CHELSEA TRAC­TOR FOR ECOWAR­RIORS The Range Rover Hy­brid is a guilt­free drive – if you have the means, says

Neil Lyn­don

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

The snow­topped peaks of the Ochils in Perthshire were alight with pink sun­shine as I drove the new Range Rover Hy­brid into the heavenly off-road course that is owned and main­tained by Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel. It was with a fris­son of anx­i­ety, how­ever, that I looked out over the frozen bogs and the icy mires of sheep-tracks that the car and I now con­fronted. Af­ter the re­cent launch of this car, some re­ports emerged of alarm­ing fail­ures, with near to­tal break­downs, in the sup­ply of elec­tric power from its lithium-ion bat­tery and elec­tric mo­tor when the Hy­brid was wad­ing through wa­ter (a feat that would nor­mally be as com­fort­ably within the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a Range Rover as it is for a hippo). As the first Bri­tish jour­nal­ist to bor­row the Hy­brid ver­sion for a longer loan, there­fore, I con­fronted the pos­si­bil­ity of a long trudge through a win­ter wilder­ness if the elec­tric sup­ply failed. It would be im­pos­si­ble to get around with­out driv­ing into some wa­ter. But what if I couldn’t raise a sig­nal through the Blue­tooth con­nec­tion? What if the sys­tem couldn’t even power up the seat heaters while I waited to be res­cued? Hor­rors. In the event, the Hy­brid ne­go­ti­ated the cir­cuit with­out hes­i­ta­tion or even once sound­ing an alarm. With Pirelli all-sea­son tyres on its 20in al­loy wheels, the filthy bog wa­ter was barely lap­ping at its wheel arches. But, even so, the car was sub­jected to a far more ex­act­ing test than it would ever un­dergo in the hands of 99 per cent of its po­ten­tial pur­chasers. That’s es­pe­cially true given the fact that the nat­u­ral habi­tat for this near-£100,000 car is not the Perthshire hills but the streets of May­fair and Bev­erly Hills. As the first ever Range Rover with a CO2 emis­sions fig­ure lower than a dou­ble-decker bus, the Hy­brid is the guilt-free Chelsea Trac­tor. From the re­gal driv­ing po­si­tion in this car, you can look down on the rest of the world and swank your green cre­den­tials at the same time. It’s enough to drive ecowar­riors mad. Land-Rover says that it al­ways in­tended a hy­brid ver­sion to join the line-up for the lat­est Range Rover which first ap­peared in 2012, but such co­her­ent pur­pose is not en­tirely the im­pres­sion that the car gives in re­al­ity. Hes­i­ta­tions in the de­liv­ery of power and per­cep­ti­ble lumpi­ness in the switchover be­tween the 3-litre V6 diesel and the 35KW elec­tric mo­tor when the car is in mo­tion seem more like indi­ca­tions that the sys­tem hasn’t been fully de­vel­oped and ironed out. This was most wor­ry­ingly ev­i­dent at the point on a sharp in­cline where our drive meets a pub­lic road. Mov­ing my foot lightly from brake to throt­tle pedal caused the Hy­brid’s diesel en­gine to kick in on top of the silent elec­tric power and send the car lurch­ing into the road. Ev­ery­thing was fine – but might not have been. Such rough­nesses are un­usual among lux­ury hy­brids. All the other lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers – Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz – have poured such colos­sal in­vest­ments of money and man­power into de­vel­op­ing hy­brid tech­nol­ogy that the prod­ucts that emerged have tended to be, in ev­ery re­spect, the best-made cars that money can buy. For ex­am­ple, the lat­est hy­brid ver­sion Mercedes S-class – the S400 Hy­brid L – is ar­guably the most com­pletely de­sir­able ver­sion of the car that is presently the best in the world. Its 3.5-litre V6 petrol en­gine is so silent that switches of power to the elec­tric mo­tor are com­pletely in­tan­gi­ble. You have to keep an eye on the rev counter to know what’s hap­pen­ing. That gor­geous Mercedes is as fast as the Range Rover Hy­brid, emits less CO2, con­sumes less fuel Price (as tested): £98,430 Power: 340bhp + 35KW 0-60 mph: 6.5 sec­onds Top speed: 135mph Av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion: 44.1mpg (claimed); 34.7 (as tested) CO2 emis­sions: 169g/km Insurance group: 49 Star rat­ing (out of five stars): MERCEDES-BENZ S400 HY­BRID Price (as tested): £94,530 For: sub­lime is too weak aword Against: not much cop in mud Star rat­ing: LEXUS RX450H Price: £44,950-£55,495 For: makes brick out­house look flimsy Against: joy­less to drive Rat­ing: and is also sev­eral thou­sands cheaper. It can’t, how­ever, give you the price­less plea­sure of see­ing an ecow­ar­rior erupt with frus­trated rage; nor of wad­ing through frozen quag­mires.

High and mighty: from the Range Rover Hy­brid’s regal driv­ing po­si­tion you can look down on the rest of the world

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