Land Rover’s future consists of three main product pillars, each with a unique philosophy and one thing in common: electrified powertrains.
The Land Rover Discovery is about being “capable and versatile,” the Defender (there is an all-new model currently under development) is about being the most “capable and durable,” while the Range Rover exists to be the most “capable and refined.” A Land Rover executive explained to us recently at the L.A. Auto Show.
In terms we can all understand, the Defender is all about rugged off-road ability, the Discovery needs to be accessible to everyone but still off-road capable, while the Range Rover is about off-road ability, but above all, comfort and luxury.
By 2020, the brand has promised that each of its vehicles will be available with some type of electric setup, and that shift has already started, with the first Land Rover product to pack a plug-in hybrid powertrain hitting the market this year.
We drove both the Range Rover P400e and Range Rover Sport P400e Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) and quickly discovered that Range Rover’s mission of packing plenty of off-road ability and comfort is only made better with more batteries. Electrification simply checks both boxes for this big SUV.
Loads of torque available down low for tackling terrain? Check. An electric drivetrain that provides a smooth, quiet and ultimately luxurious driving experience? Check.
This review could be that simple, but of course, nothing is quite that simple, so let’s discuss what both of these machines are like to drive both on-road and off.
The same powertrain resides in both the smaller Range Rover Sport P400e and its big brother the Range Rover P400e. Both use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 296 horsepower, mated to an 85-kW electric motor, which brings total system output up to 398 hp. What’s better than that is the 472 lb-ft of available torque that is delivered right off the line. That sends the Range Rover from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, while the lighter Range Rover Sport makes the jump in 6.3 seconds. Curb weight for the Range Rover is the heaviest in the lineup, coming in at 5,520 pounds, while the Sport tips the scales at 5,447 pounds.
With a full charge, you are able to drive 31 miles on electricity alone, and several drive modes controlled from inside the cabin can help you to manage that power. The default is parallel hybrid mode, which combines burning gasoline and electric drive to best suit the driver’s needs.
The save function prevents the battery from dropping below a pre-selected level, while there is an EV button that will keep the Range Rover on all-electric power until told to do otherwise or it runs out of juice.
The Range Rover even reads GPS altitude data when a destination is entered to intelligently combine electric and combustion power to best suit the trip.
The only way for this type of powertrain to honor its luxury pedigree is to be seamless, and Range Rover knows that. Jumping in and setting out, the first sensation you get is a smooth, powerful surge of torque moving the Range off the line. The gas engine cuts in when you ask for more power, and as it needs to be, the transition is nearly imperceptible, until the little four-cylinder gets wound up that is, emitting a wheezy tone that doesn’t exactly match the character of this big SUV.
But that’s really only under hard acceleration, as highway cruising is as silent and serene as any luxury machine from Germany. Over-boosted power steering insulates the road from the driver, though there is just enough weight to make it feel solid in your hand. Using the brake pedal takes a little getting used to, as it is quite sensitive, but not so much that you can’t quickly learn how to brake smoothly. This is thanks to the regenerative brakes, which scavenge power every time you slow the vehicle down.
Luxury is still king inside both of these Range Rover models. The Perforated Windsor leather in the Autobiography model is sumptuous and the new front seats look better and provide 16-way adjustability, not to mention a number of selectable massage functions. Even the mood lighting has been improved with 10-different color options available.
For practicality, a new cubby with a USB port has been added underneath removable cupholders, while a double-hinged tray has been added in the center console to give you more partition options for storing different things. You can even get a small fridge installed in the center console that can keep your drinks cold.
The biggest visual difference in the 2018 model is the new two-screen infotainment system, which looks sharp but does make the interior busier than previous models. The two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens work together to control every feature of the Range, from HVAC to driving modes. An EV display can be called up on the lower screen that delivers electric range, total range, and a power split to show you exactly what the system is doing.
Though there is a lot to learn, the system worked quickly and effectively.
Same goes for the 12-inch screen in the information cluster, delivering pertinent driving information like speed and rpm, but also gauges to help you keep track of the vehicle’s electricity consumption.
Coddled in the Windsor leather, we went to a small off-road course in the hills outside of Santa Monica, California, and both Range Rover models proved to us once again that they are formidable wheeling partners.
Luxury in the Dirt
Fully independent suspension and an aluminum unibody aren’t exactly revered in the off-road world, but Range Rover combats these with intelligent brains, air suspension and, in the case of the P400e, electricity.
The low-end torque is used from the electric motor to get the Range moving and during a steep all-electric hill climb, we discovered how easy it is to modulate the throttle in small increments. This is the real beauty of the plug-in hybrid model: it’s smoother on road and better off-road. Better still, when climbing down steep hills, the combination of low gearing and regenerative braking helps to hold the Rover back, and all the way down, you are charging the batteries back up.
All of the off-road drive modes, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl, can send individual amounts of power to each one of the wheels, making sure that maximum grip is held at all times. A low-speed transfer case is still present to help with crawling and it certainly had no issue pulling our way up loose rocks, quickly correcting wheel slip whenever it needed to. A locking rear differential helps to spread out the power.
Both of these Range Rover models have good off-road angles as well. The Sport boasts a 33.3-degree approach and 31-degree departure angle along with 10.9 inches of ground clearance. The regular Range has an approach of 26 degrees, departure angle of 24.6 degrees and 8.6 inches of ground clearance.
Thanks to the air suspension, both models can be lifted by 1.6 inches in off-road ride height one mode, while off-road ride height two lifts the body by 3 inches over stock. The setup can also just drop the rear end to help with loading and it is self-leveling if a trailer is added on. On the tight trails, the full-size Range Rover was feeling slightly bloated and the tighter turning circle of the Range Rover Sport was appreciated.
Besides hanging a few wheels in the air over some ruts, the Range Rover rarely broke traction and delivered on its promise of terrain control over and over.
In the U.S., the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid model will begin at $78,300, while the larger Range Rover will sell for at least $95,150.
The Verdict: 2018 Range Rover P400e Plug-In Hybrid Review
Land Rover’s quest into electrification is a sound idea. Why not embrace a technology that makes everything you do even better? And with the very first plug-in product out of the gate, Land Rover is showing the world that they get it.
This story originally appeared on Off-Road.com
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