by Adam Lynton
A contradiction in terms - off-roading, with a plug-in-hybrid? Yes, it's possible; and not only possible but seemingly a brilliant idea. The Range Rover has a long history of burying monstrous engines under the hood to produce large amounts of power and torque - and large amounts of carbon dioxide while chugging copious amounts of fuel. The marriage of hybrid technology to an already winning recipe may be a risky one, but - without sacrificing the sumptuous comfort it's known for, or it's incredible off-roading prowess - we are all for it. With a claimed all-electric range of 29 miles and pretty decent fuel economy in general, the Range Rover HSE PHEV offers a solution to thirsty, messy, gas-only engines and can be a boon to those traveling short distances daily - a 2.0-liter inline-four paired to a 105 kW electric motor to offer combined outputs of 398 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. At its eye-watering starting price, though, how does it stack up against more affordable rivals like the Volvo XC90 T8 that don't do as much damage to your budget, and is it worth stepping away from the standard Range Rover, which we know and love? We think there are many reasons for you to at least consider it.
With a facelift carrying over from 2018, the 2019 model year remains its charming self, for the most part. The Smartphone package that was optional previously is now standard, allowing for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and further app functionality by voice control has been added to the navigation system. A wade-sensing system has also been made available to the Range Rover to relay real-time depth information to the driver.
The Range Rover HSE PHEV P400e is the standard gas-powered Range Rover's twin, with the only difference being dietary preference and an understated P400e birthmark on the rear. The familiar imposing-yet-elegant stance of the Range Rover remains the same, shod in 20-inch 12-spoke wheels, and fitted with a sliding panoramic sunroof. Maintaining its traditional boxy shape, the designers have done well to modernize the look of this off-roader with soft edges, sleekly styled premium LED headlights with signature daytime running lights, and satin body-colored side vent accents. The front bumper is tweaked with Atlas highlights, and the grille mesh boasts an inner surround with a Narvik Black frame; it also houses the charging port, which has been cleverly hidden out of sight near the Land Rover badge.
The Range Rover PHEV shares dimensions with its gas-powered twin in all but weight - thanks to the additional hybrid components it's put on around 575 pounds in weight over the standard inline-four, checking in at a curb weight of 5,516 lbs. Its length of 196.8 inches, wheelbase of 115 inches, and width of 81.6 inches with the mirrors folded in are all the same otherwise, and it stands 73.8 inches tall in both variations. Riding 8.7 inches off the ground (with 11 inches available in off-road mode), the PHEV maintains its 35.4-inch wading depth, and with approach and departure angles of 25.5 and 24.5 degrees respectively. Clearly, it is still configured to take on rougher terrain.
Under the hood of the Range Rover PHEV lies a 2.0-liter Si4 Ingenium gas engine, paired to a high-capacity 105 kW electric motor that works in tandem to produce a combined 398 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. These impressive figures are better than the two gas-powered V6 variants but come in under the 518 hp and 557 hp outputs produced by the top-of-the-range supercharged V8 gas guzzlers. Permanent all-wheel-drive enabled, the Rover PHEV has an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and the necessary dual-range transfer case to ensure you can take on any terrain.
Operating in one of two modes, the Range Rover Hybrid runs in default parallel hybrid mode to optimize fuel economy and battery charge by alternating between power sources as needed - this is done pretty seamlessly, although the switch to gas power when you hit the fast pedal urgently results in a surprised whine from under the hood that lacks the sense of refinement we've become used to from the Range Rover. Still, the power is there, and the bulky beast can get to 60 mph in around 6.4 seconds, thanks to instant torque from the electric motor. It will cruise on to 137 mph top speed in default mode. Switching to pure EV mode, the Rover PHEV's 12kWh battery will take you 29 miles before running out of electrons (with zero emissions polluting the country air), and can even manage a top speed of 85 mph. Sacrifice is required somewhere, though, and the PHEV has had to compromise on towing capability. While its stablemates can tow in excess of 7,700 lbs, the PHEV can manage a 5,511 lbs trailer, at most, this should still be sufficient to get the horsebox out to the Polo fields.
Fitted with standard air suspension, the Range Rover does what it does best in all iterations - takes on smooth and rough roads with an air of nobility, with its knightly ways of isolating occupants from road scars and bumps. It's especially quiet in full EV mode, but even with the engine running, it makes for a tranquil place to be. With full-time AWD, it also offers terrain response software that is pre-programmed to adjust to ice and snow, sand, rocks, or mud. Off-roading doesn't suffer, in fact, the hybrid engine gives it an advantage due to the additional torque from the electric motor at low speeds, and the PHEV attacks rugged topography with the courtly manners we have come to expect from the brand. On tarmac, the Rover PHEV maintains its gentlemanly manners, although the sheer bulk of the vehicle is evident when taking corners at higher speeds - body roll is evident and expected, but it handles predictably at least, to give you some confidence as you roam the winding back roads. Steering is precise, although lightly weighted, and despite the size of the vehicle, placing it on the road isn't difficult. It's also more agile than you'd imagine, providing easy maneuverability and composed handling in even narrow country lanes. The regenerative braking system inspires confidence, although the PHEV clearly feels more at home cruising serenely without being pushed hard or asked to stop too suddenly.
The idea behind hybridized vehicles is not just related to low emissions and a greener approach to motoring, but mainly for those who want to cut their fuel budget somewhat. In the case of the Range Rover PHEV, this is arguably only a mild benefit. While EV mode will give you 29 miles of range before needing to switch to gas or recharge (which is slightly better than the claimed 21 miles from Volvo's XC90), in gas-only mode it returns EPA estimates of 23/32/25 mpg on city/highway/combined cycles. This is only a small notch up from 22/28/24 mpg on the Range Rover V6 diesel variant. Both the gas-powered V6 and V8 derivatives offer woeful figures, giving the PHEV the upper hand by a good stretch. The Volvo XC90 Hybrid returns similar figures to the Range Rover PHEV and it also manages 58 MPGe as opposed to the Range Rover's 49 MPGe in parallel hybrid mode.
With a 23.8-gallon fuel tank, the Range Rover PHEV can happily traverse around 595 miles of countryside before running dry. Should you be out of battery power too, charging from empty takes around 14 hours on a regular household outlet, while rapid charging can fill the battery in just under three hours.
Typical British hospitality awaits the four or five - occupants fortunate enough to sit in the Range Rover. The front seats have ample head and legroom, and stacks of adjustability to ensure the best possible view of the road - 20 ways to be exact. Six-footers will feel comfortable too, even in the back, where 39.4 inches of headroom and 39.2 inches is available to stretch your legs out. The perforated Windsor leather seats offer heating for all passengers and can recline in the rear at the touch of a button. The back seat can also be optioned with massage function or as Executive Class seats with a fold-down arm-rest, from where you can direct your chauffeur while enjoying a glass of sparkling wine.
Around 28.2 cubic feet is available to you behind the second row of seats - slightly decreased in the PHEV variant from the 31.7 cubes in the gas model; stowing the seats away opens up a further 36.9 cubes for a total 65.1 cubic feet. Choosing the Executive Class seats over the rear bench further decreases available space, though. This is quite far behind the XC90's 85 cubic feet, making cargo space one of the Rover's less impressive areas - still, it's not like you'd be buying this vehicle to ferry around boxes daily, and the royal Corgis will be quite happy back there. On the plus side, equipping the Executive Class captain's chairs in the back allows you to configure them via the touchscreen display or your smartphone app. A power gesture-controlled tailgate and rear height-adjustment also allows for lowering of the rear by up to 1.9 inches, making loading heavier objects easy.
Small-items are easily and conveniently stored as well with a lockable glovebox, various small trays for your bits and bobs, a center console with storage bin, and front and rear cup holders.
A sliding panoramic sunroof is fitted as standard and a head-up display, push-button start, gesture-operated power tailgate, universal garage door opener, and laminated privacy glass are stock fitted to the Range Rover. A multi-function steering wheel, with a power-adjustable steering column, and full Windsor leather interior characterize the cigar-bar like interior, together with heated, power-operated seats all around. Three-zone climate control, soft close doors, and keyless entry add to the sense of quiet aristocracy, with convenience clearly prioritized by designers. The PHEV is shipped with low traction launch and hill descent control and comes equipped with cruise control, emergency braking, and lane-departure warning, too. Front and rear parking assists are standard, supported by a rearview camera, while packages that are optional on some of the lower-specced gas variants are standard fare here. This includes blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, adaptive speed limiter, driver condition monitor, and the rear-traffic monitor as part of the park package. All-terrain progress control is optional and functions like low-speed cruise control for concentrated efforts at off-roading.
Further enhancing the sense of class and opulence, the Range Rover PHEV comes equipped with a premium Meridian Sound system comprised of 13 speakers and a dual-channel subwoofer, to provide you with the ideal mix of William Byrd compositions and Beatles ballads. Land Rover's Touch Pro Duo system, which incorporates two crystal clear ten-inch HD touchscreens is standard and sound sources available are SiriusXM, HD Radio, USB or aux connectivity. Navigation, voice control, Bluetooth connectivity, and various charging ports and sockets (USB and 12-volt in the front and rear) are included as standard, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported through the Smartphone Package, which is now standard for the 2019 model year.
Although no PHEV-specific issues have been documented, the 2019 Range Rover range was subjected to a recall in January 2019 for a potentially fracture-prone crankshaft pulley bolt, which affected approximately 2,578 units. Still, the Range Rover HSE PHEV was rated 76 out of 100 by J.D. Power, which is average for the segment. To add peace of mind, Land Rover provides a four-year/50,000 mile basic warranty, six-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, as well as coverage for the drivetrain for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first.
With neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA wanting to crash-test such an expensive SUV, the 2019 Range Rover in both gas or PHEV version, has not been rated for safety, and is unlikely to be tested any time soon. Still, as a top-end Range Rover, the PHEV is fitted with cruise control, emergency braking, lane-departure warning, front and rear park assist, and a rearview camera. Lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign detection, and rear cross-traffic monitoring are all standard features as well, together with a host of airbags and passive safety features. Overall, we're pretty convinced this Range Rover will keep you safe in the unlikely event of an accident.
With the rapid growth in electric vehicle sales, Land Rover has jumped on the proverbial bandwagon - and rightfully so - to move towards greener motoring. A smart move on their part has been the gradual shift towards it, by not simply dumping an all-electric SUV on our doorstep. Instead, we get the beautifully crafted, well-merged Range Rover PHEV, which - although not perfect - comes pretty darn close. Whether you buy this vehicle just to get access to the HOV lanes on your daily commute, or as a firm believer in the move to electrification, we doubt you'd regret it either way. It performs admirably both on and off-road, does well in terms of fuel economy, and doesn't skimp on the luxuries either. We'd have to think long and hard to invent reasons why this isn't a smart move. If you have the money - go for it.
$95,950 is the stutter-inducing premium you will be required to fork out for one of these beauties before taxes, licensing and registration fees (as well as Land Rover's $1,295 delivery and destination charge); and, as it is a one-trim only model (for now, at least), there aren't any cheaper hybrid models to opt for. Bearing in mind the probable savings in fuel - especially if you are able to capitalize on the all-electric range for the most part - this could be a better investment in the long run than a traditional gas variant.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
For the 2019 model year, the Range Rover Hybrid is only available in one trim, namely the HSE PHEV. Being comprehensively specified off the factory floor, there's not much we'd do to it, and simply count ourselves fortunate enough to have one. Unless told to splurge on all the extras, we'd simply option it in no-cost Portofino Blue, keep the stock-standard wheels, and even leave off the $1,090 Shadow Exterior Package - with the Smartphone package already included, as well as the Drive and Park Packages - we'd simply opt on the Executive Class rear seats with massage function and sit back and enjoy the high life while we are chauffeured about in style.
Comparing twin one to twin two here is easier than you'd think. Physically almost identical, barring the Hybrid version packing a few extra pounds, the only difference lies in the powertrain configuration. One boasts the hybridized engine, while the other relies on good old fashioned combustion, with the latter having the advantage of various motors to choose from - V6 gas or diesel, or the over-the-top V8 variants. The Hybrid for 2019 only offers one option, but that option isn't meek and mild either. The PHEV powertrain offers more power and torque than all V6 variants, although coming up short to the V8s. This by no means leaves the PHEV short on enthusiasm, though, and it proves to be a strong, impressive vehicle to drive overall, although the four-cylinder soundtrack is not to everyone's tastes. Cargo volume is slightly decreased on the Hybrid, though, but it counters with much-improved fuel economy. With a few thousand dollars difference in price - up or down depending on gas-variant trims - the answer here lies in whether you really need the extra power of the V8. If the answer is no, you'd be daft to pick anything other than the Hybrid.
Base model XC90 Hybrids cost almost $30k less than the Range Rover Hybrid, and with top-of-the-range options in the Volvo lineup coming in at only a smidgeon more than the Range Rover PHEV, it's a comparison one has to make, unless your trust fund can convince you otherwise. Volvo's hybridized SUV is similarly gorgeous to look at, and offers a magnificent interior characterized by Swedish simplicity - but it's not a patch on the royal treatment which the Range Rover provides its occupants with. One point goes to the Volvo for more practicality, with a much bigger cargo area and fractionally better combined fuel economy stats. The Range Rover Hybrid has a better all-electric range, though, and is still the undisputed king of off-roading, simply by virtue of its Land Rover DNA. Still, if money is tight, you can't go wrong with the Volvo. We'd much rather have the Range Rover Hybrid, though, so digging deep into the savings is our pick.