The image of a Range Rover may conjure up thoughts of opulent interiors, intimidating looks and go-anywhere ability. But under the skin, the engine choices have remained stubbornly powerful, polluting and thirsty. Until now?
Now Land Rover has introduced the Range Rover plug-in hybrid, which gives city dwellers an alternative to plain old internal combustion. It combines a four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and battery, capable of travelling up to 31 miles on battery power alone – perfect for commuting or cross-city jaunts.
This engine is priced near the top of the existing model line-up – dearer than both V6 and V8 diesels plus the V6 petrol, but not as expensive as the fire-breathing V8 petrol models. It can count the new Bentley Bentayga hybrid and Porsche Cayenne hybrid as rivals.
What’s new about the Range Rover plug-in hybrid?
The biggest change for this model is the powertrain – but more on that later. For 2018, every Range Rover model receives some extra glitz and bling, along a with a few worthwhile upgrades.
There’s a new grille inspired by the smaller Range Rover Velar, the tailpipes have been integrated into the rear bumper and there are new lights front and rear.
Inside, nearly every button on the centre console has gone, replaced instead by a dual-touchscreen setup. Where buttons remain, they’re seamlessly integrated into one another, and light-up too.
Thicker windows and noise-cancelling tech aim to make the car even quieter than before, and there are new seats, too.
How does it look?
The Range Rover is massive, intimidating and unmistakable, and 2018’s changes only serve to build on this. The Velar-inspired grille and new headlamps walk a fine line between glitzy and vulgar (you’ll have to decide which), and a wide array of colours and trims mean you can style it to suit either the country club or the nightclub.
Only some subtle badging marks this out as a hybrid, with the electric charging port concealed neatly behind the Land Rover badge in the front grille.
What’s the spec like?
The PHEV powertrain is available across all Range Rover trim levels and even base models are seriously luxurious vehicles.
Entry-level Vogue models, which start at £86,965 on-road, get a full Windsor leather interior, triple-zone climate control, a fixed panoramic glass roof, 20-inch alloy wheels, and matrix LED headlights to name but a few choice items.
Step up to £93,465 Vogue SE and the wheels grow to 21 inches, the excellent Terrain Response system comes as standard and the stereo becomes an excellent Meridian system.
Top-spec Autobiography includes executive rear seating, walnut veneer, 24-way electric seats with heating and cooling and a suede headliner for £105,865.
It’s rather easy to increase these prices with a few items from the options list on any of the models, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still disappointing omissions. That’s our only major gripe, though.
What’s the Range Rover plug-in hybrid like inside?
Nearly every traditional button has been eliminated from the inside of the latest Range Rover, a move which looks good but takes some getting used to. The central twin-touchscreen setup works quite well, with the upper handling media and navigation while the lower takes on driving modes, climate and seat controls.
There’s very little to mark it out as a PHEV in here either – though we would have liked a few buttons to save delving into confusing sub-menus to control battery charge and usage.
Everything is incredibly plush, though, and the interior is a lesson in duality – after all, how many other cars can wade in water 90cm deep while giving you a hot stone massage?
There’s also plenty of room, especially in long-wheelbase models. The battery pack underneath the boot floor does eat into space, though, and the load area beneath the parcel shelf is long and wide but shallow – you still get 802 litres of space to play with, though.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Range Rover PHEV debuts the brand’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain. It mates a 300hp, 2.0-litre petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor for a maximum power figure of 405hp. That’s good for a 0-60mph sprint of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 137mph – or 85mph if travelling on electricity alone.
Land Rover claims a combined fuel economy figure of 101mpg. The reality is very dependent on how you drive. If you charge the car every night and the majority of your journeys are within the 31-mile electric range, you might hardly need to use the petrol engine. In solo cruising with a discharged battery, though, we achieved a more realistic Range Rover economy figure of 24mpg.
The engine is powerful, with a seamless transition between power sources. Push it hard, though, and the raucous note of the comparatively small engine penetrates the cabin.
What’s the Range Rover plug-in hybrid like to drive?
Range Rovers are at their best while ‘wafting’ at high speed on a smooth road – nothing’s changed here. Air suspension irons out the bumps and the vast wheels make mincemeat of minor road irritations.
What’s surprising is how well the Range Rover hides its size – it’s remarkably easy to drive, aided by peerless visibility and accurate steering. However, the heavy hybrid model isn’t quite as responsive as its siblings down a twisting road – the retuned suspension doesn’t hide bumps in the same way, and changes of direction are more ponderous.
It’s ideal in the city, though, where the serene sensation of running on pure electricity makes the Range Rover feel somehow even more luxurious.
The Range Rover has been around for a few years, but this bang up-to-date hybrid drivetrain and fresh interior ensure it feels as good as it ever has.
The new hybrid model is an impressive achievement, too, but works best in city conditions – those with regular long trips to accommodate would be best served by one of the diesel engines.
Whichever form you buy it in, though, the Range Rover is a serious rival to the best luxury cars out there – and one that makes you feel like a king every time you drive it.
Model as tested: Range Rover P400e PHEV
Price (on-road): £86,965
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol with electric motor
Power: 405 hp
Torque: 640 Nm
Top speed: 137 mph
0-60mph: 6.4 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 101 mpg
CO2 emissions: 64 g/km