RANGE ROVER AUTOBIOGRAPHY SHOCKS
Far from being a ‘greenie gimmick,’ this electrified off-roader is a harbinger of the future, writes Andrew McCredie.
With electrification of vehicles all the rage, it was only a matter of time until battery packs started showing up in under-floors of bona fide off-road vehicles.
Despite their luxury trappings and matching sticker prices, make no mistake: Range Rovers are off-road SUVs. In fact, there are only a handful of off-the-factory-floor vehicles that can match a Range Rover’s capability once pavement gives way to terra firma. And as the Land Rover brand has done since its inception, it has set a new high bar when it comes to integrating emerging technologies into allwheel-drive vehicles.
For 2018, the Range Rover lineup includes two all-new plugin hybrids (PHEVs): the Range Rover Autobiography P400e and the Range Rover Sport Autobiography P400e. This isn’t the first time a Range Rover has come with a hybrid system. In 2015 a European-spec model was available with a V-6 Diesel Hybrid powertrain, but it was sold in just a few markets, ostensibly to meet ever-increasing emission regulations.
These new 2018 models represent the first global hybrid Range Rover, and also the first time a plug-in hybrid has been produced by the brand. They also herald what promises to be an electrifying future for Jaguar Land Rover products, as the automaker has committed to offering an electrified powertrain option in all its new vehicles by 2020.
While attending the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, driving writers, along with a few select global automotive media outlets, were given the opportunity to test the new PHEVs in the downtown traffic of L.A. and also on a short, and somewhat demanding, off-road circuit in the canyons of Malibu country.
First some facts about the new Range Rover PHEVs and their parallel hybrid system. For power, there’s a 2.0-litre fourcylinder engine working with an 85 kW electric motor for an impressive combined output of 398 horsepower and 462 poundfeet of torque. That’s the same 2.0-L Ingenium gas engine available in the 2018 Jaguar F-Type. On a full charge, the PHEVs are reported to have an all-electric range of 51 kilometres.
The PHEVs also share all the upgrades and new features found in the gasoline-powered 2018 Range Rovers, from creature comforts to enhanced technologies. And the new InControl Touch Pro Duo features two high-definition 10-inch touch screens on the centre console that allow information to be swiped from one screen to the other.
Now to the drive. It didn’t take long to realize the Range Rover PHEV was unlike any Range Rover I’d ever driven. With ‘EV Only’ mode selected, I silently pulled out of the lobby of the downtown Intercontinental Hotel en route to Santa Monica, a 26-km drive west along Highway 10. With silent and seamless acceleration, the luxury SUV zipped off the on ramp and onto the highway. Smooth does not do the driving experience justice. Gas-powered Range Rovers are renowned for their comfortable ride and quiet cabin, but the PHEVs take that experience to an almost eerie level.
From Santa Monica it was up the coast to Malibu then up into the canyons in search of the off-road course. By this time the gas engine had kicked in, and as you’d expect from a four-cylinder engine, the sound was not intoxicating. Certainly nothing like its gas-powered stablemates, particularly the big supercharged Range Rover.
That said, the PHEV’s horsepower output is second only to that engine across the entire Range Rover lineup, so clearly the 2.0-L engine and electric motor have something going for them.
The off-road section was the one I was really looking forward to. Once the pavement gave way to dirt, however, it was apparent Range Rover had once again tapped into a technology that soon will be found in many, if not all, off-road vehicles (Jeep, I’m looking at you).
Though with just a couple of EV kilometres of range on the battery, I tackled the off-road course in EV Only mode. First and foremost, it was surreal to go up and over some pretty rugged single-track in silence, apart from the crunch of earth beneath the tires. Secondly, and more importantly, the big torque number provided by the electric motor proved ideal for the ascents. Combined with Range Rover’s tried-and-true computer-assisted off-road settings — essentially ranging from do it all yourself to sit back and steer with no pedal inputs — the electric powertrain performed flawlessly.
Far from being a ‘greenie gimmick,’ the 2018 Range Rover PHEV is a bona fide trail master, and one that rightfully belongs in the historic lineage of the iconic vehicles. All that remains to do now is somehow convince the vast majority of the people who buy one to take the world’s less-travelled paths.
The 2018 Range Rover PHEV represents the first electrified Land Rover model produced for global markets.