Land Rover's new Long Wheelbase Range Rover and the Autobiography Black Edition made their US debut last week to a private invitation-only audience of about 75 owners and brand loyalists at a multi-acre Beverly Hills estate before their public unveiling on Wednesday at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. The basic innovation of the Long Wheelbase Range Rover is stretching the unibody in front of the rear wheels enough to give 5.5-inches (140mm) more rear seat legroom and provide more space to cram in more luxury touches.
The new long wheelbase Range Rover line, in addition to the 2014 standard wheelbase models, is a response to what the company sees as a growing demand in the ultra-luxury market after Ranger Rover sales bumped up 29 percent this year. Not surprisingly, the debut of the Long Wheelbase Range Rover showed very little attention to the engine, performance, or even the front seats. Instead, Land Rover prefers to talk about “an atmosphere of indulgence,” and how the Range Rover is the first SUV to take top marks from the JD Power and Associates APEAL survey.
While the long wheelbase SUVs will keep the Range Rover profile, they will have standard powered door blinds, a panoramic sunroof, and an “L” badge on the lower front door trims to identify them to onlookers who forgot to bring a tape measure. The Autobiography Black Edition aims at being the “pinnacle of the Range Rover line-up” and the Jaguar Land Rover’s “Engineered To Order” (ETO) division equipped it as a showcase of just how posh a Range Rover can be.
"The Range Rover Autobiography Black is the latest step in our transformational journey that moves luxury to another level. This vehicle is an intensely design focused response to our customers’ desire for more choice and exclusivity," says Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer. "The highest standards of precision detailing, together with the use of the finest crafted materials, have been achieved inside and out. Autobiography Black represents the pinnacle of desirability in the world of luxury inhabited by our Range Rover customers."
Outside, the Autobiography definitely looks like a Range Rover, though one that is likely to spend more time at the country club than in the country. It has the Range Rover silhouette but the details, from the chrome accents, to the touched up front grille and vents, are almost as much of a giveaway as the thin tires that are more suited to city streets than muddy fields.
However, the real focus of the Autobiography is in the passenger cabin, and, since this is an ultra-luxury car, the back seat. Both the front and rear passengers enjoy individual seats, and seat memory and climate control are available with the front seats fully adjustable in 18 directions.
On the other hand, the rear seats are like something out of a long-haul, first-class airliner cabin. The leather seats power recline a full 17 degrees and provide lumbar massage at the press of a switch. The right hand passenger seat even has a powered recliner calf rest.
In front of each seat is a 10.2-in entertainment screen that can also display navigation updates. In between the seats is the wood-veneered rear center console, which features electrically deployable tables covered in black leather. Of course, these have USB charging sockets and cupholders. In addition, there is a chilling compartment for keeping the champagne cold and storage space for glasses. Hidden behind a center cushion is a headphone storage locker.
The center console and the rest of the cabin has configurable LED mood lighting with ten color tones and brightness setting, which shines from the door handles and stowage areas. Even the footwell has adjustable ambient lighting.
The Autobiography wouldn't be ultra-luxury without a couple of square miles of leather, so the rear cargo area, pillars, door inserts, seat backs, and ski hatch are trimmed in enough leather to clothe a motorcycle gang. There are also illuminated tread plates, and there’s a choice of three color combinations for the interior.
The Range Rover LWB Autobiography Black Edition is only available in long-wheelbase in the US, where a limited build of 100 units go on sale next year for US$185,000.