Land Rover’s push to plug-ins yields uneven results.
There are plenty of brands diving headfirst into all-electric vehicles, but plug-in hybrids represent an attractive option for introducing customers into the world of vehicular charging without throwing them into the deep end.
That's especially important for vehicles and brands with high customer loyalty, like Land Rover. Drivers of the British brand's off-roaders know what they like, so why risk alienating them with an all-electric model when you can introduce them gently to the tech with a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain? That's just what the brand has done with its Range Rover Sport and Range Rover P400e models.
These two vehicles offer usable electric range (according to the manufacturer) and enough all-electric torque to keep loyal customers interested, while sacrificing little of the character and ability that attracted them to the brand in the first place. At least, that seems to be the theory. After driving the Range Rover P400e, the reality is a little different.
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Good luck spotting the differences between the Range Rover plug-in and its diesel-powered or gas-only siblings. The only outwardly obvious signs are the P400e badge on the back and the presence of a cleverly hidden charge port in the grille. I don't normally care for automakers putting charge ports in a car's nose – the odds of damaging it in even a minor rear-end collision seem too high – but the Range Rover's grille hides this one perfectly, which is at least something. Simply pop the door near the Land Rover logo open, and the port is ready to go.
Ignore these two small changes and what remains is, simply, a Range Rover. That means an elegant, attractive exterior design with clean lines and an overall refined character. I like the small changes Land Rover made as part of the 2018 model year facelift. The revised headlights and taillights have more presence and flair without crossing the line and becoming unnecessarily glitzy (which is what happened in the last-generation Range Rover's final years).
The facelift's effects on the cabin are similarly progressive. Land Rover replaced the climate controls with the same touch-capacitive arrangement introduced on the Velar. I'll get into why this is a problem in a moment, but for now, I'll say it's at least very pretty. The lower touchscreen complements the main display in the dash, with the two forming the heart of the Touch Pro Duo's hardware.
Beyond these changes, the Range Rover's cabin features the same kind of clean, elegant lines and smart touches as the exterior. Material quality is incredibly high, with beautiful leather, real metal accents, and warm woods throughout. Everything in this cabin feels like it belongs on a six-figure car.
With just two rows of seats in such a substantial vehicle, it's little surprise that the Range Rover's comfort score is so high. The front seats are incredibly supportive and comfortable, featuring a commanding seating position and a door sill that's big enough to comfortably rest your arm on. Little touches, too, like the flip-down armrests between the seat and center console further improve overall comfort.
The second-row seats on this tester aren't the impressive two-seat layout available on long-wheelbase gas-only models, but as a bench, the 60/40-split seats are spacious and pleasant, even with three adults in back. And because Land Rover only offers two rows of seats, there's abundant cargo space, even in the plug-in model. The P400e sacrifices a modest 3.5 cubic feet of space compared to the six-cylinder models, but there's still 28.3 cubic feet with the seats up and 65.1 cubes with the bench folded flat. Go with the P400e Autobiography and you'll get a more comfortable 40/20/40-split bench, but you'll give up 7.2 cubic feet with the bench up, and 6.1 cubes with it folded. Getting in the cabin is easy, regardless of seat configuration, thanks to the Range Rover's standard height-adjustable air suspension and wide-opening doors.
While there's not a bad seat in the Range Rover, the P400e's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine prevents it from earning a perfect comfort score. It has a negative impact on the Range Rover's normally impeccable noise, vibration, and harshness, as it comes across as buzzy and occasionally thrashy at higher engine speeds. While this is true of the four-cylinder engines in more affordable Jaguar Land Rover models, it's less acceptable here, both because the Range Rover is a flagship vehicle and because of the refined six- and eight-cylinder alternatives.
Like so many Jaguar Land Rover products, the Range Rover suffers from impressive technology that's poorly integrated. The Touch Pro Duo's twin 10.0-inch screens and the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster all look extremely good. The graphics are excellent, both on the dual center displays and in the instrument cluster, but where the system fails is in its responsiveness to inputs.
The upper 10.0-inch screen is slow to react to touch inputs, and while its layout is easy to figure out, going from, say, navigation to the radio and changing the station always seems to require one too many steps. The lower displays problem is one I've mentioned before – it's hard to tell if the screen accepts your input without taking your eyes off the road for too long. Land Rover seriously needs to consider adding some kind of haptic feedback to this display. Or, you know, just put in physical interfaces. The reality is that even with haptic feedback, the Range Rover's lower display doesn't do anything to improve on knobs and buttons. It looks pretty, but that's about it.
On the upside, the Range Rover HSE P400e comes impressively well equipped. Every model includes Touch Pro Duo and the digital instrument cluster as standard equipment. There's also a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting, a wireless hotspot, a Meridian surround-sound audio system, LED headlights, an air suspension, blind-spot monitoring, push-button start with proximity entry, and traffic sign recognition. That's an impressive suite of standard equipment, at any price.
On paper, the Range Rover P400e's plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain looks good. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine’s output, a member of JLR's Ingenium engine family, matches the P300 versions of the Evoque and E-Pace with 295 horsepower and 296 pound-feet of torque. As for the electric motor, it packs 141 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. Total system output looks robust, with the P400e's 398 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque besting every other Range Rover powertrain except for the supercharged V8s.
The combined powertrain is snappy off the line, thanks to the electric motor’s torque, but the Range Rover runs out of steam quickly, taking 6.4 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour but then requiring another four-tenths of a second to get to 62. Considering that, highway passing can be a challenge. And should you need to push at higher speeds, the coarse note of the 2.0-liter turbo rears its head.
The electric motor and gas engine feel well integrated for the most part, but refinement issues in the gas engine pop up again here, as the four-pot sends an uncouth shudder through the steering wheel on start up. Running in all-electric mode improves things significantly… when the Range Rover sticks to the desired power source. Too often the 2.0-liter engine ignores the all-electric drive mode setting and however many miles the battery pack has left. When the Range Rover is operating as an electric vehicle, though, it's easy to spot all the other dynamic thing this flagship does well.
The standard air suspension is unshakeable on rough roads, and it does a fine job of isolating cabin occupants from bumps and imperfections. The ride is impressively quiet, too, with little tire noise entering the cabin. At the same time, the suspension grants the Range Rover an impressive degree of agility for a 5,500-pound SUV. You can easily pitch this big thing into corners and enjoy level, predictable handling. It's more enjoyable, though, to just let the suspension help the Range Rover waft down the road, indiscriminately ironing out imperfections.
If you plan on towing with your Range Rover, it's worth noting the PHEV model’s 5,511-pound towing capacity is the lowest in the model range. Every other powertrain is capable of handling 7,716 pounds.
Standard safety equipment on the Range Rover HSE is impressive. Every version comes with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a driver attention monitor, and a traffic sign recognition system with an adaptive speed limiter. That's a solid roster of equipment.
But this tester builds on it with the $4,000 Driver Assist package, which introduces high-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and a surround-view camera system.
The Range Rover has not undergone crash testing in the U.S.
Neither Land Rover's consumer website nor the EPA has issued fuel economy ratings for the Range Rover P400e, and according to the automaker, figures won't be available until nearer the P400e's launch. Our system, however, forces us to enter a score. This exceptionally low score is not reflected in the overall verdict of the Range Rover P400e. When Land Rover and the EPA issue fuel economy estimates, we'll update this score accordingly. Real-world fuel economy during our testing sat in the mid-20-mpg range, though.
In terms of all-electric range, Land Rover cites a 31-mile range. Even with a full charge, though, I never saw more than 20 miles of estimated range, despite ideal air temperatures – in the high 60s and low 70s – for the 13.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Recharging that pack is possible on a 120-volt wall outlet in 14 hours or at a 240-volt charger in about two hours and 45 minutes.
While we tested a 2019 Range Rover P400e, the only units available to consumers will be 2020 model years. The prices listed here reflect that, starting at $90,900 for the Range Rover. The P400e powertrain carries a $5,050 premium. That figure includes a trim increase from the base variant to the HSE featured here. The lower of two trims available as a plug-in hybrid, the Range Rover HSE P400e is reasonably equipped for a $95,950 vehicle.
This tester adds $11,700 in optional extras, most of which I’d suggest ordering. No-brainer options include the $4,000 Driver Assist package, the $1,785 Vision Assist package (automatic high beams, a head-up display, reconfigurable ambient lighting, and front fog lights), a $410 four-zone climate control system, and a $610 seat upgrade that adds heating and cooling front and rear seats, and 20-way adjustability to the front chairs. Less necessary equipment includes the pricey $2,855 21-inch wheels, a $1,090 Shadow Exterior package (just dark gray accents, really), and a $715 refrigerator in the center console.
While the standard Range Rover has plenty of challengers, the plug-in-hybrid model is without obvious competitors. One could compare both the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid, but the former is smaller, more dynamic, and lacks a plug-in option, while the latter is far more expensive. The Cayenne starts at $81,100 while the Bentayga’s cost of entry is $156,900.