Best of British : Land Rover’s Autobiography programme – Part Two

In his final article looking at Land Rover’s Autobiography personalisation programme, David Morgan finds the Autobiography name being extended to the Range Rover Sport and Evoque, as well as the most exclusive version of the Land Rover Defender to be built.

Perfecting the brilliant or gilding the lily?

Since its launch at the 1993 London Motor Show, the Autobiography personalisation programme has delivered bespoke colour and trim tailoring and even technology upgrade options to three generations of Range Rover. However, Land Rover planned to develop the appeal of the Autobiography name beyond this.

Taking advantage of its reputation for epitomising premium luxury and individuality, the Autobiography’s role was extended to become a regular production halo derivative in the Range Rover’s line-up. The Autobiography name would head the 2009 Model Year L322 Range Rover above the then flagship Vogue SE derivative and promote a higher level of opulence than that which could be specified on lesser models. This eventually included a choice of exclusive interior colourways as well.

The Autobiography model designator would also be introduced in a number of export markets such as North America where it would be offered with the extended Autobiography exterior colour palette to further reinforce its halo status. This gave buyers the choice of special order metallic, micatallic and chromaflair paint colours.

For those Range Rover buyers in the home market wanting special colours and trim from the Autobiography palettes or something more bespoke, this continued to be promoted through a separate Autobiography brochure. These examples could be distinguished by the display of a Land Rover Special Vehicles contract plate fitted on the slam panel beneath the bonnet.

Autobiography becomes a good Sport

The Autobiography model designator would also be extended to the first generation (L320) Range Rover Sport, initially as a limited edition of 500 examples. Announced at the IAA 63rd International Motor Show, Frankfurt, in September 2009, the Autobiography Sport LE (limited edition) would be offered with either the 268hp 3.6-litre TDV8 diesel or new 510hp supercharged 5-litre V8 petrol engines, dependent on market territory. The cabin featured Grand Black lacquer wood trim, ‘Autobiography Sport’ embossed front seat head restraints and duotone leather seats finished in a choice of Ebony and Ivory, Ebony and Tan or Ebony and Pimento. The latter two colour combinations also came with a corresponding two-tone leather steering wheel rim.

The exterior profile of the Autobiography Sport was certainly not for the shy or retiring type. For starters, there were new front and rear bumper designs sporting a Titan Silver-finish lower bar. These were complemented by a new tailgate spoiler design and square tailpipe finishers, together with a unique radiator grille design and side grilles finished in Titan Silver. Completing the transformation was a new 20-inch, diamond-turned-finish 10-spoke alloy wheel design.

A choice of three mainline colours was offered for the home market – Alaska White, Santorini Black metallic and Stornoway Grey metallic. However, a small number of special order examples were also signed off in Bali Blue metallic, Rimini Red metallic and Zermatt Silver metallic. Examples earmarked for the North American market were offered in Santorini Black metallic only and featured the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine.

Sales of the Autobiography Sport LE in the home market commenced from January 2010, with the TDV8 having an on-the-road price of £64,945 and the V8 supercharged petrol version being £69,535.

By the autumn of that year the Autobiography Sport had become a mainstay in the Range Rover Sport’s line-up, heading up the 2011 Model Year range. Changes over the limited edition variant included new 20-inch 5-spoke diamond-turned Autobiography alloy wheels (known as ‘Style 8’) and the 245hp 3-litre TDV6 diesel to replace the discontinued 3.6-litre TDV8. There was also a choice of six mainline exterior colours to support the standard fit Exterior Design Pack. These comprised of Bali Blue, Fuji White, Nara Bronze, Santorini Black, Stornoway Grey and Zermatt Silver.

Inside, the carryover duotone colourways featuring premium grade leather with perforations were given glamorous sounding race circuit-themed names such as ‘Monaco’ (Ebony and Ivory), ‘Monza’ (Ebony and Pimento) and ‘Le Mans’ (Ebony and Tan). On-the-road prices were £63,595 for the SDV6 and £70,995 for the 5-litre V8 supercharged petrol.

The last major enhancements for the first-generation Range Rover Sport would be announced in July 2011 and go on sale from the following October as 2012 Model Year models. All versions received a new one-piece tailgate made from aluminium with power operation and new ‘Range Rover’ graphics which were now fitted directly below the rear screen. Under the bonnet the now renamed 3-litre SDV6 engine received a power increase to 265hp and was mated up to a new 8-speed automatic transmission with a rotary gearshift selector.

Autobiography variants received a greater choice of trim colours, bringing the range of duotone leather interior themes to seven. Joining Monaco, Monza and Le Mans were Cannes (Ivory/Ebony with Silky Dark wood veneers), Valencia (Arabica/Almond), Estoril (Ebony/Cirrus) and Hockenheim (Ebony/Lunar). A contrasting secondary colour now extended to the top of the doors and the instrument panel. On the outside the only change was a move to a 20-inch polished 9-spoke alloy wheel design (‘Style 10’).

No other notable enhancements for the Autobiography Sport variant were unleashed before the all-new, second-generation (L494) model arrived in 2013.

Time for a Celebration, Autobiography style

The Range Rover officially celebrated its 40th birthday on 17 June 2000, with Land Rover commemorating the occasion with an Autobiography Black 40th Anniversary limited edition variant. Offered in the L322 line-up only, but built with the objective of selling 700 examples in numerous market territories, the press release boasted about it being ‘quite simply the last word in bespoke vehicles.”

Based on the regular Autobiography derivative, the Autobiography Black 40th Anniversary took the level of exclusivity to new heights. For starters, the interior could be specified in either an all-Jet colourway or new unique duotone colourways for the seats comprising of Jet and Ivory or Jet and Pimento. Grand Black wood veneers now extended to the steering wheel rim and, on the 5-litre V8 supercharged petrol model, the gear-knob too. Meanwhile, the front door sill tread plates featured the ‘Range Rover’ name illuminated.

On the outside the bodywork was finished in special Barolo Black premium metallic paint which also extended to the door handles. A new grille design was also showcased featuring Titan Silver mesh, a bright chrome surround ‘U’ edge and black surround for the main grille. The side vents also had a new mesh set off by bright-finish chrome bars and a black surround. These would form part of a new Exterior Design Pack to be offered as an accessory option on regular Range Rover variants later on in the year.

The same intention also applied to the new 20-inch diamond-turned, multi-spoke alloy wheel design (‘Style 17’) which was being introduced ahead of its availability as an option on the 2011 Model Year Range Rover. For a number of markets the Autobiography Black 40th Anniversary would also coincide with the availability of the new 313hp 4.4-litre TDV8 engine to replace the existing 268hp 3.6-litre version.

On sale from September 2010, the Autobiography Black 40th Anniversary would be limited to 100 examples for the home market. 70 of these featured the 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel engine while the remaining 30 were fitted with the 510hp 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol unit. The on-the-road prices were £83,795 for the SDV8 and £87,500 for the 5-litre supercharged petrol. The UK may have been in a recession but it did not impact on demand for this limited edition, as the entire allocation found eager buyers within a month of it being announced.

The ‘Ultimate’ choice?

If demand for the Autobiography Black 40th Anniversary suggested that buyers could not get enough of high-end priced luxury cars then that would prove to be right. Under the heading ‘Introducing the 2011 Range Rover – The most capable and luxurious SUV”, Land Rover chose the 2011 Geneva Motor Show to display a blatant upwards march for the Range Rover in the form of the Autobiography Ultimate Edition.

With a price tag in excess of £120,000 the Autobiography Ultimate Edition would be the most expensive factory-built Range Rover variant offered at that time. In comparison, the regular 2011 Model Year Range Rover Autobiography was a ‘mere’ £83,145 for the TDV8 and £85,695 in 5-litre V8 Supercharged form.

Limited to 500 examples to be sold in 20 countries, the Ultimate Edition would be built to customer order only and offered with either the 4.4-litre TDV8 diesel or 5-litre V8 supercharged petrol engine. From this allocation 125 examples were sold in Europe.

The most obvious enhancements came in the cabin where the loadspace floor was now covered in superyacht-inspired teak with aluminium and leather fittings. Rear seat occupants were not only treated to electric adjustment of their seats but nestled between the two seats was a new rear console extension trimmed in leather and Kalahari wood veneers. This also featured a machined aluminium lap-top table, drinks chiller and two Apple iPads. The debut of Kalahari wood veneers also extended to the dashboard fascia and door top rolls, while the leather trimmed surfaces could be specified in the unique colours of Dark Cherry or Arabica.

On the outside the changes predominantly focused on a special 20-inch multi-spoke, diamond-turned alloy wheel design and the choice of two unique body colours – Roussillon Red or Otago Stone. In some markets Santorini Black from the mainline colour palette would also be available. However, the majority of examples were specified in Roussillon Red. Deployable side steps and the Exterior Design Pack were the only two options listed.

Assisting in the delivery of this special vehicle was Automotive Trim Developments (ATD) of Coventry which was part of a consortium of suppliers involved in the engineering and manufacture of specialist trim. ATD was responsible for many of the unique features found inside the vehicle, including the engineering and production of the rear seats, integrating an iPad into the back of each front seat and also developing a deployable table in the rear console.

For those buyers with a different take on the ‘ultimate’ Range Rover Autobiography, the Range Rover’s main price list now listed the prices of an Autobiography SV Repaint, Autobiography SV unique exterior paint colours and Autobiography SV Repaint in Chromaflair. These ranged from £7,400 for the repaint in an alternative colour or a unique colour, to £11,750 for a repaint in Chromaflair paint. However, further details of the colours offered in the official Autobiography palette were not included in the Range Rover’s main sales brochure.

L322 bows out with ‘Individuality and Assertiveness’

By February 2012, the third-generation Range Rover was ten years old and a replacement model codenamed L405 was just six months away from being formally announced. Despite this, Land Rover decided to commemorate this important milestone by releasing a new special runout edition called the Westminster to replace the Vogue and Vogue SE derivatives. This would also coincide with a greater range of interior colours being offered for the flagship Autobiography.

The final sales brochure issued for the L322 made reference to the Range Rover Autobiography being ‘the supreme expression of craftsmanship and exclusiveness. Every Range Rover Autobiography now displays even more individuality and assertiveness through the Exterior Design Pack which is fitted as standard and 20-inch shadow-chrome alloy wheels” in a 15-spoke design.

The Exterior Design Pack was offered with just seven mainline exterior colours. Thankfully, Land Rover also allowed those customers wanting a more understated profile to specify their Range Rover Autobiography without this pack and also choose from a total of nine exterior colours.

For the interior there was a choice of six wood veneers and eleven single tone and five duotone colourways for the leather seats, all with contrasting stitching. The Autobiography’s standard specification now extended to a 19-speaker, 1200W Harmon/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system and the Style Pack which offered rear seats with recline and lumbar adjustment, heating and cooling functions and multi-adjustable aircraft-style head restraints. These outgoing Autobiography models had an on-the-road price of £84,295 for the TDV8 diesel and £86,895 for the 5-litre V8 Supercharged petrol.

L405 arrives…

The all-new, fourth-generation (L405) Range Rover was formally announced on 15 August 2012 and made its public debut at the Paris Motor Show the following month. Despite L322 still being highly accomplished, its successor represented a noticeable leap forward in terms of refinement, economy and even a reduction in weight by up to 420kg in some variants. L405 would also offer even higher levels of interior opulence and new trim choices.

As with its predecessor, L405 was headed by an Autobiography variant. This was offered with a wider choice of engines comprising of a 258hp 3.0-litre TDV6 diesel, 339hp 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel and a 510hp 5-litre LR-V8 supercharged petrol. On-the-road prices for the Autobiography variant ranged from £87,895 for the 3-litre SDV6 to £94,695 for the SDV8 and £98,395 for the 5-litre V8 Supercharged.

The interior themes centred around three different wood veneers, while for the Autobiography variant there was a choice of six regular single tone colours for the leather seats, as shared with the Vogue and Vogue SE derivatives. Exclusive to the Autobiography were the seat colours of Tan, Brogue, Ivory and Pimento.

From the Summer of 2013 the opportunity to create greater individuality was realised when Land Rover officially listed an Autobiography colour palette in the main sales brochure. This comprised of sixteen special metallic paint options, which had a retail price of £6,000, and six Chromaflair colour choices priced at £8,000.

The Autobiography trim level would also underpin a Hybrid variant which combined the 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine with a 35kW electric motor producing 170Nm of torque. This enabled the vehicle to be driven in purely electric vehicle mode at speeds of up to 30mph resulting in 26 per cent lower CO2 emissions, while also taking the average miles per gallon figure up to 44.1mpg. Formally announced in August 2013, order books for the Range Rover Hybrid opened from 10 September, with deliveries commencing in early 2014.

Admittedly, with an on-the-road price of £100,350, the Hybrid Autobiography was hardly for those on an economy tour as for the same money you could have instead had the 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol version. Alternatively, the regular 3-litre SDV6 Autobiography had an on-the-road price of £89,650 while the SDV8 version was £96,550.

Stretch marque

The next development for the L405 Range Rover was the unveiling of a long-wheelbase bodystyle at the Los Angeles and Guangzhou Motor Shows in October 2013. Stretching the wheelbase by 198mm enabled rear seat passengers to be offered an even higher level of comfort.

Initially to be offered with Autobiography and new Autobiography Black trim levels, the long-wheelbase bodystyle offered privacy glass and rear window powered sun blinds as standard. A rear entertainment system with two remote control 10.2 inch rear seat-mounted screens kept passengers amused, while a ‘Journey Status’ pop-up summary detailed the remaining distance and expected time of arrival to the specified destination. Providing further confirmation of your status was the Autobiography signature embossed into the facings of the seat back rests.

The higher-specification Autobiography Black was reserved for the long-wheelbase bodystyle only and boasted rear Executive Class seating for two with lumbar massage, extended power recline and calf rest. Perforated semi-Aniline leather was extensively used throughout the cabin, including for the headlining and the new rear centre console located between both seats. This console featured a bottle chiller and deployable tables made from polished aluminium, with a choice of black leather or wood veneers for the top surface.

Three exclusive duotone interior colourways were available for the Autobiography Black at launch – Ebony/Lunar, Espresso/Tan and Dark Cherry; the latter of which also included the seat facings. The additional colour combinations of Lunar/Cirrus and Navy/Ivory would follow in 2014, with the Navy/Ivory option being the sole colour combination for an exclusive new Poltrona Frau seat facings design. This was available as a £2500 extra cost option and provided further tailoring opportunities for customers wanting to express their personal taste.

The enhancements for the exterior were far more subtle and concentrated on a revised radiator grille design, a discrete ‘L’ badge (for long wheelbase) mounted into the exterior accents at the bottom of the front doors, Adaptive Xenon headlamps and new ‘jewelled’ signature rear lamps.

The keener-eyed spotter would also notice a chrome accent strip on the tailgate and the new 21-inch seven-spoke ‘Style 706’ alloy wheels with a high gloss polished finish. Last, but by no means least, was a distinctive new Autobiography badge featuring chrome lettering on a black enamel background.

Even at this level Land Rover still managed to elevate the equipment levels further to include configurable interior mood lighting, a full size spare wheel, Park Assist and that most important feature of all – should the country shoot suddenly have to venture too far off the beaten track – Wade SensingTM.

Deliveries of the long-wheelbase Autobiography commenced from March 2014, with the Autobiography Black version following from August. On-the-road prices for the long-wheelbase Range Rover Autobiography started at £104,150 for the 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel, while the 3-litre SDV6 hybrid and 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol were both £107,950. The cost to upgrade to the Autobiography Black variant was a further £39,250 for the SDV8 and £38,950 when specified with either the SDV6 hybrid or Supercharged V8 petrol.

‘Special’ delivery

The Range Rover’s quest to ascend even greater heights of luxury would continue beyond the Autobiography Black with the announcement of the SVAutobiography (as in Special Vehicles Operations) in March 2015.

Offered in both standard and long-wheelbase forms, the SVAutobiography replaced the short-lived Autobiography Black and brought with it even more lavish levels of design sophistication. This included a sliding loadspace floor finished in either figured Macassar veneer or Shadow Walnut.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicles Operations had also developed an ‘Event Seating’ feature for the lower tailgate whereby two seats finished in handcrafted Windsor leather with a durable aluminium frame could be deployed, to provide comfortable seating for two adults when parked up at events.

On the outside the most notable distinctions were the 22-inch ‘Style 706’ alloy wheel design and a Graphite Atlas and chrome finish to the radiator grille. Complementing the grille design was an Atlas accent pack comprising of bright-finish accents to the door handles and front bumper air intakes. The finishing touches to the exterior comprised of a dark knurled effect finish to the ‘Range Rover’ script with a bright chrome edging, a ‘Special Vehicles Operation’ badge on the ‘B’ pillar and a new ‘SVAutobiography’ badge for the lower tailgate featuring silver lettering on a black background.

For the first time Range Rover customers could also specify a unique duotone body colour – available as a £9000 option – where Santorini Black metallic was used as the upper body colour. This extended from the roof down to the waistline and clamshell bonnet and could be selected with seven mainline metallic colours and two premium metallics. Alternatively, the SVAutobiography could be specified in regular single-tone form with a choice of eleven regular mainline metallics, five premium metallics (an £800 option), twelve Autobiography colours (£6000), five Autobiography premium paints (£8000) or a bespoke repaint, which was priced on request.

Heading up the SVAutobiography was a new 550hp version of the 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine. In tandem with the other engine choices in this variant, it arrived in dealers’ showrooms later on in the year as part of the 2016 Model Year line-up. The 5-litre supercharged V8 SVAutobiography in standard wheelbase form had an on-the-road price of £148,900. Long-wheelbase versions comprised of the SDV8 at £156,000, the 3.0-litre SDV6 Hybrid diesel at £159,600, and the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol at £164,600.

In contrast, the regular Autobiography variants started from a more ‘modest’ £91,145 for the 3-litre SDV6 diesel and progressed to £109,925 for the 3-litre SDV6 Hybrid long wheelbase. However, few can doubt that owning an Autobiography variant in any form is about privilege for the few.

L494 Range Rover Sport signals a more dynamic approach

With the L405 generation Range Rover pursuing a policy of delivering premium levels of refinement akin to that found in a Bentley or Rolls Royce, the all-new, second-generation (L494) Range Rover Sport’s raison d’être had to be explicitly different – and it was, thanks to a commitment to build further on the sharper dynamics of its L320 predecessor which had been Land Rover’s first sporting off-road vehicle.

Reducing overall weight by up to 420kg over its predecessor through the greater use of aluminium in its architecture, together with introducing other lightweight technology, was a key step in the right direction. This enabled L494 to offer a step-change in on-road and off-road dynamics. On road handling was further sharpened up with a new Torque Vectoring control package.

Announced in March 2013, the Range Rover Sport’s initial line-up comprised of a choice of two states of tune for the 3-litre SDV6 diesel (the lower-powered version was referred to as the TDV6) and a 510hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol. The flagship variant was the Autobiography Dynamic model which was based on the HSE Dynamic variant and shared its gloss black-finish to the radiator grille, fender vents, door mirror caps and tailgate finisher. However, its stand-alone distinguishing feature was body-coloured side sills.

In harmony with its predecessor, the latest Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic would display more personalising opportunities over the other trim levels, with a choice of seven duotone interior colourways shared with the HSE Dynamic. From these Ebony/Ivory, Ebony/Pimento, Ebony/Tan, Espresso/Almond and Espresso/Ivory also featured as duotone combinations on the seat facings.

Exclusive to the Autobiography Dynamic was a choice of three-tone combinations which also featured on the seat facings. These comprised of Espresso/Ivory/Tan, Espresso/Ivory/Savannah, Ebony/Lunar/Cirrus and Ebony/Lunar/Savannah. Meanwhile, a dark engine-turned aluminium trim finisher and Alston headlining completed the interior enhancements.

Equipment levels extended to a sliding panoramic sunroof with powered blinds, ‘Style 5’ 18-way powered front seats with memory facility, red BremboTM-branded brake callipers and 21-inch five split-spoke alloy wheels (‘Style 16’).

On sale from Monday 29 July 2013, the 292hp 3-litre SDV6 Autobiography Dynamic cost £74,995 while the 5-litre V8 supercharged petrol version was £81,550. These would be joined in January 2014 by a 4.4-litre SDV8 engine, followed by a 3-litre SDV6 Hybrid that featured its own 21-inch six-spoke alloy wheel design (‘Style 602’).

Despite receiving rave reviews from the motoring press and commanding a healthy waiting list at launch, Land Rover chose to introduce a few enhancements in 2014. This comprised of a new Stealth Pack featuring a satin black finish to the radiator grille and fender vents. When specified with black-finish 21-inch ‘Style 901’ alloy wheels the price was £1,700, or £2,500 when specified with the 22-inch ‘Style 508’ wheel design.

For the 2015 Model Year the standard fit alloy wheels were changed to a new ‘Style 507’ 21-inch five split-spoke design. Prices for the 2015 Model Year Autobiography variant ranged from £76,250 for the 3-litre SDV6 diesel to £82,650 for the 3-litre SDV6 Hybrid, 4.4-litre SDV8 and 5.o-litre V8 Supercharged petrol.

Even with these changes the Autobiography variant still conveyed a restrained profile, especially when compared to its L320-based predecessor which had featured an assertive looking Exterior Design Pack to distinguish it from lesser trim levels.

Instead, Land Rover chose to reserve the availability of an Exterior Design Pack for their new very high-performance derivative announced in June 2014. Known as the SVR and powered by the 550hp 5-litre supercharged V8, this was not intended to share any association with the Autobiography derivative. Instead, it was conceived as a strictly stand-alone performance offering in the Range Rover Sport line-up with its own hard core intent.

Compact packages deliver big appeal

A third model in the Range Rover family was announced in 2010 in the form of the Evoque. With its roots in the 2008 Land Rover LRX cross-coupe concept, the production reality Range Rover Evoque was promoted as being more stylish and sporting in its purpose than other compact SUVs. Together with notable levels of luxury as standard, not to mention offering genuine all-terrain ability, the Evoque wore its Range Rover identity with real conviction.

The Evoque officially arrived in showrooms from September 2011 offered in 5-door and 3-door Coupe bodystyles and a choice of two-wheel or four-wheel drive. Dependent on which driveline and trim level were selected, there was the availability of a 240hp 2-litre Si4 turbo-charged petrol or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel offered in 150hp (TD4) and 190hp (SD4) form.

Whereas as the current L405 Range Rover and L494 Range Rover Sport had been offered with an Autobiography variant at their respective launches, the availability of an Autobiography variant in the Evoque line-up was not announced until the model was approaching its third birthday.

Unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Evoque Autobiography Dynamic showcased more aggressive body styling, heightened levels of opulence and optimised chassis enhancements.

The dynamic changes centred on a more potent 281hp version of the 2-litre turbocharged Si4 petrol engine and the introduction of Active driveline. This four-wheel drive system is one of the world’s first of its kind and improves fuel efficiency, traction and agility by seamlessly engaging four-wheel drive when required. Together with specially-tuned steering, upgraded suspension geometry and torque vectoring to reduce understeer, the Evoque Autobiography Dynamic promised to deliver more responsive handling characteristics.

Among the exterior changes were 20-inch forged V-Spoke alloy wheels (‘Style 6’), a lower front valance and a new grille design with a lighter shade of silver for the perimeter surround. An ingot-style ‘Autobiography’ badge featuring black lettering against a brushed silver background sat below the Evoque script on the tailgate and also in the front wing vents. The ‘Autobiography’ script would also be embossed in the head restraints and feature in the tread plates.

The official press release suggested that the Autobiography Dynamic would be available in both bodystyles and come with a choice of six colours for the leather interior and either Sports or Premium Climate seat designs. Despite being promoted as a new high-performance halo offering in the Evoque range, for reasons unknown, Land Rover has not yet commissioned it as a production-going variant.

Instead, for the 2015 Model Year, Land Rover introduced an Autobiography variant which majored heavily on enhanced luxury. Based on the Dynamic Lux specification, the Autobiography’s level of opulence extended to Climate-style seats trimmed in Oxford perforated leather, with twin-needle stitching and the ‘Autobiography’ signature embossed in the front seat head restraints.

Oxford leather also featured on the steering wheel while there were premium carpet mats and illuminated ‘Autobiography’ treadplates. A choice of six colourways was offered for the interior, with Ivory/Espresso, Espresso/Ivory, Tan/Ivory/Espresso and Latte/Ebony all being exclusive to the Autobiography derivative.

The main colourways were complemented by a choice of four finishing trims comprising of Botanical Aluminium, Dark Grey Oak Wood Veneer, figured Macassar wood and Satin Brushed Aluminium. Alternatively, Gloss Black Strata Wood Veneer could be specified as a £250 extra cost option. Meanwhile, equipment levels extended to 10-way electric adjustment of the front seats (eight-way for the Coupe bodystyle).

As with the Autobiography Dynamic concept, this production variant had ‘Autobiography’ badges in the front wing blades and on the tailgate, together with a new 20-inch five split-spoke alloy wheel design (‘Style 527’). More obvious was the standard fitment of Xenon headlamps and the exclusive Atlas (light silver) finish to trim items such as the radiator grille, front wing vent blades, front bumper inserts and tailgate strip.

Powered by the 187hp SD4 turbo-diesel mated up to a nine-speed automatic transmission, the Evoque Autobiography went on sale from September 2014 and had an on-the-road price of £49,805. However, even at this level, it was still possible to choose options and accessories and extend the price paid to over £55,000.

A year later came the introduction of the new 180hp 2-litre Ingenium TD4 diesel engine in the Evoque. With it came a few minor trim and equipment adjustments for the Autobiography version. This included 14-way adjustable front seats for the 5-door bodystyle while the Botanical Aluminium and Dark Grey Oak Wood trim finishers were now exclusive to the Autobiography model.

The choice of interior colourways was also revised whereby Tan/Ivory/Espresso and Latte/Ebony were replaced by Ivory/Black Cherry. On the outside the changes focused on a revised radiator grille design.

Small though these changes were, the on-the-road price for the Evoque Autobiography in 2016 Model Year guise had still risen to £51,800.

Few can be left in any doubt that even when the Autobiography nameplate is applied to the fastest-selling Land Rover of all time, there is still a commitment to maintain an air of exclusivity that only a relatively small proportion of Evoque customers will sample.

End of the road for a working legend

Since the mid-1990s, Land Rover had progressively offered more in the way of factory fit options on the Defender to try and broaden its appeal. This had started with metallic paint and alloy wheel options and, by the end of the decade, had extended to air conditioning and anti-lock brakes.

From 2002 there was the availability of a new, high-specification XS trim level which offered refinements such as part-leather seats, central door locking, heated front seats and electric windows. In County Station Wagon form, the XS version become a popular seller and also underpinned a number of subsequent limited edition variants.

One of these was the Defender 90 Autobiography Edition announced on 7 January 2015. This was one of three Celebration Series limited editions designed to celebrate the Defender’s ‘strength and breadth of character” in what would be its final full year of production. It would also be the first low-volume series variant in respect of which the Autobiography name was extended to a Land Rover-branded model.

Based on the Station Wagon bodystyle, the Defender Autobiography Edition took the on-the-road price and level of opulence found in a mainline-built Defender to new heights, which many long-established farmers would shake their weather-beaten head at in disbelief.

This was particularly evident with the interior where Windsor leather was extensively used with each of the four duotone colourways: Ebony/Ivory, Ebony/Lunar Grey, Ebony/Pimento and Ebony/Tan. For starters, the premium-style seats were trimmed in Semi-Aniline leather with twin-needle contrasting stitchwork and a corresponding Ebony Grey ‘Autobiography’ logo embroidered in the front of each head restraint. Windsor leather was also used for surfaces such as the door casings, dashboard, centre cubby box, headlining and steering wheel.

Some of these bespoke interior enhancements had involved the services of Tier 1 supplier Automotive Trim Developments of Coventry, which had been involved in the design, development and assembly of some of the leather products.

Providing a stylised link with Land Rover’s 67-year tradition of using predominantly aluminium in its faithful workhorse’s body were aluminium-finish door locks, air vent bezels, door handles and spun metal discs in the front cup holders.

The Defender’s aluminium heritage was further emphasised on the exterior with specially created aluminium finish door handles and fuel filler cap, while the standard fit accessories of an underbody protection shield and treads on the side runners and rear bumper step were also finished in aluminium.

A more prominent feature of the exterior was the new duotone paintwork theme where Santorini Black metallic as the upper body colour now extended down to the waistline and also embraced the clamshell bonnet and rear door. This elegant theme made its debut on the Defender before being offered on the Range Rover SVAutobiography later on in the year.

The lower body was offered in a choice of four special Autobiography colours – Berring Grey, Calama Copper, Corris Grey (satin finish) and Roma Red. For those owners wanting a more discrete single-tone profile, the mainline colour of Santorini Black was also available.

Completing the exterior enhancements were a pair of seven inch LED projector headlamps, black finish split-spoke Sawtooth alloy wheels and an ‘Autobiography’ badge for the rear featuring embossed black lettering on a polished mirror-finish background.

Last, but by no means least, the familiar 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine received a power upgrade from 120hp to 148hp, resulting in an increase in torque from 360Nm to 400Nm.

On sale from April 2015, just 100 examples were planned to be built for the UK market priced from £61,845. Additional examples were also built in left-hand drive form for sale in a few Central European market territories and they shared the same specification and features as the home market version.

To date there are no confirmed total production numbers for the Autobiography Edition, although motoring writer and Land Rover historian James Taylor confirms there were no examples in the final batch of fifteen Land Rover Defenders built in late January 2016.

History in the making

From an idea to extend the ownership appeal of the Range Rover by offering a limitless choice of exterior colours and leather hides to wealthy buyers, the Autobiography name has now become a flagship model designator committed to providing a more exclusive dimension over the other mainline-built derivatives.

Through the Autobiography programme new colour and trim initiatives have also made it possible for Land Rover to deliver low-volume product actions with minimal disruption to mainline build schedules. This, in turn, has helped to maintain customer interest, particularly at times when the Range Rover was facing greater competition from newer rivals.

At a deeper level, this strategy has also enabled Product Planners to assess the market’s reaction to new colour, trim and technology-based features before deciding whether to commit them to regular production schedules.

Assisting with this objective has been a number of specialist companies based in the UK which have been employed for their expertise in key areas. This includes product design, engineering and testing, the manufacturing of specialist components and also tailored refinishing solutions to meet the exacting requirements of special commissions.

For most owners the Range Rover in any guise has an instant aspirational value. However, for those with more exacting demands, the Autobiography programme can deliver a sense of individuality and special luxury beyond what most other premium manufacturers are looking to match – all of which adds to the diverse appeal of a brand that continues to push boundaries rather than rest on its laurels.

My thanks to the following individuals for all their assistance in providing information used in these two articles: Michael Bishop, Nick Dimbleby, Chris Elliott, Mike Gould, Kim Palmer, James Taylor and Nick Tuite.

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