The Range Rover Sport is the car that offers everything: luxury, on-road performance, and off-road capability – and now it can also drive on zero tailpipe emission electric power.
4x4s used to be an easy target for people who didn’t like high emission vehicles, but now things aren’t quite as straightforward, because the Range Rover Sport can drive up to 30 miles or so in zero emission electric mode. So should you opt for this plug-in hybrid powertrain?
The Range Rover Sport P400e has a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission, combined with an electric motor which gets its energy from a battery, which you can plug in to the mains to charge. Doing this will give you up to around 30 miles of electric driving range.
Apart from the addition of the battery and electric motor, the rest of the car is largely unchanged – so you still get all-wheel drive, the ability to raise the suspension for off-road work, and decent amounts of interior space for passengers and luggage. We think it also looks good, inside and out.
The interior features a digital instrument display, a central touchscreen, and underneath this is a further digital screen which displays climate information as well as vehicle drive modes etc. There are two rotary dials that control the cabin temperature – if you push them, they double up to control the seat heating. And the one on the passenger side also controls the fan speed.
When you drive off in the P400e you’ll probably be in electric mode, which means that the comfort and refinement of the Range Rover Sport is improved still further by the ability to make progress in near-silence. However it’s not that responsive or rapid under electric propulsion, and if you press the accelerator too eagerly, it can easily switch onto the petrol engine. The official all-electric driving range of the Range Rover Sport P400e is just over 30 miles.
To select electric power, there’s a button marked EV, which is clearly visible near the gear selector. If you don’t select EV mode, then the car will be in Hybrid mode, when it decides when to use the petrol engine or the electric motor. If you leave it in Hybrid mode then the chances are that the car will use all the battery very quickly and you’ll be left with no zero emission capability – which isn’t ideal if you’re driving to a built-up area. So there’s a Save function, allowing you to save the battery charge for later use. The problem is that this function is hidden away – you have to swipe the touchscreen, which brings up an EV button, and you then have to select ‘save’ from this screen. In our view this is too difficult to find – it will result in people not knowing about, or using this function, and therefore using up the battery charge too quickly and so potentially not getting the most efficient use out of the vehicle. There’s also no ability use the engine to charge the battery while driving, or to increase the amount of regenerative braking, which, in other vehicles, can help charge the battery.
You also have a number of drive modes. You can leave everything in Auto, or, for normal road use, you can choose Comfort, Eco or Dynamic. If you’re driving in Comfort or Eco, for instance on the motorway, then the Range Rover Sport feels comfortable and refined, but the powertrain can often feel almost hesitant.
If your driving then takes you on, for example, Welsh A and B-roads, then it’s much better to select Dynamic. You can also change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. The responses are much more immediate and eager in Dynamic mode (you have 404 hp and 640 Nm of torque at your disposal from the engine and motor combined), although you’re very aware that you’re in a two and a half tonne high-riding SUV, so you can’t really describe this as an agile car, and from a handling point of view, it’s best not to tackle corners too enthusiastically.
If you then move from B-road to off-road, the real purpose of this car reveals itself. It transforms from being a luxurious, comfortable and sporty car on the road to being amazingly impressive off-road. There are further drive modes – or what Land Rover calls Terrain Response settings – of grass, gravel, snow; mud and ruts; sand; and rock crawl. There’s also a low range option. Mud and ruts was the choice for our mountain test route, and this raises the suspension up to give much greater ground clearance than the standard road setting. The result is the ability to drive up a mountain with very few dramas and in amazing comfort. You can also do this in zero emission electric mode, ie. in near silence, and driving a Range Rover Sport up a mountain on electric power is a very satisfying experience.
We said “with very few dramas” – well, we did have one… We’ve tested most Land Rover and Range Rover models over recent years and virtually all have been shod with Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres, which have performed amazingly well on some very serious off-road routes. Upon arrival, the tyres on the P400e were inspected, and it was noted that it had Continental Cross Contacts. Alarm bells immediately started sounding, as our gut instinct was that, based on driving other cars with these tyres, these were not likely to be as capable off-road as the Pirelli Scorpion Verde items. We test all serious 4x4s off-road and therefore the P400e would also have to face this challenge, so we made progress up our mountain test route extremely carefully. Very early on there was a steep (and narrow) muddy section and even at this point it became clear that the tyres were struggling for grip – something that we hadn’t experienced with Land Rovers before on this route. It was a bit touch and go but the car’s mechanicals/electronics kept clawing their way up the track. The rest of the route was driven very carefully, due to concerns about the tyres, and the Range Rover made it to the top of the mountain and back down again.
It was a few miles later, when back on tarmac roads, that the instrument panel started flagging up that a tyre was losing pressure, and upon investigation, one tyre had picked up a puncture. It’s impossible to know whether this happened off-road or on tarmac, but the more critical concern was that the location where the spare wheel would normally sit on a Range Rover Sport was filled with batteries. So what do you do when you’re in the middle of nowhere with a puncture, no spare wheel, and a hole in the tyre that can’t be mended (with a tyre repair kit or by a tyre fitter)?: you can only hope against all hope for a tyre fitter with the right size tyre. After many miles of driving literally in the middle of nowhere, the puncture appeared just a few hundred yards from Saracens Tyre Fitters in Bala in North Wales. Specialising in agricultural tyres, what were the chances of them having a 275/45 21 Continental tyre? Well, not only did they have one, they had a set of four – because, we were told, one of their customers had taken delivery of a new Range Rover Sport and didn’t like the tyres and so even before using them he swapped them for a set of Pirelli Scorpion Verdes…
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Range Rover Sport P400e is 74.3-84.1 mpg, with CO2 emissions (NEDC equivalent) of 71 g/km. The P400e has an electric driving range (WLTP) of 31.6 miles.
As with any plug-in hybrid, if you do most of your driving within 30 miles on electric power after regular charges then you may enjoy 75-85mpg from this Range Rover. However as soon as you start to venture beyond this distance you’ll be using more petrol power, and so the fuel economy will drop. We think the key test is to see what any plug-in hybrid will do at 70mph on the motorway purely on its petrol engine. In the case of the Range Rover Sport P400e, if driven carefully without exceeding 70mph, you could just about manage an average of 30.0mpg.
After a week of mixed driving – motorways, local trips, A and B-roads, and off-roading – we averaged 42.6mpg in the real-world. This isn’t great, but equally it’s not too bad for a 2.5 tonne performance-focused 4×4. We also averaged 20 miles of electric range in real-life rather than the official 31.6 miles. The total driving range with a full tank and a full charge was being displayed as 425 miles.
One of the main selling points for the Range Rover Sport P400e is its Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability of 19% (for 2019/20) – which is much lower than petrol Range Rover Sports. The danger, of course, is that people will buy the car for its low BIK rate, and never charge it – especially if they’re not paying for the petrol themselves.
The Range Rover Sport P400e costs £75,185, Our test car had options of Firenze Red Metallic Paint (£850), 21-inch alloys (£1,070), Fixed Panoramic Roof (£1,640), 60:40 load-through rear seats (£110), 8″ Rear Seat Entertainment (£1,590), Head-up Display (£1,060), Park Heat with Remote Control (£1,060), Black Pack (£1,380), Privacy Glass (£400), Heated Steering Wheel (£200) and Multi Height Tow Bar (£886), taking the total price of our test car to a hefty £85,431. And a couple of notes on the options, despite lots of trying, we couldn’t get any media to play through the £1,590 Rear Seat screens, and the car arrived without any panel covering the area of the tow bar (ie. we didn’t knock off this panel during our off-road testing!).
The Range Rover Sport is also available with petrol and diesel powertrains.
It’s amazing that any car can feel so luxurious, sporty, comfortable and refined on tarmac roads, yet also be so competent off-road. In the case of the Range Rover Sport P400e, it’s even got added capability, because it can also travel on tarmac or off the beaten track in zero emission electric mode. Some people may not aspire to the image of a Range Rover Sport, but even if this is your view, you have to acknowledge that the P400e is an impressive technological achievement.
However it should be noted that the Range Rover Sport P400e weighs two and a half tonnes, and although the aerodynamics are better than the previous model, this is not the most efficient plug-in hybrid that you can buy. So although we think this is an impressive car, careful thought should be given before purchasing, based on how the car will be used.
Like any plug-in hybrid, if it’s due to spend most of its time on the motorway, the P400e probably isn’t the best choice. Without regular charging, you’ll be lucky to average more than 30mpg. If it’s due to be used mainly for local journeys, on electric power, with some occasional longer trips, then that’s starting to make more sense. But in our view, there’s not much point buying the Range Rover Sport P400e unless you also use the impressive off-road capability that’s engineered into the vehicle. This might mean driving to mountain biking weekends in remote parts of the country in the middle of winter, or it might mean towing a horse box or a boat, but if you have £75,000 to invest in a car with such impressive capabilities, please use them. The Range Rover Sport P400e is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.