Despite a smaller engine, the Range Rover P400e is still a sophisticated and practical giant. Picture:PHUTI MPYANE
Despite a smaller engine, the Range Rover P400e is still a sophisticated and practical giant. Picture:PHUTI MPYANE

So far in its near 50-year existence of being the gold standard in discerning SUVs, the Range Rover’s history of luxury, off-roading and status symbolism has been unquestionable.

But the past eight years have brought greater and more contentious change than in any previous model. First shedding more than 400kg thanks to a lightweight aluminium chassis that brought huge improvements to handling and performance, it now has a plug-in hybrid derivative. This vintage is quite likely the penultimate variety before a full on Range Rover EV is realised.

On test here is the L Vogue SE P400e of which the "L" in its name signifies a long wheelbase chassis that’s 200mm longer than standard models, though you can have it in standard length too. My test unit was lavishly appointed with luxuries including the cutting edge digitised cockpit. It has seating for four to five full-sized adults inside a 3,230mm long wheelbase.

With the seats up, the load volume is a generous 698l and turns to 1,940l when they are folded down.

The Range Rover can be propelled by petrol or diesel engines in V6 or V8 guise but seated behind the steering wheel of the P400e you are hustled along by a 221kW/400Nm four-cylinder petrol that’s bundled with an 85kW/275Nm electric motor.

There’s no bad seat in any Range Rover and this new derivative features the digital cockpit facia. Picture:SUPPLIED
There’s no bad seat in any Range Rover and this new derivative features the digital cockpit facia. Picture:SUPPLIED

Total system output of this plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (phev) is 297kW/640Nm.

Next to some of its cousins the P400e’s numbers may look meek but its power delivery that’s infused with electric propulsion is anything but. The shove is positively robust, smooth and finely balanced across the slimmer power band and managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission with silky smooth changes.

It does its thing silently and intuitively and it’ll dash from standstill to 100km/h in 6.8sec and reach a top speed of 220km/h.

It has engine modes, the essential ones being those directly linked to efficiency. In hybrid mode the petrol and electric motors work hand-in-hand to power this permanently 4x4-driven barge. Brake energy recuperation recharges the battery pack or you can plug it into an electric wall socket, where it will take 14 hours to charge from zero to full.

Or, using a wallbox AC charger, it takes five to six hours to charge fully (you can’t charge it using DC fast chargers found mostly at public charging stations).

Normal boot capacity is a capacious 698l. Drop down the seats and it becomes a humongous 1,940l. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
Normal boot capacity is a capacious 698l. Drop down the seats and it becomes a humongous 1,940l. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

With a full charge this Range Rover phev has about 40km of real world pure electric drive, but weighing 2.5 tons, understandably the juice won’t last long.

Though it is nowhere near newer German phev range benchmarks of 100km of pure electric drive, it is among the finest and cleverest systems I’ve encountered.

Under normal load conditions the system prioritises the optimisation of the fuel consumption of its petrol motor, drawing heavily from the battery pack and adding to rapid depletion of the batteries.

It’s best left in its normal hybrid mode because the fair value in returns was an 11,7l/100km average, which is exceptional for such a jumbo-sized vehicle.  

If you want, during highway driving you can press a save button on the EV menu and store the electric charge to be used later, like when driving through urban zones.

Range Rovers will likely spend 100% of their time wafting through leafy suburbs instead of ploughing through offroad trails, but the P400e is equipped with mountaineering tools like low-range gearing, height adjustable air suspension and a Terrain Response system. 

So, what to make of the P400e? In practice it’s just as much a Range Rover as the others but buyers will need to really decide how much they want its lower running costs over the delicious ferocity of the V8, the middle-order V6 or the diesel V8 with its big torque lashings. 

Despite the huge positives in efficiency, I suspect most buyers will continue to gaze at the top of the pile and lust after the supercharged juggernaut anyway.


Range Rover L Vogue SE P400e

WE LIKE: Digital sophistication, luxury, fuel consumption and all-round capability

WE DISLIKE: Low electric range

 VERDICT: Sound idea for the future of SUVs

Motor News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * * * *

Ride/handling * * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value For Money * * *

Overall * * * *

Competition

BMW X7 M50i, 390kW/750Nm — R1,871,543

Mercedes-Benz GLS GLS580 4Matic, 369kW/700Nm — R1,713,430


Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Four-cylinder hybrid

Capacity: 1,997cc

Power: 297kW

Torque: 640Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed Auto

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Permanent 4WD

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 220km/h

0-100km/h: 6.8 sec (as claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 2.4l/100km (as claimed), 11,7l (as tested)

Emissions: 64g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Panoramic roof, Bluetooth, Navigation, Auto on/off and adaptive headlamps, cruise control, keyless entry, park distance control front, camera for park distance control, 275/45 R21 tyres, multifunction steering wheel controls, rain sensor wipers, heated seats front and rear, leather upholstery, Brake assist, ABS, Stability control, eight airbags           

OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five years/100,000km; eight years Hybrid Battery

Maintenance plan distance: Five years/100,000km

Price: R2,528,900

Lease*: R53,826 per month

*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

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