SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: Took a quick hop to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back, and though I can daydream of many vehicles suited ideally to the task, this long-wheelbase Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography is definitely in my first tier of road-tripping all-stars … well, aside from its wallet-draining fuel consumption. I used almost an entire tankfull strictly for highway driving, and despite the use of the engine's automatic stop/start function for the times I was on stop-and-go roads -- and the fact I rarely struck the 80-mph barrier throughout the heavily policed roads of Indiana and Ohio -- the supercharged V8 delivered less than 18 mpg. But if you have $144K to burn right out of your gate on a luxury sport SUV, complaining afterward about the cost of fuel strikes me as, oh, just a wee bit preposterous. No one needs a loaded-to-the-eyeballs Range Rover, after all.
Ah, but yessir, you quickly understand the people who do want one. The Range Rover, first off, represents an impressive melding of luxury, sport and refined design language that avoids looking like an overwrought futuretastic interpretation of what a Range Rover could be while also dodging the tiresome, too-retro bullet. This is exactly what a modern Range Rover should look like.
I recall some people last year noted squeaks and rattles in another Range Rover we tested, which led to legitimate questions about build quality. This time around, I discovered no such question marks, though admittedly my miles were on reasonably smooth freeways with the radio up to assist me in my quest to remain awake during one of the world's most mind-numbing drives (straight lines, farmers' fields). Perhaps someone who loads the beast with kids and luggage will discover some lingering issues, but I did not.
The interior is gorgeous, with adjustable accent lighting, rich and soft leather seats, more leather-covered panels up and down, and loads of rear-seat passenger room; the mood lighting and soothing colors produce a calming environment. However, I still roll my eyes when the wing-mirror puddle lights project “Range Rover” upon the ground beneath them in a tacky nod to the Bat Signal …
Ride quality is superb, engine grunt more than enough for anything remotely resembling responsible driving of a 5,300-pound SUV. You don't exactly forget how large and heavy this ute is as you drive it, but the view of the road ahead is so good that it's easy to plan your moves far in advance, and the steering and chassis are responsive enough to mask its heft somewhat. Miles streak by on the odometer as the outstanding sound system entertains and the easy-to-use navigation system guides you to your destination. Even after five hours behind the wheel, there was part of me that was disappointed to reach it because that meant the Range Rover experience had concluded.
$143K? Satellite-high fuel bill? I'd sign up happily, if only my bank account was full.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Along with our recent Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, this 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography LWB is a vehicle that's worth every bit of its extravagant purchase price. There's simply nothing I'd rather roll to the airport in than the back seats of this extended Rangie.
We're drivers though, right? Right. And the driver's seat of our Autobiography tester was just as nice, offering heat, massage and a commanding view of the world beneath you from the low-set dashboard, all with the ultimate luxury of 510 hp under your right foot. You'd think with its horsepower and torque figures Land Rover could just skip the transmission altogether, but ZF's eight-speed automatic really brings out the best in the latest Range Rover aluminum chassis. It's smoother, more flexible and more befitting a premium vehicle than the former six-speed automatic -- and I liked that combo just fine until I drove this thing.
My only complaint, other than the purchase price and fuel economy -- neither of which are concerns to the people who will buy one of these -- is the rotary shifter knob. It's a frequent touchpoint and it should be made of billet aluminum or something; instead it's got a sort of flimsy plastic feel (and sound) as it rotates through the gears.
I got over it. Buyers will, too, and I suspect the newly attentive Jaguar Land Rover organization will address this minor flaw in short order. They should, because otherwise the Range Rover LWB Autobiography is a near-perfect luxury SUV.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: It's no secret I love Range Rovers, old, new, whatever. I like 'em all. Would love a vintage one some day. I still believe the Range Rover is about the only car/truck available that you can bash around in the woods and mud all day, hose it off and drive it to the opera or a black-tie dinner that night.
This is the first time I've tried the long-wheelbase version, an off-road capable limo made mostly for China's driven executives riding in the back buckets.
It's a nice-looking truck, though my personal preference is for the regular wheelbase. This one looks a little, I don't know, too long maybe. The car is, of course, comfortable and sumptuous as I thought it would be. The blown V8 is simply outstanding, hauling this 5,000-plus-pound beauty around just fine with just the slightest V8 growl -- nothing to upset the country gentleman. The big buckets are about perfect, the view out commanding. It is whisper quiet going down the road, and mostly made quick work of Detroit's worst potholes and anything else that got in my way -- to the point you don't feel them. I say “mostly” because there was a little jarring over the worst pavement, but really, it's minor. Other automakers can only dream of their SUVs riding this smoothly (well, the Mercedes-Benz GL rides as well, too). It doesn't handle per se; you pilot this ship, the more relaxed you are, the better this baby drives. That's not a complaint, mind you; it fits the truck. Shifts are unnoticeable unless you're watching the tach.
Overall, it's a hell of a truck and hard to beat for smooth, quiet long-distance travel.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I like the idea of Range Rovers a lot, but the vehicles themselves have never exactly thrilled. I think it's because I expect something as solid to the touch as a Mercedes-Benz G-wagen from a name as venerable as Land Rover.
Instead, I get what feels like a Rodeo Drive cruiser masquerading as an off-roader. Defenders might not be cutting-edge, but they certainly look and feel the part of an adventure vehicle. Maybe you can drive a new Range Rover off the lot and onto a safari, but I'd hate to do it without a fleet of Defender support vehicles backing me up.
So this 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography Long Wheelbase, which is just about as long as its name, caught me off guard. It's not a no-nonsense overlander by any means, but it knows its market. It as a good grasp of its role in the world, and it performs that role with flair.
So what is it? It's a rolling statement, a four-wheeled show of solidity and force. It is an idiotically oversized means of transporting four people. Or, I suspect, one or two people and a driver.
Where mildly stretched executive transportation is concerned, it's the polar opposite of the understated Audi A8 L. If you don't have eight or nine figures in the bank account, you'll be embarrassed to arrive in this; if you do have eight or nine figures to your name, you simply won't care.
The thirsty supercharged powertrain is great; I'm struggling to think of vehicles that put power down so smoothly -- perhaps a V12-powered BMW 7-series or a Lexus LS flagship. Ride is similarly serene. The sound system kicks ass.
A nice bonus? The digital dash doesn't lag, and you no longer have to program a punch card to change radio stations via the touchscreen. This apparently upgraded system needs to be in every Land Rover/Jaguar product as soon as possible.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography LWB
Base Price: $106,195
As-Tested Price: $143,635
Drivetrain: 5.0-liter supercharged V8; 4WD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 510 hp @ 6,000-6,500 rpm, 461 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,320 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 14/19/16 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 16.1 mpg
Options: Autobiography LWB package including 20-way front power seats including upper seat articulation with massage and memory, semi-aniline leather seats, leather center and lower dashboard and center counsel sides and cubby lid, leather door panels, suede cloth headliner, rear seat entertainment with 10.2-inch screens including remote and headphones, winged headrest, front and rear climate seats, power rear seats with recline, fold and lumbar adjustment, tow package, full-size spare, rear locking differential, adaptive cruise control with queue assist, 21-inch style five alloy wheels, front cooler compartment, 1,700 Watt 29 Meridian speaker with 3D surround sound, soft door close, configurable mood lighting, four-zone climate control, surround camera system, adaptive Xenon headlamps, high beam assist, blind spot monitoring with vehicle closing sensing and reverse traffic detection, park assist package, Noble plated paddle shifters, long wheelbase contains rear side door power blinds, center console, storage bin, Santorini black door mirrors, extended panoramic roof with power blind ($36,800); lane departure warning including traffic sign recognition, shadow walnut veneer, wood leather steering wheel ($640)
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