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A first glimpse at the new Range Rover PHEV highlights its rough edges, but with some polishing it will add a much needed string to Land Rover's bow

Our Verdict

Range Rover

The fourth-generation Range Rover is here to be judged as a luxury car as much as it is a 4x4

Mark Tisshaw
1 December 2017

What is it?

There aren’t too many more refined and luxurious ways to travel than in a Range Rover. Yet there is a way of making a Range Rover more refined and luxurious: electrify it.

The early days of the electrified car have been quite unusual in terms of which cars have got the technology first.

Normally, it’s the big expensive cars that get the big and expensive new technology first before dripping down to the rest of the market as it becomes more affordable and widely available.

Yet that’s not been the case with electric and plug-in hybrid models, for we’ve seen the likes of £30,000-plus city cars that no one has bought and that have hindered rather than enhanced the inevitable switch to electrification.

Which is even more odd given just how refined, quiet and premium an electric drivetrain is, making it perfect for a big and expensive luxury car in the first place.

Never mind, for the status quo has sorted itself out, and many a luxury car is available with a little 'e' at the end of its name, and an extra hole into it to dispense electricity instead of a fossil fuel.

Now we arrive at arguably the most luxurious car yet to find itself with a little 'e' at the end of its name: the Range Rover.

Land Rover’s plug-in hybrid system, which finds its way onto the Range Rover Sport at the same time, mixes a longitudinally mounted 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium family with a 114bhp electric motor housed in the casing of an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

That draws power from a 13.1kWh lithium ion battery pack located at the rear of the car and charged from a port in the front grille. That battery allows for up to 31 miles of electric-only driving at speeds of up to 85mph, and a full charge of that battery can take 2hr 45mins with the right 32-amp wallbox charger.

And that plug-in hybrid drivetrain, Jaguar Land Rover’s first, sits in an overhauled Range Rover body, promising the greatest levels of luxury and comfort yet. We’re testing here in close to production but still prototype form for a first taste. 

What's it like?

'Don’t change it, just make it better' was the brief for this heavily revised (and it’s more revised than it looks) version of the king of luxury SUVs, but on this brief first impression, an early eyebrow is raised at the plug-in hybrid drivetrain’s realisation of that brief.

The drivetrain’s distribution of electric and petrol power isn’t seamless, making the driver an unwelcome part of the process, the brakes are quite grabby, and the ride is crashy and has lost its suppleness with the extra weight of the hybrid drivetrain, taking the car above two-and-a-half tonnes.

But, remember, this is a prototype drive, and there is development work still to be done, and those are exactly the things Land Rover engineers point to improving before the P400e reaches production next spring, including adjusting the damper settings to take account of the extra weight.

The Range Rover Sport we also briefly tested was evidence of how much better the integration can be: it’s being launched ahead of the Range Rover in January in China first so work on it is practically complete.

It had a ride quality as it should, and was more seamless in its power shift between petrol and electric propulsion, although our drive of it was shorter and dominated by a traffic jam. Still, the car made for a quiet, relaxing companion.

One thing Land Rover’s engineers might struggle to fix on the P400e is what happens when the battery runs out. The four-cylinder engine was vocal in its propulsion, lacking the refinement and grunt of the big V6 and V8 diesels we’ve become so accustomed to in Land Rover’s flagship models; they’re simply fighting physics here. To that end, you’d best make full use of those 31 miles of electric range.

To do so, you can select from different driving modes, the P400e running in default in Parallel Hybrid mode where the engine and electric motor work together to best mix performance and economy. You can then choose to run it in full EV mode, where we suspect it will be at its most refined best, or to save electric power for later in the journey. However, unlike the pure EV mode, the Save mode is hidden behind a few menus on the touchscreen rather than as a button on the centre tunnel, which is strange as it feels of quite some importance and significance.

Off-road performance is also claimed to be enhanced rather than hindered, the electric motor providing maximum torque from 0rpm to all four wheels, which allows for even greater control on tougher terrain.

What else is new? Frankly, lots - the gen describing all its new features runs to 32 pages, giving you some idea that the changes are greater than a mere facelift, however the car may look visually at a first glance.

That subtly evolved look aside, the changes range from making the body stiffer (although the damper tuning failed to see the body control at its best), the steering more communicative (it had extra weight, if not extra feel), the adoption of the dual infotainment set-up first seen on the Range Rover Velar, and thicker glass for the windows to make the cabin even quieter.

One really killer feature worthy of a longer mention is the new, wider, comfier seats. They need to find their way into DFS so I can enjoy them in my front room such is their comfort, and it’s now easier to electrically manoeuvre them into your ideal position (or allow them to massage, heat or cool) following the relocation of the controls onto the door panel, another welcome feature. 

Should I buy one?

There is work still to be done in the Range Rover P400e to make it more competitive before its launch in March, but evidence from the Range Rover Sport 400e shows that the improvements are well within Land Rover’s capabilities to make.

If executed, they will broaden the Range Rover’s appeal without making it the most appealing Range Rover, for it will be suited to those who mainly do short urban journeys and can drive the car solely on electric power most of the time.

Plenty of those people do exist (around one in five buyers, Land Rover reckons), as do those who still crave a big range and world-class refinement. For them, still nothing can top a big diesel engine

Range Rover P400e PHEV

Where Los Angeles, USA On sale March 2018 Price £86,965 Engine 4cyls, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol plus electric motor Power 398bhp (combined) Torque 472lb ft (combined) Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2509kg Top speed 137mph 0-62mph 6.4sec Fuel economy 101mpg CO2 rating 64g/km

 

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Comments
24

1 December 2017

Nothing can top a big diesel engine? Land Rover's even bigger supercharged petrol V8 can and does, delivering fifty percent more power than their V8 diesel.

1 December 2017

Going hybrid is making an already heavy Car more like a small a Truck, I don’t think making a RR like this with limited Ev distance is correct, if anything maybe going fully EV like the Tesla would have been better, at least then you’d have a realistic 200 miles or so.

Peter Cavellini.

2 December 2017

Indeed 98 litre smaller boot and 300kg weight gain and 100 in 6.3 seconds. This is apalling. Yet as its a JLR product then it shall be lauded. If they were serious they wouldn't even bother with this tken gesture and instead focus on a full electric version of the next one. It would probably be the best off roader JLR would make due t the micro control electronics and electic drivetrain would allow.

1 December 2017

13kw battery wouldn't get this weight car more than 15 miles tops. Just enough 'hybrid' to be an officially low CO2 tax dodger. Nothing more, as simple as that.

A34

1 December 2017

So presumably the rich of London will get a Rangie that avoids the congestion charge. So while JLR have followed the Mitsubishi Outlander route to “success” one wonders why they didn’t introduce a Range Extender. Maybe such reengineering was beyond their brief, or they are relying on the iPace architecture for real progress?

1 December 2017
A34 wrote:

So presumably the rich of London will get a Rangie that avoids the congestion charge....one wonders why they didn’t introduce a Range Extender.

a) Yep, but don't the discount for living within the zone too. b) A range extender is a logical progression from the starting point of a BEV, not the starting point of an IC vehicle - compromises of packaging, battery size, etc. There's plenty of reasons to criticise JLR and their biggest fanboys, Autocar, for, this isn't one of them.

1 December 2017

It's some cars, like the Range Rover, where diesel power is of benefit, especially when it comes to moving around something this heavy and returning decent MPG. But thanks to the misguided knee jerk reactions of some governments (especially the UK) as a result of dieselgate we are now seeing products like this which, to mee, make no sense and will have little, or no, benefit over a standard diesel engine. A PHEV version of the Range Rover may emit less partiuclates but I doubt very much the real-world combined economy of a small petrol engine and a heavy hybrid set-up will see combined ecomony and CO2 emissions bettering the diesel equivalent. And while not many Range Rovers are used for rugged or utilarian purposes, I wonder how this hybrid set up will cope for when the going gets tough, especially when lugging around heavy items or towing.

1 December 2017

But then such PHEV cars are ALL about the particulates, as air quality is the main concern in large cities, not CO2 emissions.

The sort of people who would buy one of these won't be driving up mountains anyway!

1 December 2017

Indeed, the best engine for this hybrid would be the 4 cylinder diesel.

1 December 2017

"The early days of the electrified car have been quite unusual in terms of which cars have got the technology first" Mark, the early days of the electric car were approx 100 years ago.

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