Range Rover Autobiography 4.4-litre TDV8


By Tim Saunders

Did you know that there are two types of autobiography?

The traditional one is an account of a person’s life written by that person. I have enjoyed reading those by entrepreneurs Sir Richard Branson (Losing My Virginity) and Duncan Bannatyne (Anyone Can Do It), which both give good insights into their authors.

The second type is a rather special permanent four-wheel drive variety that goes by the name of the Range Rover Autobiography. It’s a good choice of name for the top-end Range Rover because it is a statement of the owner’s achievements and of course the ‘auto’ part is a clever play on words.

I know one multi-millionaire who has one because “it’s ideal for motorway commuting and treks across my leisure complexes”, according to the Hampshire-based tycoon. No doubt anyone with around £90,000 to spend on a vehicle is a high achiever and the British built luxury 4x4 is an attractive proposition as it sits head and shoulders over most other vehicles on the road apart from lorries of course.

Range Rover’s marketing blurb claims that it’s “a supreme expression of craftsmanship and exclusiveness, displaying individuality and assertiveness”. I can’t argue with that and the Nara Bronze test model is certainly appealing.

Externally the iconic design is true to the original, first introduced by Land Rover in 1970. The test model has the addition of a styling pack and 20-inch Shadow Chrome alloy wheels.

It’s a sad fact that these days most Range Rovers are confined to motorway cruising, which the 4.4-litre TDV8 handles with ease. The eight-speed automatic box, which can be driven like a manual, if desired, is operated by a simple dial. This is very user-friendly, particularly when making tight turns. However, it is absolute sacrilege to test one of these vehicles and not subject it to some mud and grass. It’s only then that you can truly appreciate its abilities. There are a cluster of switches on the centre console and it is simply a matter of selecting the appropriate mode for the terrain, such as mud and ruts, rock crawl or grass, gravel and snow. The driver can higher or lower the suspension, as well. I take it through overgrown woodland with plenty of mud and ruts and it doesn’t bat an eyelid as you can see at testdrives.biz. Such leisurely off-roading is down to Adaptive Dynamics, which predicts the response to the driver’s action 500 times a second. Terrain Response works alongside this to utilise the vehicle’s long suspension travel absorbing potholes or ruts. It also provides enhanced control at higher speeds while cornering or braking.

There’s a handy hill descent control, too. When switching from off-roading to normal road travel it is important to change to the correct setting – I didn’t and consequently the Range Rover refused to travel above 50mph. A useful function when an idiot gets behind the wheel.

On road, surprisingly, for such a high vehicle there is no buffeting or wallowing at speed. It will leave most boy racers in the distance reaching 60mph from standstill in just 7.5 seconds. I drive to Weymouth during the floods and the big brute drives through deep water on many roads without any issues whatsoever.

The high up driving position provides a commanding view of the road or field. Like many a Volvo, Jaguar, Rolls Royce etc. the Range Rover is fitted with an intelligent cruise control that automatically brakes and accelerates according to the progress of the vehicle in front. It allows for driver intervention when necessary. This system is user-friendly on the motorway but a bit of a pain over slower journeys as it only operates at speeds above 22mph. It often switches off if vehicles ahead are travelling too slowly. An issue I have is that it can feel disconcerting when the Range Rover speeds up to reach the car in front and then brakes with some force. This is in common with other similar systems.

A super luxurious interior with two-tone leather on the dash is visually pleasing because there’s so little black plastic – it’s not often I feel that in a vehicle. The Ivory seats contrast well with the Arabica stitching and Arabica carpet. I am a great fan of the electrically cooled front seats, which are fantastic for hot climes preventing sticky seats as often happens with leather. And when the weather takes a turn for the worse they’re electrically heated, too. So is the steering wheel.

Parkers, the car experts, say: “The Range Rover is an iconic vehicle and one that’s highly regarded as combining true luxury with serious off road ability. The latest model is the best exponent of that thinking yet. Inside it’s wonderfully upmarket with a modern and stylish cabin that’s superbly finished with expensive-feeling materials. On the road it’s just as good with a supremely supple ride and excellent noise insulation, while there’s acres of space, particularly for passengers in the back. The downside is a hefty price tag and relatively high running costs. But for sheer class and desirability - few cars can match the Range Rover.”

The Range Rover remains a fine example of British motor manufacturing and it is fair to say that it has no competition.

Land Rover Range Rover

New price range: £69,995 - £90,000

0-60mph: 7.5secs

Top speed: 130mph

Economy: 34.5mpg (extra urban)

104 litre fuel tank (500 miles to a tank roughly)


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