Range Rover 5.0 Autobiography: PH Fleet

The search continued for several days after the last blog. At various points it refined itself before meandering off into another mixed casserole of ill-defined thinking. The outcome was that despite everything from a Defender to a Unimog - and most things 4WD in between - enjoying its brief moment in the spotlight, I was spending more time spying Land Cruiser Amazons than anything else.

I was on the verge, on the very cusp of buying one. Two weeks later, there's a 60-plate 5.0 Supercharged Range Rover sitting outside my door. Even by my standards, this is difficult to explain.

Heated wheel, big V8 - winter motoring sorted
Heated wheel, big V8 - winter motoring sorted
At some point, possibly when sobre, I decided that a 4.2 supercharged Rangie might be fun. An old nail would do the job. Then I saw a perfect specification newer 5.0-litre version in dark green with a caramel interior and clear glass and pinged the image onto Twitter in appreciation of such a dignified-looking machine. In hindsight, this was a mistake.

It was also a Friday, and on the Monday that car had disappeared from the web, but another in similarly splendid green with clear glass was lurking up north. Then followed one of those strange situations that despite being a committed non-sexist I still assume only afflict the male of the species. I dialled the number and convinced myself that if a decent human answered, paid some interest and did a deal, I'd buy a 60-plate Range Rover. If they didn't, I'd forget anything this stupid had ever happened.

Someone from Stratstone Land Rover in Stockton-on-Tees did answer the phone. This would prove costly.

A nice chap called Shaun then described the car and flatly refused to take a bid. He wanted a little under £38,000 and I felt this wasn't too unreasonable for something so lovely and asked to speak to the drug dealer, I mean business manager, to throw some extra finance pain at what was doubtless going to be one of the worst depreciating vehicles I would ever purchase. In for a penny.

Classy colour and spec combo sealed it
Classy colour and spec combo sealed it
But here's the thing - I wanted a Range Rover. I flitted and debated and attempted to convince myself otherwise, but what I wanted was a big comfy truck, built up the road, propelled by massive V8. The reality is I won't be doing that much towing - 10 long trips next year at the most - and the role of this thing is to make me feel happy when I'm not spanking someone else's supercar around a track. For some reason, I'm just happy perched up high, driving not very quickly in a Range Rover.

Why not an old Classic? I think they're a little fragile for the way I use these types of vehicle, and possibly a bit weak for towing. I had a great time in my recently departed old shed, but time to try something new.

But obviously the bit of man maths I really have to try and explain (acknowledging that I don't think I've fully justified it to myself yet) is why I've thrown a load of rental at a car which will shed value like home hi-fi. Er, I'll give it a go.

4.2-litre supercharged Rangies are readily available in the trade for under £10K. I have heard of, and read about numerous mechanical and electrical issues and can assume that a 120K-mile version would probably cost a few quid to keep running. I know, you might just get lucky, but that wasn't really a risk I wanted to take. Paying £9K, but earning yourself a £5K bill in the first six months isn't my idea of fun.

Bootliner coming to protect against dogs/bikes
Bootliner coming to protect against dogs/bikes
So if it was to be a Rangie, I wanted an approved used example. I think the L322 shape, clear glass and in the green and caramel is far more dignified than the new Range Rover, and have a funny feeling that if the new car is really over £100,000, prices of these late-model supercharged Autobiographies might not plummet as fast as expected.

The initial offering from the Land Rover finance desk was highly amusing: a £13,000 deposit and some hilarious monthly rental based around an APR of 10.9 per cent for three years before a large balloon was due. I asked if we weren't in fact living in the year 1991.

The rate was immediately reduced to 8.9 per cent - which was a little too miraculous for comfort, and after a little shopping around we rounded on 7.9 per cent. The figures still make for fairly tragic reading: £38,336 OTR, £13,000 down and £339.10 per month, £18,252 at the end of the rental.

Firstly, I fully intend to own the thing outright before the term is up - ideally I'd like to have it bought within a year - so the finance situation isn't quite as bad as it first appears. The cost of the vehicle I've already covered leaving, er, the warranty.

Missing tow hook will need replacing
Missing tow hook will need replacing
The last L322 I owned was exactly three years old, and just out of warranty. It provided a full six months of blissful trouble-free motoring before destroying a gearbox and then a transfer case. This time around, I wanted a warranty. As an approved Land Rover, it has a year's mechanical warranty, excluding consumables. In other words, if the transmission goes pop, it's not my problem.

The car was bought blind, Stratstones were efficient and helpful - they removed the side-steps which I thought spoiled the lines, and the car was delivered south the following week.

Needless to say, I love it.

These late L322s with the supercharged petrol motor really were Bentleys on stilts. The ride is superb, the performance is on another level to the 4.4 V8, 2003-plate car we had years ago, and it feels way stronger than the 4.2 Supercharged we had in 2007. The specification is perfect, the cabin doesn't have a single squeak and pretty much everything is covered in leather or wood. This is my approximation of what a Range Rover should be - effortless, burbling, comfortable and overwhelmingly charming.

An unscheduled dash to Oxford yesterday saw it average 14mpg at a fast cruise, which is mostly tragic, but then I really don't intend on doing more than 5,000 miles a year in it, so a TDV8 just isn't worth it. And as I've said, for me a Range Rover should be petrol powered.

Come on then winter, let's have it...
Come on then winter, let's have it...
This is, as you are probably now aware, a complete folly of a purchase. It is unjustifiable, it will cost me money and I've decided I just don't care. I'd rather have the car I want and work harder to pay for it.

The next job is to find some tyres to use in the mud and snow and a spray can to sort that dreadful chrome front grille and lower chin strap. Wonder if there's a potential business in de-chavving Range Rovers and Discoveries? We could call it Dignity. The previous owner took the tow hook with them, so I need one of those, and for lobbing the mountain bike in the back I'll get some boot liners/covers.

Here's looking forward to winter with my heated steering wheel.

2010 Range Rover 5.0 Supercharged Autobiography
Run by: Chris Harris
Bought: December 2013
Mileage: 20,000
Purchase price: £38,000 (before man maths, haggling and finance...)
Last month at a glance: 14mpg on the first proper run but nice warm hands courtesy of the heated steering wheel


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Comments (259) Join the discussion on the forum

  • jakesmith 03 Dec 2013


  • FWDRacer 03 Dec 2013

    Mad as a badger. Should have been part of the recent Gloucestershire cull.

  • George29 03 Dec 2013

    What a perfect spec for a Range Rover cloud9

  • Schnellmann 03 Dec 2013

    Coming next week, Chris convinces himself that black is in fact white....

    Man maths at its greatest/worst depending how you view it (dealer/finance co. vs wife most likely)!

  • BigTom85 03 Dec 2013

    You utter mentalist Chris.

    I like your style! drink

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