Although Land Rover’s flagship Range Rover and rakish Range Rover Sport have been given a mild yet thoughtfully executed makeover for the 2018 model year, the big news is under the skin. For the 2019 model year, both will be available with Land Rover’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain, and our first drive of the 2019 Land Rover Range Rover P400e suggests it’s worth the wait.
The first thing you notice about the new Range Rover plug-in hybrid is … nothing at all. There’s no additional flap in the bodywork for a charge port and not a single hybrid badge anywhere on the car. The charge port is hidden behind a cleverly disguised flap on the left-hand side of the grille. A tiny “P400e” badge under the HSE model designation is the only visible clue to the first hybrid powertrain in Land Rover’s 70-year history.
Land Rover’s PHEV powertrain is composed of a 296-hp version of JLR’s 2.0-liter turbo-four gas engine and a 114-hp electric motor fed by a 13.1-kW-hr lithium-ion battery mounted under the rear loadspace floor. Total system output is 398 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. Land Rover claims a pure electric range of up to 31 miles, along with a 0–60-mph time of 6.3 seconds. And because the electric motor is mounted within the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, pure electric drive is even available for low-range off-roading.
The Range Rover P400e has a 7-kW onboard charger that, when connected via the standard 10-amp home charging cable, will fully recharge the battery in 7.5 hours, according to Land Rover. An optional 32-amp wall box and multifunction cable, available from Land Rover dealers, will reduce charge time to just under three hours. Illuminated strips either side of the charge port allow a quick visual check of the battery’s charge status, but owners can also monitor remotely it via an app on their phones.
Drivers can leave the hybrid powertrain to shuffle between electric and internal combustion power to meet load demands, or they can actively manage the battery’s state of charge. When a destination is entered into the nav system, the P400e’s electronic neural network factors in traffic conditions, the gradient of the route, and whether it’s operating in a rural or urban environment to deliver the most efficient combination of power modes. Alternatively, selecting Save mode via the central touchscreen ensures the battery will always have enough charge to allow the P400e to operate in pure EV mode for a specific segment of their journey.
Sounds good in theory, but how does it work in practice? Surprisingly well, as it happens.
The PHEV powertrain is well suited to the relaxed demeanor of Range Rover. In pure EV mode—which it will maintain up to 85 mph—it delivers almost Rolls-Royce levels of waftability around town. In hybrid mode you can hear the engine fire up if you listen for it, but in reality the transitions between electric motor and the internal combustion engine are impressively smooth and seamless. The e-motor’s instant-on torque—203 lb-ft at zero rpm—effortlessly gets the 5,448-pound Range Rover off the line and adroitly shoulders the load to help out the engine once the big SUV is underway.
The PHEV powertrain is the best application yet of JLR’s gas turbo-four, an engine not especially noted for smoothness and silence in other Jaguar and Land Rover models. If they’re really concentrating, occupants might detect a little vibration when the engine fires fires up, and full throttle will deliver a distant, muted growl. But most would be hard-pressed to tell you what sort of engine is actually under the hood. What’s more, when left to its own devices, the little four-banger punches above its weight, coping surprisingly well with the Range Rover’s mass.
Although it’s a hybrid, it still has a Sport mode, which engages the electric motor all the time to help deliver maximum performance and allows full manual control of the eight-speed automatic via paddles mounted on the steering wheel. No matter which way you drive it, however, the P400e feels quicker, more responsive, and more refined on the road than the V-6-powered gas or diesel Range Rovers.
Off-road, the EV mode, selected via a button on the center console, works brilliantly, especially in low range. Land Rover has recalibrated its acclaimed Terrain Response system to work with the electric motor, and that instant torque means you can be extremely precise with the throttle, carefully tip-toeing the big Rangie over major obstacles.
Even a klutz can take this hybrid luxury limo places few other SUVs dare go. The air suspension can be jacked up a maximum of 3.0 inches, it’ll safely wade through 35.4 inches of water like every other Range Rover, and with JLR’s Low Traction Launch software now on board, it will effortlessly pull away from a standstill on slippery surfaces such as wet grass, loose gravel, and snow.
In Europe the PHEV powertrain is available across the Range Rover lineup, including long-wheelbase models. For U.S. buyers, however, it comes only in the standard-wheelbase Range Rover and in HSE trim. (A PHEV version of the Range Rover Sport HSE will also available in the U.S. in 2019.) Pricing is competitive: At $96,145, the P400e is an attractive alternative to the regular six-cylinder $95,045 HSE or the $97,045 HSE diesel models. Overall drivability is better, particularly in terms of a perceived luxury feel, with the added benefits of decent fuel economy and smooth, silent, zero-emissions motoring in city centers.
On top of all that, you get a bunch of worthwhile upgrades that come with the Range Rover’s 2018 model year refresh, from the subtle exterior tweaks to an interior that looks noticeably more upscale and lavishly equipped. Luxury SUVs might be everywhere these days, but the supremely elegant and capable Range Rover remains the segment benchmark.