Can the Range Rover make sense with Plug-in hybrid petrol/electric power? Does it make the most sense in this form? Jonathan Crouch decides.
Ten Second Review
If you like the idea of owning a Range Rover but find the thought of running one to be slightly at odds with the kind of corporate responsibility statement you want to make, then this P400e petrol/electric Plug-in hybrid version could be just about perfect for you. It offers a combined power output of 404hp, a claimed all-electric driving range of 25 miles and an official fuel consumption figure better than a Toyota Prius. It's hard not to be intrigued.
The Range Rover pioneered the rarified Super-Luxury large SUV segment, but it no longer has it to itself, following fresh class arrivals in recent years from Bentley, Lamborghini and Mercedes. In response, Land Rover significantly updated this iconic model for the 2018 year with an all-new interior, extra safety and infotainment technology and, perhaps most importantly, the option of the Plug-in petrol/electric powertrain that we're going to test here.
As a result, this flagship Range Rover model line can claim a lighter eco-footprint, a properly limousine-like rear cabin and performance that can even approach that of a high performance luxury saloon. And yes, it'll be even better if you're setting off across the Serengeti or exploring the Amazon. It'll be, more than ever, one of a kind. As we're about to discover...
On the move in a Range Rover, luxury, comfort, refinement, craftsmanship and outright performance all fuse together as part of this car's imperious progress, whether that be on-turf or on-tarmac. All the available powertrains offer exemplary refinement, but should you select one that adds in electrified assistance, then as you might imagine, this car is particularly quiet. We're referring specifically to the petrol/electric hybrid engine used in the P400e variant we've chosen to test here. This version may only have four cylinders, but it boasts a combined power output of 404PS, a claimed WLTP-rated all-electric driving range of 25 miles and running cost figures that are better than a Toyota Prius.
This version employs a 300hp version of JLR's familiar 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine working in concert with an 85kW electric motor powered by a 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery. Yes, as previously mentioned, it's a four cylinder powertrain but if fellow Range Rover owners scoff at that, you might want to remind them that this supposedly eco-minded variant develops a 640Nm torque figure that out-strips the base version of the supercharged 5.0-litre petrol V8. Sixty from rest is dispatched in just 6.4s - quicker even than the top D300 diesel - and the top speed is higher than you'd get from a black pump-fuelled model too, at 137mph. All of which should provide sufficient reassurance, should you need it, than in choosing this P400e model, you're not being fobbed off with an engine more suited to an Evoque. Which is just as well, given that this particular derivative weighs over two and a half tonnes - over 300kgs more than the base TDV6 diesel version.
Design and Build
This is every inch a Range Rover. You'd know it as such even without a glance at the elegant badge work. Which is as it should be. Gerry McGovern's design team committed early on to protect the visual characteristics that have always made this car what it is: the wrap-around clamshell bonnet; the deep glass area; the low waist and straight side feature line with no wedge or step up in side styling; the close wheel arch cuts; and the two-piece tailgate.
Seated commandingly up-front amongst the beautiful leathers, polished metal, deep pile carpet and glossy surfacing, you'll find yourself in a cabin that looks as classy and cosseting as ever. It features clean, elegant controls, wider re-designed leather seats and the new-era 'Touch Pro Duo' infotainment system we first saw on the Velar, complete with its two high-definition 10-inch central touchscreens. Anything this Panasonic-developed set-up can't tell you will almost certainly be covered off by the digitally customisable 12.3-inch so-called 'Interactive Driver Display' you view through the imposing four-spoke stitched multi-function steering wheel. In the rear, there's over a metre of leg-stretching room - and you can extend that by a further 186mm if you go for the long wheelbase body style. And though the boot can't offer the option of extra fold-out chairs, it offers a huge 909-litre capacity.
Market and Model
There's a premium of about £7,000 to go from the base D300 diesel Range Rover to one with this P400e Plug-in hybrid petrol/electric powertrain, which means starting prices for the base 'Vogue'-spec model beginning from around £90,000. Bear in mind that the same engineering can also be found in a Range Rover Sport P400e model costing around £73,000. 'Vogue', 'Westminster', 'Vogue SE', 'Autobiography' and 'Range Rover Fifty' trim levels are also available for Range Rover buyers, the latter two options available with the lengthened long wheelbase bodystyle. Here, the price could be anything up to around £170,000.
It's hard to find really direct rivals. The base 'Vogue' P400e model costs just over £20,000 more than large-segment Plug-in hybrid SUVs like Audi's Q7 e-tron, Porsche's Cayenne E-Hybrid and Volvo's XC90 T8 Twin Engine, but cars like those aren't really from the same class as this one and are more directly targeted by the P400e Plug-in Hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport (which prices from just over £70,000). You've to turn to the Bentley Bentayga for a truer rival - that car can be ordered with Plug-in Hybrid tech, but at prices that would only make sense if you were to be considering a P400e Range Rover in top 'SVAutobiography' trim.
Cost of Ownership
The P400e model's sophisticated drivetrain combination produces an eye-catching set of figures - 84.8mpg on the combined cycle, 75g/km of CO2 (based on the WLTP test) and an all-electric 31-mile journeying range, should you select the provided 'EV' driving mode which locks the vehicle down into milk float mobility. The stats in question are, as with most Plug-in hybrids, straight out of fairy land. In our time with this car, we probably averaged about 25mpg and sometimes struggled to ease the all-electric range much beyond double figures, even with quite conservative driving. The key thing though, is that the government believes them, hence a set of Plug-in hybrid incentive figures that for some buyers, will make compelling reading.
Your first year of vehicle excise duty - what used to be called 'road tax' - will be much lower compared to the closest-performing diesel Range Rover. More importantly, there's a big potential monthly BIK tax saving given that this car sits in the 20% bracket - as opposed to the 37% bracket for the next-cleanest D300 diesel model. Charging takes as little as 2 hours 45 minutes if you have the appropriate garage wallbox and on the move, there's a 'Save' option that'll allow you to save battery charge for town driving.
In its much improved current form, the Range Rover finally has a cabin with technology befitting its exalted price tag, being better connected, safer and even more luxurious. The main change here though, has been the introduction of the optional Plug-in Hybrid powertrain we've been trying here. It won't work for everyone but the right kind of buyer will find the running cost savings that come with this engine to be utterly compelling.
Much has changed then but, thank goodness, at the same time, nothing here is really different. Drive this car through a river, drive it to the opera: it's as happy either way, beautifully built, gorgeously finished and - with the right engine - astonishingly quick. True, this Range Rover is never quite going to be all things to all people, but it has perhaps moved as close to fulfilling that remit as any modern car is ever likely to get. Makes you proud to be British doesn't it.
This improved version of the second generation Range Rover Sport gets the option of clever mild hybrid diesel engine technology for the first time. And, as before, it offers amazing all-terrain capability. If you can afford one, there's now very little not to like, thinks Jonathan Crouch
Ten Second Review
The Range Rover Sport came of age in second generation form, bigger, lighter and sharper in its reactions. Now, Land Rover has usefully improved it, adding in MHEV mild hybrid diesel power for the first time in the shape of the freshly added D300 and D350 variants. As you'd expect, this dynamic luxury SUV also gets up-to-the-minute safety and connectivity technology in its latest form, plus there's a 'Low Traction Launch' system for peerless all-terrain capability.
So to the Range Rover Sport. A car that in its original guise was neither a Range Rover or 'sporty'. In fact, it was based almost entirely on the brand's sensible Discovery model and, thanks to that car's practical ladder frame chassis, as about as dynamic to drive. Not so this second generation model, now usefully improved to create the version we're going to look at here. Appropriately, its very existence is properly inspired - and in many ways completely made possible - by the fully-fledged Range Rover. Back in 2012, that car was completely redeveloped in fourth generation form with aluminium underpinnings, sharper handling and hybrid power, engineering eagerly seized upon by the Range Rover Sport development team in their quest to at last be able to offer a credibly sporting SUV rival to cars like the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5.
These two competitors of course, don't have to blend in unrivalled off road excellence with their back road blasting. They don't have to be automotive swiss army knives - all things to all people - in quite the same way. So, burdened with such expectations, how can this Range Rover Sport take them on at their own game? That's what we're here to find out.
Can this car really be what Designer Gerry McGovern calls the 'Porsche 911 of SUVs'. The impressive 'Sports Command Driving position' anticipates such a showing - and once on the road, this car delivers it, the impressively light aluminium body structure making it feel a lot more nimble than you expect.
Key recent changes beneath the bonnet see the old V6 and V8 diesels replaced by a new in-line six cylinder MHEV mild hybrid diesel, offered in D300 (300PS) and D350 (350PS) forms. This, the brand claims, delivers the efficiency of a V6 with the performance of a V8.
The other key engine alternatives are all petrol-powered. There's a base four cylinder 2.0-litre P300 variant with 300PS. And a 3.0-litre six cylinder P400 derivative with 400PS. The Plug-in hybrid petrol P400e variant continues. As does the brand's politically incorrect 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 at the top of the range, available in the P525 (525PS) and the top P575 (575PS) SVR high performance models.
Off road, as you would expect, this car is peerless, especially if you specify it with a Terrain Response system that'll always choose the perfect off road set-up. There's the further option of Land Rover's latest and very clever All-Terrain Progress Control system and now a clever 'Low Traction Launch' set-up that assists you when pulling away on slippery surfaces. Plus you can now monitor things via what's called an 'All-Terrain Information Centre', accessible via the centre dash touchcreen. For on road use, the quicker models get Torque Vectoring and 'Dynamic Response active lean control' to sharpen things through the bends, plus a 'Dynamic programme' that quickens up throttle response, steering and gearshifts if you're feeling sporty.
Design and Build
Minor changes have been made to the exterior styling in recent years, with more piercing intelligent Matrix Pixel LED headlights sitting alongside a redesigned grille. This is complemented by a restyled bumper with a more aggressive profile. Otherwise, it's as you were, so the clamshell bonnet, the 'floating' roof, the powerful wheelarches and the side fender vents that have always defined this model are all present and correct.
And inside? Well, you'd be disappointed if you didn't have to climb up into a Range Rover - that's part of its appeal - though older folk can ease the process by selecting the lower 'Access' mode on models fitted with air suspension. Once installed in the generously side bolstered seats though, there's no mistaking that you're at the wheel of this British institutional model's younger, slightly smaller and much sportier twin. For a start, you're sat a tad lower than you would be in a Range Rover, plus the more compact thicker-rimmed wheel's smaller, the upright gearstick more purposeful and the centre console higher. The key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin.
In the back, there's plenty of room thanks to the large wheelbase and the option of a sliding seat. Which you'll need if you choose the 7-seat option and want to make the atmosphere for third row occupants a bit less cramped. Boot capacity isn't massive at 784-litres, but with the rear bench folded, the 1,784-litre total will be sufficient for most.
Market and Model
Range Rover Sport pricing is pitched into the £68,000 to £115,000 bracket. But there's quite a price gap between this model and the full-fat Range Rover. Essentially, there are two kinds of Range Rover Sport you buy into: lets loosely call these levels 'volume' and 'nice to have'. Most buyers will choose the six cylinder diesel models, the D300 and the D350. As an alternative to these, you might like to look at the P300 four cylinder petrol unit or the 400hp P400 six cylinder petrol powerplant. Maybe even the P400e plug-in petrol derivative. At the other extreme in the line-up, there's the 'extreme' 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol variants, offered either in 525hp P525 'Autobiography Dynamic' form or in P575 575bhp 'SVR' guises.
Your minimum trim level is plush 'HSE' and with the volume D300 and P400e variants, there are 'Silver', 'Dynamic' and 'Dynamic Black' variants of it on the way to top 'Autobiohgraphy Dynamic' trim.
Cost of Ownership
When the very first Range Rover Sport was launched, buyers were faced with a choice; reasonable performance or reasonable economy. You couldn't have both. How times have changed. Did you ever imagine that you could own a version of this car able to achieve 88.3mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and capable of putting out no more than 75g/km of CO2? Well, in the form of the P400e four cylinder Plug-in petrol/electric hybrid model, you can now. This PHEV variant offers a 25-mile WLTP-rated all-electric driving range, enough for most owners' daily commute. This derivative's 13.1kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery can be charged from empty in as little as 2 hours 45 minutes at home using a dedicated or 32amp wall box. If you're limited to using an ordinary plug socket and the 10 amp home charging cable supplied as standard, the battery can be fully charged in 7 hours 30 minutes.
As for the more conventional variants, well even the six cylinder D300 and D350 mild hybrid MHEV diesels shouldn't be too expensive to run, being RDE2-certified for lower BiK taxation. The D350 manages 237g/km of WLTP CO2 - far better than the old V8 diesel it replaces. All these figures are helped by Land Rover's decision in developing this MK2 model 'Sport' to create an all-aluminium body structure, thanks to which a huge 39% weight reduction has been possible. The first generation Range Rover Sport weighed 2,583kgs. This one weighs 2115kgs. Enough said.
The top 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged petrol model has a big fuel tank - and it'll need it because even though combined cycle fuel economy is rated well below 20mpg, a figure we think you'd only achieve with a very frugal driving style indeed.
With the fully fledged Range Rover now a plutocratic purchase, it's this Sport model that for us, now most faithfully continues a model line stretching all the way back to the 1970 original. That very first Range Rover was a car you didn't have to be afraid to use as intended, on or off road. And nor is this one.
Get the fundamental thing right with any great design - in this case the weight - and everything else then tends to fall into place. The aluminium platform that here makes this car so relatively light solves at a stroke the two issues that blighted the original first generation Range Rover Sport: stodgy handling and high running costs. And yes, it does leave room for proper 4WD hardware to be fitted without compromising paved road prowess. Which is something that German rivals could learn from.
True, it's a pity that pricing can't be more affordable. Still, the right version of this car offers exactly the right kind of luxury SUV experience for those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. A Range Rover Sport that is in every way a proper Range Rover. Enough said.