We drive - and fittingly, are driven in - JLR's latest Special Vehicle Operations creation: the ultra-luxurious Range Rover SVAutobiography

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The SVAutobiography is the new Range Rover flagship model, which the company says is ‘exclusively handcrafted at the Special Vehicle Operations technical centre’ near Coventry. 

It’s available in both short (known as SVAutobiography Dynamic) and long-wheelbase versions. The former is only available with a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet, while the latter comes with a choice of three engines: an SDV6 Hybrid diesel, an SDV8 diesel and a supercharged V8 petrol engine.

The S-Class is more refined and comfortable, but it can’t challenge the sense of light and space of the Range Rover

The petrol V8, fitted in both standard and long wheelbase forms, has been retuned to match the Range Rover Sport SVR's outputs. Its power figure rises by 40bhp and the torque figure by 41lb ft over the standard supercharged V8 petrol used in lesser Ranger Rovers, to a substantial 543bhp and 502lb ft of torque. 

The most obvious change compared with the standard Range Rover is the SVA’s dual rear seats and substantial centre console arrangement. The console stores a pair of fold-out aluminium tray tables and has a refrigerated locker that can take two tall glasses and a small bottle.

As you might expect, the specification list is long and comprehensive. The SVAutobiographys are equipped as standard with acoustic laminated windscreen and windows, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, parking sensors, quad-exhaust system, air suspension, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera and numerous Land Rover autonomous safety technologies, while the LWB version gains a sliding panoramic roof.

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Inside there is plenty of luxurious touches adorning the cabin including, four-zone climate control that can be remotely controlled, heated steering wheel and rear seats, ventilated front seats, massaging seats, and a 10.2in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB tuner, sat nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a TV tuner. The long wheelbase version gains perforated leather seats, a heated wood and leather steering wheel, folding tables in the rear, a bottle chiller and electric sunblinds.

There’s also rear seat entertainment for the bigger Rangie in the form of a pair of 10.2in screens and headphones. The main sound system is a 825W Meridian Signature Reference unit, with speakers even embedded in the backs of the front seats.

Much of the interior switchgear is made from knurled-finish aluminium and the exterior gets its own graphite finish on the grille and other trim parts. Options include Duo Tone paint (which costs £9000) and an even more exclusive walnut wood finish for the boot floor.

In the front or the rear? SVO bosses say that while owners of this model may well be driven during the week, they are likely to drive themselves at the weekend. To this end, more than 90 percent of the orders for the SVA match the long-wheelbase body and the supercharged V8 petrol engine. 

While that may be the ultimate Range Rover specification, it’s probably not the best. There’s no doubt that the LWB model is the best for being driven in, and it’s not just because of the extra rear leg room and more sumptuous seats. 

The SWB Range Rover is noticeably less cosseting in the back. The rear wheels crash more over sharp-edged bumps and there’s more general background noise and vibration interference from the road surface. The LWB model is much better, but it still suffers from the occasional thumping intrusion from the road surface. 

In truth, the Range Rover will never be as isolating for rear-seat passengers as, say, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Bentley Flying Spur or BMW 7 Series. Body rigidity is clearly an issue, because the British car is a hatchback and has a huge glazed roof.

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Because the rear seats in the SVA don't recline, perhaps the SVO engineers might consider fitting a structural rear bulkhead to give the Range Rover shell the extra stiffness it probably needs in this luxury limo form.

The only other possible criticism from the rear seats would be around the quality of some of the storage covers in the centre console, which are remarkably plasticky, when much of the rest of the rear compartment is exemplary in its construction.

The larger rear TV screens might also be an issue, as they now block out part of the view forward through the windscreen for rear-seat passengers. Aside from making the rear feel that slight bit more enclosed, it could also make some rear passengers feel car sick. Being able to see the road ahead is often key to preventing motion sickness.

From behind the wheel, the 334bhp/546lb ft V8 diesel version is the better car to drive. The elastic torque characteristics suit the Range Rover, especially on brisk A and B-road driving, and deliver on the effortlessness promised by the near-peerless driving position.

The supercharged V8 certainly has the performance but is noticeably peakier in its responses, and the engine’s growl under acceleration seems out of place.

You’ll probably already know that because, of the estimated 1000-unit production run for the 2016 model year, 120 are going to be staying in the UK. You can’t really apply consumer logic to the purchase of a car like this.

The Range Rover also has exceptional off-road abilities - another reason why this luxury car makes a unique case for itself. It may not make strict financial sense on paper, but that misses the whole point of the SVAutobiography.

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Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography First drives