What is it?
This is the new Range Rover Hybrid, which is claimed to deliver similar levels of off-road capability and durability to conventional models, but with a decently improved efficiency.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the headline figures. It’s claimed to average 44.1mpg and emit 169g/km of CO2. That’s a 17 per cent reduction in fuel consumption when compared to a Range Rover TDV6.
Land Rover’s new hybrid system combines the Range Rover’s familiar TDV6 diesel and a 35kW electric motor, which is integrated within the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. This creates a powertrain with peak output of 335bhp and 516lb ft of torque.
Pure electric range is around one mile at speeds of up to 30mph, and there is a regenerative system that harvests kinetic energy when the car is coasting or braking.
The hybrid system, including its lithium ion battery, adds less than 120kg to the kerb weight, which is now claimed to be 2394kg. Fully sealed and mounted within the existing structure, it does not compromise the Range Rover’s wading capacity or ground clearance.
No interior or spare tyre space is given up, either, and the battery is liquid rather than air-cooled to ensure no noise can ruin the calm of the cabin.
What’s it like?
With V6 diesel and electric motor at full tilt, the Range Rover Hybrid can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.9sec and on to a top speed of 135mph. Brisk enough – and it feels it, especially with the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox seamlessly shifting through the gears.
In default hybrid mode the electric motor operates to boost power and torque as required. Additionally, there are three selectable drive modes: EV, Auto Stop/Start Off and Sport. EV, as the name suggests, allows for a short period of electric-only driving when possible. Although its range is limited, it’s perhaps most useful for low speed or off-road work, when the instant torque comes in handy.
When it’s out of juice in electric drive mode, the diesel engine automatically – and seamlessly – fires up. In EV mode the Range Rover’s throttle response is also softened in order to reduce abrupt demands and save power. The ‘Auto Stop/Start Off’ mode forces the engine to run continuously, recharging the battery as quickly as possible should the need arise for more pure-electric driving.
Sport mode, meanwhile, optimises all powertrain settings for immediate throttle response and higher revs. Land Rover says this delivers SDV8-style performance.
Beyond the powertrain this is all Range Rover, in the best possible sense. On the road it feels like the conventional V6, but it moves off the line with much more conviction. Land Rover claims V8-like performance for the Hybrid, and it’s not unjustified in saying so. There’s plenty of punch and it’s certainly capable of delivering on the claimed performance figures.
The system hasn’t compromised the Range Rover’s refinement either. When coasting, the V6 engine cuts to save fuel, while restarts are all but imperceptible. The electric motor fills in gaps in the V6’s torque output as well, smoothing the power delivery and improving consistency above that of the conventional models.
Unlike some other hybrids, there’s no perceptible difference in braking feel, despite the transition from hybrid to friction braking. The Hybrid’s full electric power steering system is the same as found on the standard Range Rover, so the driving experience otherwise remains unchanged.
Off-road the driving techniques and experience are near enough identical to the V6 or V8 model, with first-class traction, clearance and climbing capabilities, and the hybrid’s high-voltage parts can be immersed in water without mishap – its wading depth is rated at 90cm, the same as the diesel.
One major benefit of the addition of the electric motor, however, is that it supplements the engine’s torque output at low speeds. Off-road this becomes particularly noticeable, delivering a much more natural and precise feel – to the extent that I wonder why most 4x4s don’t simply have it as a driving aid.
The EV function doesn’t work with the low-range mode or with the suspension in maximum elevation, mind, but it can contribute an additional 75lb ft at low speeds. This makes delicate approaches to big obstacles very easy.
Despite the contribution of the additional hybrid components, the weight increase is relatively minimal and any real differences as a result are negligible at best. Most of the extra components are fitted under the floor, on the right-hand side.
Inside, an electrically driven air-conditioning compressor ensures there’s no unwelcome warming when the engine is off, and the advanced trim level ensures that all the usual home comforts are here.
In fact, just about the only modification to the interior is a new TFT display, which shows the hybrid system’s charge status and advises the driver on how to maximise efficiency. It can either display a hybrid-focused power percentage meter and other hybrid information, or a more conventional display that primarily consists of a tachometer.
Should I buy one?
It’s hard to be sure about the Range Rover Hybrid until we are told the final price, which won’t happen until the Frankfurt motor show. Sources suggest, however, that it’ll be broadly similar to the 5.0-litre petrol Supercharged Range Rover, suggesting a price just south of £100,000.
It’s absolutely no hardship to opt for the hybrid over the more conventional options, however. It’s smoother, feels faster and more economical. Other than that, everything is as expected — and it retains the Range Rover’s first-class off-road capabilities.
The only difficulty would be in justifying the expected £30,000-odd price difference between the base V6 model and the hybrid.
As a result, it won’t be for everyone. But for those whose lifestyle and financial arrangements it does fit in to, it makes a very compelling case for itself.
Range Rover Hybrid
Price tbc; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 135mph; Economy 44.1mpg; CO2 169g/km; Kerb weight 2394kg; Engine 2993cc, V6, turbocharged diesel, plus electric motor; Power 355bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 1500rpm