Land Rover’s electrification push starts with the Range Rover Sport P400e, its first-ever plug-in hybrid model. It stands out from its non-hybrid counterpart with a handful of model-specific visual tweaks, new technology features, and the cleanest power train ever fitted to a Range Rover. We recently had the beast (it stiff qualifies for the namesake) on our driveway for review, here’s our experience with it.
First things first, let’s get the technicalities out of the way. A lot of people are confused when they see this beast of a vehicle charging. A couple once walked up to the vehicle, admired it from all sides and inspected the charging port. I watched from a distance of course, it’s no fun ruining a couple’s day out.
Two driving modes are offered on the Range Rover Sport. The default, Parallel Hybrid mode, automatically switches between petrol and electric power depending on driving conditions, to deliver an on-road experience as close to that of an ICE Range Rover as possible.
EV, or Electric Vehicle, mode, meanwhile, uses electric power only, for as long as the battery mounted under the floor of the boot lasts. It’s charged via a 7 kW onboard charger, with the socket behind the Land Rover badge on the front of the SUV. With a Level 2 220V/32 amp charger, the automaker says, it’ll take around 2 hours 45 minutes for a full charge. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 297kW, and a compact electric motor.
My actual electric range was both inconsistent and very difficult to measure thanks to gremlins that plagued the hybrid powertrain. My test vehicle arrived with a mostly full battery and 24 kilometres of displayed EV range on the trip computer, but after only 4km of stop-and-go traffic, the petrol engine fired up, with about 6km of range showing on the dashboard screen. That not-so-great first impression was followed up by two more lacklustre performances: After two separate recharges, the Range Rover achieved 35 and 40km of full-electric driving, respectively.
Mechanics aside, several times during my week of testing, the P400e would slip into hybrid operation, even with multiple kilometres of electric range left on the display and the drive mode set to “EV.” I was ready to chalk it up to inaccuracies in the trip computer’s estimation of my driving style, until on one occasion, the Range Rover wouldn’t shut down the petrol engine despite reporting a full battery after an overnight charge.
That was particularly frustrating, after I’d rearranged my schedule to give it the full 14 hours to charge and the best possible shot at economy.
But then, on my last day of testing, I reset the trip computer and gave the Range Rover one last full recharge at the office, and the P400e finally rewarded me with 45km of electric operation before firing up its petrol engine for the 20km trip to an event and eventually back to the office.
So, at the very least, the PHEV Range Rover is capable of achieving its stated range, but I’m not convinced that this example will ever do so reliably.
If you’re rather take a more proactive role in deciding when the battery gets used, there’s also a “SAVE” function. That holds the P400e’s electric power, allowing it to be reserved for urban driving, for example. If you’ve programmed a route into the navigation system, meanwhile, Predictive Energy Optimisation will figure out when best to use each power type depending on traffic, route gradient, and whether the route is through urban or rural environments.
What I loved was that the plug-in version of the Range Rover makes no compromises to its off-road ability. Land Rover’s air suspension comes standard on the P400e and is able to lift the SUV’s chassis to achieve an 213mm ride height. In this mode, its approach (26 degrees), departure (26.2 degrees) and ramp angle (21.2 degrees) angles afford generous clearance for getting over rocks, ruts and crests. I’m told the electrified Rangie can even wade through 850mm of water, but I wasn’t able to test this around our Sandton based HQ.
Placing the electric motor between the engine and transmission allows the P400e to take advantage of the same four-wheel drive system as the standard Range Rover, with its Terrain Response software with specialised programming for sand, ice and snow, rocks and mud, as well as trailer stability assist software.
The hybrid Range Rover Sport also gets a tech infusion. The list of available equipment now includes pixel-laser LED headlights, and a new infotainment system with two individual screens, a setup first seen on the brand-new Velar.
The infotainment system combines a pair of 10-inch displays with a large digital instrument cluster, placing a total of three screens in front of the driver. The aforementioned lower screen feels like a solution in search of a problem, as it doesn’t actually do much aside from display redundant info from the other two displays (audio source, drive mode info and a few settings). It also makes climate control manipulations more complex than simple buttons would. However, I do like the look of the two floating physical control knobs, which are a cool design touch.
The digital instrument cluster, along with the Touch Pro software, feels snappier than before, with less lag between input and response. Like the main display, I like that I was able to customise the information on the electronic gauges to meet my particular needs.
Equipped driver aid features include a standard rear camera, distance sensors and rear cross-traffic alerts, as well as an optional surround-view camera system that aids in precision parking. At highway speeds, optional lane-keeping steering assist, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control increase safety while allowing the driver to relax during long stretches and in stop-and-go traffic. Meanwhile, blind-spot monitoring makes for more confident lane changes in this 4 879mm long SUV. Our test unit came loaded with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
In conclusion, the PHEV offers big potential for economy – with regular recharges, sub 40km of EV range is a good starting point for larger efficiency gains. But again, I didn’t see real-world numbers anywhere near Jaguar Land Rover’s claims for much of my testing. Plus, troubled by potential hiccups and reliability, I’m hesitant to actually recommend the P400e over the Range Rover’s proven V6 and V8 options.
For the 2020 Range Rover Sport P400e, pricing kicks off at R1 654 900 while our test unit came to R1 729 600. Oh, there’s a new Wade Sensing feature that can show real-time feedback on water levels outside, along with more advanced driver-assistance tech.