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The Range Rover Sport hybrid doesn’t make sense. That’s not because being environmentally friendly and reducing emissions is not a worthy goal, but because this – like many other hybrids – is, at its best, a 'wannabe' and a stop-gap solution.
Here’s the thing: the Range Rover Sport is the best luxury SUV out there. It provides the finest opulence, with the best interior design and use of space while the build quality and craftsmanship is hard to beat.
Sure, it may not be as reliable as its cold-hearted German rivals and its electronics may randomly show signs of rebellion by disobeying commands, but ultimately it’s the pick of the bunch if luxury and comfort is at the very top of your requirements.
It’s also a Land Rover at heart, which is not exactly a brand that associates well with environmentally friendly initiatives.
In this case, Range Rover has used its SDV6 225kW/600Nm (up 10kW for MY16) 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel with a 35kW/175Nm electric motor. That suggests a combined output of 260kW of power and 700Nm of torque (though it really doesn’t work like that).
For the privilege of having a hybrid powertrain and a nice feel-good hybrid badge, the Brits are asking for an additional $21,500 in HSE guise, compared with the regular Range Rover Sport HSE diesel. The HSE Hybrid is priced from $146,900 (our test car came in at $163,450 with the options) and the Autobiography Hybrid from $165,300 ($20,200 more than its equivalent non-hybrid model).
To put that in perspective, it’s important to work out what you get for that extra 20k+. The fuel consumption of the Hybrid is slightly better (12 percent) than non-hybrids at 6.2L of diesel per 100km (as opposed to 7L/100km for non-hybrid equivalent), while its acceleration to 100km/h is down to 6.7 seconds (0.5 seconds quicker).
Even though in our real-world test the average fuel economy of the hybrid was 11L/100km, we are going to ignore that for a second to perform some basic maths. Going by the manufacturer claimed fuel economy of 6.2L/100km for the hybrid vs 7L/100km for the standard model and the current average price of diesel at $1.3/L, it would take roughly 1,924,000km to get your money back on the fuel savings. So, basically, never.
You’ll be saving $10.40 per 1,000km on fuel and paying massively for the honour. Of course, you’ll be polluting less, but not much less at 164g of CO2 per km vs 185g.
We could, at this point, simply end the review by directing you to the normal HSE diesel and be done with it, but that would be unjustified.
The hybrid powertrain in the Range Rover Sport is somewhat primitive, which is its main problem. It can do merely 1.6km on battery power and there’s no way to charge it apart from the car using kinetic energy generated by the brakes as its charging source. In this regard it’s about the same as the just-replaced Toyota Prius, which came out back in 2009.
The electric drivetrain is basically there to provide that initial take-off energy to save some fuel. It’s unlike the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, which can do about 30km on electricity alone (comparison of the two here) and can be charged from an electric outlet.
In the hot Queensland sun, the Range Rover also struggled to properly power the aircon on electric power alone, so each time the car turned on we found ourselves praying for the internal combustion engine to turn on as quickly as possible so that the cabin became hospitable.
The initial start sequence is unnervingly quiet, so you end up wondering if the car is on at all (a typical hybrid trait). In that sense it only highlights just how good the Range Rover Sport is in terms of minimal cabin noise. The diesel engine start is a little bit rough and can give you that crude wake up call when it kicks in.
In terms of dynamics, the additional 257kg of weight for the hybrid is a big pill to swallow. Given the character of the Range Rover Sport in general though, you don’t really feel that weight all that much in terms of performance (considering it's actually faster to 100km/h). The eight-speed transmission is smooth and effortless and given the placement of the batteries, cornering ability also felt mostly unchanged for general driving.
It’s still rather comfortable though, so bump absorption and its ability to navigate Australia’s generally poorly surfaced roads feels just as good as the normal Sport (even on these standard 21-inch wheels), which in this writer’s opinion is only second to the new (and rather bland) Audi Q7 optioned with air suspension.
On the inside, the Range Rover Sport is covered in more leather than a family of cows. Its boxy shape helps create a more open sense of space on the inside which further aids its luxury-ness.
As with all Sports, the front seats are insanely comfortable, though having to pay more for the heated seats as an option in a HSE-spec car costing $150,000 is a tad ridiculous. The rear seats can accommodate two full-sized child seats with an adult in the middle, or three averaged sized adults without any issue.
The boot, measuring an enormous 780L, will take just about anything, including a full-size pram and the week’s shopping. Certainly, the hybrid is uncompromised in this department.
The infotainment system is rather slow and very old-school. The screen resolution is too low, thanks to the optioned dual-view system (allowing the driver and passenger to see two different things on the same screen), which is a feature that is somewhat useless in the current iPad era, really.
The 12.3-inch TFT Virtual Instrument Panel is a lot nicer to look at but even that tends to lag with the dials jerking at times or getting stuck. Ultimately its animation is not as smooth as virtual instrument panels from the likes of Audi or BMW. It's a simple thing, but if you're going to go fully virtual, it needs to better than the analogue solution.
The Meridian sound system is pretty darn good, though. Once you get your Bluetooth audio system setup, you can basically leave the touchscreen alone and things will work smoothly. And although this is the older version of JLR's infotainment system, even the latest - as seen in the Jaguar XE (and new Disco Sport SE and HSE) - it is no comparison for BMW’s iDrive or Audi Connect.
Following on from the technologically out-dated theme, unlike most hybrids, the RR Sport hybrid doesn’t have too many fancy power graphs that show you where the flow of both electric and fuel-generated power is going. All we got was one line of text that said on average the diesel engine was off 27 per cent of the time, and a power metre that showed some basic metrics in percentage terms. That probably says all you need to know in regards to the investment that went into the Range Rover Sport hybrid.
Overall, it’s rather hard to justify buying a Range Rover Sport hybrid over the standard model given the value proposition and the expected higher depreciation of the hybrid. So while it sounds all nice and green, do yourself a favour and stick with the SDV6. Hell, if you want to spend more, go for the eight; you’ll be far happier. More importantly, if you want to see why this technology is already a decade out of date, go drive a Tesla Model S, which is about the same price.
- Audio Visual Pack (Digital TV, Touch Screen with Dual View
- Technology) - $3,870
- Meridian Surround Sound System (825W) with 19 speakers - $2,900
- Metallic Paint - $2,100
- Surround Camera System - $1,800
- Aluminium Treadplates (Illuminated with Range Rover Lettering) -
- Santorini Black Contrast Roof - $1,400
- DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) - $900
- Ebony Morzine Headlining - $880
- Cooler Compartment – Front Centre Console - $800
- Twin Blade Sunvisor with Dual Driver Illumination - $150
Price as tested: $163,450