Motoring by appointment to His Royal Highness
Range Rovers are special to us. We go a long way back. So this superb Belgravia Green P530 Autobiography certainly tugged some heart strings when it rolled onto our driveway.
My uncle bought an azure one right in the beginning in 1971, when they were still grey imports in SA. Not very long after that, my old man acquired one of the first official imports of the facelifted Series Ones from Southern Leyland. That yellow two-door was fundamental in my motoring nurture, being an impressionable standard nine kid at the time.
We had a fairly complex lifestyle, and a weekend breakaway spot at the end of an impassable track in the hills north of the city. We were raced dirtbikes, so those towing trips to Maseru, Vryburg, the Cedarberg and other halcyon venues remain entrenched deep in my mind. Never mind a few overnight holiday charges to the Cape.
An astounding Range Rover ability to cross terrain
I was astounded by Range Rover’s ability to cross terrain like a dirtbike. And then simply hit the road and blast all the way to Cape Town, stopping only for fuel. Several times. Dad swapped that car for one of the first four doors that Hartog brought in. Even more luxurious, our silver Rangey also did incredible duty. In every situation, royal connotations, and all.
Range Rovers evolved and every time we have had one to test since, it evoked the same reactions over the years. So like Ferrari, Ducati, KTM and Subaru, M and some other iconic brands to us, Range Rover is also tattooed on my brain. Which why I was particularly excited to go out to meet this splendid P530 Autobiography as it rolled in.
This fifth-generation Rangey is a contemporary interpretation of that very grace and style I came to love a half century ago. Our sublime blackened Belgravia Green tester had a shadow pack contrast roof, laminated glass and giant 23″ black alloys wrapping black callipers. We lowered the air suspension to speed spec for the photos.
50 legendary years of Range Rover evolution
Breathtakingly modern, peerlessly refined and basking in 50 legendary years of evolution, this particular Range Rover comes pimped from the factory. I mean just look at it. Not only is this latest, harmonious rendition of that classic look a feast to the eyes, but it also has a presence all of its own. You sure that’s not Darth Vader’s ride?
So, it looks properly pimped. Doesn’t it? But it’s actually bone stock… The new one of course still remains a typical Range Rover. Defined by three classic lines; the falling roof, strong waist and rising sill lines combine with the expected short front overhang. And a distinctive new boat tail rear to convey a classic, peerless Range Rover presence.
It’s even an adventure to board your Rangey. Power doors have anti-pinch. The boot is an event all of its own. A classic Rangey-practical two-piece split tailgate opens to a cover that elegantly retreats to ease loading. This car’s fully automated optional Event Suite5 gate even had extra lighting, audio, and tailored pillows for that ideal destination vantage point.
Bespoke Ebony cabin another Range Rover class act
Moving aboard, this one’s fully bespoke extended Ebony cabin is another Range Rover class act under a duo tone with Perlino leather headlining and sliding panoramic roof. Only the finest textiles and finishes create a sublimely refined sanctuary packed full of tech like nanoeX air purification. It turns every trip into an experience to savour.
24-way power cooled, heated and massage perforated leather front and executive rear seats, noble chrome controls and bespoke black veneer set the scene. Add ebony carpets and bespoke mats, a centre console refrigerator to chill your travel and destination drinks, and of course, signature Meridian sound. Sound larney? Well bespoke it certainly is!
Regular readers will know our abhorrence of modern car infotainment. Delightfully however, this car vaunts a most impressive system. Called Pivi Pro, its minimalist 13.1-inch floating curved touchscreen features a smartphone-inspired interface. But it also leaves vital audio, climate, and other controls to cool and convenient hard knobs, buttons, and switches.
The best infotainment on the road?
Both the dash and heated soft grain leather multifunction steering wheel switches benefit haptic feedback. This intuitive, crisp, and clear manner of interface breaks new ground by affirming your input and alleviating the need to look away from the road and concentrate on the screen. As most rival systems force you to do.
The driver is confronted by semi-floating 13.7-inch interactive high-definition display available in a variety layouts from conventional analogue to a mod sci-fi get-up. Every single carmaker out there would be very well advised to take a long hard look how this Range Rover interacts with its occupants. It’s quite simply the best system out there right now.
There’s also rear seat entertainment via a pair of adjustable seatback mounted Wi-Fi and HDMI port supported 11.4-inch HD touchscreens. A centre armrest pod controls the displays to independently keep the don, the price, or just the kids happily connected to just about any device. And software over the air will constantly evolve your Rangey as time marches on.
All-new parallel twin-scroll biturbo V8
Prod the start button and Range Rover’s new parallel twin-scroll biturbo 390kW and 750Nm 4.4-litre V8 bellows to life. It deploys a turbocharger for each cylinder bank to minimise lag and optimise efficiency and soon settles to a silent, emotive drive. They claim 4.6 seconds to 100 km/h, and that it will sip 11.8 litres of gas for every hundred kilometres driven.
Our tests never came anywhere near the claim. At least there’s one thing to criticise this incredible car about. Even if five and a half seconds is nobody’s slouch. Especially considering its 2.5 tonne heft. But we also managed to use quite a bit less than that much fuel on a few trips. Just don’t flatten it too much!
The V8 turns an invisible eight-speed ZF automatic and transfer box to drive all four wheels. Packing an incredible bouquet of advanced systems, Driveline Dynamics all-wheel drive monitors grip and driver input a hundred times a second. Then distributes drive front to rear and left to right across the active locking rear axle, for optimum traction on and off-road.
The pioneer takes air suspension next level
The Range Rover was of course the first luxury SUV ever to feature air suspension back in ’92. Nothing much has changed. Except that this latest model’s pre-emptive Dynamic Response Pro roll control uses eHorizon navigation data to prepare its market-leading air spring volumes and twin-valve dampers for the road ahead.
Featuring modular new architecture and a new five-link rear axle suspension, all-wheel steering delivers both high-speed stability on the one hand, and exceptional parking speed manoeuvrability on the other. Never mind, a turning circle less than 11 metres.
Range Rover’s Terrain Response 2 integrated chassis control automatically coordinates the various systems to suit your driving environment and topography across six driving modes. You can of course override and manually select your preferred setting. Or just utilise Range Rover’s versatile Configurable Terrain Response to create a bespoke set-up.
The new Range Rover is also among the quietest cars we’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. That’s not just because of those many abovementioned chassis systems. The Rangey takes it further using its 1,600W Meridian sound system’s 35 speakers to cancel out noise and vibration.
Range Rover exquisite in every possible way
This Range Rover’s 500m beam range high-definition Adaptive Digital LED headlights are another major advance. Able to shield up to 16 objects in the Rangey’s path, they allow next level high beam driving without dazzling oncoming motorists. Predictive Bending technology once again uses navi info to adapt the beam to approaching corners.
Animated indicators and signature DRLs bring excitement, while Manoeuvring Lights create a carpet of light for effortless navigating and parking in dark corners with the 3D Surround Camera system. Talking of parking it, Remote Park Assist3 will even park your Rangey while you watch from outside.
At the end of the day however, driving this incredible latest Range Rover not only hammered its incredible pedigree home. It also underlined how splendidly special a car it has become. Look, Range Rovers have always pioneered the epitome of luxury off-road driving. That much we can give you a letter for. And so will Charles.
This new one however takes it all next level. Totally serene on the road, the Range Rover is more than capable whatever the driving scenario. Be that on the freeway, in the desert, through sunshine, driving rain, sleet or snow, arriving in a Range Rover just makes it all so much more special. It has always been that way. And it seems that it always will be, too. – Michele Lupini
Testing & data: Giordano Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Range Rover P530 Autobiography Engine: 530 kW 750 Nm 4,395 cc biturbo petrol V8 Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD Max Braked Trailer 3,500 kg TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 2.90 sec 0-100 km/h: 5.59 sec 0-120 km/h: 7.24 sec 0-160 km/h: 11.77 sec 400m: 13.6 sec @ 172 km/h 80-120 km/h: 3.23 sec 120-160 km/h: 4.53 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 250 km/h Fuel: 11.8 l/100 km CO2: 275 g/km Range: 750 km Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/5y 100K km LIST PRICE: R3.62M RATED: 10