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 31 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 all-electric driving range of 31 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 V8 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. Specific changes made to this model for the 2018 model year mainly centre around a revised front grille (Land Rover had to redesign it to allow for the insertion of the charging port needed for this PHEV model). The bumper's been subtly re-styled too, now featuring widened vent blades.
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 TDV6 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 £87,000. Bear in mind that the same engineering can also be found in a Range Rover Sport P400e model costing around £70,000. 'Vogue SE', 'Autobiography' and 'SVAutobiography' 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 - 101mpg on the combined cycle, 73g/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 just £15, compared to £1,200 for the closest-performing diesel Range Rover. More importantly, there's a big potential monthly BIK tax saving given that this car sits in the 16% bracket - as opposed to the 37% bracket for the next-cleanest TDV6 diesel model. True, you don't get the government-funded PHEV grant towards initial purchase that on cheaper plug-ins, subsidises you to the tune of £2,500 (that only applies on vehicles costing less than £60,000). But a Range Rover P400e will qualify for complete exemption from the £11.50-per-day London Congestion charge. 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 post-2018-era 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.
The improved fourth generation Range Rover is more efficient, better connected and smarter inside. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Ten Second Review
So many cars claim to be unique but the Range Rover really is, continuing to set the standard in the super-luxury SUV sector. This improved MK4 model gets the option of petrol/electric Plug-in hybrid power and mild hybrid power for the very first time and all variants get a redesigned cabin with a more intuitive 'Touch Pro Duo' infotainment system. Otherwise, things are much as before, this aluminium-bodied luxury SUV good enough to properly combine the imperious qualities of a top luxury saloon with off piste abilities that would be limited only by the skills of its driver. A Rolls Royce in the rough, there's nothing quite like it.
'Don't change it: just make it better'. That's what Range Rover customers have long told Land Rover, so consistent evolution of this model has long been the Solihull company's mantra when it comes to this car. With a pedigree over four distinct generations going all the way back to 1970, it's always been, without question, the 'finest 4x4xfar'. We're currently edging towards the end of the lifespan of the fourth generation version, but even at this point in this design's development, some pretty fundamental changes are being introduced - a key one being the introduction of Plug-in hybrid power that we'll be discussing in this review.
This MK4 model adopted a lightweight aluminium body structure to make itself faster and more responsive at the same time as being more efficient and cheaper to run. As ever, this car offers a properly limousine-like rear cabin and performance approaching that of a super-saloon. And yes, if you need it to be, it's well capable of allowing you to set off across the Serengeti or explore the Amazon. It is, more than ever, one of a kind.
Did we ever imagine we'd see a Range Rover with a four cylinder engine? Probably not but the sophisticated aluminium underpinnings of this fourth generation design have made that possible. The four cylinder powerplant in question is the 2.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid unit used in the Plug-in P400e version, but we'll get to that shortly because most customers are going to want something more conventional beneath the bonnet. The most popular unit is the 275hp SDV6 six cylinder diesel, an engine that develops a hefty 625Nm of torque, good enough to send you to sixty in 7.4s on the way to 130mph to the accompaniment of a growly but rather appealing engine note. If you want more, an equally familiar lump to regular buyers is the 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel which offers 339hp and 700Nm of torque, enough to dispatch the sixty sprint in 6.5s on the way to a top speed of 135mph.
The few who'd consider a conventional petrol-powered Range Rover are now offered a straight-six mild hybrid P400 variant with 400hp and mild hybrid technology. And, as before , there's the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, available either with 525bhp (in the 'P525' variants) - or 565bhp in top 'SVAutobiography Dynamic' 'P565' guise.
As for that Plug-in hybrid, well it's badged 'P400e PHEV' and develops 404hp; enough grunt to get you to 60mph in 6.4s en route to 137mph.
Off road, things are much as before; supremely capable in other words. There's a full time 'intelligent 4WD system' with a two-speed transfer 'box (that you can shift down into on the move at up to 37mph), plus the option of Land Rover's very clever All-Terrain Progress Control system. Here, the driver can input a desired speed without any pedal inputs. The ATPC set-up will then maintain that, reducing the driver's workload and keeping the car's composure over steep gradients, rough terrain and low-grip surfaces.
Design and Build
There are no exterior changes to this updated model but it remains an elegant thing, the classy panelwork draped around a lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure. Inside though, quite a lot has changed. As before, there's an optional long wheelbase bodystyle if you feel the interior of the standard short wheelbase model to be insufficiently spacious for your needs. Either way, the cabin now features wider, softer seats that at the back, free up an additional 186mm of legroom. Rear seat folk can also specify a massaging system and can make use of up to 17 media connection points. If you need even more rear space, then as before, there's also a LWB version of this car offering an extra 200mm in length, all of which goes for the benefit of rear seat folk.
Up front, 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. Otherwise, things are much as before. As ever, we particularly like the way that the car's air suspension system automatically drops to its lowest 'Access Height' when parked to make entry and exit easier.This car's substantial size isn't enough to permit the fitment of the couple of occasional rear boot-mounted seats you'll find in a Land Rover Discovery or (optionally) in a Range Rover Sport. Still, buyers of this top Range Rover model have never seemed to want them. Luggage room has always been a greater priority, so I should point out that there's 505-litres of it - which may be a little less than you were expecting. Perhaps that has something to do with the greater priority that Land Rover's designers have given to space for rear seat passengers.
Market and Model
List prices suggest that you'll be paying somewhere in the £85,000 to £100,000 bracket for most mainstream short wheelbase Range Rover models but it's easily possible to pay far more than that. The 'P525' V8 supercharged petrol variants, for example, don't even start price-wise until you get to around £112,000 and a top long wheelbase 'SVAutobiography' derivative will cost a cool £180,000. Talking of long wheelbase models, bear in mind that if you go for a lengthened Range Rover, you won't be able to order the base SDV6 diesel engine and you'll have to have top 'Autobiography' trim, all of which means that LWB Range Rover pricing starts up at around £117,000.
As you'd expect, you get a lot more for that in terms of equipment. Items added us part of this range revamp include a gesture-controlled sunblind; a cabin air ionisation system; Pixel-laser LED headlights that never have to be dipped at night; and an 'Activity key' allowing you to securely lock and unlock the doors without the need to carry a conventional key fob.
Other clever driving features include Adaptive Cruise Control, plus Land Rover's 'Queue Assist and Intelligent Emergency Braking' set-up. Advanced Tow Assist takes the anxiety out of reversing when towing a trailer. And Low Traction Launch is a manually selectable driving mode that helps you gain traction when pulling away on slippery surfaces.
Cost of Ownership
This might be the most economical Range Rover line-up ever made but buying one still won't get you installed on the Greenpeace Christmas card list. Add on a few options and it could easily end up weighing over two and a half tonnes, which makes the 40.9mpg combined cycle fuel figure (up to 31.5mpg WLTP) CO2 return (up to 199g/km NEDC) boasted by the entry-level SDV6 model all the more impressive.
If you want to do better than that, you'll need to talk to your dealer about the 'P400e' PHEV Plug-in hybrid petrol/electric variant that's been introduced into this revised range. This derivative is based around use of a 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine mated to an 85kW electric motor housed in the ZF automatic eight-speed auto transmission. It can be charged from a domestic plug or a garage-based wallbox, the latter installation able to recharge the car in just 2 hours and 45 minutes, poviding for an all-electric driving range of 31 miles from the 13.1kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery.
The SDV8 diesel isn't quite in that league of course, but up to 26.6mpg on the combined cycle (WLTP) and up to 243g/km of (CO2 NEDC) will be better than you might have been expecting - though not as good as more powerful diesel rivals like the BMW X5 M50d or the Porsche Cayenne Diesel S. The mild hybrod P400 straight six petrol mdel manages up to 26.7mpg on the combined cycle (WLTP) and up to 212g/km of CO2 (NEDC). The supercharged V8 petrol model is of course a different proposition altogether in this respect, in 'P525' form recording up to 294g/km (NEDC) and a WLTP combined cycle fuel return of just 20.0mpg.
From princes to politicians, from rock gods to rock climbers, from footballers to farmers, the Range Rover has always appealed to a more diverse group of customers than any other car. As you'd expect it would. This is, after all, far more than just the world's finest luxury SUV, instead unchallenged as four vehicles within one - an everyday luxury saloon, a weekend leisure vehicle, a high-performance long distance private jet and a working cross-country conveyance.
Drive it through a river, drive it to the opera: it's as happy either way, beautifully built, gorgeously finished and astonishingly quick. True, this car 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.