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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

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An in-depth look at the Range Rover PHEV P400e

If there were ever a car that stood as the perfect antithesis to the comparatively green, quiet and efficient modern electric vehicle, it would be the gargantuan Range Rover.

The super sized SUV may have originally been created to traverse rutted farmland in luxury and comfort, but it is now more at home on the busy streets of London or found parked in front of the school gates, where it is often viewed as an ostentatious show of wealth, rather than a particularly practical set of family wheels.

But like so many modern manufacturers, Land Rover is keen to prove that its cars can be large and lavish without guzzling all of the fuel, so it now offers a plug-in hybrid variant that slashes CO2 emissions to as little as 72g/km and offers fuel economy of up to 101mpg.

Does an electrically assisted 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine really work in a Range Rover? We spent a week with the latest addition to the family to find out.

What is it like to drive?

If you are in the market for a large, opulent SUV that's fit for royalty, there really isn't much competition to the Range Rover.

Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce now offer something to part the super rich from their cash but the Rangie has long been the ultimate aspirational vehicle, boasting a ride comfort akin to floating on a magic carpet and interiors that wouldn't look out of place in an exclusive private members' club.

In this respect, the hybrid powertrain that features in P400e, which sees a 296bhp petrol engine team up with a 114bhp electric motor, only serves to make that sophisticated drive even more enticing.

What could be better than allowing the 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery to feed the electric motor for near-silent all-electric motoring around town? The big V6 diesel and petrol counterparts weren't exactly noisy, but you can hear a pin drop in the sealed cabin of this P400e version.

Many may think that heavy battery packs and motors blunt performance, but would be wrong. The 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in 6.4 seconds and it's possible to tickle 137mph with the throttle pinned.

The raised ride height and spongy suspension system means this Range Rover is still a bit of a handful to cajole around tight corners and twisting routes, but it remains an astonishingly fast and comfortable motorway cruiser.

However, this is still inherently large vehicle and some will find its dimensions a little daunting to cram into busy cities, but the lofty ride height and large glasshouse affords a great view of the road ahead, while the light steering and trick reversing cameras found on all models assist with awkward manoeuvres.

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Does the hybrid system work?

In short, yes and no. Of course, the powerful electric motor that assists the relatively small petrol engine does a great job of getting the 2.5-tonne brute up to speed, but the 30-mile all-electric range should be taken with a pinch of salt.

During our tenure of the gloriously lavish Autobiography trim machine, we regularly plugged it in to our home charging wall box, which saw the batteries topped up in less than three hours. But that juice didn't seem to last long.

When placed into full EV mode, where the engine is only called upon at certain speeds, we found that even the short five-mile school run in the morning was enough to see the digital readout drop to the mid-teens.

This electric range figure is reduced further if the heated seats, defroster, stereo, lights and other ancillaries are blasting away on a frosty morning.

To make matters worse, it seems Land Rover has deliberately tuned its plug-in hybrid to avoid any harsh regenerative braking forces, but this means it's quite difficult to top up the batteries when on the move.

Swiping through the various sub-systems on the slick touchscreen displays does eventually lead to a 'Save' mode, which holds any electric charge for later use, but there's rarely enough left at the end of a journey to make it worth it.

That said, there has been absolutely no compromise in the ride and capability of this off-road machine, as it will still wade, mud-plug, trail-climb and scrabble over loose surfaces with the best of them.

It's just a shame that the claimed 101mpg fuel economy figure is so difficult to actually achieve, with real-world readouts typically hovering around the 36-38mpg if you regularly plug in and are light on the right pedal.

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What's it like to live with? 

As you would probably expect from a £110,000 vehicle with 24-way heated and cooled 'hot stone massage' front seats, a digital TV tuner and configurable ambient interior lighting, daily life isn't exactly a struggle.

Luggage space has been eaten into slightly by the battery pack that's located beneath the boot floor, but it is still plenty roomy enough and the split folding rear tailgate makes it extremely easy to load.

This model also came equipped with a button in the boot that allows the user to electronically lower the air suspension system, which came in particularly handy when loading in heavy items and a lethargic dog.

On top of this, the P400e is the first Range Rover model to benefit from the excellent Touch Screen Duo infotainment system found in the Velar.

It consists of two pin sharp displays - the uppermost taking care of infotainment duties, while the latter deals with heating and vehicle controls - and the marque's achingly cool floating rotary dials that flick between various menus when pressed.

The interior is finished beautifully and all occupants are treated to some of the most comfortable thrones on the market today, especially with the Executive Class Seating that came standard on this Autobiography model.

There's a cubbyhole in the front that's deep enough to fit a bottle of wine, an optional domestic plug socket for the rear, myriad USB points and the rear passengers are treated to a power folding centre armrest that can be heated if the mood takes.

Accessing the charging flap at the front of the vehicle is also extremely easy and we didn't have any problems pulling up to public charging networks and topping up the batteries when out and about.

Verdict

The Range Rover has long been one of the most luxurious ways to travel, even if you don't quite agree with what it stands for (or the fuel it consumes), and this hybrid powertrain seems to elevate the levels of indulgent wafting even further.

Higher scores could have been awarded if the all-electric range was a little more generous and the claimed fuel economy figures not so wildly inaccurate, but this may well be improved with further iterations of the technology.

The lowered running costs and whisper quiet ride make this one of the easy Range Rovers to recommend, but don't be fooled into thinking it's an environmentally friendly alternative.

Score 8

Data

Power unit 1,997cc, four-cylinder petrol engine + 85kw electric motor
Transmission Eight speed auto
Power 404bhp
Full economy 101mpg (combined)
0-60mph 6.4
Top speed 96 - 104mph
Weight 2,509kg
Electric range  30 miles
Emissions 64g/km CO2

One of the most accelerative cars on the road is also among the most relaxing. Who saw that coming?"

Read more Portrait of writer Dan Prosser