Land Rover really started something when it rolled out the first Range Rover – now known simply as the “Classic” – in 1970. Bearing in mind that the existing all-terrainers at the time were slow, noisy, lumbering devices with all the grace of an elephant stomping through the jungle, the “Rangie” was a comparative gazelle.
The Range Rover was no less off-road capable than its Toyota Land Cruiser contemporary, or its Defender stablemate, yet it loped across all manner of terrain with alarming pace and refinement. It was an authentic game-changer, and it remained the only luxury four-wheel drive on the market for the best part of three decades, until the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Porsche et al barged into the fray with their own takes on the theme.
Although the customer base for the British all-terrainer in the early days was primarily wealthy farmers, horse owners and so forth, the target audience has mushroomed over the years to the extent that city slickers now account for the lion’s share of Range Rover’s global sales.
Although still very handy in rugged conditions, the full-sized Rangie is now extensively used as a default limo (hey, it’s good enough for Queen Elizabeth and countless other dignitaries), and in some cases it even replaces sports cars and GTs in the garages of well-heeled types.
It’s this latter trend that prompted Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) to unleash the steroidal Range Rover Sport SVR last year, and their latest handiwork is the awkwardly named SVAutobiography Dynamic (or SVAD), billed as the fastest and most potent (full-sized) Range Rover to date.
The SVAD derives its propulsion from basically the same uprated 5.0L supercharged V8 as its more compact Sport SVR sibling, but its 550hp and 680Nm outputs are unfurled with even more velvety smoothness than in the smaller Sport. The engine tweaks are supplemented by an 8-millimetre lower ride height, as well as a bespoke suspension and steering set-up to give it sharper responses and dynamics than the standard Autobiography.
It seems almost inconceivable that a vehicle that weighs as much as two Toyota Corollas and stands taller than most humans is able to scorch from standstill to 100kph in 5.3 seconds and effortlessly cruise at 250kph (when shod with optional 22-inch rims), but that’s exactly what the SVAD can do.
My maiden drive of the go-faster Rangie is in England, with the road trip dashing from London’s Heathrow Airport, through the Cotswolds and finally to JLR’s recently opened £20 million (Dh92m) SVO Technical Centre near Coventry.
The initial freeway leg is none too challenging, because the SVAD devours kilometres with deceptive ease – so much so that 110kph feels more like 70kph. But despite being a brand-new vehicle that’s not yet on the market, no other motorist so much as bats an eyelid as we cruise past, and that’s because the SVAD is barely distinguishable from the standard Autobiography.
The only clues to its identity are provided by the quartet of tailpipes, red Brembo brake callipers and subtle badging on the tailgate, along with a “Graphite Atlas” finish on the side vents, grille, bonnet finisher, grille and Range Rover badges.
Once we make our way on to narrow, bumpy, hedge-lined English country lanes, it’s evident that the Dynamic sacrifices some of the lovely suspension compliancy and suppleness of the unmolested Autobiography. It doesn’t particularly like sharp corrugations, transferring some of the impact of these through to your derrière, and its overall ride quality is much busier.
The compensating factor for this is that the SVAD attacks corners with a bit more crispness and pace than its standard sibling. That said, it’s no Porsche Cayenne basher – you always feel like you’re commandeering a weighty and voluminous chariot that occupies a lot of road space. It’s not as adept at hiding its mass as the ungainly looking, but highly capable, Bentley Bentayga.
For what it’s worth, considering that most Range Rover pilots never take their vehicles off-road, you may be interested to learn the Dynamic retains the all-terrain prowess of its standard siblings – provided you turf the 22-inch rims and substitute them with a set of 19s shod with higher sidewall tyres.
You still get still 900mm of wading depth, respectable approach and departure angles, plus the almost foolproof Terrain Response system that only requires you to steer, brake and apply throttle once you have selected the appropriate setting for the terrain. There’s no messing around with diff locks, clunky four-wheel-drive knobs or anything so gauche. Cosseted in an exquisite cabin that’s trimmed in diamond-quilted leather, piano-black veneer and knurled aluminium, you feel well removed from the harsh world out there.
Is the SVAutobiography Dynamic worth the sizeable extra spend over a standard Autobiography? I’m not too sure, because its added pace comes at some cost to refinement, but there will doubtless be those for whom it represents exactly what an exclusive, high-performance Range Rover should be.