Road test: Range Rover Autobiography

Its younger baby brother might be getting all the attention at the moment, but without the original Range Rover luxury off-roader, the Evoque might never have happened.

The current car dates back to 2002, with constant updates made to keep it competitive. To see how it compares with more modern rivals, I spent a week with the range-topping, £83,145 (with options) Autobiography, 4.4 litre TDV8.
This is the fourth face-lift for the current Range Rover, which itself was a modernised version of the original, iconic design launched back in 2002. At the front, there are new lights with LED indicators, a Range Rover Sport-like grille and a reprofiled front bumper.

Move to the side and there's just a revised set of wing-mounted vents and to complete the subtle tweaks to the Range Rover's exterior styling, there's a new set of LED rear lights at the back.

Our test car was fitted with one of just two engines available for the Range Rover, the 4.4-litre, V8 diesel engine with 309bhp. Emissions of 253g/km and 30.1mpg fuel consumption figures mean that this car is going to be expensive to run.

The Range Rover's power-assisted steering is light but lacks feel and isn't as responsive as you'd hope, considering its big dimensions. Parking isn't as easy despite the Range Rover's clever optional Surround Camera system. Still, it feels perfectly weighted for motorway work.

Corners are where this car really impresses and considering its 3,200kg weight, the Range Rover's body roll is kept well in check. This is mainly down to the clever Adaptive Dynamics system that adjusts the suspension to road and driving conditions. This clever technology also gives the Range Rover a ride, smooth enough to rival the best luxury saloons and is unaffected by potholes and road scars.

This Autobiography test car has to be the best built Range Rover I've tried. The interior in particular, feels a very special place to be. The mixture of soft semi-aniline leather, wood veneer and metal finishes is really classy. I particularly liked the stitched leather roof lining that has the craftsmanship you'd expect for its £80,000+ price. The TFT instruments are quite clever too, but hard to read in direct sunlight.

Land Rover hasn't got the best reputation for reliability, but this generation Range Rover is a big improvement over the last.

The 4.4-litre V8 diesel engine is very smooth, refined and doesn't instantly sound like a diesel at idle; thankfully a hushed V8 thrum can just be heard as the revs rise. This engine gives its best at mid-range, with masses of torque available from low down the rev range.

The Drive Select automatic gearbox with its circular controller and paddles is smooth and works well with the diesel engine; 60mph comes up in an impressive 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph.

The Range Rovers doors are a bit narrow and you have to climb up into it, but interior space is up to limousine levels and the 983 litre boot is a practical size.

Out test car was in the range-topping Autobiography trim which has almost all the standard equipment, including 20-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, cruise control and climate control. There were quite a few costly options including £2,450 of twin screen DVD rear entertainment sytem and £1,085 of Vision Assist Pack.

The Range Rover's optional Harmon Kardon 1200 watt, 19 speaker Logic 7 audio system is one of the best standard systems I've tried, with plenty of bass and the treble is well defined. The touch-screen sat-nav is shared with Range Rover Sport, Jaguar XF and XJ. It's one of the best in the business and is easy to operate.

To sum up, if you're looking for an off-roader that can also be a limousine, then the Range Rover is the iconic original. Rivals might look and feel more modern, but none have the prestige of the Land Rover name with such a classy hand-built feel to the interior and I love it.

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