Luxury. Premium. Opulent. These are expletives bandied about to describe a sumptuous environment, great ease and comfort, and abundance. Excess? Perhaps! However, these are words used extensively and, at times, erroneously in the automotive industry, mostly when describing a particular model and its lofty pecking order in their catalogue.
As mentioned, this can be grossly misplaced and therein lies the rub. Of course, these can easily be pointed out by those with a keen eye, but these fly below the radar for most.
It is here that the subject of this article comes in, the regal Range Rover. Over the years, the Rangie has been at the forefront of SUV luxury, the pioneer of melding ultra-luxury and off-road capability in one into one SUV, if you will. Think of it as the perfect one-car garage bastion, the one that does almost everything so well that, if you were given the option to choose just one car – it would rate right up there. The 'Big Body' as it was deemed following the launch of the Range Rover Sport back in the mid-2000s, there needed to be a discernible pecking order as the Sport and Big Body would not only appeal to different buyers, but also fetch different price tags. Both have remained popular up to their latest offerings. While we have yet to drive the new Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover Autobiography on test here is an unmistakably impressive machine. There's a comprehensive list of reasons why.
Aesthetically, it might look a lot like the outgoing car and, to some extent, I see why the designers didn't stray too far off the outgoing model's silhouette and design book. For starters, it needs to be instantly recognisable as a Range Rover while stamping its authority as the absolute pinnacle of the British luxury car brand. I believe they've nailed the design brief to the mast. That rear, in particular, is a noteworthy design element that will leave you with no illusions or doubts about whether this is the latest model. Thanks to a black LED light strip that doubles as a design element and looks impressive, particularly under the night sky. I also like the clean, lack of model or engine designation badges on the bodywork, which adds another layer of regalness because the Range Rover doesn't require any peacock antics, or shouting from the rooftop to be recognised – definitely a classy touch.
Our First Edition Autobiography variant comes cloaked in a Sunset Gold Satin optional paint coat – a cool R121,800 – that looks absolutely spectacular and comes highly recommended. Nestling the Rangie at each corner is a set of 23" alloy wheels connected to an air suspension that adds to the supreme waftability of this thing.
Unlocking the doors sees the flush door handles emerge from their recess, while the automatic side steps do their dance from underneath the car to make your step aboard that much easier. It is nifty, especially for children and mature adults who might be experiencing mobility issues.
Once aboard, you are greeted by a cabin with simplistic, high-quality architecture bereft of a sea of buttons. Some might argue that it makes the cabin look a little spartan compared to, say, a Bentley Bentayga. Still, I reckon the Rangie's minimalist interior approach adds to rather than detracts from its overall ultra-luxury feel. There are layers of quality wood veneers, swathes of premium leather and the tactility that befits a vehicle in this price bracket. There's a 13.1" infotainment screen upfront that houses most of the vehicle's functions and aids in the simplification of the cabin layout. Thankfully, there is rear entertainment for the kids in the form of two 11.4" screens, replete with a set of Bluetooth-enabled headsets, making long sojourns quite an enjoyable and peaceful experience.
Then comes the drive itself. Powered by the 3.0-litre, six-pot, turbodiesel engine with 258 kW and 700 Nm shuffled via an 8-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, this powertrain suits the vehicle's character to the nth degree. It is a silky, smooth operator with creamy mounds of torque, pulling the Rangie with so much conviction that I'm inclined to believe that the V8 petrol variant might be a bit excessive for the application. While diesel engines continue to diminish as tighter emission regulations come into effect, I must commend Land Rover for offering this particular engine to its lofty Range Rover. In no uncertain terms, it is one of the best diesel engines currently on the market.
What truly stands head-and-shoulders above any other aspect of the vehicle is its incredible and exemplary ride quality. It is like rolling on cotton fields rather than tarmac, with the air suspension doing its level best to iron out road imperfections while maintaining body control, to the point that the large 23" wheels have negligible compromise on ride quality. Rear wheel steering makes the large Rangie easy to manoeuvre through tight spaces.
Off the beaten track, the thing hardly flinched. While we could have taken it further into rockier terrain, we were mindful of the large wheels and expensive paintwork and reluctantly restrained ourselves.
With long gestation periods between new models, each generation of the Range Rover is infinitely better than the outgoing one, with pricing to go with the new improvements. Owners swear by them and continue to replace their Rangie with, well, the next generation as soon as it becomes available. It is, without a doubt, one of the nameplates with the most loyal customers and I get this. It remains one of the most luxuriant and capable SUVs on the planet, some billing it the original luxury SUV. This latest incarnation proves, once again, why the Range Rover appeals to the most discerning of buyers.
That aside, fresh out of the box, I cannot think of a more luxuriant and capable SUV. At R3.7m, the recently internationally launched BMW XM will be squarely benchmarked against the Range Rover.
This is easily one of the best SUVs I have driven this year and possibly one of the best cars launched in 2022, and thus gets full marks in our road test scoring barometer. Luxury. Premium. Opulence – the new Range Rover has these in spades and then some!