Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
When it launched the Range Rover back in 1970, Land Rover no more invented the luxury SUV than it had created the all terrain off-roader back in 1947. In both cases it was a Jeep that beat them to it, first with the original Willys Jeep of World War Two fame, and then in the 1960s with the decidedly plush Jeep Wagoneer. No matter, while only sad automotive completists like me remember the Wagoneer, the Range Rover has gone from strength to strength over the last 46 years.
Actually that’s not entirely true. While Charles Spencer King’s original design was so clearly conceived and brilliantly executed it lasted almost 25 years, its successor, coded named P38A was only a little more able and a lot less charming. So it fell to Land Rover’s then new owners BMW to spend a billion pounds building a proper Range Rover, which launched in 2000 to universal acclaim. And while not so long lived as the original (nothing is these days), a life span of a dozen years was all the time required to salvage the Range Rover’s reputation and make it once more the luxury SUV to which every other aspired.
However the true parent of this new long-wheelbase SVAutobiography Range Rover is the LSE version of the original Range Rover, introduced in 1992 complete with an additional eight inches in the wheelbase and an appropriately luxurious interior
The SVAutobiography is a product of Jaguar Land Rover’s new special vehicles department and is much, much more than a Range Rover with another 200mm in the wheelbase. Sit in the back, in one of two individual chairs, flip out your picnic tray, grab a goblet from the console between the seats and pour yourself a glass of something cold from the refrigerator and you’ll see what we mean. All the usual luxury car refinements are here from massage functions to televsions plus, if you’re prepared to spend the extra, several unusual ones too. There’s two-tone paint (which we’d probably skip) wooden decking for the boot floor and even rear facing temporary seats you can erect in the boot for that ultimate point-to-point viewing experience. Otherwise it’s all in the details, from the choice of wood trims to the knurling on all the aluminium handles and switches inside. The intended effect is to create the most spacious and luxurious interior ever to grace an SUV, and we’d say mission accomplished.
The SVA is available with the same V6 hybrid and V8 diesels used in lesser Range Rovers, or the 542bhp supercharged petrol V8 already seen in the Range Rover Sport SVR. It’s tempting to go for the big hitter but worth remembering also that this is a luxury car, not a sporting one and that the V8 diesel not only develops more torque than the flagship supercharged car, but does so at half the revs. So if what you actually want to do is waft along effortlessly and seamlessly, the diesel is the clear choice. It will also go half as far again on a tank of fuel, which is handy for those heading for the Alps. At £156,000 and £164,800 respectively both the V8 diesel and petrol SVAs are eye-wateringly expensive but while the more expensive car is the quicker, its 5.5-second 0-62mph time isn’t even going to trouble a new entry level Porsche Boxster, so you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.
You don’t expect a car fully 5.2 metres long and almost two metres tall weighing over 2.5 tonnes to handle like a sports car, and the SVA does nothing to shatter to expectations. But if you stick within, say, 80 per cent of its ultimate capabilities and plan your moves in advance, you’ll still find a car capable of covering the ground with deceptive ability and grace. Yes you sit so high you feel more like you’re on the bridge of a ship than in the cabin of a car, but once used to the unique way it addresses the road, the SVA is a delightful car in which to spend many hours covering great distances at unlikely speeds.
Price tag of our car £156,000 (Land Rover Range Rover SDV8 SVAutobiography LWB)