Far from be­ing a ‘gree­nie gim­mick,’ this elec­tri­fied off-roader is a har­bin­ger of the fu­ture, writes An­drew McCredie.

Regina Leader-Post - - DRIVING - Driving.ca

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.

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