2016 Range Rover Autobiography
There’s no luxury SUV substitute for a full-size Range RoverAs you can likely imagine I’m often asked questions such as, “What’s the best supercar you’ve ever driven?” or “Which company makes the best SUV?” To the former I unequivocally respond “Bugatti Veyron,” probably because I’ve never driven a McLaren F1, but I might still answer likewise. The latter question is getting more difficult after spending time with Bentley’s new Bentayga W12, but even then I find myself leaning toward the current Range Rover in full-load Autobiography trim despite almost being able to buy two for the price of one similarly equipped Bentayga.
Why? I’m a details freak, annoyingly so. Really, I regularly strap on my illuminated double-eye jeweler watch repair magnifying glasses and line up my various new, gently used, and vintage high-frequency manually wound and automatic mechanical and quartz three-hand, chronograph, jump hour, digital, etcetera (no tourbillons yet) watches, before setting each to the atomic clock (ironically sourced from my smartphone), making sure all of their complications are in working order (which means playing with my toys; I have a new analog chrono with a sub-dial that spins each of its two hands by 10ths and 100ths of a second in a blur of mesmerizing action before registering both, as well as 1,000ths on a separate sub-dial), oiling if needed, tightening any loose screws (on the watch), cleaning their recesses, buffing with a jeweler’s cloth, and then putting them back into their boxes. To that end the Range Rover Autobiography’s lack of a dash clock is a slight letdown, especially when factoring in the Bentley’s stock Breitling can be replaced by an optional $170k Mulliner/Breitling Tourbillon, but the rest of the big Landy’s cabin is pure bliss.
I don’t normally delve right into a car’s interior without first mentioning something about exterior styling and/or driving dynamics, but as outwardly attractive as the newest full-size aluminum-bodied Range Rover is, and as capable on pavement as off, it’s the vehicle’s magnificent innards that are head and shoulders above any competitor. The Solihull, UK-based team that put together this Autobiography didn’t allow a single square inch to appear common (OK, the RCA plugs for connecting A/V gear to the lower backside of the center console aren’t gold plated, but that’s about it). Even the strap to pull up the cargo floor and access the spare tire is contrast-stitched leather, unlike the Bentayga’s matte plastic lever that’s merely sourced from Audi’s parts bin.
Don’t get me wrong, as there’s a lot to love about the new Bentley SUV, like it’s outrageously powerful twin-turbo W12 and superb road-holding, not to mention its overall wow factor or the fact that most everyone who sees you behind its wheel immediately knows you’re either rich beyond their wildest dreams or you work for someone who’s rich beyond their wildest dreams, but let me be clear, there isn’t a single SUV on the planet that’s more perfectly finished inside than this Range Rover Autobiography.
Where the Range Rover reigns supreme is in those details I happen to love, especially the switchgear, its numerous buttons, dials, toggles and rockers far and away the best in the biz, the four-zone auto climate control interface with its digital readout filled, metal rimmed and rubber edged rotating knobs especially nice, albeit still paling in comparison to the various billet aluminum-framed driving controls that line the lower console, the circular gear selector dial that powers up from its flush recess at startup being the jewel in the electromechanical crown, while additional brushed, satin-finish, polished and knurled metals easily match any newcomer’s attempts, the perforated aluminum door grilles hiding components for the Autobiography’s exclusive 29-speaker, 1,700-watt, 3D surround sound enhanced Meridian Signature Reference Audio system that to an audiophile is worth the price of admission alone. Of course there’s no shortage of beautiful woods and sumptuous leathers either.
OK, maybe the Bentayga’s quilted hides are a bit richer than the Autobiography’s full semi-aniline skinned seats, but you’d need to be a cow to notice the difference, while the stunning artisanship of the Range Rover Autobiography’s stitched leather dash, leather center stack and lower console sides, plus its full leather door panels, not to mention the exquisite detail of the stitched solid/perforated leather and Alston suede-cloth pillars and roofliner is second to none, and a mirror match to the leather used for the superbly comfortable, massage and memory enhanced 18-way power-adjustable front seats, and powered rear seats with recline and lumbar, all four outboard positions replete with heatable and cooled cushions along with comfortable winged airline-style headrests. Even the thick rubber and metal-edge floor mats were special, as was the deep wool pile carpeting underneath, the latter extending to the very rear of the SUV where two adjustable tracks make tying down cargo via metal clasps less of a chore.
Land Rover has come a long way with its infotainment systems in recent years, although 2016 model year buyers who want the latest and greatest may want to wait until the 2017 model arrives as it will features a new larger 10.2-inch touchscreen (instead of 8.0 inches) as well as the brand’s impressive InControl Touch Pro interface that boasts quicker quad-core processing, a higher resolution display with great depth of color, smartphone-style pinch and swipe technology, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration for better smartphone integration, downloadable apps to your car as well as an app for your phone that lets you perform functions remotely, and much more. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the current system and therefore you’ll likely be satisfied if you’re not all that tech oriented, but progress is progress and when it comes to infotainment, progress moves quickly.
On this note the Range Rover’s fully configurable primary gauge package is already state-of-the-art TFT tech that includes a full complement of features integrated within the multi-information display between the classic analog-style dials.
Framing the gauges, the Autobiography’s heated leather, metal, and in my tester’s case, wood adorned sport steering wheel appears as much about form as function, and while filled with ideally fitted, well damped buttons that are large enough to use with winter gloves, its connectivity to the big 4×4’s electronically assisted rack and pinion steering system, and the ability to initiate gear changes through a set of large noble-plated paddles was even more compelling. The Range Rover’s quick-shifting eight-speed automatic joins up with a particularly potent supercharged V8 in Autobiography trim, good for 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque that results in a 5.1-second sprint to 60 mph, although if you take advantage of its readily available performance more often than not there’s absolutely no way you’ll be able to achieve anywhere near its claimed 13 mpg city, 19 highway and 16 combined fuel economy rating. Instead, you’ll need to disengage Dynamic sport mode and access its more economical settings, which initiate auto start/stop when the engine would otherwise be idling, along with other fuel saving technologies. I found this to be a more pleasurable way to cruise through city streets anyway.
On that note I’m fully aware Range Rover is legendary for its off-road prowess, the brand’s latest Terrain Response 2, with its ability to automatically adjust to road and trail conditions, and All Terrain Progress Control, which takes over throttle control and braking in slow speed off-road situations, joining permanent four-wheel drive with true low gearing plus standard locking center and rear differentials as well as loads of other 4×4 essentials for what many agree is off-pavement dominance, but this big ute gets abused more often, and truly shines over ultimately rugged inner city streets and side lanes. The Autobiography comes standard with a fully independent air suspension that’s absolutely sublime in such situations, while it slices through fast-paced two-lane corners just as adeptly, all the while keeping driver thrilled and passengers comfortable.
Parking the Autobiography is easy too, thanks to excellent outward visibility and a standard surround camera with superb clarity, the sophisticated feature also including Junction View, Trailer Reverse Park Guidance and Trailer Hitch Guidance, while 360-degree Park Distance Control sensors add even greater confidence when sidling up to stationary objects. If you’d rather relinquish control of the steering wheel altogether, the Autobiography also includes Perpendicular and Parallel Park Assist with Park Exit.
Now that we’re talking standard Autobiography features, a model that adds $36,800 to either regular- or long-wheelbase supercharged V8 models, additional kit not yet mentioned includes blindspot monitoring with reverse traffic detection, closing vehicle sensing, lane change monitoring, adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist and Intelligent Emergency Braking, adaptive HID headlights with auto high beams (LEDs will be standard for 2017), plus a lot of luxury and convenience items including self-synching doors, illuminated aluminum tread plates with Autobiography branding, configurable interior mood lighting, a center-console cooler, a power sliding panoramic glass roof, dual-screen rear entertainment with a comprehensive remote and two WhiteFire wireless headphones, a tow package, and more.
Of course, it pulls up most everything from lesser trims as well, the Range Rover Autobiography leaving nothing off my personal list of hedonistic wants. It even gets power folding rear seats (something noticeably absent from the Bentayga I tested) for expanding the already accommodating 32.1 cubic foot cargo area to a full 82.8 cubic feet.
To be fair to Bentley, Range Rover has been at the luxury SUV game decades longer than any competitor, so they’ve had some time to get it right. And the latest Range Rover Autobiography is very right. In fact, its $139,995 base price even seems like a bargain now that the $229,100 Bentayga has arrived, albeit my recent tester topped $350k with options.
My Range Rover Autobiography tester came with options too, its $2,100 22-inch seven-spoke diamond-turned alloys upsized by an inch over the standard rims, the no-cost wood portions of the steering wheel making it seem a bit richer. My tester was finished in Shadow Walnut trim throughout, one of three no-cost veneers, while the rest of the interior was a mixture of Ivory and reddish brown Brogue, one of 19 cabin motifs. There are three headliner choices too, while my Range Rover Autobiography’s Fuji White paint was just one of 39 exterior hues, 22 of which are exclusive. Suffice to say you shouldn’t experience the embarrassment of pulling up next to an identical Autobiography anytime soon.
I should probably mention here that the Range Rover starts at just $84,950 with its supercharged V6 and not much more with its new fuel-efficient TDV6 diesel, and while not as over-the-top luxurious as the Autobiography, its base trim is still plenty agreeable. All Range Rover trims deliver excellent value when factoring in this flagship model’s unparalleled quality and capability, as does the 7.9-inch more accommodating seven-passenger LWB (long-wheelbase) version, while all Range Rovers enjoy some of the best resale values in the industry.
There remains no luxury SUV substitute for a full-size Range Rover, as it remains the industry benchmark for all others to try and beat.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press