JOHANNESBURG - In its fourth generation, the Range Rover has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1970s. 

Swelling in proportions and capability, the vehicle has become a symbol, an icon if you will, synonymous with power and success. Ballers, actors, politicians, heck, even royalty use Range Rovers as dailies, not only for the practical reasons that come with a capable all-wheel drive platform, but for the safety and comfort too. 

The Range Rover has evolved and there have been spin-offs in the form of the baby Evoque and the “mid”-sized Velar. For the most part, though, it’s the big-body Range Rover that you want in the garage.

Electrified, sort of

After spending a week with the Range Rover Vogue SE P400e I’ve come away impressed, but only mildly. while it’s amazingly engineered and extremely hi-tech, there’s something odd about driving a 2.0-litre four-cylinder vehicle of this magnitude. The four-pot is assisted by electric vehicle technologies that give it serious punch off-line and you’ll easily be able to keep pesky hot hatches at bay if your battery pack is charged. At around R2.5 million, the vehicle did not prove to be a million bucks better than the Volvo XC90 T8 we tested a few months ago.

What do you get then and why do I prefer the Volvo? Let’s tuck into the Range Rover’s gizzards first. 

The 2019 Range Rover P400e is the model in question, powered by a 221kW petrol engine that is similar to what you’ll find in things like the Jaguar XE and the aforementioned Range Rover Evoque. It’s boosted by an 85kW electric motor, giving it a combined output of 297kW. This is more than enough power to swiftly accelerate from a standstill to 100km/h in just 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 220km/h. Torque peaks at 640Nm too, and thanks to the eight-speed automatic transmission that’s fitted as standard, you can safely and quickly overtake slower moving vehicles on the highway. 

Under the boot floor, you have a sealed pack of 13.1kWh batteries that are charged via the energy recuperation system that’s built into the vehicle, but you can also charge them by sticking the car straight into the mains in your garage at home because it has a 7kW charger on-board. Range Rover’s included a nifty charging cable and carry case in the boot to ensure you can charge the batteries while at the office. Incidentally, they say you can cover around 51km with the electric system before the petrol engine fires up, but I could manage around 35km (which I’ll attribute to excessive use of Dynamic mode). 

The vehicle feels as though it recoups energy better in the sportier driving mode, and if you try to concentrate, you could try to one-pedal the thing for most of your journey. There’s something so soothing about driving in EV mode that your body relaxes, and you get to take advantage of the wafting comfort of the vehicle even more. The air suspension set-up is effective and it can raise the body almost 300mm from the ground for those off-road excursions. 

The EV system also works well in offroad circumstances, giving you amazing pulling power with very little “revs” from the electric motor. It’s great for creeping up on unsuspecting animals on a game drive, for instance. There was, however, a noticeable lag when accelerating in Normal mode, which meant you had to really give it gas to get going, then quickly ease off the throttle or the torque would springboard you forward. It felt too much like an elastic form of power delivery, which is odd considering all the torque that’s available so low down in the range. I suspect that a lazy accelerator pedal is programmed as standard to ensure it meets tightening emissions regulations overseas. 

By the way, the claimed petrol consumption of the P400e is around 2.8l/100km, which could probably be achieved in specific conditions, but on test it averaged 10.1l/100km, which is amazing for a big body, but nowhere near claimed.

Plush surrounds

Like all Range Rovers, this P400e in Vogue SE trim comes with many nice goodies inside and out. Standard features include 21-inch alloys, Matrix LED headlamps, key-less entry and start, sumptuous leather everywhere and, my favourite item, the Meridian audio system. It offers lovely touchscreens, which would be nicer if they responded faster, and an array of behind-the-scenes technologies working in harmony to keep things serene on board. 

Usually, I’m not fanatical about steering wheels that are festooned with buttons and switches, but the vehicle’s steering wheel is executed so nicely that it stands out almost like a jewel in the cabin. From the nicely finished leather seats, the view from the cabin is excellent, and while you might expect that strong A-pillar to hinder forward visibility, it does not. Thanks to the 20-way adjustable driver’s seat, you can find a suitable position no matter how tall or short you are.

The "Bargain" Volvo

That darn Volvo XC90 T8 (R1 668 500) I mentioned earlier, by the way, does all the things this Range Rover (R2 484 500 as tested) does, perhaps sans Terrain Response capability, but in reality the cars will be used on the road and between cityscapes. I enjoyed the Range Rover’s presence, its road manners and allure, but as far as value goes, you have to give it to the Swedes for packaging a similar form of mobility into a large SUV frame. If I had the bucks to splash and didn’t mind the depreciation knocks that come at this level, I’d have the Volvo, but the Range Rover remains compelling for what it is. All Range Rovers come with a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan.  

Drive360