The sporty Range Rover hybrid
Whereas the plug-in hybrid powertrain was once defined by quirky econo-cars like Toyota’s Prius, luxury automakers are increasingly seeing it as both a credible alternative to dirty diesels and a viable halfway house to full battery-electric vehicles. It promises energy-efficient driving with fewer nasty particulates out the tailpipe, and no range anxiety. It’s the best of all worlds, then. At least, that’s how Land Rover would like you to regard the 2019 Range Rover Sport P400e.
The P400e made its debut as part of the mildly restyled Range Rover Sport lineup unveiled early this year. Exterior upgrades include new headlights, grille, and front bumper, and new rear lights and bumper with integrated exhaust outlets. Inside are new front seats and a redesigned center stack with the high-tech dual-screen layout first seen in the Range Rover Velar.
The P400e’s hybrid powertrain comprises a 296-hp version of JLR’s 2.0-liter Ingenium turbo I-4 gas engine and a 114-hp e-motor fed by a 13.1-kW-hr lithium-ion battery mounted under the rear loadspace floor. Total system output is 398 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, making the P400e more powerful than the diesel and V-6-powered Sport models, and, in terms of torque output, second only to the head-banging 174-mph (280-km/h) Sport SVR. Land Rover claims a 0–60 mph acceleration time of 6.3 seconds, 1.1 seconds less than that of the diesel-powered Sport HSE Td6 and half a second quicker than either supercharged V-6 Sport, despite a 350-pound (159-kg) weight disadvantage due to the battery pack.
Available only in HSE trim, the $79,295 USD P400e is more expensive than similarly specified diesel or V-6 models. Putting a premium on performance makes sense, on paper. But is the Range Rover Sport HSE P400e really worth $3,950 USD more than the 254-hp Sport HSE Td6 and $5,950 USD more than the 340-hp V-6-powered Sport HSE? After more than 600 miles behind the wheel of a P400e, this much is clear: The answer to that question depends very much on how and where you drive it.
The hybrid powertrain mixes and matches electric and internal combustion power to meet load demands. Lift off the gas, and the little four-banger under the hood promptly shuts down, activating mild regen while coasting that increases with braking. When a destination is entered into the nav system, the P400e’s electronic neural network factors in traffic conditions, the gradient of the route, and whether it’s operating in a rural or urban environment, to deliver the most efficient combination of power modes.
Flick the transmission into sport mode, and the engine opportunistically pumps additional charge into the battery to ensure the e-motor is always ready to deliver extra power and torque and boost performance. The Save mode, selected via the central touchscreen, preserves the battery’s charge level to allow the P400e to operate in pure EV mode—selected via a button on the center console—or drive for extended periods on the e-motor under light throttle loads.
There’s a lot going on, a bogglingly complex interplay of data and energy flows, under the skin of the P400e, but you’re barely aware of it behind the wheel. What you do notice is that the PHEV powertrain feels more responsive than the 3.0-liter diesel engine, especially with the transmission in Sport mode, and generally smoother than the supercharged V-6. The one thing the Range Rover Sport P400e doesn’t feel like: A 5448-pound (2,471-kg) SUV with a four-cylinder engine under the hood.
The P400e’s party trick, of course, is its ability to waft down the road under smooth, silent electric power. Maximum range, according to Land Rover, is 31 miles (50 km), but as in a gasoline-powered car, your mileage may vary. A peak-hour crosstown drive to and from Motor Trend‘s London office that started with a full gas tank and a fully charged battery saw the internal combustion engine begin to fire up consistently after just 18 miles (28 km) in brutal stop-and-go traffic. The ultra-slow speed of travel—barely 7 mph (11 km) average on the outward leg—inhibited the powertrain’s ability to plough energy back into the battery by way of regen, so it was an extreme test. Even so, the P400e used barely four-tenths of a gallon (U.S.) over the 30-mile (48-km) round trip, effectively returning 75 mpg (3.1 L/100km).
That’s an impressive number, but the laws of physics are immutable. Once the battery charge is depleted, the PHEV Range Rover’s efficiency advantage fades fast. A 500-mile (805-km) road trip that included a mixture of suburban running, fast freeway, and flowing two-lanes saw the hybrid Rangie average between 19 mpg (12.4 L/100km) and 22 mpg (10.7 L/100km), about what we’ve seen from V-6 models under similar conditions. The Sport Td6 on our long-term fleet last year would routinely return 26 mpg (9 L/100km) or better on a road trip and averaged 24 mpg (9.8 L/100km) over the 27,000 miles (43,452 km) we ran it.
Bottom line: The Range Rover Sport P400e makes sense if you live in a congested urban or suburban area, can recharge it overnight, and most of your trips are relatively short. There’s just one giant caveat, however. The $5,950 USD you could save buying an identically equipped Sport powered by the 340-hp supercharged V-6 would buy—at the time of writing—about 1,800 gallons of premium unleaded gas, enough to take it 30,600 miles (49,246 km), based on official EPA city fuel consumption numbers.
Statistics show Americans drive, on average, just 13,467 miles (21,673 km) a year. You do the math.
Range Rover Sport P400e vs Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
On paper Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport HSE P400e and Porsche’s Cayenne E-Hybrid have a lot in common. Both hybrid powertrains are similarly architected, with a small e-motor mounted between their internal combustion engines and eight-speed transmissions.
Not all plug-in hybrids are created equal, however. The Porsche is much more powerful, rocking a 335-hp, 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V-6 internal combustion engine and a 134-hp e-motor. Total system output of 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque shades the Range Rover’s 398 hp and 472 lb-ft.
The Range Rover carries a 13.1-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack, while the Porsche’s is a 14.1-kW-hr unit. Land Rover says the P400e will travel up to 31 miles on pure e-power, compared with the 27-mile range Porsche claims for the Cayenne E-Hybrid.
But where the two PHEVs differ most is in the amount of control each allows the driver to have over the hybrid powertrains. Land Rover only offers the choice of preserving the existing state of charge in the battery to ensure the P400e can operate in pure EV mode at a point in the future. Porsche allows the driver to get much more involved.
Porsche’s Sport Chrono package, which includes the mode switch integrated into the steering wheel, is standard equipment on the Cayenne E-Hybrid. The Porsche always starts in the purely electric E-Power mode. Select Hybrid Auto mode, and internal combustion and electric drive are automatically mixed and matched for ultimate efficiency. In addition to stiffening its sinews and sharpening its responses, Sport and Sport+ modes change the powertrain mix and battery charge protocol so the e-motor works with the internal combustion engine to deliver more performance.
Two more modes are accessible via the touchscreen: E-Hold, which conserves the battery’s charge, and E-Charge, in which the internal combustion engine generates more power than needed for driving in order to quickly recharge the battery.
Left to its own devices the Porsche E-Hybrid system works just fine, delivering a good combination of performance and efficiency. But there’s something deeply satisfying about being able to hustle the Cayenne along a back road in Sport+, the internal combustion engine and e-motor working together to deliver maximum performance and response, and then simply twisting the Sport Chrono mode switch to E-Power so it instantly glides smoothly and silently through a small town.
The reality, of course, is most Cayenne E-Hybrid owners will let the onboard computers figure it all out. But, like putting manually adjustable sway bars on a 911 GT2 RS, it’s nice to know Porsche still believes in offering the driver the ability to fine-tune the way their vehicles drive. Even plug-in hybrids.