During three hours of driving on their 100-acre course setup in Carmel with a maze of trails and krrrazy terrain, we learned quite a bit about driving off-road. For the novices, our instructor Mike Igo begins with the basic of approach/departure angles, ramp brake over (clearance under the center of the car), gearing as well as vehicle dynamics. After Mike’s introduction to off-road basics and demonstrating the Range Rover’s capabilities on a short course, things got more interesting when it was our turn to get behind the wheel and pilot the Range Rover over hill and dale with an abundance of tricky obstacles.
The Terrain Response System (we were using low-gear in the Mud & Ruts-mode) is amazing – allowing us to ascend/descend extremely steep and slippery hills (it had been raining) without braking or depressing the gas pedal; the system and its computers took complete control, and all I had to do was steer. Whether driving up or down sand, slippery mud, or gravel covered surfaces, we never once were out of control. If you ever get a chance to attend the Land Rover Driving Experience school, you’ll have a blast with Mike, as well as graduate a better driver.
For the most part, the quality of the components and manufacturing is top notch. We did notice a few strange features on the Autobiography for a vehicle of its caliber.
When accessing the CD changer, you press the release button for the upper glove box, and then you have to manually hold the door down to actually remove the cartridge. Failing to do so, the door will block access with the door folding only part way down.
The vehicle doors also never shut consistently requiring on many occasions that I open the door and shut them with a bit more force. Others experienced this same issue when closing the doors.
The paint job (color: Bournville) was flawless and beautiful; applying some Zymol wax really brought out the depth of the color.
Despite the standard plastic covers covering the engine, all fluids are easily accessed and clearly labeled.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
One definition for the word “coddle” is: to treat with indulgence. That’s a good description of the interior with power everything, heated/cooled seats, and supple Aniline leather. I never grew tired of the seat or the seating position, and neither will your rear seat passengers. All controls are easily accessed and clearly labeled.
The coolness factor was found in an LCD virtual instrument panel that had displayed a tach and speedometer as well as fuel and temp “analog” gauges. You can easily customize the display to your liking with the push of a few buttons.
The navigation system ranks among the better UI’s out there allowing me to enter in a street, and then providing a list of cities (based on the last location) that contain that street name. I found this interface allowed me to find/program my destination quite easily compared to the nav systems that require the zip code or city, then the street/street number.
One knock against the interface was with satellite radio and the inability to see (at least I couldn’t figure it out) how to see/scroll through all of the channel choices (for all categories) at once.
It’s strange that some of the lower Land Rover models have in-dash, slot loading CD changers, but the top-of-the-line model has 90’s style cartridge-based 6-disc CD and DVD changers. I already mentioned the door to access the CD changer above, and for the DVD, you have to open the rear hatch, and then remove a side cover to access the DVD changer’s 6-disc magazine.
Even though the Range Rover is almost 6,000 pounds, the supercharged engine provides plenty of “oomph” when needed. I love being able to floor the gas pedal and feel the SUV rocket ahead. Braking is excellent as well with its 6-piston front brakes clamping down on 15 inch rotors. You can view the massive “Range Rover”-badged calipers in between the front wheels’ alloy spokes.