Land Rover is attempting to steal a march on the opposition after unveiling its most expensive production model yet.
The Range Rover SVAutiobiography will cost from £150,000 upwards when it goes on sale this summer - double the price of an entry level model.
The new model, being produced by Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations technical centre in Coventry, is effectively throwing down the gauntlet to Bentley and Rolls-Royce - who all have luxury SUVs in the pipeline.
Being shown off for the first time at the New York International Auto Show, the car is also the most powerful Range Rover yet produced when fitted with a 542bhp specially tuned 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged petrol engine.
Available from this summer the SVAutobiography will also be available with an SDV8 diesel engine and as an SDV6 diesel hybrid.
The real appeal however is likely to be in the level of luxury on the inside, whether buyers opt for a standard length version or a long wheelbase model.
Exterior design enhancements include the option of two-tone paintwork, with a range of eight colour choices designed to complement a Santorini Black upper body, though customers can also choose to have it in a single colour.
Range Rover bonnet lettering and SVAutobiography badging complete the exterior picture, along with a front grille finished in Graphite Atlas and polished chrome.
On the inside many of the controls and the foot pedals are aluminium, while rear-seat passengers can relax in luxurious leather seating complete with a chiller compartment and powered tables.
The SVAutobiography also offers the option of a sliding loadspace floor made from aluminium and a choice of veneers.
And for those customers who enjoy the versatility of Range Rover’s famous split tailgate, SVO has developed ‘Event Seating’.
Stowed in the luggage compartment, two seats hand-crafted from Windsor leather and aluminium can be swiftly deployed to provide seating on the lower tailgate.
Despite the level of luxury, customers can also be assured even this most upmarket of Range Rovers will still be capable of getting down and dirty off-road should the occasion demand it.
John Edwards, managing director of Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations, said: “Range Rover originally defined the luxury SUV segment and the new SVAutobiography takes Range Rover to another level of comfort, craftsmanship and refinement.”
Automotive experts have welcomed the arrival of the new model and said it should prove a shrewd move for Jaguar Land Rover.
Andrew Noakes, author and senior lecturer in automotive journalism at Coventry University, said: “There’s a big demand for super-luxury SUVs, particularly in overseas markets, which is why Bentley and Rolls-Royce are both developing them.
“JLR is eyeing up some of that market, though even a £150,000 Range Rover is only serving the bottom end of that sector.
“That will be around the starting price for Bentley’s Bentayga SUV when that arrives next year, and it’s fair to assume most Bentaygas will be delivered with thousands of pounds worth of options over and above the list price.
“The Rolls-Royce, code-named Cullinan, is expected to be even more expensive, starting at around £250,000, and the vast majority of Rolls-Royces have custom options through the company’s Bespoke operation, so again the total price will be much higher.
“So the super-luxury Range Rover SV Autobiography makes a lot of sense for JLR, giving them a presence in a market that’s lucrative and expanding.
“It’s also the right time, because there will be plenty of interest generated by the upcoming Bentley and Rolls-Royce, but neither of those is available to buy yet. The Range Rover is ready to order now, so for buyers who can’t wait it’s perfect.”
He added: “In a way these cars are irrelevant, because JLR will only sell them in small numbers. But they do act to raise awareness of JLR’s products and to improve still further the Range Rover’s image – and that helps sales across the range, from the Evoque upwards.”
Ian Donaldson, motoring journalist and chairman of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers, said: “Once you’ve got the wealthiest people in the world believing in what you sell they’ll beat a Gucci-loafered path to your door.
“That applies at least as much in the world of cars as it does with watches, handbags, pens, restaurants and town houses - you name it, someone very rich is interested.
“So it’s no surprise at all that the special vehicles arm of Range Rover has designed a car that starts at £149,000 and heads upward from there.
“It might be the dearest Range Rover ever seen, but don’t bet on many of them leaving the factory in ‘base’ form.
“Range Rover knows that what its clients need above all else is to feel very special. To do that, and make sure you’re unlikely to meet another Range Rover finished like your own, you’ll dip into the options’ list.”
Automotive author and former Land Rover public relations manager Mike Gould said that while the SVAutobiography might be the most expensive Land Rover the company has yet produced, its 1999 predecessor the Range Rover Linley, just six of which were made, probably pipped it at the post in terms of cost.
He said: “If inflation is taken into account, it still lags behind the exclusive Range Rover Linley which had a £100,000 tag in 1999 which, adjusted for inflation, would now cost £158,000.”