Not long ago (back in the ’90s) you could order yourself a Range Rover LWB ($146,020), sporting a spiffy and piggish 4.2-liter V8 with negligible horsepower. Its sole advantage: more room in the back — five-some odd inches — to save rear-seat passengers the chore of sitting in conditions otherwise as cramped as a middle seat in Coach. Back then Range Rovers were diminutive (by today’s standards).
20 years and two parent companies later, things are different. The marquee has long graduated finishing school, and if you’re one of the fortunate few in a Range Rover LWB, then there’s a good chance you’re neither driving nor sitting shotgun. You’re being driven — or perhaps you want to drive home a sense of entitlement with your kids. The interior serves its occupants with fittingly Gulfstream-like ambiance (the crisp, modern, austerity kind of ambiance). The perfect kind of place to while away the hour between Park Ave and Westchester, Culver City to Malibu, or Kensington to Belgravia.
Land Rover has upgraded overall spec here, too. A 510 horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8 is good for a brisk 5.5 seconds to 60 mph. It’s a big power plant, but as your right foot (or the right foot of the man you’re paying) mashes the throttle, hurling you toward the siren’s call of the 1%, all you you really hear is a distant growl promulgating your arrival amongst the elite. Or, if you prefer the theater, Dvorak bellowing across the Range Rover’s 29-speaker (29, folks), 1700-watt speaker Meridian reference audio system. The 461 lb-ft of torque come wide and smooth from 2,500-5,500 RPM, plenty enough to usher past coarse traffic or tow your Chris Craft. Power delivery in the Autobiography is stately. Nothing rushed, nothing out of place. The coif is fine.
2015 Range Rover Long Wheelbase Autobiography
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 Supercharged
Torque: 461 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds
Top Speed: 155 mph
But in my ride, I’m not being driven. I’m staring at an LCD instrument cluster providing me information once relegated to the duties of needles and painted numbers. The LCD’s a CinemaScope-ratio ThinkPad ensconced in semi-anilene leather, shroud right behind my equally bedecked steering wheel. It does a lovely electronic dance — complete with neat shadow and highlight effects that you expect in a flagship vehicle (e.g. S-Class, 7 Series). It also makes me wonder just how modern it will look next to the post-retina screen days. It probably doesn’t matter, though; by then you’ll be on to your next Range Rover.
The Range Rover has never suffered from exterior design problems. In fact, older Range Rovers have aged as well as Pierce Brosnan. But, as the vehicle has increased in size, so have Land Rover designers’ task to honor the floating roof design while masking the vehicle’s swelling largess. The drawn headlights, 21-inch wheels and subtle brightwork embellishments do their job handsomely. And on the inside, Range Rovers of yore were once plagued with issues. Today, there’s none of that. Between the electronic wizardry and the newly minimized center stack, you get a strong sense Land Rover has a hang of this stuff now — it’s no longer for show, it’s simple, “relentless engineering.” I wouldn’t mind a more responsive infotainment system, but I’m much happier that it works well and sounds implausibly good (again, 29 speakers). Every writer walking the car beat knows there was a time when Land Rover ergonomics were about as charming as the dentist’s office, but between the minimalism and execution of everything on this LWB, you can’t help but trust they’ve moved well beyond those days. Mashing buttons with slight hope of operation is now replaced by tactile switches that respond instantly and satisfyingly, and panels and doors thunk and click with teutonic declaration.
Between the drive and design, Land Rover has managed to achieve something I didn’t initially expect to walk away with: a sense of architecture. Moving architecture. As Range Rover continues to while away prospective buyers from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Rolls Royce, its purpose has evolved into more than a means of transportation to take us to our destination stayed by neither rain, snow, mud or gloom of night. Setting foot inside a Range Rover Long Wheelbase Autobiography one cannot help but get the sense that they’ve already arrived.