Will Tesla, GM, and Nissan Get a Second Shot at EV Tax Credits?


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A proposed expansion of the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit has become another polarizing issue, both for fiscal conservatives (“boondoggle … don’t need it”) and liberals and environmental advocates (“an important tool to slow climate change”). It is of greatest interest to Tesla and General Motors, which have already hit the cap. GM is still in the wind-down phase, with a maximum one-quarter credit, or $1,875, for the six months starting next month. Nissan will likely hit the cap in 2-3 years. Ford and Toyota may get there by 2025.

A proposal in front of Congress would expand the tax credit by another 400,000 vehicles per automaker for a total of 600,000. The maximum tax credit would become $7,000, not $7,500, and it would continue t0 apply to purely electric vehicles as well as to plug-in hybrids, but not to hybrids that only go a mile or two on battery power.

Tesla and GM are already over the current cap of 200,000 vehicles eligible for a $7,500 (max) federal tax credit. The site evadoption.com estimates Nissan will get there in 2022 or 2023.

Bill Before Congress

Tax credits for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have been available since 2010. Tesla, by far the largest seller of EVs in the US, has maxed out is tax credit allocation, and General Motors is winding down its tax credits during a 12-month phaseout period. (See below for more details.)

In April, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Susan Collins (R-ME), along with Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), introduced the Driving America Forward Act that would extend the phaseout of the federal EV tax credit.  The legislation, if enacted, could include cars purchased between the phaseouts for Tesla and GM. Or not. Or it could be a partial credit, as people bought with little expectation of getting tax credit money. (But legislation with no provision for interim-period credits would drive EV sales close to zero in the months before passage.)

Proponents say the tax credits help drive buyers toward cleaner electrified vehicles during the period when battery technology is still costly. They note the government subsidizes other forms of energy-reducing transportation such as buses and commuter rail. There are subsidies for rebates for efficient houses, furnaces, appliances, and even light bulbs. (Some LED bulbs after energy company rebates are little more than $1 a bulb.)

While critics blame President Obama, the tax credit was passed in the George W. Bush administration, in the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008.

“Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years,” a Sept. 3 Wall Street Journal charges.

“It’s hard to imagine a more blatant income transfer for the well-to-do,” says a Sept. 3 Wall Street Journal, adding, “Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years.” Critics of EV tax credits include people who say the government shouldn’t be in the business of shaping buying decisions. Others — fewer each year — say climate change/global warming is a hoax. The foes got a boost this week with a Wall Street Journal lead editorial, “Subsidize My Electric Car, Please,” that claimed the tax credits mainly benefit the wealthy and that market forces should decide the fate of EVs.  Separately, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) sent a letter to GOP senators urging them not to extend the EV tax credit.

Pro-EV credits people say the WSJ editorial made assertions that bear Snopes-style fact-checking, such as that “Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years” and claiming it’s a “blatant income transfer for the well-to-do [of EVs, which have] a starting price of around $36,000.” Facts are slippery things. The feds have underwritten energy research (many kinds) for decades, but the first EV/PHEV credits weren’t until 2010. The average vehicle in 2018 sold for about $38,000 (per Kelly Blue Book), including options. Also, while four in five EVs sell to people with household incomes over $100,000 (in 2016), many were higher-priced Teslas like the Model S and X. Also, the majority of EV transactions are leases where it’s hard to determine income.

A more valuable piece of information would be to know the income of people acquiring mainstream EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf, Chevrolet Bolt EV, and Hyundai Kona Electric.

If legislation does pass — and it is not currently being fast-tracked — it’s possible the backers might agree to a reduced or zero tax credit for costly EVs. If somebody buys or leases a Porsche Taycan EV — starting price $152,000 — it’s safe to say they are not in the mainstream of American wage-earners. Legislation also faces uncertain odds of being signed by the President. EV credits flow especially to staunch blue states such as California more than, say, West Virginia (the reddest state of the 2016 election). For tax credit backers, the long game may be waiting to see which way the nation votes in 2020. If the Senate, House, and President all go Democratic, the odds of a tax credit reinstatement are higher. The winning arguments may revolve around climate change issues and supporting new technologies.

For 2019, however, the No. 1 automotive/climate change discussion revolves around how much control California and a dozen other states have in setting their own pollution rules. For decades, California, because of its unique pollution issues especially in the Los Angeles basin, has had the choice of following federal air pollution regulations or setting its own. Thirteen other states have chosen to use California’s emissions rules: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

In July, four automakers cut a deal with California to adopt even tougher tailpipe emission rules. That effectively snubbed President Trump’s goal of a standards rollback.

Rules for the EV Tax Credit

The tax credit for an EV has several rules. They’re not hard to understand once you grasp it’s a credit on taxes you’d otherwise owe. It’s not a check, and it’s not always $7,500. To qualify for a tax credit:

  • It must be an electrified vehicle with a battery of at least 4 kilowatt-hours capacity, which is another way of saying hybrids such as the Toyota Prius do not qualify. Also, it must be capable of being charged by an external electric source, meaning it can’t just be recharged by the combustion engine or brake regeneration. It can’t weigh more than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (the latter not a problem for passenger cars or even the biggest SUVs or pickups).
  • The full credit, $7,500, requires at least a 16 kWh battery. Cars with 4-16 kWh get partial credit. See the EPA fuel economy site for specific-car info.
  • Traditional hybrids already had their own tax-credit program. It’s gone, it’s not likely to come back, and hybrids sometimes cost only $1,000 more than gasoline-only versions. That means there’s little need for a tax credit, since the buyer may well earn back the cost delta over a couple of years.
  • It’s a tax credit, not a tax refund or other check from Uncle Sam. This is good because a tax credit is worth more than money back, on which you’d then typically owe taxes. But you have to owe taxes to get a tax credit and you have to owe taxes in the calendar year you bought the car. If you want a $7,500 credit, you need to owe $7,500 in taxes (over the course of the year, not the extra you might owe April 15.) It is not good if you don’t owe taxes, but then, most Americans would be happy to trade places with you assuming you’ve figured how to not pay taxes and still afford a new car.
  • The tax credit accrues to whoever bought the car. If you leased the car, the credit goes to the leasing company (or whoever holds title) and you should see a $7,500 offset in the implied priced of the car. If you didn’t get it, find someplace else to lease.
  • A dealer demo doesn’t count when you buy it almost-new, but the dealer should be figuring the credit into what it sells the car for. There is one credit per qualifying car, and it applies to the first purchaser.
  • When an automaker reaches 200,000 cumulative sales (counting from January 2010), the tax credit phases out, gradually:
    – The quarter that automaker hits 200,000 doesn’t count, nor does the quarter following. If an automaker hit 200,000 this month (September 2019), the third and four quarters would be full-tax-credit quarters.
    –  The following two quarters, the buyer is eligible for a half-credit, or up to $3,750.
    – The next two quarters, it’s a one-quarter credit, or up to $1,875.
    – Then the credit goes away (unless The Congress acts).

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Porsche Taycan EV Sedan Debuts: $152,250 and Up, 670 hp, 0-60 in 3 seconds


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Game on, Tesla. The Porsche Taycan EV sedan unveiled Wednesday (Sept. 4) in advance of the Frankfurt auto show is a vehicle of superlatives, a low-slung sedan with speed, handling, and most of all, the Porsche name. It will cost half again as much as a Tesla Model S Performance model, a plus for early buyers with deep pockets who want to show off, and later on a challenge because there’s a limit to how many super-costly cars the market can absorb.

According to the trio of worldwide announcements — in China, in Europe and in Niagara Falls, Ontario — the Taycan Turbo will be $152,250 in the US (including freight), while the Taycan Turbo S will be $186,350 with launch-special pricing, after which they go up an additional $2,410 and $2,610. The “Turbo” part of the name is a misnomer (the Taycans are electric-only vehicles) but why not: There’s enough BS already floating around the high end of the EV business. What’s a little more among friends?

The Porsche Taycan, here in its side view, looks like the Panamera.

Mission E Comes to Life

The 2020 Porsche Taycan evolved from the concept car called the Mission E that was unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show. The Mission E-now-Taycan is Porsche’s first electric except for a couple dating back a century. In silhouette, it looks a lot like the Porsche Panamera sedan.

The Taycan is an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a motor for the front axle and a second for the rear axle. The Taycan uses an 800-volt electrical architecture with the possibility of lightning-fast recharges at the right charge-points. It is the same electrical architecture as the Audi e-Tron GT. Porsche says it takes just 22.5 minutes to run up the battery from 5 percent to 80 percent with a DC fast charger that produces 270 kW of power, under ideal conditions. (Tesla says it takes 20 minutes to charge to 50 percent, using a 150-kW Supercharger.) Charge times can be reduced if the owner sets a departure time into their phone app and the battery will be warmed or chilled, depending on ambient conditions, prior to charging. US-bound Taycans will get free charging (the first 30 minutes) for three years through Electrify America.

Inside, there’s a 16.8-inch LCD instrument panel, a center stack LCD smaller than Tesla’s, and an optional passenger-facing LCD display for entertainment. It can’t be seen by the driver. As on the Panamera, the center console is chock full of gauges and switches and extends almost to the back seat.

The Taycan and solar panels.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S

Both the Taycan and Model S are low-slung midsize sedans with two seating rows and four doors. Many dimensions are similar: 195.4 inches long (Porsche) versus 195.7 (Tesla Model S), and width is about 77 inches for both. But Tesla is markedly taller, 56.9 inches versus 54.3 inches, with a longer wheelbase (116.5 versus 114.2 inches) for a smoother ride. Tesla also has more trunk space, 28.4 cubic feet rear and front combined versus 16.8 cubic feet. If you’re going on vacation, the two are competitive — if you, as a Porsche owner, use FedEx second-day for your golf clubs.

Looking at the high ends of the line, the Taycan Turbo S battery is 93.4 kWh, the Tesla Model S Performance is 100 kWh. Both battery packs are under the floor. Porsche projects a range of 265 miles using the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) methodology versus 365 miles for Tesla. (WLTP figures are about 10 percent more optimistic than EPA numbers.)  Car and Driver estimates 260-270 miles for the Turbo and 225-250 for the Turbo S.

Porsche rates the Taycan at 617 hp (751 hp for a 2.5-second overboost acceleration) while Tesla is rated at around 760 hp. Porsche claims 3.0-3.5 seconds 0-60 mph for the Turbo and less than 3 seconds for the Turbo S, both versus 2.4 for Tesla’s Model S Performance. Porsche’s top speed is 162 mph (260 kph); Tesla’s is 161.

Porsche has the bigger instrument panel LCD, Tesla has the bigger center stack display, and Porsche has an optional LCD for passenger entertainment and control. Tesla has semi-autonomous (Level 2) Autopilot self-driving.

One difference is modernity: The Tesla Model S interior feels dated. It has been around since 2012 with continual improvements and is still the same basic car.

Porsche Taycan cockpit

Why Porsche Did It: The Future Is Electric

From the perspective of the US, the idea of climate change may be still in doubt — in some minds, at least. Thus the comparatively lower interest in electrified vehicles here. The long distances across the US are more suited currently to a combustion-engine cross-country drive: From Stuttgart, home of Porsche, to Moscow is less in kilometers (2,400) than from Silicon Valley to Manhattan is in miles (3,000). But the world’s automakers are convinced they have to electrify, which means more EVs and more charging points every year. And they also know that nothing provides performance like an electric-motor vehicle.

Porsche Taycan instrument panel: 16.8-inch LCD.

Volkswagen last fall said its next generation of combustion engines, rolling out in 2026, will be its last new combustion engines ever. (With modifications, that could still be two more decades.) Porsche is part of Volkswagen.

Since the Taycan price is high, there’s already talk (among analysts and journalists) that Porsche might do a rear-drive model only to bring the price further below $100,000. To some, that would be the ideal commuter car, since it’d be eligible for an HOV sticker.

Tesla legitimized the EV market. Porsche adds an honored nameplate. Interest in high-performance EVs may grow the market and help those automakers already with great vehicles that haven’t yet caught the public eye, particularly the Jaguar I-Pace. With Porsche coming to market along with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW can’t be far behind.

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2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar Review: the PHEV Path to High Performance


The new Volvo XC60 Polestar Engineered is how other future performance cars should be propelled, as long as we have combustion engines: with help from electric booster motors in addition to turbochargers and superchargers. That is the case with the 2020 Volvo T8 XC60 eAWD Polestar-Engineered, a compact SUV with a big name, meant to compete with the Audi SQ5, BMW X3 M, Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, and even the Porsche Macan S.

For $70,000, you get a car that’s fast, safe, roomy for four, and tastefully appointed inside. This plug-in hybrid EV is good for about 17 miles on battery alone, with the battery caching enough electricity to take you from zero to 60 mph in as little five seconds. The XC60 PE runs $30,000 more than the entry XC60, much of the extra cost from equipment made standard and the rest from PHEV technology and go-fast parts.

XC60 PE on the Road

The XC60 Polestar Engineered retains much of the ride smoothness, cabin amenities, and driver assists of the second-generation XC60 that debuted a year ago. It is a lot faster, the PE’s 11.6-kWh battery lets you drive electrically in HOV lanes without the burden of carpool passengers, and the optional 22-inch wheels and 35-series tires will be pothole magnets outside Florida and Arizona. This test drive, however, was scenic Banff in the Canadian Rockies. Canada, apparently, has built a border wall that keeps out American-style potholes.

When you tromp the throttle to pass, the XC60 responds very quickly. Volvo cites the 5-second 0-60 time; I was able to get down to 6 seconds on a private airfield made available to Volvo, but had to abort the last and seemingly best run because a private plane was landing at the other end. (The cars, the plane, and the makeshift tower were in radio contact.) On slalom and emergency braking courses, there was very little body roll in testing, and the Akebono brakes hauled the car down from near-double-digit speeds while maintaining a straight line. Under the hood are user-adjustable Swedish Ohlins shock absorbers you can dial in to 20-some settings by opening the hood and turning the gold-colored knob at the top of the shock tower. In doing this Volvo stepped back from adaptive suspensions that adjust the ride and handling multiple times a second. I’m not sure this is an improvement for most drivers.

There are six drive modes accessed by a shiny console roller wheel (that is a bit slippery) and that controls engine, transmission, steering, brakes, stability control, and auto start/stop functions, including Hybrid, Pure (prioritizes battery operation), Power, AWD, Off-Road, and Individual. A Hold-and-Charge button maintains the current battery level for later use (Hold) or brings the battery up to a fixed level (Charge). The PE model also has the crystal starter knob but not the Orrefors crystal shifter that, to some, brings ostentation into the cockpit (and then got copycatted by BMW).

Volvo put a lot of work into smoothing the transition from electric to gas-only driving and back, as well as to the braking transition from power regeneration to friction.

Back-seat passengers have reasonable room and supportive seats. They only thing they might wish for is their own USB jacks, an oversight on any 2020 car, let alone one at this price point.

Unlike a lot of sporty cars and SUVs, the XC60 Polestar Engineered never rides harshly.

Tech and Safety Features

It’s a Volvo. It’s safe. End of discussion. If you must know, safety includes the following:

Volvo On Call (telematics), roll stability control, electronic stability control, lane keeping aid, drowsy/distracted driver alert control, oncoming lane mitigation, road sign information, automatic braking after collision, run-off road mitigation, run-off road protection, collapsible steering column, safety belt pre-tensioners, safety belt load limiters, automatic unlocking after collision, collapsible brake pedal, city safety (includes accident avoidance or mitigation with 37 mph speed difference), intersection auto brake, pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection with auto brake & brake support, energy absorbing seat cushions, front, side & knee airbags, inflatable curtain airbags, anti-submarining protection in seat design, forward collision warning (including short brake pulse. audible warning signal, warning in driver display or head-up display).

Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system is very good, keeping the car centered while maintaining a set speed or pacing the car in front. A Level 2 autonomous car by definition must have adaptive cruise control and lane centering assist.

Other driver assists include lane centering assist and blind-spot detection (blind-spot information system) with steer assist that provides counter-steering when trying to merge into a nearby vehicle’s path and oncoming lane mitigation that tries to avoid a collision if you drift in the path of an oncoming vehicle, at anywhere from 37 to 87 mph. Basically: It reacts before you might, you can always overcome the force, and you don’t have to arm-wrestle the wheel the way you do with BMW’s over-active steering corrections.

The instrument panel is a 12.3-inch LCD (“Digital Driver Display,” now standard at Volvo), and the 9-inch center stack, portrait-orientation center touchscreen (“Sensus Connect”) continues. Some owners and reviewers ding Sensus Connect for complexity. The main trick to Sensus karma is remembering if you don’t see what you want, swipe left or right for two additional screens.

Seventy large gets you gold seatbelts with the XC60 Polestar Engineered.

Polestar: How You Beat Volvo’s 112 mph Cap

The XC60 Polestar adjuster knob on the Ohlins shocks is also gold.

Polestar is Volvo’s performance sub-brand, a joint venture of Volvo and Volvo parent Geely. Polestar will be an electrified performance brand. Its first two vehicles are Polestar 1, a “low-volume electric performance [plug-in] hybrid GT,” with 600 hp and a battery range of 93 miles (150 km), and Polestar 2, an EV-only vehicle competing with Tesla Model 3. Polestar Engineered will apply performance techniques to new Volvos such as the XC60 PE here, but also as performance and software tweaks for existing Volvos. And there is a related Polestar Racing team.

When Volvo announced would cap top speeds at 112 mph (180 km/h) in 2021, in the interests of higher safety and lower energy consumption, Polestar was not subjected to the mandate. Otherwise, Volvo would be competing with one hand tied behind its back against the performance models from Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. The SQ5 and MB-AMG GLC top out at 155 mph, the Macan S at 157, and the X3 M at 174, for instance. The XC60 Polestar Engineered will reach 140 mph. Close enough.

Volvo XC60 Models and Trims

The XC60 Polestar Engineered sits atop the XC60 food chain. Except for the XC60 PE, there are three four-cylinder engine choices: T5 turbocharged with 250 hp, T6 turbocharged and supercharged with 316 hp, and T8 turbocharged, supercharged plus an electric motor, with 400 hp, or 415 hp for the Polestar Engineered.

The trim lines and variants are:

XC60 Momentum, $41,790-$55,590 base prices (plus packages and options). On all trim lines, front-drive is for the T5 only and AWD adds $2,300, T6 AWD adds another $3,500, and T8 eAWD adds $8,000.

XC60 R-Design, $48,490-$62,290 base prices for the four engine/drivetrain variants. This is the sporty model. The T8 R-Design comes pretty close to the Polestar Engineered model.

XC60 Inscription, $48,490-$62,290 base prices. This is the luxury model.

XC60 eAWD Polestar Engineered, $70,495. The is the high-performance sport model (reviewed here) and comes standard with all-wheel-drive, the T8 engine, and the features optional on other XC60s. The only options are 21- or 22-inch wheels instead of the stock 20s, and $645 for most paint colors.

Should You Buy?

While the Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered runs $30,000 more than the cheapest XC60, it runs a more reasonable $8,205 over the R-Design T8 PHEV and is in line with what the competition charges for its highest-performance compact SUVs. Recharge time at a Level 2 charger is a decent 2.5 hours. The same supplied cable also does 120 volts at home.

Among premium compact SUVs, if you want the efficiency of a plug-in hybrid, or you want the ability to get in HOV lanes with only you in the car, the XC60 Polestar Engineered does the trick, as do the mainstream Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription with the T8 PHEV powerplant.

If you want all-out performance, then look also at the BMW X3 or X3 M, arguably the best premium compact SUV on the road today, along with the Audi Q5 / SQ 5, and the Porsche Macan / Macan S. Most of them will be getting plug-in hybrid variants over the next year or two, both because it’s one way to wring more power from four-cylinder engines, and because it helps the automaker’s corporate average fuel economy numbers. Also, buyers in this demographic want efficient cars. The Lexus NX is interesting because it offers a hybrid version, though critics say it’s not as refined as other Lexus hybrids.

Shop and test drive the new XC60s as well. The famous names have trackable SUVs and now Volvo does. If you want performance, definitely look to the Polestar Engineered version, as well as the T8 version of the XC60 R-Design, which is effectively Polestar Lite and $8K cheaper, but you don’t get gold seatbelts or brake calipers.

Do not buy the 21- or 22-inch wheel option unless you also spring $1,000 for tire/wheel damage insurance, or you live in a state that doesn’t see snow. The twenties are good enough.

In addition to the usual buy-or-lease choices, check out Care by Volvo, a subscription service (yes, CBV sounds like an extended maintenance and warranty program, but it isn’t) that lets you get a new Volvo for a year, swap for a second Volvo for a year, then end the program, or continue with another car. Care by Volvo covers all costs outside of gas and tolls, including insurance. If the carrier (Liberty Mutual) approves you, you pay the same as everyone else does for the car, for instance, $750 a month for an XC60 Momentum. You can do most of your shopping online and only see the dealer for paperwork and delivery.

One final buying tip: Before seeing the 2020 Volvo lineup, I was not a fan of light-colored interiors because they’re a bear to keep clean if you have kids or pets, if you eat in the car, or if you do Subaru-like things (kayak, camp, mountain-climb) that track in dirt. But Volvo SUVs with blonde interiors – light-colored seats and interior trim – are dazzling, worth a look (especially the XC90 with second-row captain’s chairs), and worth the extra cleaning.

Who knows blonde better than the Swedes? The light upholstery (here in the six-passenger XC90) makes the cabin light and airy.

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2019 Range Rover Sport HSE P400e Hybrid Review: The Premier Off-Roader Conquers the HOV Lane


Land Rover’s 2019 Range Rover Sport HSE P400e is a big, roomy plug-in hybrid SUV. A battery motivates its 5,500 pounds for about 25 miles before handing off to a turbo-four-cylinder engine, at which point the battery still providing reserve electric power under acceleration.

The HSE costs a ton, the driver’s seat is not for small people, and a full recharge takes 14 hours or more if you use 120-volt current. But how many competing vehicles can go seriously off-road, ford almost three feet of water while occupants sit on buttery leather massaging seats … and the P400e gives you entrée to HOV lanes because it’s a plug-in?

The Plug-In on the Road

My P400e test car, in Firenze Red with a black contrasting roof, was cat-quick. In testing, I got all 5,450 pounds motivated to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. On highways, the air suspension gave the P400e a comfortable ride. Four-wheel-drive is standard, along with a Terrain Response system and multiple off-road modes. Going off-road (dirt, small rocks, no boulders), the air springs can raise the car’s undercarriage 10.9 inches above the ground. Most passenger cars and on-road SUVs are in the realm of 6-8 inches. Adding in almost $13,000 in packages, options and freight, the $79,000 P400e ran $93,200 as tested. You will be eligible for an estimated $7,100 federal tax credit.

Push hard on the throttle and cabin noise increases a bit, but it wasn’t harsh. The NiMH battery under the rear load floor always retains enough capacity to act as a second turbocharger. And as long as there’s battery power, you can press the EV button to shift to battery-only mode, but the car slips back to combustion engine/hybrid drive if you call for more power, or to save some juice for later.

EPA figures haven’t been released yet. In a full day of city/suburban driving or commuting, say 50 miles, you might get in the 40s (MPGe, e for equivalent). On a pair of 250-mile drives starting with a full charge, I got in the mid-20s, and even at the end the electric motor still kicked in for passing. My best effort at EV-only driving was 28 miles. A couple of issues: There was an overnight charge that netted no more than 15 miles range, and another where I shut down during a utility company power failure because it’s a money-losing proposition for the home generator to burn natural gas to charge a battery at a cost higher than burning gasoline in the engine. (Home-generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity costs about 40 cents; the local power company sells it for 13 cents.)

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) controls are big and easy to use, particularly the large resume button. The glossy finish makes them look slippery but with the driver’s hand on the wheel, it’s not a problem. Others should steal (“adapt”) RR’s design.

Excellent Driver Controls

I was impressed by the steering wheel controls for the full-range adaptive cruise control system. The buttons are big, legible, and the most important one — Resume — is the largest and easiest to find after you accidentally tapped the brake and want to resume auto-piloting. The Touch Pro Duo twin 10-inch displays in the center stack also work well. There is a learning curve, after which some aspects are genius: tap the rubber-edged knob in the HVAC cluster and it sets cabin temperature; tap it again and it adjusts seat cooling (counterclockwise) and heating (clockwise). The Meridian audio with 825-watt amp sounded excellent. Wi-Fi is built-in as part of telematics.

Possible drawbacks in the cabin: Drivers 5-foot-6 and under, meaning the majority of women, will want to sit in the driver seat in the showroom to make sure the seat cushion isn’t too long. While the first two rows are both spacious, load capacity is fair: 24.8 cubic feet or 56.8 cubic feet with the second row down, 2.7 cubic feet less than other models because the battery raises the load floor 1.8 inches.

The PHEV Range Rover Sport has a 13.1-kWh LiIon battery in the load floor. The onboard charger is in the front grille. Using 120-volt power, the recharge takes “as little as 14 hours,” and sometimes takes more. Spring for the 240-volt Level 2 32-amp Level 2 charger.

Technology for a Price

My test car had a lot of technology. Some of it is included (the HSE in the name standard for high specification equipment), such as air suspension. Even for a premium car, however, the driver assists were pricey. The $4,000 Driver Assist Pack is built around full-range adaptive cruise control lane departure warning/lane centering assist, and forward-collision warning/braking, which on Hondas and Toyotas are part of the base price. The assist pack also includes blind-spot assist (detection is standard), parking assist, and surround-view cameras. Every part worked well. With ACC and lane centering enabled, you could let the car drive itself — Level 2 automation — with your heads lightly on the wheel and your eyes still watching the road.

My car also had a Vision Assist Pack for $1,385 that combines the cosmetic (ambient interior lighting), simple technology (auto high beams), and significant technology (head-up display). It also had a Climate Comfort Pack for $1,635 with a heated steering wheel (for eighty large base sticker price, maybe it should be included, and sorry about that for South Florida buyers), a refrigerator in the center console (now that’s handy), a panoramic roof, and four-zone HVAC. Nine standalone options added $5,885, notably those front/rear cooled and heated seats; premium paint on the body; a separate black finish on the roof ($665); and the most reasonable option at $135, a 120-volt AC outlet, another ought-to-be standard.

But: If you gripe about, say, the AC power adapter being a cost-adder, you are not a luxury car candidate. (That or you have the not-unreasonable notion every big premium SUV should have AC power on tap.) You must know you and the sales associate will find ten grand in need-to-have options. It’s how the game is played and, anyway, a premium-auto dealership serves a nicer cup of Keurig. At least Land Rover doesn’t nick you $80 a year to rent Apple CarPlay the way BMW does. It also has Android Auto, plus USB jacks and satellite radio.

The P400e plug-in hybrid comes with air suspension, adaptive dynamics, 20-inch alloy wheels, surround-view cameras, blind-spot detection, driver awareness monitor, traffic sign recognition, LED headlamps, and “Windsor Leather” seats.

JLR Expands Its Lineup

Jaguar-Land Rover is pushing to grow its technological and environmental presence in a time of increased fuel-efficiency and clean-air mandates around the world, give or take the US. No surprise: 5,000-pound SUVs don’t get 40 mpg, not even 30, without help. The rest of the world is cracking down on fuel consumption by setting caps on CO2, a contributor to climate change, which is generated in proportion to how much gas or diesel you burn.

Thus the plug-in hybrid Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE P400e – yes, that is a long name, 39 characters in all. The PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) gives the company six Range Rover Sport variants of 254 hp to 567 hp: two V6 gas turbo engines, two V8 supercharged engines, a V6 turbo-diesel, and now the 398-hp plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle. Land Rover remains one of the last suppliers of diesel-engine vehicles in the US (about 30 mpg on the highway, more than 650 miles range).

Land Rover 2019 Range Rover Sport HSE P400e. The Range Sport is 192 inches long, the Range Rover is 197 inches, and the Range Rover Long Wheelbase is 205 inches

Which Land Rover Is Which?

Everybody knows Land Rover stands for vehicles that go over rocks and through streams and is at home at polo matches. But why are there six models called Range Rover? Here’s a spotter’s guide. First, “Land Rover” is the umbrella brand, the SUV part of Jaguar-Land Rover USA. Range Rover is the prefix term for many of the models, Land Rover for the others.

2020 Ranger Rover Evoque. The outgoing Gen 1 dated to 2012..

The vehicle tested here is the PHEV version of the Range Rover Sport, a mid-size SUV at 192 inches long; it weighs 4,755 to 5,430 pounds, with the PHEV the heaviest by 285 to 695 pounds. Range Rover Sport is 5 inches shorter than the Range Rover (197 inches) and 13 inches shorter than Range Rover Long Wheelbase (205 inches). The Range Rover is the pinnacle of Land Rover luxury and size and runs $92,000 to $210,000 (for the Range Rover SV Autobiography).

The value-oriented Land Rover Discovery Sport (181 inches) and Discovery (196 inches, available with two or three rows of seating) start at about $40,000 for the Sport with a turbo four.

The Range Rover Evoque is a compact SUV, 172 inches long; it’s the stylized one with small windows. It has an aura of a city car for young urban dwellers, although it does have four-wheel-drive. It’s long in the tooth, but the second generation (photo) arrives shortly as a 2020 model.

2020 Land Rover Defender, under test in the UAE.

The Range Rover Velar is a compact-almost-midsize at 189 inches. Velar came out in 2018 and the looks say baby Range Rover. It’s two rows/five passengers only, the base engine is a turbo-four, and prices start around $50,000.

Coming in 2020 is a return of the tallish Land Rover Defender models: Defender 90 (170 inches, close in size to Jeep Wrangler by way of reference), Defender 110 (187 inches) and Defender 130 (201 inches). As for Defender’s role, think serious off-roading, think “Out of Africa” (never mind the book was published in 1937, three decades before the first Range Rover), think Ralph Lauren photo shoots. Or to be more 21st century appropriate, the Range Rover image is driving the Red Cross into disaster-ravaged areas. Actually, the Red Cross has been helping LR test the Defender in the UAE, a nice tie-in for both.

Range Rover Sport offers a wealth of interior fabrics and trims, some restrained, a handful pretty bold.

Should You Buy the P400e?

The 2019 Range Rover Sport HSE P400e is thinly available in the US at the moment, since demand is so high elsewhere, with the modest USA allotment set aside for media testers, promotions, and the like. The availability improves with the similar 2020 model arriving soon. Hold on a month or two.

When you’re paying at least $80,000, the choice in a premium vehicle is as much how you feel about the vehicle’s aura and how it looks in your driveway, in addition to how it goes on- and off-road. There is little question the Range Rover Sport is desirable, especially if you do go off-roading or tow 5,000-plus pounds. It is the premium off-roading benchmark. In some ways, the scarcer the vehicle, the more desirable. The entire Land Rover line will sell about 100,000 vehicles this year in the US. A comparative handful will be the P400e. As with any Range Rover, the cockpit furnishings are first-class. Nobody cut corners.

You might hope that a hundred-thousand-dollar vehicle would be solid on reliability. That is not Land Rover’s forte. On the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) measuring reliability at three years, Land Rover ranks 30th of 31 brands, ahead of only Fiat. It’s not a British thing because Mini, long near the bottom, is now sixth.

Another way to look at reliability: Low-rated 2019 vehicles are reliable compared with the average car of a generation ago. The average three-year-old car has 1.4 reported problems on VDS where Land Rovers have 2.2. Also, if you can afford a Land Rover, it’s probably not your only car, and the dealer’s going to give you a loaner when you come in for work. But still: Among the key competition, Lexus, Porsche, BMW, and Audi are in the top 10 and Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz are above average, while only Lincoln, Cadillac and Volvo are below average. (For the first time in VDS history, every German car was ranked above average, and the Porsche 911, not exactly a simple vehicle, is the most dependable car, rated more reliable even than, say, the Toyota Camry or Corolla.)

You may not get 31 miles on battery — that’s based on the more generous European standards –but 25 is attainable and there’s always battery reserve to boost performance. Which it does when you tromp the throttle. First and second-row passengers will all be comfortable and all can have those ventilated seats. Other Range Rover Sports offer three rows, but not the P400e, and row three is snug in any midsize SUV.

The competition by the end of the year for compact to full-size electrified vehicles includes the $80,000 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, the $70,000 Lincoln Aviator PHEV, the $54,000 Volvo XC60 and $67,000 XC90 PHEVs, the $51,000 Mercedes-Benz GLC350e, and the $74,800 Audi E-tron all-electric. BMW will have X3, X5 and X7 plug-ins by 2020. Then then there’s the best-selling EV SUV, the Tesla Model X. The Jaguar i-Pace pure-electric is our reigning Car of the Year; it’s a compact SUV, much snugger in the second row than the P400e.

Some in the US  say climate change is in doubt, but what’s not in doubt is this: When you drive a plug-in hybrid, you get a high occupancy vehicle sticker for the expressway. That could be the tipping-point reason to go with this Range Rover.

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