The Range Rover Hybrid will become the most fuel-efficient model in the iconic luxury off-road nameplate's 44-year history when it arrives in Australia in February.
The first electric-assisted vehicle from the Land Rover stable uses a claimed 6.4 litres of diesel per 100km on the combined cycle, making it about 15 per cent more frugal than the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6-engined model on which it’s based and more than twice as efficient as Range Rover’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol flagship.
The Range Rover Hybrid teams the 215kW/600Nm ‘SDV6’ diesel engine with a 35kW/170Nm electric motor for a total system output of 250kW of power at 4000rpm and 700Nm of torque at 1500-3000rpm. The standard eight-speed ZF automatic transmission continues to send drive to all four wheels, helping launch the towering, 5.0m-long SUV from 0-100km/h in a hot-hatch-rivalling 6.9 seconds.
Range Rover claims the hybrid system – including lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor and inverter – weighs less than 120kg, though the addition of a high-strength boron steel cradle to protect the electric components is among the factors that increase kerb weight to 2394kg (up roughly 234kg in total).
As the new-generation Range Rover’s all-aluminium platform was designed with hybrid integration in mind, the introduction of extra components has no impact on luggage space, seating capacity, or the fitment of the full-size spare wheel. The story is the same for the new Range Rover Sport Hybrid, which will come with an identical diesel-electric powertrain from February next year.
Fifteen minutes behind the wheel of a Range Rover Hybrid prototype in the busy city streets of Frankfurt, Germany, doesn’t give us the opportunity to test the company’s claim that the hybrid model retains the standard car’s famous off-road ability, but does allow us to experience the fuel-saving system operating in its natural environment.
There’s nothing natural about the sensation of pressing the start button and rolling out of the hotel driveway in near silence as the electric motor takes control and leaves the combustion engine in standby mode.
With EV mode selected, the Range Rover Hybrid can travel at speeds up to 48km/h for a range of up to 1.6km on electric power alone. A green arrow on the digital power usage dial – which takes the place of the tachometer in EV mode – indicates how gently you need to caress the throttle pedal to keep the engine from cutting in.
The transition from pure-electric to electric-assisted hybrid driving modes occurs almost seamlessly as the refined diesel engine rumbles to life.
With the engine running, two new drive modes are available: Sport mode, which offers stronger acceleration; and Command Shift mode, in which electric motor boost is maximised and the stop-start function is switched off. Both provide heightened performance compared with the non-hybrid diesel, with the extra 35kW and 100Nm making acceleration even more purposeful and effortless.
Our short city stint threw few challenges at the Range Rover Hybrid from a ride perspective; the overwhelming perception remaining that the full-size SUV feels decidedly car-like and offers surprising firmness at low speeds.
Its brakes remain responsive and progressive, with no hint of the wooden feel that plagues some hybrids. Likewise, the climate control system functions whether the engine is on or off, taking its power from an electric motor.
Like the standard model, the interior is also a triumph, with quality leathers, brushed metals and high-gloss plastics creating an ambience and a level of comfort to rival the world’s most luxurious limousines.
While the Range Rover Hybrid’s reduced fuel consumption and emissions will be all-important in Europe where vehicles are subjected to CO2
-based taxes, its benefits are likely to be less persuasive to Australian customers who are not faced by the same considerations.
The local take-up of Land Rover’s first hybrid model will therefore hinge on the premium it asks buyers to pay for the fuel-saving technology – information the company says will be revealed closer to the car’s local launch.