8.8.2018Range Rover Sport P400e first drive
Land Rover isn't a brand immediately synonymous with green motoring. Granted, there was an all-electric Defender prototype a few years ago, but essentially buyers tend to think of the brand as either luxurious - with Range Rover in mind - or as providing automotive workhorses. The new Range Rover Sport P400e looks to shift perceptions a little though. Offering buyers a different option to the traditional large petrol and diesel units, an electrified Range Rover could find a sweet spot in the market. NGC attended the UK launch to find out how it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
Powering the Range Rover Sport P400e is a 300hp four-cylinder 2.0 litre Ingenium petrol engine, which works with an 85 kW electric motor to provide a maximum combined 404hp (297 kW) - all put through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to Land Rover's permanent four-wheel drive system. With plenty of oomph from the powertrain, the Range Rover Sport P400e will complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 6.7 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 137mph. That's thanks in part to a considerable 640 Nm of torque, which puts the PHEV variant in the middle of the Range Rover Sport's torque league table. Much of the power available to the driver is necessary though, considering the Range Rover Sport P400e weighs 2.5 tonnes. This is not a lightweight, parred-back vehicle then, but rather a luxurious SUV that offers drivers the potential for zero tailpipe-emission motoring for many of their journeys, rather than 'compromising' on performance or equipment.
On the road, the Range Rover Sport P400e feels fast. Not lightning quick, but a considerable distance from sluggish too. The instant pick-up of the electric motor more than compensates for the model's extra weight because of the added batteries. The same petrol engine is available in the Range Rover Sport range without electric support, and it's around half a second slower to 62mph, despite weighing almost 400kg less. With the launch taking place in the middle of a rather warm and dry summer, testing out traction levels wasn't really possible, but you can expect the Range Rover Sport to grip and go in just about any weather conditions.
On electric power alone, there is more than enough available from the motor to shift the Range Rover Sport's weight in normal driving conditions. There were no struggles when driving around built up areas as you would expect, but the electric powertrain continued to perform well out on the open road. When using both petrol and electric elements, the PHEV will be plenty quick enough for most buyers, with considerable shove allowing drivers to pick up their speed easily and quickly. Stopping power is aided by the use of regenerative braking, which feels well pitched in terms of resistance. The gearbox helps get the car shifting quickly, but is primarily tailored towards comfort/efficiency. It's changes are quick and the transmission was never caught in the wrong ratio during my time in the car, but those wishing to make the most of the Range Rover Sport P400e's performance potential will need to take control of the shifts themselves.
There is a Range Rover Sport SVR for those that require a truly sporty version of the sporty version of Land Rover's Range Rover. Otherwise, the Range Rover Sport in PHEV guise retains much of the 'normal' model's attributes in terms of ride and handling. There is a good balance between maintaining comfort and keeping body roll in check, though you can still feel the car's weight shift when pitching the Range Rover Sport into a corner. It's to be expected though, and the overall suspension set-up is very good. If you're looking for a sharper driving experience, then Porsche's Cayenne is for you, while a more cossetting drive is available from the likes of Volvo's XC90 - or the Range Rover (non-Sport) in fact. Interestingly, all of the above are also available as plug-in hybrid models.
It's an easy car to drive in just about any mood though, and in any situation I would expect, barring situations like piloting a Range Rover Sport through a traditional Cornish fishing village. That's simply because of the car's outright size which, although isn't as large as the behemoth Range Rover, is still considerable. Looking at more rural situations, again there weren't the opportunities to take the Range Rover Sport 400e properly off-road during the event, but having driven the conventional models around Land Rover's proving grounds, there is nothing to fear from the PHEV model for any would-be explorers. More typical environments than snug village streets or a happened-upon rainforest see the Range Rover Sport P400e deal well with whatever might be thrown at it. It's surprisingly nimble in a car park, despite the fact its overall size is impossible to ignore. On open roads the suspension will let you know it is shifting a fair amount of weight about, but there is a surefootedness to the handling - whether on a fast A-road or twisting B-road - that makes the Range Rover Sport P400e an accomplished all-round performer.
As a full-sized SUV, the Range Rover Sport has a lot of bulk for its design to deal with. There is little attempt to hide this physical size, though the designers at Land Rover have done a respectable job on the whole of making the Range Rover Sport a good looking model for its sector. Personally, I reckon a Volvo has a better design, and I prefer the larger Range Rover's looks to its smaller Sport sibling. But it's nicer to look at than the Cayenne say, and refreshed features such as the new headlights keep things up to date.
The P400e looks almost identical to conventional models, with only a partially closed off front grille - protecting the charging inlet - and some discreet badging giving the plug-in game away. One area where the PHEV set-up does have an impact is at the rear of the cabin, with the addition of the car's battery reducing boot space from a non-PHEV's 522 litres (seats up) to 446 litres. There's a noticeable ridge at the boot opening which raises the floor, though the load space available is still more than enough for most users. Those going on a long family camping holiday might curse the loss of boot space when fully loaded, but otherwise, there will be no issues for day to day use. The battery also removes the option of a seven-seat variant of the PHEV Range Rover Sport.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The P400e comes about at the same time as a model refresh for the Range Rover Sport overall. As such, there is a new interior, with the most noticeable difference being the use of the Range Rover Velar's infotainment system. This uses two widescreen systems stacked one on top of the other to control the car's functions. The top is typically used for the likes of navigation and entertainment choices - though also allows the PHEV-specific features to be accessed - while the lower screen tends to be used for climate controls and the choice of terrain response set-ups etc. The InControl Touch Pro Duo system offers customisable set-ups, but on the whole isn't as good to use as Audi's version of a very similar interface. The system is an improvement on the previous Range Rover Sport set-up though, and everyday use will no doubt improve functionality for a user.
The rest of the interior has had a bit of a spruce too, with a splash more chrome or colour detailing. It's a nice dashboard to look at, with the screens a visually impressive feature, plus the sensible use of the EV mode and Terrain Response buttons retained separately for quick access. The seats are comfortable, and there is plenty of leg, shoulder, and head space throughout the cabin for four adults to sit in relative luxury. Looking at refinement, the Range Rover Sport - like many PHEVs - is a victim of its own success really. Obviously, when running on electric power only, the cabin is almost silent. However, accentuated by this silent running and the extra work it needs to do because of added weight, the petrol engine can sound a little harsh when it kicks in. This must be kept in context though, as the Range Rover Sport is a very refined car to drive no matter what powertrain is being used.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
One of the main points of the PHEV version of the Range Rover Sport is its running costs. With an official electric range of 31 miles on a single charge, the model's fuel economy figure is reported at 101 MPG, and CO2 emissions are set at 64 g/km. What this equates to in the real world is an electric range of 25-27 miles or so, depending on driving style, conditions, and terrain. Once the battery is depleted, an engine-only MPG in the high-20's to low 30's could be expected, though if left in hybrid mode, drivers can expect to see well over 60 MPG for trips up to 100 miles or so. Regular long-mileage drivers will be better off with one of the diesels in terms of fuel economy, though looking at other costs, that could all change. To tax, the P400e will cost Â£15 for the first year (though this is included in the model's OTR) before a flat rate of Â£440 a year for years 2-6, since it is in the Â£40,000+ price range for the Premium rate. This is similar to the next lowest CO2 Range Rover Sport, which will cost Â£450 a year for years 2-6, however its first year rate is Â£1,760. Company car drivers will benefit most though, as all non-PHEV Range Rover Sports have a BIK rate of 37% for the next three years. The P400e on the otherhand has BIK rates of 16%, 19% and 17% for the next three financial years, saving a 40% tax rate company car driver between Â£7,000 and Â£8,000 a year in BIK alone. Add in the fact that a good many journeys are well within the 25-30 mile effective electric range of the Range Rover Sport P400e - running to the supermarket, school, or shops for example - and fuel costs could easily be slashed for a number of trips if the battery is regularly kept topped up.
The P400e is the greenest version of the Range Rover Sport currently available, and it has a number of features you would expect from a plug-in hybrid. There are three core driving modes - Hybrid, Save, and EV. Essentially, Hybrid runs in parallel hybrid mode, using petrol or electric power, or a combination of both, where the car sees fit. Drivers can save charge available though, keeping the car's engine running for power, or hold it in electric mode where charge allows. It all works effectively, and although not the most sophisticated system around, it does a good job. There is also the previously mentioned regenerative braking, which tops up the battery's charge a little when off the throttle, but retains momentum while heading downhill too.
The car is charged via a port behind the grille, using a Type 2 connector, and it will take up to 7 hours 30 minutes to charge the 13.1 kWh battery from a three-pin plug. From a home or public charge point though this can be cut to 2 hours 45 minutes according to Land Rover's figures, as the P400e has a 7 kW on-board charger - the usual PHEV charger is rated at around half that power - helpful for quick top-ups at home, work, or destination points. It's worth noting that although the Range Rover Sport P400e's economy figures put it in OLEV's Category 3 requirements - emissions of 50-75 g/km and at least 20 mile electric range - it doesn't qualify for the Plug-in Car Grant because the starting price for all models is in excess of the Â£60,000 threshold. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 53.
As you would expect from a model that starts at around Â£70,000, the level of kit you get in the Range Rover Sport P400e is impressive. Standard equipment on HSE models includes the likes of 20-inch alloys, Terrain Response off-road system, LED headlights, perforated leather electric seats front and rear, the Touch Duo Pro infotainment system, rear parking camera, two-zone climate control, cruise control, powered tailgate, and keyless entry and start. The Autobiography Dynamic trim tested included 21-inch alloys, automatic headlights, multi-function heated leather steering wheel, Meridian sound system, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, 360-degree parking aid, three-zone climate control, heated windscreen, and a host of other features too numerous to list here. There is also Land Rover's off-road specifications to take into account, and the P400e includes the PHEV specific features such as powertrain modes - Hybrid, Save, and EV - plus information on how the electric powertrain is performing, charging equipment etc. Essentially, the Range Rover Sport P400e is expensive, but it feels like a premium enough product to justify the cost regardless of the plug-in powertrain.
The cost benefits alone for company car drivers will persuade many to have a look at the Range Rover Sport P400e. That puts it around Â£9,000 more expensive than the entry level Range Rover Sport, and about Â£5,000 more than the comparable SDV6 diesel. However, BIK savings alone will more than make up that difference, and those not covering long distances daily will make significant fuel savings too - as mentioned above. The luxurious nature of the Range Rover Sport is almost exactly the same as the petrol and diesel versions, marked down slightly for reduced refinement when the petrol engine is working hard compared to the effortless nature of a diesel.
The question of whether a plug-in hybrid large SUV is a green car depends on usage really. The P400e's NGC Rating is 53. This looks high, and it is considering the best scoring cars are in the high teens. However, put into context, the rating is 13 points better than the next best model in the range, and puts the Range Rover Sport in amongst mid-sized SUVs and executive saloons - a class or two down from where the car would usually sit. Considering its weight, the Range Rover Sport P400e can't really be considered as a green model, but it's a big improvement for the range, and gives Land Rover a competitor in what is a lucrative plug-in SUV market. Used well - with frequent top-ups of the battery - the Range Rover Sport P400e could make a lot of sense for a number of buyers. Considering many will have been looking at the large SUV market anyway, the fact that there is a PHEV option available is good for them - with no real compromises but plenty of improvements in running costs - and it helps improve elements like local air quality for everyone else too. Looking at the two separate elements, the Range Rover Sport P400e works very well both as an SUV and a PHEV. Combined, it makes an attractive package.
Model tested: Range Rover Sport P400e Autobiography Dynamic
Body-style: Large SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol engine and electric motor / 64 g/km
Trim grades: HSE, HSE Dynamic, Autobiography Dynamic
P400e on-road price: from £72,185. Price as tested £85,785
Warranty: Three year / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars