Jaguar Land Rover promises that by 2020, every one of its models will offer an electrified version, either fully electric or a plug-in hybrid. Its flagship later this summer will be the Range Rover PHEV, which has all the capability and opulence of a Range Rover with an electric motor attached to its gas engine.
The battery can power the 85-kW electric motor for up to 50 km, but that’s an optimistic range, and especially if the big SUV is driven off-road. Unless you specify otherwise, the electric power boosts the gasoline power, providing extra performance when it’s needed but also switching itself over to all-electric when possible, to save fuel.
The gas engine is small but efficient: a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder that makes 296 hp. When it’s combined with power from the electric motor, the horsepower jumps to 398. More impressive is the strength of the powertrain’s torque, which peaks at 472 lbs.-ft. This lets the comparatively heavy Range Rover accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, with a top speed of 200 km/h.
On the road, and off
In practice, the Range Rover PHEV switches seamlessly between electric and gas power, and uses both for much of the time. You can press a button to keep it in all-electric power if you want, such as shuttling around in traffic or in the city; if you really want, the SUV has a top speed of 137 km/h on just the electric motor.
You can also set it to not use the electric power, so if you know you’re heading into city traffic, for example, you can preserve the battery’s range for when you really want it. If it’s not completely charged, it will boost its charge from the regenerative energy of braking.
But the cleverest part of the engine management system is that the Range Rover’s computer knows physically where it is, through the vehicle’s GPS. When the driver enters a destination into the Navigation system, the computer can determine just how much electricity and how much gas to use for the winding road or the steep hill ahead, to conserve power when needed and boost power when necessary.
Inside, the Range Rover is large and spacious and superbly comfortable. You would never know you’re driving a vehicle that’s capable of all-electric power – there’s no compromise in features, as there might be for a totally electric vehicle.
The theory, as with any plug-in hybrid, is that most days we don’t really drive very far, so there’s no point in buying batteries (and lugging around the heavy weight of extra batteries) to travel a greater distance if we don’t really need them. When the PHEV’s battery runs out of power, the gas engine will take over, although there’ll always be enough electricity in reserve to provide the extra burst of power when needed.
The downside, of course, is that a PHEV essentially has two powertrains and the buyer must pay for them both. The Range Rover is no exception. It lists for $115,500, though this is only $2,500 more costly than the least expensive model now available in Canada, which is powered by a V-6 diesel. All other Canadian Range Rovers have V-8s under the hoods and long-wheelbase options: the least expensive is $120,500, and they rise through the various trim levels to almost double that.
The Range Rover PHEV is the only model that offers you a clean conscience, however. It qualifies for a green licence plate in much of Canada, so it lets you drive alone in most HOV lanes. For some buyers, that’s worth the price of admission on its own.
It won’t be an exciting drive while you’re there, but it will be quiet and very comfortable. This is not a driver’s SUV, with an engine that roars and a chassis that encourages what the makers’ call “spirited driving.” It will get you where you need to be, however, even if there’s a flood or a mudslide or a pile of rocks in the way. Range Rover prides itself on its off-road capability and the PHEV sacrifices nothing, fording the same deep streams and clambering over the same boulders as its siblings.
Will the Range Rover’s plug-in power save the planet? Probably not, and especially not if its owner routinely drives past the 50-km range of the battery. Is it the future? Well, yes, at least for the next few years. And if the extra money gets you a drive in the HOV lane as well, then so much the better.
- Model: 2019 Range Rover P400e PHEV
- Price: $115,500
- Engine: 2.0L inline-4 gas engine with 85-kW electric motor
- Peak output: 398 hp
- Peak torque: 472 lb-ft
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Length: 5,000 mm
- Width: 2,220 mm
- Height: 1,869 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,922 mm
- Curb weight: 2,509 kg
- Fuel Consumption (EU combined): 2.8 L/100 km