First Drive: Range Rover Sport Hybrid

Adding a battery pack extends the Range…

The government’s stance on diesel suggests that driving something with an oil-burning engine is only marginally better than contaminating the public water supply with plague. London is nearly a no-go area for particulate producing cars, and the likes of Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol are following.

Fortunately Land Rover has seen the writing on the wall and installed a battery pack and an electric motor in its Range Rover Sport model. There’s still an engine too, and it’s just a 2.0-litre petrol unit which should keep all but the most ardent of environmentalists happy, while avoiding all but the most draconian of driving restrictions in the future.

Those of a green bent will be pleased to find that, thanks to the hybrid power lurking underneath the bonnet, CO2 emissions are officially as low as 71g/km, while fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg is promised. Even better, on paper it’s possible to use that electric motor and travel 30 odd miles without using a single drop of fuel or emitting a single piece of pollution. Yes, there’s still pollution from producing the electricity, but it’s lower than pouring petrol or diesel into a car, and gets it away from populated centres.

For those looking to avoid a bit of tax by taking the polar bear friendly route, the low emissions means a benefit-in-kind rate of just 16%. For a 40% taxpayer, that means a monthly tax bill of around £400, which is well under half you’d expect to pay for the equivalent diesel-powered option. You’ll also avoid the London Congestion Charge, at least for the next couple of years.

All of that would be for nothing if the hybrid power plant removed the very essence of Range Rover from the car. Fortunately, it only adds to the ambience. Put your foot gently down in the hybrid model and you dart forwards in a near-silent hush, the instant power of the electric motor pushing you forward startlingly quickly. Those with a light foot might never hear the petrol engine fire up, as it’s possible to reach speeds as high as 85mph without requiring fossil-fuel power. Press the throttle down a little further and the quiet rumble of a four-cylinder powerplant becomes audible.

You have to wait a moment for full power to be unleashed, as the computers take a moment to work out what bits of the gearbox, engine and motor go where, but you’ll still reach 62mph in less than seven seconds. It’s not quite so urgent at higher speeds, but never feels short of power. High-speed driving drains the battery more quickly of course, but even then you’d expect to get through 20 miles or so before it needs petrol power, which is enough for most normal journeys.

The quiet of the cabin means you hear more noises that would otherwise be masked, which means you’re constantly aware of the tyre roar from the huge 21-inch wheels. Otherwise, it’s as refined and isolated as you’d hope for. The ride backs that up further, although those huge wheels means you can feel cracks and ridges in the tarmac. If you want cosmetic appeal, take the big wheels, but if you’re after comfort then drop an inch or two.

Push the Sport hard and it grips with a level of tenacity that you wouldn’t necessarily expect although, as the car weighs more than 2.5 tonnes, inertia kicks in and makes it feel slow to react.

Drift too far and you’ll be pleased to know that the PHEV retains all the usual Land Rover abilities for going off-road, with more computers, drive modes and differentials than you could possibly need. It’s quite remarkable just how far it will get you. Mont Blanc might be off limits, but the Yorkshire Dales will be a piece of cake.

And it’ll do that while cosseting you in a cabin that makes you feel one step above everybody else. The dashboard and centre console wraps around you, leaving you feeling secure and confident, in an armchair that’s as comfortable as anything you have at home.

There’s enough technology onboard to keep you occupied too, with two 10-inch touchscreen panels in the centre console. They look great, react well to finger prods, and allow you to control virtually everything in the car, but I still miss traditional knobs for volume control and the like. And, despite all of the tech available, there’s no sign of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, which will frustrate some.

Still, relax into the leather covered seats, luxuriate as your muscles are eased by the massage facility, and kick back to the 13-speaker Meridien sound system. And think of the money you’re saving on tax while doing your bit to damage the environment a little less. Adding some battery power to the Sport certainly makes a compelling financial case but, more importantly, it’s still every bit a Range Rover so stands up in its own right.

Model Tested: Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV HSE Dynamic
Price: £75,185
Range: £64,085 – £101,145
Top speed: 137 mph
0-62 mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 404 PS (398 bhp)
Torque: 640 Nm (472 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £1,365
Official fuel economy: 74.3 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 73 g/km
Car Tax: £440
Insurance group: 49E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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