Range Rover Sport goes hybrid, but our man prefers the diesel
Land Rover is asking a lot of customers interested in buying this plug-in hybrid Range Rover Sport – and I’m not just talking about a £70,000-plus price tag of the cheapest version or the near £85,000 cost of the top of the range Autobiography I drove.
It’s asking the customer to accept a four-cylinder engine in a full-sized Range Rover, a boot reduced in size by 15 per cent to accommodate its battery pack, maximum towing weight reduced by a full tonne to 2500kg, the removal of the option for a third row of seats and an increase in weight of nearly 400kg relative to the non-hybrid version of the same car with the same engine. Even compared to the 3-litre V6 diesel version that will perhaps be a more natural comparison, there’s almost an extra 300kg to cart around – four adults in other words.
What do you get in return? Well, once you’ve added the additional 114bhp provided by its electrics, there’s a car with almost 400bhp here, not the just-over 300bhp provided by the diesel. It has almost as much torque, too, although obviously it must work considerably harder. It will hit 62mph from rest in 6.3sec and, were the old NEDC fuel figures to be believed, it would do more than 100mpg.
Well, it won’t. In a week spent on the motorway and in the countryside, I never saw 30mpg from it, and given that this is a predominantly petrol-powered SUV weighing just shy of 2.5 tonnes there is nothing particularly surprising in that.
But save for driving it around a track, I couldn’t have been using it much further from its intended purpose. For this is an urban Range Rover, and you don’t need me to tell you how popular a breed that is. So imagine a world where the slightly coarse four-cylinder engine is rarely even turning, where you surf to and from town on a wave of electrons, smiling not only at the fact that your company car tax bill is £400 cheaper per month than your mate with the diesel version, but that when they ban diesels from city he’ll be stuffed while you’d be fine even if they banned internal combustion engines in their entirety. And if you order one now, you’ll get a 2019 model year car with an even more powerful and efficient hybrid drive.
And you’ll still be buying a Range Rover Sport, which remains the most desirable car of its kind. Its ride, handling and cabin design reek of real class. All I really didn’t like was the updated but still entirely unintuitive navigation and entertainment system.
This, then, is a Range Rover Sport you should buy primarily because it makes financial sense. As a thing to drive, or in which to cover long distances, the diesel is far better. Even if I were in the market for such a car, I’d probably hold off: the rate of change and improvement in the plug-in hybrid world is accelerating and I’d want to leave it as long as possible before committing. And in my heart I’d still prefer the diesel version, by far.
Range Rover Sport P400e factfile
Engine 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged
Torque 472lb ft@1500rpm
Power to weight 161bhp per tonne
Transmission eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed 137mph