Does the fastest Range Rover ever float our respective boats? We find out with the SVAutobiography Dynamic on the international launch
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, supercharged, 5000cc||542bhp @ 6000rpm||502lb ft @ 3500rpm||5.1secs||250kph||TBC||$206,920|
It’s easy to get confused amid the mire of modern Land Rover nomenclature, so before we talk about the new Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic, let’s look at how it fits in to the range.
The ‘standard’ Range Rover Autobiography sits at the top of the regular Range Rover line-up. If you want something more exclusive, you need to go to Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department, which is roughly the equivalent of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, or BMW’s M division. As well as offering one-off bespoke vehicles – for a large price – SVO builds several reworked versions of Jaguar and Land Rover products, such as the Jaguar F-TYPE SVR, and the Range Rover Sport SVR. Last year, it revealed the long-wheelbase Range Rover SVAutobiography, a vehicle that cranked up the luxury factor still further over the Autobiography. Clear so far?
As Land Rover’s client base changes, more young people are buying Range Rovers, and the feedback from some of them was that they wanted a Range Rover that better engaged the driver and provided performance and exhilaration. Not for them a car like the Range Rover Sport SVR – they wanted a top-of-the-heap, full-fat Range Rover, but with more joie-de-vivre, more thrill of driving. The SVAutobiography targeted the customer that spends most of his time in the back seats, being driven. The new SVAutobiography Dynamic wants to look after the driver.
So, what has changed on the new Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic?
Well for starters, we have the fastest Range Rover ever made. A short wheelbase vehicle, it’s powered by the same supercharged, 5-litre V8 found in the Range Rover Sport SVR, pushing out 542bhp compared to 503bhp in the standard Autobiography. It also sits 8mm lower, and the suspension geometry has been revised accordingly. The lowering is intended to improve handling, and marginally impacts off-road capability by reducing the approach and departure angles. However, standard Range Rover off-road features like Terrain Response and the clever four-wheel drive system remain unchanged.
Visually, the SVAutobiography Dynamic – or SVAD, as we’ll call it for brevity – has some subtle touches to mark its exclusivity, including revisions to the grille, side vents, although it’s not as dramatic and upgrade as you might expect. Inside, there’s quilted leather upholstery that further smartens an already very nice interior, but there are some unforgivable lapses in material quality, most noticeably on the lower of two glove boxes, which would feel cheap and shoddy on a volume hatchback. When you’re paying more than $200,000, you have a right to expect better.
The SVAD’s character is interesting. Land Rover execs admit that they could have made it much more hardcore, akin to the Range Rover Sport SVR, but they feared that it would lose key attributes of the Range Rover appeal, such as waftiness and comfort. So you end up with a compromise – it’s faster and more dynamically capable than other Range Rovers, but it’s still a Range Rover, with close to two-and-a-half tonnes of luxury to lug about.
What’s the drive like?
The launch event for the SVAD, held over several hundred kilometres of UK motorway and tight, twisting rural byways, ironically shows up some of its major failures. When cruising, although the SVAD is very comfortable, it’s noticeably bumpier than a regular Range Rover thanks to the firmed up suspension and big 21in wheels. But it’s not firm enough to provide real engagement when the corners start coming thick and fast. You wouldn’t expect excitement in a normal Range Rover, but the name of this special edition promises something more. Yet comfort dictates a certain level of pliability that translates to initial body roll when turning in. Despite faster steering than the standard Range, it has the effect of reducing confidence in just how much you can lean on the SVAD through the bends.
That said, it’s an incredibly quick and capable machine for its size, and it’s all too easy to annihilate the speed limit and not realise it. The power is monstrous and when summoned arrives after a brief pause in the name of luxury – a race-like throttle wouldn’t be appropriate. But then comes a rich, angry yell from the supercharged V8 and a noticeable squat as all that weight is shoved to the back of the car. The 100kph mark comes up from standstill in just over five seconds.
The speed, the power, the dramatic surge is there, but the handling means that it doesn’t encourage you to press on. You marshal the big Range Rover through the bends, and then enjoy the power surge once the road opens up. As soon as another bend approaches though, it’s on with the anchors before another tentative tiptoe through the twisties. If the suspension were stiffer, it would inspire much more confidence and enjoyment, but it would put off the customers that don’t want to lose that traditional Range Rover decorum. On these British roads, the SVAD is almost hamstrung by its own legacy and customer expectations. But that’s not the full story…
So, overall verdict?
Despite this frustrating first drive, we’re fairly confident that this behaviour is a product of Britain’s idiosyncratic infrastructure – this more focused Range Rover just doesn’t suit the tight country roads upon which the launch took place. Until we’ve tried the SVAD in the Middle East we can’t be sure, but we suspect that this region’s big, wide, smoothly tarmacked highways will remove a lot of the issues mentioned above. Our expectation is that the extra power, the straight-line drama, will be the SVAD’s dominant feature, and the revised suspension should be much better suited to our big highways and lazily sweeping desert roads.
If that’s the case, then the increased performance it suddenly becomes a much more attractive proposition. With the rise in exclusivity and the extra power, the Dynamic version of the SVAutobiography almost seems tailor made for Middle Eastern appetites.