Looking at a Range Rover today, it’s difficult to imagine that it traces its origins to a purely utilitarian farmland workhorse made in 1948. While it still retains the extraordinary off-road capabilities of the Series 1 Land Rover and the original Range Rover that debuted in 1970, over the decades it has evolved into a luxurious urban cruiser that is almost unparalleled in its class at proclaiming to the world how good life has been to you. And rightly so, as it was the 1987 Range Rover with its unprecedented creature comforts and technology that created the premium SUV niche.
While it has managed to successfully stave off competition from rivals like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche so far, things are heating up in the uber-luxury 4x4 segment with Bentley releasing the Bentayga and Rolls-Royce confirming its foray into the class. It seems Land Rover had these developments in mind when it handed over the Range Rover to JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations (SVO).
And what it came up with is the largest and the most grandiose Range Rover to date. Dubbed the Range Rover SV Autobiography, it replaces the Autobiography Black at the top of the model line-up, although from the outside it will take a keen eye to distinguish both. Much like what Rolls-Royce offers, the top-banana Rangey lets buyers spec a dual-tone finish. While the upper body will be painted Santorini Black, there are nine colour options for the lower body.
Apart from this, the only other visual distinguishers are the Graphite finish front grille and lettering on the bonnet along with the special SV Autobiography badge on the tailgate.
However, it’s in the cabin that you’ll feel the real difference. Almost everything you touch, including knobs, switches, buttons, and the gear selector, oozes class. This, along with gleaming veneers, high-quality leather, knurled metal, and plush, contrast-stitched twist pile mohair carpets, add to the heightened sense of opulence.
The SV Autobiography still affords the same commanding driving position that has traditionally given Range Rover drivers a ‘ruler of all he survey’ air, but one look at the rear compartment and you’ll realise that this Range Rover is less about the driver and more about the two rear passengers. This is one Range Rover you wouldn’t want to drive, but instead be chauffeured around in. Our long-wheelbase tester has two reclinable seats at the back crafted in sumptuously supple perforated leather. The centre console, dividing the seats, houses two power-deployable tables and a chiller compartment.
Overall, the rear seats are as luxurious and exquisitely appointed as any you’ll find in a Rolls-Royce or a Mercedes-Maybach. It cocoons and isolates you from the din and dust of the common man’s world outside in a way no other SUV on the market today can.
But just in case you feel like taking the wheel, the good folk at SVO have squeezed a 542bhp, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 into the SV Autobiography’s bonnet. Although it’s the same all-aluminium block that powers the Sport SVR, here it’s been retuned and optimised for comfort and refinement. The max torque of 680Nm is available at 3,500rpm and the power is transferred to the four corners via an eight-speed auto ’box.
When required, acceleration is prodigious, power delivery is instant, and the surge forward is as smooth and seamless as you’d expect in an ultra-luxury vehicle. The new engine also means the SV Autobiography is the most powerful non-Sport Range Rover variant available.
As you’d expect, this extravagance come at a cost. With prices starting at Dh899,000, the SV Autobiography nudges Bentley territory. But in the world of super-premium luxobarges and SUVs, anything less than a million dirhams is loose change. Moreover, if you’re the sort of tycoon who prefers a subtle display of your affluence over the grand spectacle a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce would make for, that’s pocket shrapnel worth parting with.