Range Rover LWB Autobiography First Edition Review: A Newfound Opulence
The Range Rover is the pinnacle of the Land Rover family and is the halo product on which the whole brand is built upon. In turn, Land Rover is the darling of Jaguar Land Rover, a company of two storied brands that now relies heavily on the strong secular demand for SUVs. Naturally, this is right up Land Rover’s alley.
So, the Range Rover is a really important car that can determine the tides of fortune for JLR. Some fifty years after its inception, the Range Rover concept has evolved into a full-fledged luxury SUV, one that competes against the top echelons of the class, including the Bentley Bentayga, Aston Martin DBX, Mercedes G-Class and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
As a result, it offers a surprising level of luxury that’s quite a step up from anything else in the JLR range. For example, it has soft touch leather on nearly every surface - to be fair, this is part of the SV Bespoke Full Extended Leather Upgrade on the press car (SV of Special Vehicle Operations fame). Also, it is the only other car in its class besides the Bentayga EWB that’s available in a long wheelbase version.
This also means it has the option of the gobsmackingly cool Executive Class rear seats, that’ll allow the rear passenger sitting diagonally from the driver to recline up to 12 degrees and lounge in comfort with both leg and foot rests. The latter will fold out from the front seat that ‘kneels’ away to create even more space. But wait, there’s more - there are rear seat entertainment screens, cooled/heated massage seats (hot stone is a favourite), noise-cancelling headrest speakers, a 1600W 35 speaker Meridian sound system and a powered centre console containing an 8-inch touchscreen. It’s simply palatial.
Management of all of that technology is via the Pivi Pro infotainment system and Interactive Driver Display, which is familiar across all JLR products. They work OK, but aren’t the most intuitive to use. Thankfully, critical functions are still easily managed so there isn’t a need to always interact with the onboard systems.
After parking up, perhaps at an Istana (imagine a localised version of a British private estate), start the Tailgate Event Suite to get a soiree going. The tailgate pops open, the loadspace floor folds out and Meridian speakers placed strategically on the tailgate overhead start playing tunes outdoors. Perhaps the only thing missing would be portable fans for our tropical climate, but there is not much else to ask for. It’s certainly an impressive way to travel - the Range Rover is a lifestyle.
With all that luxury for the rear passenger(s), what does the driver get? Well, for one, a BMW-sourced 4.4-litre V8. It made light work of the car’s 2.6 ton kerb weight, sounding good while doing so. But it definitely drinks a lot of petrol (think 4-5 km/) to produce that sort of performance (0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds) - I can’t help but feel a diesel engine would suit the car better. It also has an overly enthusiastic throttle from the get-go, and when paired to a gearbox that very occasionally feels confused, it can make driving smoothly at low speed a bit of a challenge. Overall though, it’s an increasingly rarified experience of a thumping V8 and feels very special.
Interestingly, the car doesn’t feel all that big to drive, perhaps in large part due to its standard all-wheel steering. It wasn’t too wide for most car park lots either. The only time I acutely felt the car’s size was when the car barely cleared height restrictions for multi-storey car parks - my heart was in my throat.
At the helm, the driver would have to contend with slightly dull steering and a wallowy ride, but I thoroughly enjoyed revelling in the silence of the cabin (thanks to the car’s 0.30 Cd drag coefficient), watching in amusement as the car magically rides over manhole covers as if they weren’t there, having my cold drink from the fridge underneath the front centre console, and sitting so very high up on the road that I tower pretty much everything else this side of a Mercedes G-Class. Even the deployable side steps that help one get into the car works so unexpectedly well in situations like in a tight car park. The feel good factor is extraordinarily high.
I think most remarkable of all is that all of this stratospheric luxury is offered in a car that is one of the most capable off-road. Although I didn’t get to put this to the test in our urban jungle, the Range Rover’s active locking rear differential and Terrain Response 2 system will probably get tycoons through most of Malaysia’s oil palm plantations.
Needless to say, the Range Rover LWB is a stunning vehicle, if a bit excessive by today’s standards. But specify it with a rational diesel engine, or an upcoming full-electric drivetrain, and it could really make a case for itself as the ultimate luxury SUV without shouting too loudly about it.
Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club