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.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.