FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE
DESPITE their unbridled popularity with the masses, SUVs have been copping it in the neck from Greenies for years.
Efficient yet lively; electric-only range; refinement; off-road ability
Touchscreen complexity; difficulty modulating power when off-road
Critiqued as being too big, too heavy, too thirsty, or just too stupid, these behemoths have been easy whipping boys for anyone with an axe to grind about the fragility of our blue planet.
While the Range Rover P400e is no less physically imposing than its established stablemates, the electrification of its drivetrain and associated cleaning up of its environmental act will surely leave critics clutching at straws when trying to find new reasons to damn the big Brit and its ilk.
Drawing on the technology lessons learned through the electrification of associated Jaguars, en route to its goal of having all new models electrified from 2020, Land Rover has transplanted a plug-in hybrid system into its most luxurious off-roader with impressive results.
Combining a 221kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol ‘Ingenium’ four with an 85kW electric motor and 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Rangie PHEV’s peak outputs of 297kW and 640Nm are seamlessly channelled through an updated eight-speed ZF auto and permanent AWD. This 2.5-tonne Rangie can sprint to 100km/h in 6.8sec — performance bettered only by its more expensive blown V8 sibling — yet deliver combined-cycle economy of just 2.8L/100km, and a CO2 rating of 64g/km.
What’s more, the Rangie PHEV has an electric-only range of 51km, enough to complete most journeys without engaging the petrol engine, says Land Rover.
The complex drivetrain is integrated so effectively that the Rangie simply feels smooth and responsive. In default mode the system operates as a parallel hybrid, combining the two drive systems to deliver brisk off-the-mark acceleration and equally effortless overtaking performance at the posted limit and beyond.
As well as enabling electric-only driving, the PHEV system also lets you save battery charge, ensuring there’s always pure EV power available for when you want it.
Battery charging time is 2 hours 45 minutes on a rapid-charge system using a 32-amp wall box, or 7.5 hours if using a 10-amp home charger. The access point for the charging cable is behind a discreet flap in the grille, while the electric motor’s battery is mounted beneath the boot floor where the spare would usually go.
In pure EV mode the throttle pedal feels less responsive than in parallel mode, requiring more pedal pressure for similarly rapid acceleration. Other than this, and the range of EV-related information displayed on the digital dash and centre screens, you wouldn’t know it was anything other than a smoothly responsive and rapid Range Rover. Badging is unusually modest; merely a tiny ‘P400e’ in black on the left-hand side of the tailgate.
The PHEV drivetrain’s quietness adds to the Range Rover’s already high levels of refinement and comfort, the latter accentuated by long-legged air suspension that delivers a superbly plush ride. The PHEV version has lost none of the Rangie’s legendary waft-ability.
It may not have a blown V8 under its bonnet or a thunderous soundtrack, but right now the four-pot hybrid P400e is one of the most intriguing powertrains on offer in the Range Rover family. It’s quick, more than capable off-road, and if juiced up on renewable power, offers a guilt-free SUV experience. It’s a Range Rover even Bob Brown could love.
The PHEV can be driven in EV-only mode off-road, though we left it in default parallel-hybrid mode. It easily tackled muddy paddocks and fields, and forded a river with a bow wave to almost headlight height.
The cabin receives double-deck 10.0-inch high-definition touchscreens on the centre stack, the new layout significantly decluttering the dash layout and adding a futuristic and high-tech sheen, along with tablet-style ease of use.
In Oz, the PHEV drivetrain will only be available on the entry-level Vogue. Its $210K sticker will make it one of the more affordable options in a line-up that spans $190K TDV6 to $341,400 SV Autobiography Dynamic supercharged V8.
To ensure the PHEV can tackle everything its conventionally powered stablemates can, Land Rover has updated the Rangie’s ‘Terrain Response 2’ four-wheel-drive system to distribute the instantaneous torque of the electric motor to all four wheels, ensuring the 900mm wading depth and other off-road markers are not compromised. Land Rover cautions drivers to not run the car in EV-only mode in such conditions, to prevent water running up the exhaust pipe.
OR TRY THESE...
Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design $124,900
Less exclusive (and much cheaper) than the Rangie P400e, but capable of seating seven, as well as nailing 100km/h in 5.4sec. The XC90 T8 may not impress your law mates like a Range Rover, but it’s all class.
The mega-buck SUV you have when you don’t really want one, the electric-only Tesla is a rocketship compared to the four-pot Range Rover plug-in hybrid, though it’s also incapable of tackling Aussie bush on any level.