Anyone that knows me well knows that I’m typically not a fan of SUVs or 4x4 cars. If you live on a farm or a bit off the beaten track I can understand why you’d need a ‘bigger’ car, but for the average Joe that has a 30-minute commute on a pristine highway, I find these cars a little pointless. However, I also love cars, and couldn’t turn down the chance to take the new Range Rover Sport Autobiography for a spin.
Lets start with how it looks; I really like the styling. The updated bodywork is great, with curves and lines that really flow around the car and an aggressive front that really suits the ‘Sport’ moniker. While the car is parked it looks as though this 4x4 will struggle to get over a big speed bump. Thankfully this is simply due to the air suspension – it is at its lowest point to allow easier access. Once you’re on the road the car will automatically adjust the suspension and ride height to complement the terrain. I digress. In short, that large body sitting right on top of those beautiful 22-inch rims just looks great.
Inside, if you’ve encountered the Velaar, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. The overkill in terms of digital displays of the Velaar has made its way over to the new Range Rover Sport Autobiography. They’re all very pretty, I just feel it’s way too much. Sitting behind the wheel you’re presented with a heads-up-display on the windshield, a digital dash that has multiple displays, and then just to your right there are another two screens. The smaller, yet very wide screen at the top is your more traditional infotainment display and is likely where most drivers will adjust settings and customise their driving experience.
Just above the gear stick there’s a very pretty iPad Mini-sized screen where you can further adjust car settings. The nicest of these menus being where you choose what mode you want the car to be in. With each setting you get in image of your vehicle on a very picturesque landscape to match the setting. I can’t help but feel that as a driver your main focus should be keeping your eyes on the road – not negotiating or being distracted by four screens all competing for your attention.
I am a tech lover through and through, and this car has some very clever functions that I do appreciate, such as simply waving your hand backwards to open the sunroof. Does a car really need a gesture-activated feature? Probably not, but at least this allows you to keep your eyes on the road instead of looking for a button to press – unlike all those screens. I have to admit I also thoroughly enjoyed the sound system in this car. In the past I’ve not been overly impressed with Meridien speakers but this time they really knocked it out the park. The audio was very clear and full no matter the volume.
With every high, there’s often a low, and for me the worst part of the tech inside this (overall) impressive Range Rover Sport Autobiography were the steering wheel controls. I don’t feel like they complement the interior at all. Personally I think they look like dated Bluetooth remotes that have been glued to a nice steering wheel. The touch controls didn’t perform that well either. I’d spend far too much time gliding my thumb up and down the remote struggling to change the volume. Yet, sometimes while reversing or parking the car my hand may brush the controls and the volume will shoot up or down. The inconsistency of the touch controls was disappointing.
Before hitting the road I did also take a few minutes to see how much storage the cabin had. Again I was impressed. Plenty of space for two large coffees; a nice little fridge; a dual glove box; and a random highlight was underneath the cup holders (slide them forward) there’s a deep storage space where you can easily keep a sneaky packet of biscuits. The door storage space does fit a bottle of water, although it’s very difficult to remove it when the door is closed.
Finally it’s time to press that start/stop button. This is where my opinion of this car completely changed. The growl of the exhaust when you start the Range Rover Sport Autobiography is very satisfying. The 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 (518bhp) engine gets you from 0-100 km/h in 5.3 seconds and will keep pulling until you hit 225km/h. Not bad for a large car. Out on the road the car handles well. The air suspension navigates any small bumps in the road, with the ease you’d expect from a 4x4 vehicle. The car handles well enough around any city bend but despite it saying ‘Sport’ on the back, I wouldn’t take it on the track.
After a few hours on the road, I found the seats a little stiff. Not uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as I’d expect. I’m also undecided on the arms of the chair. Personally I feel they get in the way. However, every passenger that accompanied me really enjoyed the additional arm and added to their comfort. Aside from the arms, the driving position was great. You sit nice and high and feel at ease with the length and size of the car. The air conditioning in the seats is also a nice feature – I found myself using them every time I drove the car. The main vents didn’t cool me quite as much as I wanted and had to use the seat feature to be comfortably cool. Admittedly I spent most of my time with the car in sports mode and playing with the noisy pedal because I simply love the sound of the exhaust. This obviously led to the fuel consumption not being great. If you’re cruising around in an orderly fashion you should get a decent amount of distance under your belt before you need to fill up.
To conclude, apart from the steering wheel controls I believe this car is worth every penny you spend on it. It’s by far the best sounding 4x4 I’ve driven, and while it doesn’t have break-neck performance, there’s just enough to warrant a sports badge. Has it converted me into loving bigger cars? No, but it is a car I’d be happy to drive on a daily basis if I had to? As with every car, it comes down to personal choice and what you want from your motor. If you’re in the market for a new 4x4, the Range Rover Sport Autobiography should definitely be on your radar.
Nuts & Bolts:
ENGINE 5.0L V8 Super Charged
MAX POWER: 518BHP
0-100 KPH: 5.3 seconds