The day when cars can assess your mood as you're driving and react accordingly – playing Gregorian chants, or birdsong when you're stressed, sending mild electric shocks to your crotch when you're sleepy – is fast approaching, but I didn't realise it was already here.
The lavishly opulent Range Rover Autobiography we’ve recently tested certainly seemed to think I was tense, and in need of a hearty back rub, because without me asking it to, its massage function would simply kick into action, seemingly at random.
I spent a deeply amused few days trying to work out what was triggering it; my swearing at other motorists, my driving style, the angry Rage Against the Machine tunes I was playing on the truly gobsmackingly wonderful stereo system, and then I finally rang the people at Land Rover to ask what cyborg-like technology was at work here.
Disappointingly, they informed me that the massage function – which really does offer an impressive bit of spinal rubbing – can be set to come on at set times; half an hour after you set off, etc.
The Autobiography (possibly the worst name for a car, ever) doesn’t just rub your back, either, it seems to massage your senses from all directions. Heated and cooled seats, a head rest that feels like an actual pillow, beautiful soft furnishings and the calming sounds of silence from the back seats because your children are watching TV, or a DVD (they can watch two different things on their individual screens, if they choose) are all impressive. But it’s the way that the car shuts out the outside world that really makes you feel like you’re driving something special.
For a start, I simply could not believe it was packing a diesel engine, or at least not until I’d gotten more than 1000km of a tank, despite having the drag coefficient of a block of flats. There is simply no engine noise allowed to intrude on your serenity, nor does the suspension allow bumps, potholes or imperfections to bother you. It’s what I imagine driving a hovercraft would be like, in many ways, only it’s a good deal quicker.
The 4.4-litre diesel V8 boasts 250kW and 700Nm of torque and offers 8.7L per 100km, with a 0 to 100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, despite weighing a vast 2360kg. For those who want to get to the polo ground even faster, the petrol V8 cracks 5.4 seconds to 100km/h, which is slightly mind boggling.
Tricky tech touches abound, too, like the main screen, which offers a dual-view function so the passenger can watch TV, or a movie, but the driver can’t see it from where he’s sitting.
The Autobiograpy is the Rolls Royce of off-roaders, as you’d want it to be for $232,800, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s hard not to get out of it feeling better than when you got in.