One tree and at least a couple of cows were harmed in the making of this 2010 Range Rover Autobiography.
But at least they were sacrificed in a good cause. If you consider their contribution to perhaps the ultimate in sport utility luxury and prestige to be a worthy end. Hey, the tree could have ended up as hand-carved souvenir nut dishes or maybe firewood and the hides as the straps of cheap sandals or knock-off Prada purses.
About the only wood you'd find in one of the original Land Rovers - the ruggedly humble predecessors of the luxurious Range Rover first seen in 1970 - was if someone was hauling a load of the dried and split kind.
But if you opt to add the $14,200 Autobiography edition package to the already luxury-feature-laden $111,900 Range Rover Supercharged you get no less than 14 pieces of real tree-wood - cherry or burr walnut - polished to perfection and adding its traditional old-world elegance to dash, doors and other surfaces. According to the spec sheet that's only two more pieces than you get with a regular Supercharged, but, well, percentage wise that's quite a bit more, isn't it.
The leather is a better deal as you not only get cowhide upholstered seats, but the headliner, roof pillars and door panels, dash, console sides are leather and the floor mats are edged in the supple stuff.
The package also includes a rear-seat DVD system with six-disc capacity, special thermal tinted glass and a four-zone climate control system. And let's not forget the Autobiography badge on the tailgate.
The test vehicle was also fitted with a new $990 five-camera surround-view system and an $1,100 leather and wood (that matches the other trim) steering wheel. Including $1,270 in destination charges, this all brought the price of this Range Rover to an attention-grabbing $129,460.
Despite being around for four decades now, the Range Rover is only in its third generation, while the Land Rover brand itself has changed hands more frequently - through British Leyland, British Aerospace, Rover Group, BMW, Ford and more recently Tata of India.
But this still stately flagship of the Land Rover range has managed to motor on through all this turmoil, maintaining an apparently viable level of appeal among the well-heeled, for whom the name obviously still carries considerable cachet. And who, like loyal Jaguar owners, also seem forgiving of its foibles.
The Range Rover has become over the years a much more complex, sophisticated and piece of machinery that is still capable of handling itself with impeccable aplomb anywhere from Rodeo Drive to off-road terrain that owners of jacked-up Jeep Wranglers would give a second look before attempting.
The current generation was introduced in 2002, received a fairly major makeover for 2006 and has undergone mechanical and minor styling alterations for 2010 that include new, larger-displacement V-8 engines, exterior and interior revisions, handling electronics changes aimed at on- and off-road use, improved braking and things such as adaptive cruise and a blind-spot monitoring system.
The Range Rover is currently available in base - not a word that really does it justice - HSE form, with a 5.0-litre, normally aspirated, 375-hp V-8, that lists for $98,830 and the Supercharged we're talking about here.
As its name suggests, the Supercharged model's 5.0-litre V-8 (the engines are shared with Jaguar) has its output boosted by a mechanical driven supercharger that ups the output number to an impressive 510 hp and peak torque to 461 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic transmits this through a two-speed transfer case to the all-wheel-drive system.
The Range Rover weighs in at a prodigious 2,672 kg yet surges up to 100 km/h in just 6.2 seconds, getting on for a second quicker than the previous model. Owning stock in an oil refinery would be useful if you wanted to do this very often, though, as even the EnerGuide ratings (that you'll never see in the real world) indicate rather frightening consumption rates of 18.0 L/100 km city and 11.7 highway.
Even Land Rover copy-writers use the word subtle to describe the exterior changes, which are limited to the grille, new LED headlights and taillights, new bumpers and relocated fog lamps and revised side fender vents.
Given its mass, the Range Rover's road manners are surprisingly good. It's stable on the highway, steers accurately - although it's far from agile - corners without rolling over on its door handles and stops well thanks to the bigger new brakes and 255/50R20 tires.
The interior remains essentially the same with broad-based seats up front with a wide console in between, encased in the aforementioned leather and wood. The rear seat serves two better than three, and there's 994 litres of cargo space behind it, or 2,099 litres with its back folded.
The big new feature is the "virtual" instrument cluster that employs something called Thin Film Transistor material to portray traditional-looking analogue gauges along with information graphics. I thought it was kind of neat that the indicating needles move with the slightly delayed and jerky motion of the clockwork chronometric instruments of old.
A message centre between the tachometer and speedometer can be custom configured to driver preference, and the touch screen has been upgraded and simplified.
In this cocoon of conspicuous consumption you're well isolated from the outside world at highway speeds allowing you to enjoy the excellent audio system (and back-seaters the DVD player).
The Range Rover is an easy target to unload on from all sorts of perspectives - and I believe I have done so a time or two in the past - but you know, anachronism though she may increasingly be, the old girl still looks the part and has some pretty good moves.
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2010 Range Rover Autobiography
Type: Luxury SUV
Base Price: $111,900; as tested, $129,460
Engine: 5.0-litre, DOHC, V-8
Horsepower/torque: 510 hp/461 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 18.0 city/11.7 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW X6M, Mercedes-Benz M-Class 63 AMG, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti Q56, Lexus LX570, Lincoln Navigator, Audi Q7
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