Green is in
Let's just get this out of the way: if you were looking for a vehicle that can be considered environmentally friendly, Land Rover probably wouldn't even be in the top 10 of the list. Actually, maybe not even the top 20.
Being green (or blue) was just not Land Rover's thing, as the brand has always been a symbol of capability whether you're in a jungle, in the desert, or on the estate. That's also the case for Range Rover; LR's more luxurious division.
So walking up to a vehicle with the green oval on the grille and tailgate knowing it has far fewer emissions than a Corolla Cross hybrid almost seems... surreal. That's exactly what I felt when Land Rover handed over the smart key for the Range Rover Sport P400e.
There really is something with the presence of a vehicle branded as Range Rover. Much in the same way that nameplates like Wrangler, Land Cruiser, Patrol, and Pajero command a certain degree of respect, the Range Rover even more so. Land Rover, however, has diversified the Range Rover name quite a bit in the last decade or so with the compact Evoque and the full-size Range Rover. The Sport is somewhere in the middle.
Generation-wise, this isn't an all-new Range Rover Sport; actually, the model has been around since 2013. But that doesn't really matter that much as the designs seem to age very well because they generally tend to go classic. Of course, the details have been updated with adaptive LED headlights, more sophisticated 21-inch wheels, a panoramic glass roof (albeit not retractable), and more, but a Range Rover still sticks to the rather timeless proportions and cues of the originals from five decades ago. I just wish they didn't put on so many decals.
Hop into the Sport and, well, it's classic Range Rover as expected. The design of the interior is very very upscale. Buttons feel great, the metal trim is nice and most of the touchpoints are fantastic to the, uh, touch. While it may not be popular for the image that LR is aiming for, there is an abundance of leather in here that LR refers to as “Windsor”. Very British and very royal.
The layout of the dashboard is conventional, but your eyes are drawn to the multitude of screens as the instrument cluster, the infotainment system (with Meridian speakers), and even the control panel (for climate and other functions) are all screens. I have gotten a feel for this system several times before because it's a shared layout amongst Jaguar and Land Rover models so it's not a big deal, but if you're new to the JLR brands then you should take the time to listen to the briefing of the vehicle's functions.
I like how the shifter is placed near the driver; that's a very ergonomic consideration. Just behind are buttons for stability control, the EV mode (more on that later), the Terrain Response 2 selector panel, along with buttons to raise or lower the ride height. Yes, you can adjust how much ground clearance you want within reason of course. The only real comment I have is that the diameter of the steering wheel seems a tad too big. If it was a full-size non-Sport then it's fine.
The back seat is a nice place to be especially with that armrest that folds down, the wide and plush cushioning, and the abundance of headroom. The ceiling is rather translucent even with the roller blind closed; it just gives a nice diffused light in the cabin without letting in too much heat. There are A/C vents for the rear passengers which is always a good thing. Legroom is plenty too because Land Rover didn't try to squeeze in a third row.
The cargo area is rather small compared to typical midsize 5-seater SUVs. There are some tie-down points on the cargo floor panel as well as a retractable tonneau cover to keep stuff away from prying eyes. But what's important to spot here in the back is what's underneath the floor that's consuming the space: a 13.1-kilowatt battery. Unlike most Land Rover's that we've become used to in the past, this P400e is a hybrid, meaning it has both an internal combustion engine and an electric drive system.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter lightweight gasoline engine that JLR has dubbed “Ingenium”. The surprising thing about the engine is that with turbocharging and a lot of other technologies, it can produce a maximum of 300 PS on its own. The hybrid, however, takes it further: as quoted, this P400e has 404 PS.
The RRS PHEV can achieve that because of the performance potential that can be provided by the hybrid drive system. The electric motor is rated for 105 kilowatts, but more importantly, it gives a 275 Nm torque boost at very low revs, which is why the max torque is 640 Nm and comes in very early at 1500 rpm. As with any Range Rover Sport before, this one drives all four wheels; the gearbox is an 8-speed automatic.
Driving the P400e around town is a rather serene experience, but the quietness isn't so much about the sound insulation but about the electric drive. Being a PHEV means this can be charged by plugging the included 7 kW charging unit directly into an outlet in your garage. After about 3 hours, the full charge can be attained which would give a maximum of 48 kilometers of pure electric driving. That's what it says in the brochure, but in real-world conditions, we were getting about 32 kilometers of range so long as you don't mash the throttle.
When the Ingenium engine kicks in, then you have the convenience of the gas-electric hybrid system with parallel drive much like a Prius. This system is actually one we like because it literally gives you the option to drive an electric vehicle but isn't tied to the radius of a charging station. It uses gasoline too means you're not limited by range as a pure EV would. And you won't get the anxiety with it.
Because the interplay between the gasoline engine and the electric drive system varies greatly depending on conditions, the fuel economy you can get varies immensely. If you're driving efficiently and with the climate system to a comfortable temperature (e.g. 24 Celsius) and with light traffic, don't be surprised if you're getting readings north of 30 kilometers per liter. For most everyday driving on EDSA, we were getting 23.4 kilometers per liter in moderate traffic. If you're just going to Makati and from your home in Mandaluyong and Pasig, you can possibly get to and from the office without even activating the engine if the conditions are right.
For performance, the P400e can achieve a 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, though by our datalogger we were getting 6.6 seconds; close enough. Top speed is quoted at 220 kilometers per hour, but surely no one would try that here. Steering feel is alright; nothing great. The braking is surprisingly powerful though, which we like.
The only real issue with the PHEV (or any full hybrid for that matter) is weight. At 2,539 kilos, this is the heaviest version of the Range Rover Sport by far. Even the supercharged V8 model is much lighter at 2,377 kilograms. The battery is heavy, as is the motor, the inverter, the charging unit, and all the extra cabling and electronics to make it all work. That's just the penalty with a PHEV, but does it affect the off-road capability?
Any vehicle that wears the LR badge has to have the off-road performance to match. You get the Terrain Response system that has different settings depending on the surface and how loose or slippery it can be. We've tried this system on so many Land Rover models before and we love its ability to manage traction and not get you stuck.
Of course, we already knew all that; Land Rover built their rep on off-road. But what's unique about these new-generation Land Rovers is the camera system that basically acts as your eyes all around the vehicle. If you fiddle with the camera system you'll get a nice series of views that allows you accurately place your tires where you want and see what the trail is ahead. It's like having your own virtual spotter, but there's no need to convert what he's saying because you can see it with your own eyes as you drive.
What we really like is the ability to raise up the vehicle, as we feel that's the most relevant for everyday driving here. With the press of a button, the Sport can go up to 287mm which is significantly more than the 213mm standard ride height. That's going to be useful for crossing water.
There are those that question the ability of a hybrid electric vehicle when it comes to water wading. Water and electricity definitely do not mix well, but that's not a problem with the Sport. The wading capability of the Sport is rated at 850mm, something that would definitely be useful for everyday driving, and something that has been proven time and again with the P400e. Too bad we didn't get any significant flooding during our time with it.
There are doubters when it comes to the electrified future of automobiles, but it is inevitable. Jaguar Land Rover has already revealed their roadmap towards electric mobility, and in the coming years, we'll see more and more of those models. It's actually really good that even in the Philippines JLR is already in full swing when it comes to electric and hybrid mobility, and the Range Rover Sport PHEV is proof of that.
The true benefit of the P400e is not so much the fuel economy by the ultra-low tailpipe emissions. For such a luxurious vehicle, the emissions of this Range Rover Sport is just 72 grams per kilometer or g/km; a unit of measurement we need to be more aware of in the time of climate change.
Naysayers would talk about the C02 emissions when it comes to the production of the vehicle. There's merit to that, but consider this: if it had the same turbo petrol engine without the PHEV, the emissions would be at 209-211 grams per kilometer. The C02 emissions of the PHEV are actually lower than the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid's 98 g/km.
Of course, it comes at a price: PHP 9,490,000. This really is for the discerning Land Rover customer that wants a vehicle that looks good, has true off-road capabilities, is luxurious and well-appointed, and can do all that while spewing less C02 and consuming as little fuel as possible.