Land Rover built just one model prior to its ubiquitous Range Rover – the Defender. Tough as old boots and about as comfortable as a park bench, it had such impressive go-anywhere traits that, even today, you can still buy that same vehicle. Though not for much longer.
The brilliance of the 70s Range Rover was that it brought comfort to the off-roading concept. Originally it only had two doors, but with a thumping V8 engine and standout design. Soon even Royalty had adopted it in place of the old faithful Land Rover.
Despite its posh credentials, the Range Rover still did the business in the mud and heather. Indeed, that’s always been a vital part of the DNA of any Land Rover product – it has to be as good as a Defender off-road, or at least better than any rival. It’s practical, too: you can shove a sheep in the back and throw bales of hay onto the split tailgate with impunity.
So how does a £150,000 Range Rover fit into the scheme of things? The latest model – which has been around for a couple of years – drew a collective gasp when it was released with a £90,000 price tag. Can Land Rover seriously be demanding 50 per cent more for a motor that’s too lush to shove a sheep into?
Well, yes it can. The fact of the matter is, the luxury car sector has moved on and there are now umpteen ways to spend £150,000 on an automobile. It makes more sense as a top-end purchase when you compare it to, say, a yacht and discover you can’t even buy a basic second-hand one for that money.
And this Autobiography model really is special. It’s longer than a regular Range Rover, which means it is unfeasibly gargantuan when you’re looking for a parking space around the City. Its impressive height also makes getting in and out far from straightforward. The driver can lower the whole thing down on its suspension at the touch of a button, but it requires patience as the hydraulics go through the motions.
As with any top of the range car, the best way to travel is cosied up on the back seat while a chauffeur drives you around. In the Range Rover, you are surrounded by soft, sumptuous cream leather, and you’d be foolish not to spend an extra £2,500 for “executive seats” that offer power recline. Indeed, diagonally back from the driver, the occupant has full control of the front passenger seat, too, so you can push it forward to extend the legroom to the maximum.
That’s important because this rear seat has an impressive recline mechanism that makes it as inviting as a long-haul business-class seat. It feels like you’re sitting up sky-high compared to most other cars on the road as well, making it a far loftier experience than sitting in the back of an S-Class Mercedes.
The engine choice is either petrol or diesel V8. To be honest, I thought I had the supercharged petrol version at first. The performance of my test 4.4-litre diesel V8 was so punchy, quiet and refined there were simply no clues to suggest this wasn’t a petrol car. The eventual giveaway was the trip computer showing a ready 28mpg (the petrol generally returns in the mid-teens).
The Range Rover Autobiography Black Long Wheelbase (to give it its full title) is an incredible car if you can handle its size. And even if you can’t, it’s worth banging up a few kerbs here and there to experience what it’s like to drive a truly peerless off-roader.
Peter Burgess writes for Motoringresearch.com.
THE FACTS: RANGE ROVER AUTOBIOGRAPHY LWB
0-62MPH: 7.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 135mph
CO2 G/KM: 229g/km
MPG COMBINED: 32.5mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ★★★☆☆