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24/042019 19:46:00

2019 Land Rover Range Rover P400e review: A hard hybrid to recommend

At first blush, it seems like a great pairing. Land Rovers are luxurious yet capable vehicles meant for exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. Plug-in hybrids promise to help protect the environment by reducing emissions and improving efficiency. The two should go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

However, after a week with the Land Rover’s green flagship, the 2019 Range Rover HSE P400e, I’m not so sure it’s a perfect harmony.

Ingenium plug-in hybrid

The P400e’s specs look promising. The SUV starts with Land Rover’s 2.0-liter Ingenium engine, a turbocharged, gasoline I4 good for 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Complimenting the combustion engine is an electric motor that brings 114 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of its own to the party. Together, the hybrid powertrain sends a peak 398 combined horsepower and 472 pound-feet of total torque through its standard eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive system.

This powertrain has 18 more horsepower and a significant 140 more pound-feet than the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 you get in the non-hybrid Range Rover. As a result, the hybrid’s 0-to-60 sprint is about a half-second quicker than the gasoline model, taking just 6.4 seconds, despite the increased mass that the electric bits and battery pack add to the bottom line. We’re off to a very good start.

The battery in question is a 13.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack mounted beneath the rear cargo floor. You can recharge the P400e from a standard 110-volt wall outlet via its 7-kW onboard charger, but that’ll take about 14 hours, making the optional 32-amp, 240-volt wall charger a must-buy for prospective owners. The wall box or a Level 2 public charging station will reduce the charge time to a little over 3 hours, which is a lot more reasonable.

A juiced up battery allows the P400e to glide silently for a claimed 31 miles of full-electric operation. However, here is where I began to run into issues with this Range Rover’s electrified performance.

Hybrid hiccups

My actual electric range was both inconsistent and very difficult to measure thanks to gremlins that plagued the hybrid powertrain. My test vehicle arrived with a mostly full battery (86 percent) and 24 miles of displayed EV range on the trip computer, but after only 9 miles of stop-and-go traffic, the gasoline engine fired up, with 4 miles of range showing on the dashboard screen. That not-so-great first impression was followed up by two more lackluster performances: After two separate recharges, the Range Rover achieved 15 and 20 miles of full-electric driving, respectively.

Several times during my week of testing, the P400e would slip into hybrid operation, even with multiple miles of electric range left on the display and the drive mode set to “EV.” I was ready to chalk it up to inaccuracies in the trip computer’s estimation of my driving style, until on one occasion, the Range Rover wouldn’t shut down the gasoline engine despite reporting a full (100 percent) battery after an overnight charge. That was particularly frustrating, after I’d rearranged my schedule to give it the full 14 hours to charge and the best possible shot at economy.

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On the final day of testing, the P400e rewarded me with 30.4 miles of electric operation and a much more reasonable 45.3 combined mpg.Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Official EPA estimates aren’t available at the time of publication, but my trip computer sat at around 25 mpg which is, frankly, a bit disappointing. One could easily reach such numbers with the Range Rover’s diesel variant without waiting for periodic recharges.

But then, on my last day of testing, I reset the trip computer and gave the Range Rover one last full recharge, and the P400e finally rewarded me with 30.4 miles of electric operation before firing up its gasoline engine for the 62.7-mile trip back to the office. Fuel economy on this last day averaged out to a much more reasonable 45.3 mpg combined. So, at the very least, the PHEV Range Rover is capable of achieving its stated range, but I’m not convinced that this example will ever do so reliably.

Range Roving utility

In its favor, the plug-in version of the Range Rover makes no compromises to its off-road ability. Land Rover’s air suspension comes standard on the P400e and is able to lift the SUV’s chassis to achieve an 11-inch ride height. In this mode, its approach (34.7 degrees), departure (29.6 degrees) and breakover (28.3 degrees) angles afford generous clearance for getting over rocks, ruts and crests. I’m told the electrified Rangie can even wade through 35.4 inches of water, but I wasn’t able to test this around Roadshow’s San Francisco HQ.

Around town, the air suspension can also be lowered by 2 inches, making it easier to climb into and out of the SUV’s cabin. This “Access Height” can be set to trigger automatically when parked or toggled manually via a button on the console.

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The plug-in hybrid sacrifices no utility with the same off-road geometry and 35-inch wading depth as the non-hybrid HSE model.Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Placing the electric motor between the engine and transmission allows the P400e to take advantage of the same four-wheel drive system as the standard Range Rover, with its Terrain Response software with specialized programming for sand, ice and snow, rocks and mud, as well as trailer stability assist software. The selectable low-range crawling ratio should also be enhanced by the increased hybrid torque.

Touch Pro Duo tech

Drivers interact with these terrain modes and more via a physical knob on the center console or through the lower of the two touchscreens on the center stack, part of Land Rover’s Touch Pro Duo cabin tech suite. The infotainment system combines a pair of 10-inch displays with a large digital instrument cluster, placing a total of three screens in front of the driver. The aforementioned lower screen feels like a solution in search of a problem, as it doesn’t actually do much aside from display redundant info from the other two displays (audio source, drive mode info and a few settings). It also makes climate control manipulations more complex than simple buttons would. However, I do like the look of the two floating physical control knobs, which are a cool design touch.

Above, the main display features an evolution of the Touch Pro software that’s been present on the last few generations of Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. It’s organized well enough and features a customizable home screen that I really enjoyed tweaking with widgets and shortcuts that meet my particular needs. I also enjoyed the predictive destination and route features built into its navigation software when paired with the accompanying phone app.

The digital instrument cluster, along with the Touch Pro software, feels snappier than before, with less lag between input and response. Like the main display, I like that I was able to customize the information on the electronic gauges to meet my particular needs.

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I appreciated the customization options that Touch Pro Duo offers and the high level of luxury in the Range Rover’s cabin.Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Equipped driver aid features include a standard rear camera, distance sensors and rear cross-traffic alerts, as well as an optional surround-view camera system that aids in precision parking. At highway speeds, optional lane-keeping steering assist, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control increase safety while allowing the driver to relax during long stretches and in stop-and-go traffic. Meanwhile, blind-spot monitoring makes for more confident lane changes in this 197-inch long SUV.

However, my tester’s cabin electronics weren’t without hiccups of their own. On one occasion, after engaging the surround view cameras when squeezing out of Roadshow’s tight garage, the parking cameras would not disengage — normally, they turn off at about 10 mph. With the cameras on, I was locked out of the rest of the infotainment system including navigation, audio source selection and more. After a few blocks of fruitless tapping, I pulled over, turned off and restarted the Range Rover, which cleared the error. In its defense, this only happened once during my weeklong test, but electronic hiccup akin to this has occurred with every JLR vehicle I’ve tested for the past few years. Of course, your mileage may vary.

How I’d spec it

The 2019 Land Rover Range Rover P400e is only available in the midtier HSE trim level, which starts at $95,950 before options and a $1,295 destination charge. This example comes in at $108,945 as-tested, including options like a $4,000 Driver Assist package (adding adaptive cruise, lane-keeping assist and more), $1,785 Vision package (with automatic high beams, interior ambient lighting and a head-up display) and about $5,915 in various comfort and styling upgrades.

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The HSE P400e is only $1,000 more than the V6 Range Rover HSE, so at least there’s not a huge hybrid tax.Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Skipping some of the more expensive styling options like the $1,090 “Shadow” exterior trim or $2,855 21-inch wheels — big 20-inchers are already standard — can save a couple bucks. But I don’t think you’re rolling off the lot with less than a $104,000 vehicle once you roll in the must-have safety features and the home charger. So, yeah, why not splurge and get the $715 refrigerated center console to keep those bevs cool?

Either way, the P400e only costs $1,000 more than the non-hybrid HSE V6, so at least there isn’t a huge hybrid tax. Plus, the PHEV offers big potential for economy — with regular recharges, 31 miles of EV range is a good starting point for larger efficiency gains, to say nothing of the benefits of 140 extra pound-feet of torque. But again, I didn’t see real-world numbers anywhere near JLR’s claims for much of my testing. Plus, troubled by potential hiccups and reliability, I’m hesitant to actually recommend the P400e over the Range Rover’s proven V6 and V8 options.

https://www.cnet.com

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