by Gabe Beita Kiser
Combining fine performance with improved efficiency, impressive style, and the brand's revered off-road abilities, the 2019 Range Rover Sport Hybrid range offers a tantalizing mix of qualities for large SUV fans. The range is comprised of four trims: three MHEVs (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) and one PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), the latter being the first PHEV powertrain from Jaguar Land Rover. If you travel short distances often, the plug-in hybrid variant will undoubtedly offer reduced running costs. Plus, there are the same Range Rover Sport attributes to enjoy, from a premium and spacious cabin to that lofty driving position that many shoppers simply can't resist. Of course, the Range Rover doesn't have things all to itself, with the impressive Volvo XC90 Hybrid showcasing its own blend of efficient performance wrapped in a large, luxurious SUV shell. The Range Rover Sport remains the most desired entry in the segment, though, and there's the knowledge that the all-wheel-drive system is for much more than just added grip.
The all-new plug-in hybrid arrives to much fanfare, with its so-called P400e powertrain comprising a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor producing a combined 398 horsepower. Midway through the 2019 model year, the previous supercharged, gas-fed V6 was also replaced with a turbocharged inline-six/48-volt mild-hybrid system. In addition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now standard via a new Smartphone Pack. A new wade-sensing system now provides real-time wading depth information, while an available Driver Assist Pack includes adaptive cruise control with steering assist.
Smaller than the Range Rover, the leaner Range Rover Sport atones for a drop in cargo capacity with its clean, imposing design. Exterior features across the range include LED headlights and taillights, headlamp power washers, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, puddle lamps, and a hands-free liftgate. Wheel sizes start at 19-inches, with up to 21-inch wheels available depending on the model or options chosen.
The Range Rover Sport's key dimensions are 192 inches in length, 70.9 inches in height, and 81.6 inches wide with the side mirrors folded. The wheelbase measures 115 inches. A BMW X5 is longer, but the Range Rover Sport is taller and wider than the German SUV. Should you go off-road, the Sport has a wading depth of 33.4 inches, while obstacle clearance is aided by a 10.9-inch off-road height. Curb weight ranges from 5,135 lbs for the P360 mild-hybrid variants to a portly 5,430 for the plug-in hybrid.
The Range Rover Sport Hybrid range comprises two powertrains: the plug-in hybrid P400e available in the HSE trim, and a mild-hybrid available in SE, HSE and HST trims. The P400e combines a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor. There's also a 13.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined, the system delivers 398 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque, enough for the most efficient Range Rover Sport to reach 60 mph in just over six seconds. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the PHEV delivers refined and punchy performance, especially at town speeds, although there can be some hesitation when joining roundabouts at lower speeds. A top speed of 85 mph can be reached in electric-only mode.
If you're doing longer distances, you may prefer the mild-hybrid powertrain which combines a 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder gas engine supplemented with an electric supercharger. Regenerative braking allows for energy to be stored in a 48-volt battery which can be used, for instance, when pulling off from a standing start. This powertrain produces a total 355 hp and 365 lb-ft in the P360, and 395 hp and 406 lb-ft in the P400 - the more powerful variant allows the big SUV to hit 60 mph in under six seconds. Being a six-pot, there's also more refinement from the gas engine relative to the plug-in hybrid, which can sometimes kick in quite roughly. Overall, the mild hybrid is the more versatile powertrain and endows the Sport with a mix of efficiency and performance that is hard to beat.
The Sport has always been the ideal Range Rover for fans of the brand looking for a bit more agility on-road. So, while the lighter Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 remain at the top of the class for what a big SUV can do on tarmac, the Range Rover Sport acquits itself very well. There's good feel from the steering, and the Sport can be hustled along a mountain pass without feeling ragged or rolling disconcertingly. Using the Terrain Response system, dialing back to a more comfortable driving mode sees the Sport in its element where, like other Range Rovers, it will cruise in impeccable calm, smothering imperfections like a true professional. The sense of refinement is of course emphasized when EV-mode is selected in the plug-in hybrid variant. However, the plug-in hybrid isn't perfect, sometimes providing a surge of acceleration when pushing down on the throttle, and sometimes taking far longer to get going. And, even though an electric-only mode is available, the gas engine seems to have a mind of its own, providing power even in EV mode.
Off-road, the Sport is only outdone by others in the Land Rover family, but it'll comfortably see off rivals from other brands over rough terrain. Again, the Terrain Response system comes into play by automatically adjusting to different surfaces and conditions.
At the time of writing, EPA rated estimates were not available for the mild-hybrid Range Rover Sport, but we anticipate an improvement on the 3.0-liter gas-only model's 17/23/19 mpg thanks to the new supplementary electric motor.
Similarly, while official figures aren't yet available for the plug-in hybrid, Land Rover says that this variant can travel up to 29 miles in all-electric mode, which will be a boon for buyers covering short distances every day. Using a dedicated charger, the 13.1 kWh battery can be fully charged in under three hours. If charged from a domestic electricity supply, charging time is 14 hours, so best completed overnight.
Like the gas-only Range Rover Sport, the hybrid models provide similarly plush accommodation for five passengers. Supple leather upholstery adorns the seats, and in general there is plenty of legroom and headroom for all passengers. The middle-seat passenger in the second row doesn't enjoy quite the same level of comfort, however. A lower driving position than other Land Rover models lives up to the Sport moniker, but this has thankfully not affected visibility. A third row with two additional seats can be specified on all but the plug-in hybrid, but these seats are only really suitable for small children.
With 27.5 cubic feet of space behind the second row, the Range Rover Sport's trunk comfortably offers more space than a midsize sedan but lags behind other SUVs in this segment. Thankfully, a power liftgate, a square shape, and the absence of a load lip make what space there is highly practical. In the P400e plug-in hybrid, cargo capacity is reduced by 2.7 cubes. This variant isn't available with the seven-seater option, but when all seven seats are up in other models, there's just 7.8 cubes of cargo space. Fold down the rear seats, and there's up to 59.5 cubes of space. Again, very usable but less than what rivals offer - the BMW X5, for example, has 72.3 cubes of total cargo capacity when the seats are folded down.
Like other Range Rovers, the hybrid variants are feature-packed. All models have push-button start, LED headlights and taillights, powered front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a rearview camera, and a powered tailgate. Driver-assist safety gear encompasses emergency braking, lane departure warning, cruise control with speed limiter and front and rear parking aids. Higher trim levels pack in a fixed panoramic roof, three-zone climate control, and additional safety features like blind-spot monitoring. However, unlike the gas-powered variants (reviewed separately), the more lavish Autobiography trim is not available for the hybrids.
The updated Touch Pro Duo infotainment system features dual ten-inch touchscreens. Linked to the system is navigation, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, voice control, Bluetooth connectivity, and the Land Rover All Terrain Info Center. While the large screen looks impressive, it's not the quickest at responding to inputs and can occasionally frustrate. The various menus are also more complex than they should be. As of mid-year, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration have been made standard fare.
The sound system differs depending on the trim level. SE models use an enhanced sound system with eight speakers, including both SiriusXM satellite radio and HD radio. The HSE trim introduces a 13-speaker Meridian sound system, while the HST gets an 18-speaker Meridian system with a subwoofer and 825 watts of punch.
While the new range of plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid Range Rover Sports will need more time on the market before we can accurately assess their dependability, the regular 2019 Range Rover Sport range holds a rather disappointing 72/100 J.D. Power rating. This is some way behind the Lexus RX and Porsche Cayenne, which both have ratings in the 90s. The NHTSA also issued two recalls for 2018 Range Rover Sport models, the problems being a back-up camera that may not display an image, as well as potential failure of the autonomous emergency braking system.
Land Rover's basic warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, with a six-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty.
As the Range Rover Sport is a premium SUV, it hasn't been tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA. However, the safety features count is high, with driver-assist aids increasing for more expensive trims. All models feature emergency braking, emergency brake assist, lane departure warning, cruise control with speed limiter, a rearview camera, and front and rear parking aids. HSE and HST models additionally have blind-spot monitoring, a driver condition monitor, 360-degree parking aid, a clear exit monitor, rear traffic monitor and traffic sign recognition with an adaptive speed limiter.
The Range Rover Sport is exactly what its name dictates: a sportier and more compact version of the brand's legendary SUVs. It can still go off-road, but the Sport leans a bit more towards offering a buttoned-down and enjoyable driving experience on-road. The addition of the latest hybrid powertrains adds a more efficient option, but the results are mixed. While the mild-hybrid versions with the inline-six provide the type of mechanical refinement you'd expect of a Range Rover, the plug-in hybrid (with its four-cylinder gas engine) just isn't as polished, even if it is by far the most cost-effective variant when traveling mostly shorter distances. Yes, it may offer a greater pure-electric range than a Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid, but it costs more and is less refined. Stick with the mild-hybrid versions, and the Range Rover Sport continues to impress with a fine cabin, a smooth ride, and the ability to tackle rough terrain in a manner that sets it apart from the competition. For now, the plug-in hybrid's real-world implementation will be playing catch up to the rest of a very accomplished SUV.
The Range Rover Sport range begins with the SE P360 at an MSRP of $68,500. A step up is the mechanically identical but more luxurious HSE P360 at $73,990. In the middle of the range is the plug-in hybrid, the HSE 400e, at $78,600. The fully-loaded HST P400 costs $82,950. All prices exclude tax, licensing, registration and a destination/handling charge of $995.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
Until Land Rover further refines the plug-in hybrid, we'd opt for one of the mild-hybrid variants, as they offer a great blend of performance and efficiency. We also much prefer the inline-six over the four-cylinder in the HSE 400e. The mid-range HSE P360 is a fine choice, as it offers extra driver-assist safety aids over the SE P360, as well as a better sound system, luxurious Windsor leather seats, and upgraded trim, while still being nearly $10k cheaper than the more powerful HST 400. It's the Sport hybrid we'd go for.
While a sportscar brand like Porsche is not the first to spring to mind when drawing up a list of hybrids, it makes sense that it's introduced the tech into the successful Cayenne range. Producing 455 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, the Porsche is more powerful than the best in the Range Rover Sport Hybrid range, although the HSE 400e does offer the superior torque output. Together with its feisty powertrain, the Cayenne E-Hybrid also serves up superior on-road dynamics to the Rangey but isn't nearly as impressive off-road. The Porsche also has a superior and more user-friendly infotainment system. Ultimately, though, the Range Rover Sport is not a performance SUV in the same vein as the Cayenne, so for us, it's better suited to the hybrid role. Together with the Range Rover's wider range of powertrains and lower price, it's our choice in this specific match up.
Volvo's XC90 hybrid range has a wider price range than the Ranger Rover Sport, from the $67,000 T8 Momentum to the $104,900 T8 Excellence. Like the Range Rover Sport Hybrid P400e, the XC90 is a plug-in hybrid with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (with both turbo and supercharging) working together with an electric motor to motivate the big SUV. The XC90 is slightly faster, but the P400e has a superior electric-only range. The Swedish SUV's cabin is a wonderful place to spend time, with a distinctive layout and great quality that matches that of the Range Rover. The Volvo also mirrors some of the Range Rover plug-in hybrid's inconsistent habits between gas and full-electric modes, but the Swede is overall more resolved in this aspect. These are two excellent SUVs with distinct personalities, with the only significant edge going to the Range Rover Sport for its superior off-road prowess.