another seven-seat German SUV that makes the four-/five-seat British off-roader look a bit overpriced. The GLS's cabin is showing its age but this is still a lovely 4x4 for £83k.


Matt Robinson - 3 Nov 2017









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2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.

2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Autobiography drive. Image by Land Rover.








 

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