Ray Leathern admits he suffers from automotive-induced schizophrenia as a result of his blissful life as a motoring journalist. He recently tested the Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography, which he says made him “want to be God”.
Come to think of it, during the week that the hulk-ish Range Rover was parked in his driveway, we noticed that he seemed to waft around a lot, spoke deliberately, in soft tones and wore 100 percent cotton. It’s seems clear confirmation of Ray’s self-diagnosis, except for one thing – cotton is ‘so last season’ and God would probably be sporting hemp and bamboo socks.
So what does this all say about the new Range Rover Autobiography? Read on to find out…
Driving tens of different cars each month as a motoring journalist is utter bliss. Of course, if you’re not careful though, it can also lead to a kind of automotive-psychological schizophrenia. The undeniable feeling that you’re only worth whatever car you have parked outside. I’ve discussed this with many of my colleagues and it’s not hogwash what I’m saying here.
Just imagine, if you have a Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe in your driveway one day and it’s replaced with a Smart Fortwo the next, that’s going to take some getting your head around. One day your car is telling everyone you’re an F1 safety car driver, thundering around Spa or Imola on the back of a V8 thunder clap, the next, you’re a receptionist at the local hair salon. It’s tough. Sometimes the best way to deal with the conundrum is to sneak up on a car. Just climb into it without even knowing what it is, where it came from or what it’s for. Try and simply absorb the characteristic of how it makes you feel and what it makes you do.
This is arguably how all road tests should happen. The goal: a kind of Buddhist objectivity that outweighs all marketing budgets, launch gifts and brand attributes. Recently, I’m happy to report, my being was centred enough to do this very thing and it just so happened to coincide with the arrival of a Supercharged V8, Range Rover Autobiography. I simply climbed aboard and strived to ‘absorb its characteristics.’
The Range Rover Autobiography had an effect on me, a profound effect in fact. How do I phrase this delicately? It made me want to be God… You see, when you climb up (and you really do climb up, like its taking you closer to the heavens) into the cabin of a Range Rover, you immediately feel an air of invincibility wash over you. The size, the luxury, the toys, the cameras and the technology – this vehicle is as much at home in a muddy English wood as it is a sub-Saharan sand valley, or outside the most exclusive A-list party. It is the perfect car for any occasion, on any continent, for the rest of time. A unique problem a Range Rover has, is that it’s often much nicer than any destination where you’re planning to meet people. So once you’ve parked up and decided you will take the plunge and actually go inside, you often enter the establishment with rather a sullen, disapproving expression on your face. You’ll leave thinking to yourself, “it’s a shame we can’t have the cocktail party in the Range Rover.”
The Autobiography’s ‘Dynamic’ package fitted to the exterior of my test unit, with its side sills, 20-inch rims, added chrome details and exhaust tips, is a bit hideous I know, but I’m more than willing to forgive it for the brilliant car that still lurks underneath it all. The interior has been given a gorgeously opulent working over in Autobiography guise. 14-pieces of exclusive trim (mine was finished in dark walnut) mixes with full leather seats (mine were red) and headlining to create one of the most luxurious experiences you can have in a car. Well, I use the phrase ‘car’ very loosely, because driving a Range Rover is nothing like being in an actual car. It’s an entirely different mode of transport altogether. It’s somewhere in between a luxury yacht, school run taxi and a 4×4 leviathan. It’s a Range Rover – that’s the only way to really describe it. Only Range Rover owners will get it… but now in Autobiography guise it’s simply more of everything.
The comfort and stability on-road, considering its agility off-road, is uncanny. Sure, it’s a bit blubbery in the corners, but then again, the Range Rover is the size of a church pew and high enough off the ground to make anything from the cinema scope windscreen look as inane as a dachshund. Its impressive on-road, where quite honestly it’ll spend the majority of its life; thanks to its monocoque chassis which is light – lighter than a Discovery or Range Rover Sport even, and this means the air suspension has an easier job keeping the body geometry straight and true in a corner.
The light chassis means improved fuel economy and maximised performance from the massive supercharged V8. Well I say ‘improved’ when in fact I just mean jaw dropping. Everything about how the Range Rover accelerates and consumes is just immense. In a mix of off-road and civilised on-road driving I averaged 15 L/100km over a tank of fuel that lasted 650 km, which isn’t far off Land Rovers claims actually. Filling the 105-litre tank might become a little painful after a while though.
The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the Jaguar XF-R makes 375 kW and 625 Nm and can accelerate the 2 580 kg Range Rover to 100 km/h in 6.2-seconds, accompanied by the most immensely fruity, thrashing V8 soundtrack. When you put your foot deep into the shag pile carpet, the raw response and warm push of the acceleration into the seatbacks is pure indulgence.
You’d also be amazed at how capable the Range Rover Autobiography really is when it comes to off roading. It’s all about ground clearance, wheel articulation and approach angles. The adaptive transmission does everything for you: select the type of surface you’re driving on: mud, sand, rocks, snow and then select ‘hi’ or ‘low’ range and the computer will act like a butler, engaging diff-locks anonymously as it sees fit. This is all communicated to you through the brilliant thin-film-transistor screen that shows you an off-road display. It puts all the must know information directly in front of you, including a display of where your front wheels are pointing at all times.
To maximise its ground clearance, you can raise the ride height in a rock crawling scenario to avoid dinging that rather ugly ‘Dynamic’ package. The Range Rover is not infallible through the tough stuff however. It’s very, very big for one and struggles to fit in some scenarios. Purists, I know, will say it’s not the real deal, but credit where credit is due to the Range Rover system – if you should tackle an obstacle in sand, with the drive selector off, it won’t do it.
Then when you hose the old boy off, lower the ride height and put him back on the black stuff, it’s as comfortable and well-appointed as a Rolls Royce. This Range Rover feels like it’s blessed with a supernatural force or power, concentrated in its manmade shell. Is the Autobiography better than a normal Range Rover? Probably not, but the all new Range Rover should only be arriving in South Africa in 2014 – 2015, so decide whether you can wait that long to buy a car that makes you feel like God.
What we like…
- Television, Sat Nav, DVD changer…, this baby really is ‘full house.’
- Eight cylinder engine is a master class of power, torque and soundtrack.
- Brilliantly comfortable, opulent and hi-tech interior.
- Can go pretty much everywhere, fit in anywhere and be as comfortable as a Rolls Royce.
What we would like…
- To complain about its lack of sportiness would be uncouth, but it could be little sportier.
- It’s not exactly what you’d call cheap… but then God doesn’t worry about money.
|Base Price (incl. VAT & CO2)||R1 525 100|
|Warranty||3 year / 100 000km|
|Engine Capacity||4 998 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||8-cylinders, V-Formation|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||225 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||14.9 l/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||348 g/km|