The ultimate Range Rover
Comfortable, capable, and discreetly aristocratic, the Range Rover used to be the world’s only true luxury SUV, the preferred off-roader of princes and plutocrats. But with the arrival of Bentley’s Bentayga, Rolls-Royce’s giant Cullinan crossover, looming on the horizon and Daimler working on a GLS-based Maybach SUV, the game has changed; Range Rover now has some serious competition in the segment. Which explains the launch of the quickest and one of the most expensive Range Rovers in the history of the storied British off-road specialist: the 2017 SVAutobiography Dynamic.
The lush, plush, $200,945 USD long-wheelbase SVAutobiography that tops the current Range Rover lineup appeals to buyers who want to luxuriate in decadent comfort. But SVO boss Mark Stanton says there is a small but affluent group of customers who want both maximum luxury and more driver appeal in their SUV. “It would never occur to them to buy a Range Rover Sport,” Stanton says. “They don’t want the overt performance look of the Range Rover Sport SVR.” The SVAutobiography Dynamic, Stanton says, is the Range Rover for them.
The Dynamic is built alongside its long-wheelbase cousin at JLR’s gleaming new Special Vehicle Operations Oxford Road Technical Center, near Coventry, England. It shares the SVAutobiography’s slightly recalibrated version of the storming 550-hp Range Rover Sport SVR engine, along with many of its ultra-lux interior accouterments, but they’re all packaged in a standard-wheelbase Range Rover body with uniquely calibrated suspension and steering.
Stanton says the SVAutobiography Dynamic is deliberately more laid-back than the Range Rover Sport SVR. But that doesn’t make it slow. The claimed 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds ain’t shabby for a 5,400-pound-plus (2,449-kg-plus) SUV with all the trimmings.
What that single data point doesn’t tell you, however, is how effortlessly quick the SVAutobiography Dynamic feels on the road compared with a regular full-size Range Rover. The secret sauce is not so much the 40 hp power boost, but the 41 lb-ft increase in torque to 502 lb-ft, all of which swells nicely right in the midrange of the powerband. The slight hesitancy in rolling acceleration so characteristic of the standard model is gone; squeeze the gas, and the big Rangie surges serenely down the road accompanied by a velvety basso rumble from the quad-tailpipe exhaust that sounds like Tom Waits gargling 30-year-old Scotch.
The Dynamic’s ride height has been lowered 0.3 inch compared with the regular Range Rover, and all the suspension geometry is changed to suit. Steering knuckles, roll-bars, and damper rates have all also been changed to accommodate more sporty on-road driving, and the steering ratio has been quickened. Standard wheels are 21 inches, but even on the optional 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires the ride is plusher than expected. You feel the stiffness in the sidewalls at times, but impact harshness is very well suppressed, and the deftly calibrated rebound damping means the suspension nicely controls the unsprung mass of the giant wheels and tires.
The Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic’s interior, awash with beautifully wrought diamond quilted leather and highlighted with sparkling metalwork, is a wonderfully serene place from which to watch the world go by. The dash and door panels feature a black veneer, and the rotary shifter features a thin red band. Red anodized paddles peek out from behind the leather-clad steering wheel, unless you’ve ordered a tan interior. The lavish standard equipment includes 20-way adjustable heated front seats, the top-level InControl Touch Pro user interface with 10.2-inch screen, lane keeping and blind spot warning systems, and the epic 1,700W Meridien Reference Sound System.
All that sybaritic luxury doesn’t come cheap, though. The SVAutobiography Dynamic’s base price is an eye-watering $171,900 USD. But as SVO insiders point out, many current Range Rover owners also own Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, and Porsches. For these customers, finding the money for a Range Rover with the lot won’t be a problem.
The Dream Factory: The Art of the Bespoke Range Rover
They call it The Dream Factory. It’s where JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations folks will turn your dream Jaguar or Range Rover into reality. This brand new $25-million USD, 215,000-square feet facility boasts its own state-of-the-art paint shop, and gleaming assembly bays where 200 staffers are currently building Range Rover SVAutobiography SUVs and Range Rover Sport SVRs with bespoke paint and leather combinations.
The facility includes a high-tech commissioning room where, under a pilot scheme started with British JLR dealers last August, customers work on table-sized smart screens to mix and match color and trim combinations. SVO will paint your Range Rover any color you want, but designers from Gerry McGovern’s team at Land Rover HQ in Gaydon have selected a palette of 288 tones they believe work best on the exterior of their cars, along with a range of complimentary leather colors and trims. Like Rolls-Royce and Bentley, SVO can even embroider your family crest into the headrests of the seats, or fit rose-gold badges.
Greg Clark, SVO’s director of vehicle personalization, says customers are spending an average of $32,000 USD on bespoke paint, leather, and trim for their cars, and about 90 percent of commissions have been for Range Rovers. Once the pilot scheme has been completed in July, SVO plans to establish more commissioning rooms in other major markets.
“There are a lot of small companies around the world customizing our cars,” Stanton says. “They’re doing good business because we haven’t offered it. And we think we can do it better.”