Hybrid Range Rover Sport turns on the plug-in power

Wonderful things are happening in this new age of motoring. Old attitudes are yielding to the new. Take this week’s review car, the prestige Range Rover Sport 4×4.

or an SUV that was once almost exclusively diesel (except for the petrol lovers of course), it is now extensively powered by plug-in hybrid versions as far as the Irish market is concerned.

They have packed in a big battery (38kWh) and a 105kW electric motor to give you impressive numbers of kilometers on electric charge alone (the previous model had quite a limited range). And that lets them extol, among other things, its ability to give you off-road, as well as them on-road, performance on electric power. In other words you could travel overland without having recourse to the petrol engine (though it is doubtful most people will go beyond a grassy knoll).

When the battery power runs out – or before it does depending on conditions and need – a 3-liter 6cyl petrol engine can take over.

Such combinations are not new but the advances are impressive. When you see the likes of Land Rover applying its legendary off-road prowess to such a powerful new source, it is time to acknowledge that the old order of things are diminishing by the day. That is not to put down diesel versions, it’s just that, psychologically, we always thought off-roading would be the terrain of the oil burner forever. That’s not the case any more. Electrification is seeing to it. There will be a battery EV version of the Sport in 2024 which will, obviously, eat into current sources, plug-ins included. It is a wonderful world of change.

As you know the new Sport, smaller and slightly lower, is a less expensive buy than the Range Rover itself. There are two variants: the P440e (tested) and the more powerful P510e.

The Sport shows what automakers are doing to try to balance environmental necessities with traditional traits: in the case of the Sport that meant built-in historic technology for rugged off-road ability and lap-of-luxury on-road driving.

A telling fact is that Land Rover here reckon 96pc of those interested in buying will likely opt for a plug-in. I’m sure there was a time when diesel accounted for proportions of that magnitude.

Helping turn things around for it is the credible claim you can travel on electric power alone for a minimum of 80kms (that’s with lights, air con, etc, all on). My driving reflected that. Such ability brings plug-ins, belatedly, into the realm of reasonable distance expectancy between battery refills; 80kms to 100kms should easily cover considerable commuting distances (official range 113kms).

If you charge overnight you would only need petrol assistance on longer excursions and maybe not at all over short stretches of tough terrain.

But if you don’t regularly charge, you risk wasting a lot of petrol lugging that heavy battery pack around for the dubious distinction of gaining bits of hybrid input here and there.

I say that in the knowledge that the car, despite its size, can seriously shift. I promise if you sample its power, pace and handling as I did, the petrol engine will be doing nearly all the work in no time.

In my time at the wheel, it was a silent propulsive force on the open road but quick to flick to electric-only snippets in slow urban conditions. Deserved applause for the engineers who worked the suspension so well – the body is 35pc stiffer – though maybe it was a little bit on the firm side of sporty.

I’m glad, too, that they didn’t go all angles and curves on the outside (like so many do nowadays) and stuck with the accentuated rounded looks of its predecessor. I like the low-key front especially.

Praise too for those who created one of the nicest, and most simplified dash and instrumentation ensembles in a car of this stature. Cleverly done, especially the tilt effect of the circular info dials.

The quality and contrast of material and color used throughout most of the roomy cabin lives up to its luxury billing. And there’s a large boot.

But it’s reality check time. The Sport costs from €111,400. That’s a fair old wad of cash but most buyers will add a few thousand in extras to make it very much their individual Sport.

They might, for example, go for the option of four-wheel steering to give it a turning circle of around 11 metres, an amazing figure for such a large frame.

Extras on the test car included sliding panoramic roof and red brake calipers, bringing the total cost to more than €125,000.

Would I buy it? Yes, I would. The look, drive and battery range make it an expensive but desirable SUV.

Fact File

​Range Rover Sport, 3-liter PHEV, P440e SE.

Basic price is €111,140.
Extensive spec and equipment include a range of safety elements, off-road technologies, warnings, alerts to driver and aids.

Additional spec on test car included several comfort items such as Light Cloud/Ebony perforated Windsor leather seats and heated steering wheel. Including extras: €125,340 excluding delivery and related charges.