Tested: 2022 Land Rover / Range Rover P530 Autobiography

There are certain cars that come with a hundredweight of preconceptions; and one of them is the Range Rover. I recently spent a few days with this monstrous dark green P530 model to give you my impressions…

First and foremost, a Range Rover is the ultimate status symbol of posh British folk. Whereas other UK brands have slid down the slippery slope of new money, the big Land Rover made a few cameo appearances in rap videos before the entire west coast of America honed in on the poor Mercedes Geländewagen.

This brings me to the second notion of a Range Rover: its pre-owned unreliability. Perhaps that’s why DJ Yo-mutha swiftly moved to the German 4×4, and the makers of that erstwhile rustic army vehicle responded in the only way a big corporation can: by tarting up the product with the shiniest tinsel to attract more of the same customers.

The Range Rover (and to some degree, Rolls and Bentley) didn’t go quite as bling, although there’s plenty of bait in the colour palette and options list for anyone whose bank account requires rapid emptying. But if you look at the overall shape of this new Range Rover – and indeed those before it – it’s just so understated and regal. So British.

Land Rover has always gotten that restrained modernity right, ever since the Disco 3.

As for the vehicle you’re looking at now, plainly someone at the press department had been watching too many reruns of MTV Cribs and then fallen asleep with the Parliamentary Channel blaring… because this green-black car had black wheels, black trim, a black grill, black windows and a jet black interior.

Although this big-body Range is also available in pale metallic colours with tasteful two-tone cabins and wheels that won’t upset the Royal Household, I decided to test my bravery by taking this monstrosity for a camping weekend at some tranquil riverside chalets. Like, in public. Where people would actually see me driving it.

When our friends eventually recognised my visage behind a retracting driver window, they greeted me with a loud chorus of “Viva, EFF, Viva!” Make of that (or my friends) what you like, but it frames the enormous RR as an easy target for people in positions of power or influence. With access to unknown funds.

Speaking of which, the number one question I get asked about a test car came up almost immediately: “How much does this cost?” Seeing that I can’t memorise hundreds of prices (and dozens of changes per month) I now turn the question around on any enquirer(s): “What do you think it costs?”

The answers were wild. Wildly optimistic at under two million and wildly different at just about double that. And just to be fair, I also hadn’t checked the current retail value of a new Range Rover P530 Autobiography until that moment, so I pegged my answer near the top at 3.5 million ZAR.

It turns out that I was off by about 800,000 as this vehicle will set you back at least R4,156,300.00 (four point are you mad million Rand) without options. This one came with extra goodies to the tune of R47,600 for a final total of R4,203,900 or – calculated at popular loan conditions – roughly R89,500 per month. Without insurance.

Because my friends eventually calmed down to mild hysteria (while poking every button inside this vehicle) and we all agreed that most new Rangeys are owned by folks who have multiples of the asking price at their disposal. Be it cash in the bank, investment returns, trust funds or holding company leases… nobody saves up until they can afford a P530 Autobiography.

With apologies for the lengthy socio-economic rant, we’ve finally reached the driving aspect of this new British brute. My primary warning concerns the vehicle’s size, as it easily matches a modern double-cab bakkie for height and girth. Length is debatable, plus it’s got a good turning radius (about 11 metres) and a state-of-the-art surround-view system.

This set of cameras is so clever that it can even turn the nose of the car invisible. Allow me to explain. When you are off-roading at low speeds, the media screen shows delayed footage of the front-facing camera (according to the vehicle’s speed) and superimposes it over a top-down view of the front wheels; to create “a see-through bonnet”.

And if you’re concerned about entering or exiting the big Rover, it obviously comes with the latest version of the company’s air suspension, which offers multiple on- and off-road drive settings, fully automatic terrain and water sensing, speed-dependent adaptation and the ability to manually override the car’s ride height between an impressive 220 and astonishing 295mm.

Next in the line of “they really thought of everything” is the car’s sleek profile with clean flanks; there are no running boards or rock sliders spoiling the minimalist bodywork of this newbie. But… gently tap the door-handle shaped panel and, unsurprisingly, a door handle appears. As it does in a Tesla or an S-Class.

Even better, once you’ve tugged on the animated handle, a full-length stepping board swiftly and silently swings out from underneath the vehicle. It’s a magical spectacle, having your car change shape in multiple ways as you enter or exit, but caution is advised to the uninitiated who may have a shin or calf incident upon exiting.

Also, take extra care with clean trousers if you’ve somehow been off-roading in your four bar car. Other concealed items I discovered were the jolly automated tow hitch and another hidden feature which has become quite the darling of our local motoring culture: four pipes. I’m sure there are options (or local Powerflow agents) which can help with revealing those.

The interior of a new Range Rover is somewhere between aeronautical business class and automotive first class. Everything, every single surface or panel, is of the highest quality or linked to the best technology. The seats adjust in (what feels like) a thousand ways with ventilation controls that are only rivalled by the full-cabin climate control.

Passenger space is almost abundant, especially if you’re only four adults and use the rear seat central divider in its second form: as a media and comfort centre. Please visit your nearest Land Rover dealership to get the full view of all available options for rear VIP passengers; including two marvellous captain’s chairs.

Back at the front, new owners and chauffeurs would do well to take every demonstration or lecture on the cockpit’s operations, as most of them are digitised and multi-faceted. LR has done well to simplify the main infotainment screen, yet I found its initial operation a tad frustrating as it seemed so… limited?

Translation: it’s easier once you know where to find everything.

As for driving the large SUV, it’s exactly as refined as I would have expected. Although the spec-sheet alleges that there are 390kW at play, the engine never sounds nasty or intrusive. In fact, I initially bemoaned a slight throttle hesitation, and wondered where the V8’s supercharger whine had gone to… until I learnt that this is a new 4.4L twin-turbo setup.

That, together with a yaw-sensing stability management, means that this car tends to produce a bit of lag: on take-off or mid-corner, fast and slow, before it finally releases all its torque (750Nm) when the cornering lean subsides. Meanwhile, the steering feel and ride response are both ever-so-slightly vague and removed, as it should be in a car of this class.

Outright performance is blistering for something with a kerb weight of 2,510kg. Land Rover claims 0-100km/h in just 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h. Our best 0-100km/h time was 5.57 seconds with a ¼-mile time of just 13.63 seconds at 105.96mph. Although the nought-to-hundred time was off by a full second, that’s still fast.

Actually, that’s properly, properly fast; especially for a dark green luxury apartment block with 23-inch rims. We also chanced upon a BMW i8 while returning from performance testing and his exuberant traffic light start – no doubt accompanied by a “watch this” directed at the female passenger – didn’t end well for him.

Even the braking performance of this enormous RR was fairly impressive with a full emergency stop from 100km/h taking just 2.89 seconds and 40.96 metres. Again, not bad for a house on wheels. Its manufacturer also claims that this car will use just 11.8L/100km from the 90L tank but, no surprises here, I saw at least double that.

In fact, this press vehicle ate through fuel so quickly that it made both my colleagues flinch; and return the car to me before their allocated time was up! Just like me, they enjoyed the power and opulence, those generous seats and clever gadgets, its amazing sound system and the dazzling headlights; but they couldn’t live with that day-to-day consumption.

And if I may reveal a few personal negatives, the nostalgically shaped steering wheel isn’t easy to get comfy with, and there’s a shiny dash panel on the passenger-side dashboard which can produce a blinding sun reflection for half the cabin. But, as I discovered on a recent 4×4 launch in Scotland, UK press people usually answer questions about harsh sunlight with “Oh?”

In summary, the new Range Rover is the absolute pinnacle of luxury 4×4 motoring this side of that hideously expensive and hideously blocky other vehicle with two r’s. The new turbo engine is certainly a match for its supercharged predecessor but trades better efficiency for slightly laggy response at times.

Included in each sale is a 5-year/100,000km warranty and maintenance plan.

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