Every car on the road today is very similar, at least in what they’re made from. Some steel, some aluminium, a lot of plastic, a fair whack of rubber, some glass. If you spend a bit more, you get some nice leather and some fluffy carpets. But ultimately, it’s all the same material, moulded and welded and screwed into various shapes and sizes.
At the luxury end of the market, things get a bit more complicated. Bentleys, for instance, use handcrafted Dark Wattle wood inlays. I don’t know what that is, but it looks fantastic. Ferraris only source their leather from one supplier, renowned for quality. Rolls Royce go around shaving lambs for their carpets. It’s all very spiffy.
Range Rover Autobiography technologyThere’s also an electronic war going on. The Range Rover has a screen that, when looked at from different angles, shows two completely different outputs to driver and passenger. Quite a few cars these days can park themselves. Obviously each rear passenger needs a TV screen, with wireless headphones. And would Sir like a massage on the way home? No problem. The new S Class has four different kinds.
How then, does a car become special? With all the same sort of things available to all the car manufacturers, how does a car rise head and shoulders above the rest? I’ve been scratching around in my head, looking for an answer. Because on a few accounts, the Range Rover Autobiography that I’ve just driven is not the best car in the world. But, that said, it is the best car in the world. Because of how it makes you feel.
This car has astonishing presence. Every time I see one in traffic, it seems to be gliding through the world as if it’s here visiting from another planet. It seems to be powered by something ethereal; not a substance as vulgar as diesel.
Ride quality and handlingDriving one is an event. Every time you hop aboard the raised cabin, you feel like you’re climbing into something quite special. Picking up friends and relatives is an occasion. I don’t think you can be fetched in a Range Rover and not feel just a teeny bit excited. Maybe you can, if your first name is Sheik.
The interior manages to be luxurious, but quite functional, true to its roots as an offroad champ. In that sense, it doesn’t feel as ostentatious as a Rolls or Bentley, but is every bit as comfortable.
Autobiography interiorMy test unit had Executive Style rear seating, meaning two individual seats with electric recline function, a fridge, a TV each, massage seats and heating and cooling functionality. If you enjoy being chauffeured, it is quite lovely back there. But if this is a school run machine (yes, that’s a real thing that happens) then you’re better off going for the Range Rover Sport, as the second row is a bench, and it can be fitted with a third row of seats, making it a 7-seater. The big Rangie is a strict 4-seater in the case of the Autobiography spec, or 5 seater in the case of the Vogue spec.
Powerful diesel engineYou have three engines to choose from, a 5.0l supercharged petrol V8, which even Range Rover admits returns 20l/100km on the urban cycle. So if your surname is Royal Dutch Shell, go ahead. Otherwise, you’ll be much better served by either of the diesels. There’s a smaller 3.0 SDV6 with impressive claimed consumption of 7.5l/100km, and 190kw. But for me, the pick of the bunch is the big 4.4 litre V8 with nearly 700Nm. It’s no slouch, cracking the 0 – 100km/h sprint in just 7 seconds, and still returning an impressive average fuel consumption of under 10l/100km.
The key to the new Range Rover Autobiography is a dramatic weight saving of 420kg. They’ve basically managed to get rid of small to medium sized rhino by making the entire monocoque from aluminium. It dramatically changes the dynamism of the new vehicle. Where the last vehicle felt quite a lot like piloting a bus, the new generation feels almost spritely. Well, as spritely as a car this size could hope to feel.
Range Rover 4x4 abilityWith an advanced, terrain-responsive 4x4 system, a variable-height suspension system, crawl functionality, hill descent control, a wading depth of 900mm and impressive power, this could very well be an extremely capable offroad machine, up there with the best of them. I couldn’t tell you if it is though, and I’m sure most of the cars’ owners wouldn’t be able to either. At R1.78million for the Range Rover Autobiography, who on earth who go properly offroad?
Sure, when you come to the odd gravel road, the big Rangie will eat it up and spit it out with barely a burp. And I’d imagine hitting the dunes would be particularly good fun. But beyond that, the urban world is mostly where she’ll play, and that’s where she shines.
Range Rover Autobiography conclusionAnd yet, after all this, I’m not sure I have an answer to my own question. Why has the Range Rover become an “it” car? It’s easy to label it as one of those cases where a machine is more than the sum of its parts. Declare it unexplainable and walk away.
However, I think I have an answer. Even though the latest generation is almost absurdly luxurious, the Range Rover Autobiography hasn’t sold out. It can still get dirty with the best of them. It’s handsome, yet understated. Ability without bragging about it makes it perennially appealing. For over 40 years, it has been a class act, and still is.
Range Rover Autobiography price in South AfricaThe Range Rover Autobiography retails for R1 840 200
We like: · Refined . Excellent engine . Fantastic safety technology . Huge boot and rear legroom
We don’t like: · Not for enthusiastic drivers . Gearbox can be a little hesitant . Engine a little rough when pressing on
Range Rover Autobiography specifications
Engine: 4.4-litre SDV8, turbocharged diesel Power: 230 kW @ 3500 Torque: 700 Nm @ 1500 Transmission: eight-speed automatic Wheels: 21-inch 0-100km/h: 7 seconds (claimed) Fuel economy: 9l/100km (claimed on the combined cycle)