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When legendary British automotive engineer Charles ‘Spen’ King first conceived the idea of the Range Rover back in the late 1960s, he could not possibly have envisaged the form his creation would take on, some 50 years later.
Considered revolutionary and luxurious for an off-roader of its era, the original Range Rover was, by today’s standards, a utilitarian affair.
Capable of ferrying country squires across boggy British paddocks for a spot of pheasant hunting, it was not averse to having a brace of bloodied birds, or even a muddy ewe, thrown into the boot for the trip back to the manor.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the Range Rover Vogue SV Autobiography Dynamic: an ultra-luxury high-performance machine, priced and equipped in such salubriousness that it will be at home in the Hollywood garage of a movie mogul, the Hyde Park townhouse of a British banker, or the desert oasis of an Arab sheik.
(And not a buckshot-laden pheasant in sight, lest one get a smear of blood on the diamond quilted, 24-way adjustable, heated and cooled semi-aniline leather seats with inbuilt hot-stone massaging.)
Costing close to $350,000, the Vogue SV Autobiography Dynamic looks and feels more like a high-end, chauffeur-driven limousine than something that has at its core the startling capability to ford creeks, scramble up rocky ridges, and haul 3.5-tonne horse floats with insouciant ease.
That’s the inherent irony of the Vogue SV: because while the model retains all of the legendary off-road prowess upon which the brand name was built, this particular variant is so over-the-top that you’d need to be supremely careless or an utter fool, or both, to sully its immaculate interior.
Despite the formidable stature, stepping into the SV Autobiography’s opulent cabin is laughably easy, thanks to air springs which lower the suspension by 50mm. When the going gets rough, it can be raised by up to 75mm for deep ruts or water crossings, lowering again at road speeds to improve dynamics and handling.
Your boots sink into soft, deep-pile wool carpet, while your bum is greeted by those plush, quilted armchairs, and your fingers caress cool-to-the-touch aluminium paddle shifters behind the over-size wheel.
A chunky centre console clad in handsome carbon-fibre weave bisects the generously proportioned cabin, and a knurled alloy rotary gearshift dial emerges dramatically from the console, beneath twin inter-linked high-definition 10-inch touchscreens.
Press the start button and the cabin fills with the unmistakeable roar of a potent force-fed V8 – allegedly the most powerful production Range Rover bent eight yet, thanks to the attention of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division.
The list of SVO performance and customisation enhancements to the SV Autobiography’s engine, suspension, interior and exterior run out the door, collectively elevating it to rarefied performance and pricing that only a fellow Brit, the $334,700 Bentley Bentayga, competes with.
As with the Bentley, power from the supercharged, 5.0-litre V8 is immense and utterly effortless. Boggle at the physics involved in 416kW and 700Nm propelling a near-2.5-tonne SUV from rest to 100km/h in 5.4 seconds; as if a giant were pushing a Matchbox car.
It’s all seamlessly channeled through an excellent eight-speed auto and permanent all-wheel drive, so that when you sink the Gucci loafer, the Rangie surges forward with urgency; the hush in the heavily insulated cabin stirred by a just-right amount of mellifluous V8 note.
On the open road, the Vogue SV doesn’t so much ride as it wafts on air-sprung suspension providing a cosseting layer between your pampered derriere and terra firma. Yet the adaptive suspension is smart enough to know when you’re running late for the polo, automatically stiffening the springs and tying down the body control when it senses the urge to press on.
You don’t so much steer as gently ‘guide’ the Vogue SV, fingertips twirling the lightly weighted, leather-trimmed and heated steering wheel while gazing through the airy expanse of its extensive glasshouse.
Being such a big beast, the Vogue is more suited to the open road than the cut-and-thrust of tight city streets. Urban driving not only exposes its vast dimensions, but also the fundamental challenges of repeatedly starting and stopping a 2.5-tonne chunk of metal and glass.
Not that it wants in either regard, mind you. SVO’s engineers have equipped this hugely impressive machine with both the accelerative and stopping power to make the drive experience feel utterly effortless.
However, if Sir would prefer to not be bothered with such mundanity, why not decamp to the second row, where individual reclining ‘executive class’ leather lounges offer an even more cosseting environment.
With its hedonistic fit-out, epic power, cultured on-road manners and undeniable off-road ability, the Rover Vogue SV Autobiography Dynamic cuts a towering, imperious presence.
It turns heads and stirs emotions in a way that SUVs usually don’t, and that’s something Spen King would no doubt be happy to see, were he around today to witness the original’s impressive legacy.