Range Rover Sport hybrid - is it a worthy alternative to the diesel?
Johannesburg - The theory behind plug-in hybrids is that if you're looking to lower your carbon footprint without dealing with range restrictions, you can essentially have your cake and eat it. Or in the case of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport PHEVs that were launched last year, your tea and scones. The idea here is that you can lower your carbon emissions in everyday urban driving while also having the freedom to travel long distances when the need arises.
However, this type of hybrid has come under fire for the unrealistic NEDC combined cycle fuel consumption figures listed by those that manufacture them, although Land Rover is more honest than most for stating “from 2.8 litres per 100km” on the local website. But the bottom line is that you don’t drive on the NEDC cycle, so if your daily commute is long enough and you don’t charge the vehicle every day, you’re going to use a great deal more than that. But if, on the other hand, you're not covering big distances then it’s also possible to get by on electric power only.
So how far can this Range Rover go on a charge of electrical juice?
Thankfully my week with the Range Rover Sport P400e occurred before Eskom once again brought the country and economy to its knees with another bout of load shedding, so I was able to charge up at home and get to the office and back on a single charge. However, while Land Rover claims an electric-only range of up to 51km, the best I could achieve in EV Mode was 32km.
On the subject of charging, it took me just under eight hours on average to fully charge the battery, but that was with a conventional plug point. Order the optional 32 amp wall box and you’re looking at just under three hours, says Land Rover.
When the weekend came around, I also got to stretch this hybrid's legs on a trip to northern KZN, and to get the best possible consumption I did what any conscientious PHEV owner would do and plugged it into the wall overnight at both ends of the journey. The coal… err… I mean electric power lasted for about 30km in both instances and the overall petrol consumption for the journey amounted to 8.7 litres per 100km, which is really not bad for a vehicle of this size and stature.
But do you get the type of performance that you’d expect from a Range Rover?
Admittedly I focused more on economy than speed in my week with the PHEV, but I was never disappointed by the amount of boost on offer when sudden acceleration was needed. Certainly, it’s not going to provide V8-like levels of satisfaction, but it’s unlikely to disappoint either. Smooth, refined and rapid are the words that come to mind when describing the driving experience here.
Powering the P400e is is Jaguar Land Rover’s most potent four-cylinder petrol engine, that being a 2-litre Ingenium turbo unit that produces 221kW and 400Nm, but once hooked up to the electric motor the system is good for 297kW and 640Nm. That’s enough to get the SUV from 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds according to factory claims. The electric motor is housed within the vehicle’s eight-speed automatic transmission.
As you’d expect from a Range Rover, the vehicle is quiet on the open road and it’s a refined experience all round, and there’s certainly no faulting the ride quality provided by the standard air suspension. Venture off the beaten track, and you also have Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system with its multiple terrain modes that should help you traverse most obstacles in your way.
It will be a less than jovial experience if you get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, or even on the N3 for that matter, as the spare wheel has been eliminated to make way for the lithium ion battery. On top of that, the tyres are not run-flats. As far as I'm concerned the lack of a spare is a serious safety concern given the levels of crime in South Africa.
As one of the more premium models in the range, the Range Rover Sport P400e is only available in HSE and HSE Dynamic specification grades. It’s very well appointed, with Windsor leather seats, power adjustable up front, as well as a powered tailgate and driver assistance gadgets such as Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Assist. Also part of the deal is Land Rover’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which comes with two vertically stacked screens with beautiful graphics and a design that really lifts the ambience of the cabin.
But is it worth the money?
Starting at R1 699 500, this is an expensive vehicle, but it is a Range Rover and this derivative is fairly well priced in relation to the other models in the range. Consider that it’s only R18 000 more expensive than the equivalent SDV6 turbodiesel. Admittedly, we’d probably opt for the diesel due to its all-round ability, especially if a lot of long-distance driving was in order. But if you like the idea of an electric vehicle (or your corporation needs the greenie points), and most of your driving takes place in the city then the P400e is certainly worth a look-in. Just make sure you have a few solar panels so you can avoid Eskom's coal-powered grid and load shedding habits.