The all-new Range Rover Hybrid
By Simon Lawrence
The man from Land Rover thumped on my door at 7 am, thrust a sheet of paper at me to sign, ‘just there,’ he said pointing below the paragraph where I’d promise to hand it back at the end of the week, tossed the keys into my hand and went, leaving £156,000 worth of testosterone sitting in my drive. I tucked my pyjamas into the top of my wellies and went out for a look. For all my 5’10” stance I felt really small standing next to her, she’s massive.
It looks just like a normal Range Rover there’s no mistaking that, but it’s not, this is the all new long wheel based Hybrid, a first for Land Rover. I peer through the high windows, almost on tip toes, cupping my hands against my temples to cut out the morning glare, she looks stunning, inside it’s all clean lines, a leather-lined interior you’d expect to see in a Bentley.
I’ve been wanting to drive the new Range Rover for a while now, the old model was never a gifted performer, adequate, comfortable, luxurious in a bullish way, and brilliant off road. But I always found the looks a little upright, out of proportion, like the roof was just a little too tall… a bit like the Kayan women from Northern Thailand who wear brass coils around their necks to make them look longer.
It was raining by the time I’d got myself dressed… suitably enough to be seen in public with this wonderful looking car… I have to confess to being a hybrid virgin, but that lasted just a few moments. I pressed the start button, and watched the power gauge and the ready symbol light up, popped her into drive and off we went. I was in what they call auto mode, there are four to choose from. Auto mode means that if the battery is charged you pull away with just the whisper of the tyres against the soggy road. The technology just gets on with its job. Electric when you need it and then everything all together when it needs maximum power. It did feel odd for a moment or two until we gained speed, I put my foot down a little more and the familiar sound of the diesel engine kicked in. It was all very smooth and after five minutes driving through town I felt quite at home - the transition from one form of power to the other really quite natural.
I watched the blue part of the gauge move up and down, each time I put my foot on the brakes it went green, showing me how much energy is being stored back into the battery by the regenerative braking system, ready for our next surge of acceleration.
Sitting in this car gives a stunning view, over the hedgerows and into other people's gardens. My own little car sits so low I spend a lot of time looking out at other owners car wheels. Up here the air seems altogether clearer, and it’s quiet, even with the 3.0-litre engine running, and the ride, it’s sublime.
This hybrid system is completely automatic, continually adjusting for the best fuel economy, switching between the diesel engine and the electric motor. It’s best suited to country and town driving where there’s a lot of stop, start, or braking and gentle acceleration. Land Rover give an estimate of around 44 mpg, but after zeroing the computer and settling into a combination of town, but mostly smooth country driving I got about 39 mpg. I was giving her a bit of a test, so given longer to settle in together I suspect I could achieve a little more.
If much of your daily commute is around the M25, then perhaps this hybrid is not for you. On motorways and long straight roads, the computer system simply bypasses the electric motor because there is little braking to keep the batteries charged. The only engine option in this hybrid is the standard 3.0 litre TDV6, the same as the entry level model, so you would save yourself quite a lot of money buying the diesel only car. But if you want more power then the 4.4 litre TDV8 at 335 bhp will give you that. I have to confess I’m looking forward to driving the supercharged 5.0 litre V8 petrol. That has a more exciting 503 bhp and an exhaust note as polluting as it’s emissions. My little confession is that would be my choice.
This Range Rover oozes luxury, it makes you feel more sure of yourself, confident, and while it’s the sheer size of this car that first grabs you, it’s what lies under the skin that makes it more than just a 21st-century style icon.
Behind the wheel the steering is accurate and nicely weighted, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox adds to a wonderfully relaxed driving experience.
Outside the designers at Land Rover have cleverly created a contemporary SUV without abandoning the classic Range Rover design cues… it’s the swept back headlights and sharply angled front grille and windscreen that help make her such a modern girl. She’s a British built off-roader that also happens to be one of the most luxurious cars on the road.
So would I have one? Part of the original design brief was to produce a hybrid that had to be light, which it is. She’s actually about 300kg lighter than the old hybrid(less) model… another was to use less fuel. It achieves that too. But is this hybrid really here simply to make us feel better about driving something so big? I know manufacturers are under enormous pressure to bring emissions down and miles per gallon up, but the standard wheel-based hybrid starts at around £100,000, which is the same as the supercharged 5.0 litre V8. I do wonder if your stereotypical Range Rover driver will really care about Land Rovers stab at corporate social responsibility, and will just keep filling the tank because that’s what it costs to drive a car like this.
I’m still undecided to be honest. I think for now and with the technology still in its infancy, I would take a punt at the petrol variant and get Land Rover to hook up a gas conversion until the government on a whim, decide there’s enough of us using the stuff to warrant the same tax rate they do now for petrol and diesel. It’s then I might change my tune.
© Simon Lawrence