First Drive: Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography

'The V8 diesel is a glorious thing"
'The V8 diesel is a glorious thing"
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AS one of society’s thin-skinned people, the only downside of spending a week behind the wheel of a top-of-the-range Range Rover is that I waste most of my precious time with the car worrying about what everyone else thinks of me.

For every fan of the marque who applauds the sight of this beacon of British-engineered brilliance, I reckon there must be a hundred others who reserve a special kind of hatred for anyone with the mind or the means to spend starter-flat money on a car.

I can almost hear them trying to work out where I got the readies and, because I don’t quite fit the footballer or film-star mould, I must assume that they must assume I’ve made my money via nefarious means.

So, when we were followed into a deserted car park by two coppers in an unmarked car during the course of taking the photograph for the front cover of this week’s Scotsman Motoring, I fully expected the car’s every nook and cranny to be given a thorough going over by the forensics department. My only hope was that they would at least have the 
decency to put on a fresh pair of Marigolds before they turned their attention to me.

“Perhaps I should go and explain why we’re here,” I said to my photographer/son, acutely aware that the sight of a fortysomething scruff and a teenager in a hoodie loitering in a car they clearly can’t afford, facing the wrong way in a deserted one-way car park under a busy motorway bridge might have piqued their interest.

“Why? We’re not doing anything wrong. We haven’t even got out of the car yet,” he replied, with the sort of cool-headed logic that makes me question his parentage.

“Yes, but neither have they. They’re just ... waiting. I’ve seen CSI – they always wait for the miscreants to make the first move.”

The tense stand-off continued in this vein for a further minute or so. As the lad adjusted the settings on his camera, I listened intently for the high-pitched whine of a Taser being primed.

I couldn’t fault the Range Rover Autobiography for doing its best to soothe my fevered brow, though. The four-zone climate control kept me from overheating while the lad relaxed at a balmy 26C. The perforated leather seats channelled cooling air too. I tried to take my mind off matters by adjusting the cabin lighting to a calming shade of purple, watching telly (there are three screens), and wondered if I could deafen the law into submission with the 1,700-watt Meridian audio system (a £4,000 option, but that’s still cheaper than two grand-tier tickets for the Last Night of the Proms).

I even toyed with the idea of outrunning them. I had 4.4 litres, eight cylinders and 335bhp, swathed in a lightweight aluminium body, and they were in a diesel Astra. But Glasgow’s traffic was grim and they’d only summon a SWAT team or something. The Range Rover can wade through 90cm-deep puddles, but escaping into the Clyde was 
beyond its scope.

The boy was first to buckle under the pressure, grabbing his camera and making a beeline for the opposite end of the car park. “I should be able to get a good angle from just over there,” he muttered, which I interpreted as “Run for it, don’t look back, and meet me at the safe house in Rio in six months.”

Me? Run? I wouldn’t get past the bonnet of the car without having to pause for breath. And so I too stepped out of the vehicle, doing my best to resist the urge to put my hands up, and approached the cop car. They were too busy keeping a beady eye on traffic in the adjoining lane to notice me. Or maybe that’s what they wanted me to think. 
Either way, a knock on the driver’s window was called for.


“Hi. I’m here with my son and we’re from The Scotsman and we’re taking pictures of the Range Rover for the motoring pages and we thought the pillars of the bridge made a nice backdrop and we’re just about to set up and then we saw you and we were worried you’d think it all looked a bit suspicious because there’s no way I could afford a car like this unless...”

“Aye, aye. Carry on. We wurnae bothered about you.”

Talk about relief tinged with a sense of anti-climax. No shoot-out, no frisking, not even a “step into the back of the car, sir”. I wanted to ask what they wur bothered about, but his window had returned to the up position and he’d gone back to watching the traffic.

I went back to the car, followed moments later by the lad. “Will we take some more pictures?” he asked.

“No, I’d like to go home now and have a nice lie down. That’s quite enough excitement for one year.”

On the way back, I pondered the Range Rover Autobiography. At more than £102,000 once you’ve optioned it up, it falls into the category of cars I covet but will never be able to afford. Still, if you’ve got the cash, I can think of no better way to reward yourself – with the performance of a hot hatch, the luxury of a Bentley and the best off-road credentials of anything this side of a tractor.

The V8 diesel is a glorious thing, and not as brutal on the pocket as you might think. We averaged 25.8mpg over the week, not the 32.5 claimed by Land Rover, although too much of our motoring was spent twiddling our thumbs in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s traffic queues, wondering why the car didn’t come with stop/start.

And a sign that says: “It’s not mine, honest. I’m just borrowing it.”


PRICE £94,720 (£102,390 as tested)

ENGINE 4.4l diesel, 8 cyl, 335bhp, 516lb ft

PERFORMANCE Max speed 135mph; 0-60mph 6.5s

ECONOMY 32.5mpg