Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport line of vehicles has always been something of a jack-of-all-trades blending off-road ability with on-road competence, but in 2018 the Range Rover Sport P400e will do even more.
The British SUV specialist took TMR to Los Angeles for an advanced preview of its first production plug-in hybrid powertrain which allows the Sport to travel short distances on electric power alone, and promises to deliver diesel-like touring range with the assistance of a four-cylinder turbo petrol engine.
Vehicle Style: Prestige large SUV
Price: $146,600 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 297kW/640Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol/electric hybrid | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 2.8 l/100km
Due to arrive in Australian showrooms in the middle of 2018 as part of a heavily-updated line-up, the Range Rover Sport 400e will be exclusively available in mid-level HSE trim and sits in the centre of the Range Rover Sport range, priced from $146,600 plus on-road costs.
Apart from addition of the plug-in hybrid, all Range Rover Sport versions receive modified bumpers, revised headlights and an interior overhaul that sees the inclusion of the dual digital-screen centre console first introduced on the stylish Range Rover Velar earlier this year.
ON THE ROAD
The Range Rover Sport P400e, as the plug-in hybrid is officially called, combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 221kW with an 85kW electric motor to deliver total combined outputs of 297kW and 620Nm.
Those figures make the new variant the third most powerful of the Sport models behind the flagship supercharged V8 models with 386kW in regular form and 423kW in the high-performance SVR specification.
Land Rover claims the P400e can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 220km/h while using an average of 2.8L/100km with the ability to travel up to 51km on battery power alone.
The British carmaker says the 13.1kWh battery, which is mounted under the boot of the vehicle, can be fully recharged in as little as 2 hours and 45 minutes when using an optional 32amp wall box or 7 hours and 30 minutes on the 10amp household charging cable that is supplied with the vehicle.
Like all Land Rovers, the powertrain is hooked-up to a multi-mode four-wheel drive transmission with a low-range transfer case and has an eight-speed automatic gearbox, uniquely fitted with dual wet-clutch packs on the hybrid rather than a conventional torque converter.
Our preview drive in a pre-production model began in downtown LA and took in a combination of freeway, urban and rural roads to end at a four-wheel drive track in the hills behind Malibu.
With a fully charged battery pack, the Rangie Sport crept silently through the congested city streets without any compromise in performance with the powertrain locked in full EV mode.
The EV drive setting is one of three driving modes that also includes the default Hybrid setting that mixes the use of the combined engines, and a Save function that prevents the battery from dropping below a user-selected level.
There’s also a Predictive Energy Optimisation function that, when entering a destination in the nav system, uses the GPS data to intelligently map out when to use the battery power for maximum efficiency.
Despite having to push more than two tonnes, the electric motor gets the Rangie Sport moving away briskly.
Switching to the Hybrid setting on the freeway, the Sport P400e continues using the electric motor only while crawling along in heavy traffic, with the petrol engine chiming in when quick bursts of acceleration are required to change lanes and then at cruising speeds.
The two engines work together rather invisibly, but the automatic gearbox betrayed a tendency to snatch between gears, particularly in the lower ratios.
It’s an issue Land Rover’s engineers say they are aware of and are still working on ironing out in the months before the car officially goes on sale.
The four-cylinder itself feels perky enough and revs cleanly across its powerband, but can feel strained when pushed hard and lacks the aural character of the supercharged petrol V6 and V8 models above it.
The Range Rover Sport 400e delivers on its promise of adding improved fuel efficiency to the already impressive range of abilities built into the Sport model range.
The updated interior elevates the ambience of what was already a luxurious cabin, particularly the addition of the dual-screen console with its high-res, high-tech layout, the configurable digital instrument cluster, and the new steering wheel with its touch-sensitive haptic controls.
They all combine to add an element of modernity against a backdrop of traditional luxury with sumptuous leathers, comfortable high-set seats, and plenty of space across the five-passenger interior.
Don’t expect to see the new model appear in every upmarket shopping complex car park. The P400e will appeal to a unique group looking beyond the wall of luxury SUVs that already exist for something that does it all while treading a little lighter on the planet.
Though that niche may only be a narrow one, expect it to grow in the coming years, and as this first-taste proves Land Rover is more than ready to step up to the plate when buyers come searching.