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The most powerful version of Vauxhall's newly facelifted family SUV changes into its gym kit

A warmed-up SUV is nothing new, but when the Vauxhall Grandland was announced as one of the founding members of its new performance sub-brand, GSe (which stands for Grand Sport Electric), our interest was piqued, if only a little.

GSe has been created to bring “driver-focused chassis set-ups” and “higher-performance” powertrains to the British brand’s cars. You would be forgiven for thinking the form taken by those powertrains would be electric, but instead,

Unlike the Astra GSe, though, the Grandland GSe doesn’t even bring a new powertrain option to its model line-up: it uses the 296bhp, 384lb ft PHEV system as found in the Hybrid4 300 (although that variant was dropped in the recent facelift).

This comprises a 1.6-litre four-pot turbo petrol engine, two electric motors and a 13.2kWh battery, which gives the car four-wheel drive and 43 miles of electric-only range. It also uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

It’s anticlimactic, then, that it drives just as you would expect a slightly boosted family SUV to. The engineers say the biggest improvement is in the chassis, which is now better up to the task of dealing with nearly 300bhp and 384lb ft, but the Grandland rides a tad too hard, with lots of weight-induced rolling, and a bit lifelessly.

Vauxhall grandland gse driving through dust

With an empty battery and therefore less power available from the electric motors, the engine and gearbox have to work even harder, which hurts both power and refinement. The advantages over the cheaper, front-wheel-drive 225PS plug-in hybrid are a lot smaller than they look on paper. It’s better to view this as the four-wheel-drive version rather than the performance one.

There are some GSe-specific tweaks beyond the cosmetics of the unique 19in wheels, black roof, black bonnet, sports seats and sports steering wheel, though, including quicker steering, firmer springs, frequency-selective dampers and a stiffened chassis, which engineers say is the biggest improvement.

It does, of course, receive all the same facelift tweaks as the rest of the Grandland range, so it adopts the more distinctive ‘Vizor’ grille that is being rolled out across the Vauxhall range. Inside, all Grandlands get the twin-screen ‘Pure Panel’ for the gauges and the digital gauge cluster.

Plus points do come from the powertrain, which gives some good poke out of a junction (0-62mph in 6.1sec, compared with 7.7sec for the Astra GSe) and makes a racket that I was quite surprised to hear after my warm-Astra experience. This GSe actually sounds half good.

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The Grandland GSe may have almost as much power as the Volkswagen Tiguan R, but that’s where the similarities end. The Grandland has a lumpy, thumpy ride but offers very little for the interested driver, either. Light, numb steering and fairly disappointing levels of grip from by the Michelin e-Primacy tyres see to that, and there is little sense that the rear axle has much of a say in proceedings.

Vauxhall grandland gse interior

 

Inside, the facelift tweaks can’t hide that the Grandland is quite an old model. The piece of gloss black plastic that joins the gauge cluster and the centre screen together is supposed to mimic the slick curved ‘Pure Panel’ that’s in the newer Astra and Mokka, but it’s not fooling anyone.

 

A good selection of physical buttons can’t compensate for the illogical, slow previous-gen infotainment system. The general materials, design and ambience aren’t offensive, just a bit forgettable. The Grandland has never been one of the roomiest options in its class, either, and its 390-litre boot is only slightly larger than an Astra hatchback’s, let alone an Astra Sports Tourer’s.

There is a real benefit, though, in its 40 miles of electric-only range. Based on the WLTP cycle, it means that its company car tax ranking stands at just 8% instead of 12%. That tax benefit also applies to the Kia Sportage PHEV and Toyota RAV4 PHEV, however, and while they are more expensive, they also feel it.

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That said, at £43,700, the Grandland GSe isn’t cheap, and when you consider that the updates to the cabin haven’t hidden its age, that becomes even more problematic. The slightly less powerful (261bhp) but much more premium-feeling Kia Sportage PHEV is £2000 less, for instance. 

The Grandland GSe may offer something a bit different to the rest in this saturated segment, but it really is only ‘a bit’, and its rivals are more polished.

PRICES & SPECS

Will Rimell

Will Rimell
Title: News editor

Will is a journalist with more than eight years experience in roles that range from news reporter to editor. He joined Autocar in 2022 as deputy news editor, moving from a local news background.

In his current role as news editor, Will’s focus is on setting Autocar's news agenda; he also manages Autocar Business and Haymarket's aftermarket publication CAT.

Writing is, of course, a big part of his role too. Stories come in many forms, from interviewing top executives, reporting from car launches, and unearthing exclusives.

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And so what actually 8 June 2023

how does the dash have a big screen etc...but still look like its from 98?

xxxx 8 June 2023

44k, it's almost as if PSA want this to fail. And is that the first time an hybrid review as the words, with an empty battery...

fhp111 8 June 2023

From £46k!!! :O

Makes my eyes water!