Welcome to a niche inside a niche – which in itself, is actually a niche.
We’re not talking run-of-the-mill Range Rover here, but also not luxury galore (Autobiography) or extreme dynamics (SVR) either. Instead, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable mix of all three. It’s an Autobiography and Dynamic in one. Yes, it’s already seeming like an acquired taste.
However, let’s cover the basics and work out what the Range Rover SVAutobiography (SVA) Dynamic actually is. While it sits on the standard architecture, the SVA underwent detailed modifications to the knuckles, steering arms, springs and dampers, while the steering has been tweaked to offer a touch more enthusiasm on turn-in.
Complete with plenty of bling inside and out, as well as the V8, the new go-fast, uber-luxe Rangie costs more than $300K. Ouch.
Predictably, performance does not really enter the equation here for most buyers. But it’s there for the taking all the same. The 0-100km/h time is a perky 5.1 seconds, the top speed is 250km/h and the mid-range shove is just about on par with an Airbus A319 preparing to take off. Of course, the resultant fuel economy is understandably horrendous when pushed.
However, once again, that’s probably not something most buyers of a rapid SUV will have at the forefront of their mind. Yet right now the 105-litre tank is full to the brim and the big RR is primed for some English B-roads in the Cotswolds.
On these narrow and twisty lanes the SVA falls apart faster than you can say, ‘bugger that for a joke’. The problems start, and centre around, the ride quality – or more to the point, lack thereof. Sub-standard, at best, probably covers it, although the fact that the wheels measure a massive 22 inches and the test conditions proved to be spirited has to be taken into account here.
However, the Rangie can’t hide its disdain for cat’s eyes, potholes, broken black-top, expansion joints, low-speed undulations, camber changes, grooves in the road and just about any other tarmac imperfection you can think of. Truth be told, there is no other model in the Range Rover forecourt that needs a sorted Comfort suspension and damper setting for the air springs and shock absorbers more than this 2.5-tonne behemoth.
And I’m sorry to say, but the moaning doesn’t end there. For instance, directional stability leaves a lot to be desired as soon as the vehicle encounters dips, bumps and other seriously uneven surfaces. The response is fidgety steering and an overexcited ESP system. But what’s worse is that it eats away at your confidence behind the wheel.
On a positive note, what does even the ledger (literally) somewhat are the electro-mechanical anti-roll bars. They certainly are a welcome addition and contribute to fast, flat cornering in the right conditions. Ride quality aside, the overall handling is neither tricky nor dreary. Even though mild understeer prevails, feeding the masses of torque in progressively while avoiding excessive steering angles helps to quell undue responses.
What the SVA really does like is highways, smooth A-roads and sleeping policeman. The latter is due to what is lurking under the sculpted bonnet. The big-bore, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is a beautifully vocal engine. And with 680Nm of torque peaking within a 2500-5000rpm window, the hyper-Rangie kicks butt.
Sadly, despite having a monstrous 405kW underfoot, the throttle response is lax initially before becoming manic the closer your right hoof gets to the firewall. The result is a bit of a mixed bag of erratic responses, which juxtaposes the gentlemanly character of a RR – although we can’t forget the SV part of the badge.
Given the pace at hand, it’s not ideal that the brakes aren’t exactly perfect. In normal use you wouldn’t even notice the deficiency, but that’s not the case when you're at the base of extended descents and while punting along the 90-degree bends of rural England. Increasing fade with mounting pedal pressure makes one wish for carbon-ceramic rotors, but they aren’t even an option.
Gentlemen who enjoy turning heads en route to the golf club may be tempted by the dealer-installed body kit that adds a touch of boy-racer to the SVA. It’s a product of Jaguar/Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operation (SVO), a sidekick modelled after the bespoke divisions of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
For around $45K you get the full beauty treatment complete with a paint job of your choice, matching leather and exotic trim work. Triple the initial investment and they will even armour-plate the carriage, spray it in matte British Racing Green and fit a swivelling rear seat for the bodyguard.
What a world we live in? But it’s also a sign of the confused nature of this Range Rover.
3.0 out of 5 stars
Weapon fast with supercharged V8; surprisingly agile; luxurious cabin
Ride quality; underdone brakes; it's a bit confused
Engine: 5000cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharged
Power: 405kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 680Nm @ 2500-5000rpm