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First drive: Range Rover plugs in with PHEVs

Power suit: Land Rover will launch its plug-in hybrid electric Range Rover and Range Rover Sport pair to Australian showrooms in August priced at $210,00 before on-roads and $146,600 respectively.

First plug-in hybrid Range Rover and Sport models prove to be genuinely effective

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Land Rover logo27 Mar 2018

By TIM ROBSON in BIRMINGHAM

LAND Rover will bring its new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models to Australia from August, disrupting its predominantly diesel line-up with tech-heavy variants claimed to travel 51km on battery power alone and consume just 2.8 litres per 100km of fuel.

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pair, which will start at $146,600 plus on-road costs for the Sport and $210,000 for the Range Rover, form part of the 2018 facelift for the Range Rover line-up.

While the so-called P400e hybrids are not expected to be volume sellers, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Australia product public affairs manager James Scrimshaw said the local arm plans to offer all the electrically aided product lines that form part of the British manufacturer’s global 2020 strategy.

“It was an option that we think is exciting as part of our 2020 future and where we’re going on electric cars,” Mr Scrimshaw told GoAuto at the PHEV launch in Birmingham, England, this week. “We’re taking everything that we possibly can that comes up in that platform.”

These are not the first electrified Range Rovers to be made available, with a non-plug-in diesel-electric hybrid sold locally in 2013 but dropped due to slow sales.

“It wasn’t a huge success,” Mr Scrimshaw admitted.

“It was a little bit limited in its ability you could only drive for a couple of kilometres before the engine needed to start up, which isn’t long compared to the 51km we’re talking about now. And it wasn’t PHEV, so it wasn’t able to be recharged, so you got no benefit.”

Mr Scrimshaw noted that the local product mix for both Range Rover and its parent company Land Rover is predominantly diesel, which in part dictated the company’s strategy of limiting the PHEV drivetrain to just one variant in each model range.

“It’s the Vogue in Range Rover and then it’s the HSE in Range Rover Sport,” he said. “It’s expensive technology, but I really don’t think that we need to have it at the top of the range.

“I think you really want to get more of the customer base looking at this car, so the cheaper we can get it, the better. So that’s why we haven’t put it on the top-spec cars.

“If we start to get some good traction then we can offer it across the other ones, as well.”

Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport PHEV use a 221kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Ingenium’ petrol engine in conjunction with an 85kW electric motor that is incorporated with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system.

When the two power units are combined, total outputs equal 297kW of power and 640Nm of torque – enough to send the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover from 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and 6.8s respectively, on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 220km/h.

The system uses a 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery array located under the boot floor, providing both models with the claimed electric-only driving range of 51km.

The quoted CO2 emissions figure of 64 grams per kilometre, and fuel economy of just 2.8L/100km on the official combined cycle, are impressive, however Range Rover officials stress these are dependent on the vehicle’s battery being regularly charged.

A 32-amp fast-charger will return a depleted battery to 100 per cent charge in two hours and 45 minutes, while a 240V household socket will add five hours to that figure.

Both variants retain the same full range of off-road ability as other Range Rovers, including a 900mm wading depth for the Range Rover and 850mm for the Sport. Towing capacity is reduced from 3500kg to 2500kg with a braked trailer.

The PHEVs are part of the updated MY18 Range Rover line-up, which features slight revisions inside and out.

A new front bumper bar and grille, new matrix LED headlights and a revised clamshell bonnet are complemented by a redesigned rear bumper bar valance.

Inside, the updated Range Rover and Range Rover Sport gain the double-screen Touch Pro Duo multimedia touchscreen system that also features in the Range Rover Velar.

Other updates for 2018 include a larger centre console bin, a hand-gesture controlled sun visor for the panoramic glass roof and a new ionised cabin purification system.

An 80km circuit in a Range Rover Autobiography PHEV tested the SUV’s on- and off-road abilities, with a slippery, tricky dirt track highlighting the suitability of electric power in off-road environments.

Instant access to the PHEV’s torque can be easily modulated through the throttle, while the adjustable-height suspension system also gives the vehicle a genuine depth of talent off-road.

The 221kW four-cylinder petrol engine is the most powerful of three in the 2.0-litre Ingenium line-up, and it proved to be more than capable of propelling the 2.5-tonne wagon to national limits. It also proved to be impressively quiet and smooth on the open road, despite the workload it is tasked with.

The engine works in parallel with the electric motor, alternatively charging the batteries and adding both power and torque to the drivetrain.

We were unable to get an accurate read on the claimed 51km electric range, as our test vehicle was supplied with only half a charge. However, the charge was fully depleted after only about 5km of off-roading.

The combination of the petrol engine and brake regeneration is surprisingly efficient at feeding charge back into the lithium-ion battery array as we managed an additional five per cent of charge in just 20km.

Battery energy can be ‘saved’ from any point on the charge cycle, allowing for emissions-free driving to be deployed at any time.

Dynamically, the PHEV we tested is as refined and comfortable as every other Range Rover.

New for 2018, too, is the addition of a Dynamic mode for all Range Rovers, which allows the dampers to be stiffened and throttle and gear maps sharpened if required.

In the negative column, the hybrid Range Rovers have to make do without a spare wheel of any kind thanks to the location of the battery, while the twin multimedia screen arrangement can make it difficult to find the correct function quickly – and in some instances, the function you’re looking for is in a third sub-menu controlled by a menu button on the steering wheel.

It will also be interesting to see just how accurate Range Rover’s claims of 51km of all-electric driving range and 2.8L/100km are in real-world usage.

While the PHEV will only add incremental sales to the Range Rover line, the sophistication and thorough integration of the hybrid technology points to the system being rolled out further as the company approaches its 2020 deadline for equipping all its vehicles with some form of electrification.

And in the case of the Range Rover PHEV, there are no glaring compromises in picking a low-emissions solution.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.