Old World Luxury–Electric Efficiency
The new Range Rover Sport HSE P400e stops any argument that electrified vehicles need to be small or funny looking. As Land Rover’s first plug-in hybrid, it offers potent off-road four-wheel drive, sublime comfort and luxury and 27 miles of silent, all-electric motoring.
You might not expect that kind of efficiency from a brand known for ruggedness and exclusivity, but it’s on its way. My weeklong test was of a pre-production 2020 model. The 2019 is not sold in the U.S yet. In a jaunty Firenze Red, it stood out from the crowd, with only the badge giving a clue as to its battery-powered secret.
Under the tall hood you’ll find a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor, the latter fueled by a 13.1 kilowatt-hour battery tucked under the rear cargo area. With 398 horsepower and 472 pounds-feet of torque, some of it delivered instantly from the electric motor, you can sprint from 0-to-60 in just 6.7 seconds.
The Secret EV
While you fill the fuel tank from the usual side-mounted door, you need to flip up a section of the plastic grille to expose the J-1772 charging socket. The car likes to keep its EV side a secret. I had to look it up in the owner’s manual to figure out where the plug was.
It takes about 7 1/2 hours to fill an empty battery on normal Level 1 household 120-volt current. If you use a Level 2 240-volt charger, it’ll be under three hours.
As a plug-in hybrid, the P400e delivers the most efficiency if you don’t take it on long trips. Its standard way of moving is as a parallel hybrid, which means that the engine and motor work together to deliver the “best” mix of power and efficiency. One or both will be working at any particular time. You can also set it up to run as an EV only—for as long as the battery has sufficient charge—even at freeway speeds. The “Save” feature lets you retain the battery charge until later, so you could use the engine on the freeway and drive in town on electricity, for example.
I got about 27 miles of electric range per charge, and the car delivered 24.7 miles per gallon during its stay. However, it was the kind of week where I took a couple of longer weekend trips. If I had just used the car locally, the miles-per-gallon number would surely have been better.
The Strong and Silent Type
As it is, once you climb in, the electric drivetrain gives a strong and silent performance. Like other Land Rovers, you get the feeling of a powerful truck with lots of extra luxuries, all presented in a restrained, tasteful way. That means Windsor leather chairs, high-quality fittings throughout, and gesture-controlled blinds for the panoramic roof. My tester featured a Meridian Surround Sound System with 18 speakers and 825 watts of power—and it wasn’t even the top audio system they offer!
The plug-in hybrid has the famous rock-crawling capacity of its fellows, and in this case, you can do it silently with electric power. I didn’t try this, but you can use the standard electronic air suspension to lower the car as much as two inches for freeway cruising, but also raise it up to three inches above normal for off roading. How many electric or gas cars do you know of that can wade through 33.4 inches of water? The manufacturer recommends running the engine during dips to keep water out of the exhaust system.
The interior is traditional in design, but up-to-the-minute in features. Two 10.0-inch screens provide you with all the entertainment, navigation, climate and app features you could want in 2019. With double screens, you can see a map and audio functions at the same time. The top screen has touch, swipe, and pinch-to-zoom features, like a tablet. The instrument panel features a 12-inch screen that you can configure in multiple ways.
Fancy & Fancier
This is one fancy car, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fancier. Starting at $79,000 even, my tester had nearly $13,000 worth of options, including a bunch of electronic safety features; a heated steering wheel; a front console refrigerator; a 10.0-inch, full-color head-up display; Ebony Morzine Headlining; soft door close; and a bump up to 21-inch alloy wheels (20-inchers are standard). For $93,200, it’s all yours.
This lovely plug-in hybrid Range Rover is not alone—there are several upscale electrified SUVs available and more on the way from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar (Land Rover’s sister company) and others. But I bet the competition can’t wade through nearly three feet of water, and Range Rovers have a special cachet. I’m hoping that their next model is all-electric.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy—Luxury Plug-in SUVs
Geneva Motor Show: BMW Advances Its Plug-in X5
CES News: 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 EV Debut
Road Test: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace
Road Test: 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 PHEV
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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