There was a moment over the weekend, as I glided down an empty UK country road in a 2018 Range Rover PHEV Autobiography, nipping at 100mph, getting a Hot Stone massage from my seat, that I thought to myself, does life get any smugger than this?
Perhaps it was, in fact, the hour before that moment, when I was chauffeured into the grounds of Blenheim Palace, in a slightly older Range Rover Autobiography, greeted by twelve new Range Rover PHEV Autobiography models, and swarms of onlookers bustling to see the Royal folk within? Or when I was driving said Range Rover across the lake in the Palace grounds while swans floated gracefully around me.
It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I can assure you I thought about it many times over the course of the afternoon. Almost as many times as I thought about the word ‘Hybrid’, it’s relationship with motoring and the stereotypes that came with it. You see PHEV stands for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, and that’s what I spent the afternoon steering through water, mud and winding roads, and I couldn’t have been more impressed.
When you think about what the ultimate Range Rover represents for its buyers, a hybrid model makes perfect sense. A car JLR has spent a decade trying to make as quiet, comfortable and luxurious as possible, is now, precisely that. Offering 51km of entirely electric powered range off the back of a 2 hours 45 min charge from the company’s 32 amp home fitted wall box. While these cars were never short of grace and grandeur, the added element of almost complete silence adds further tranquillity to the overall experience.
Not to discourage the traditionalists, Australian customers will be able to choose V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines, but I suspect upon testing this 2018 Range Rover PHEV that many buyers will be as taken as I was – whether they actually pull the trigger on the PHEV, we’ll have to wait and see.
Regarding efficiency, it’s a package that’s impossible to argue with, sporting a 297kW powerplant that incorporates JLR’s 221kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and an 85kW electric motor, offering a combined fuel economy figure of 2.8 l/100k. I saw nothing like that number in my spirited drive, but that figure makes the BMW i3 and Toyota Prius look like V8s.
The 2018 Range Rover PHEV also goes about demolishing every Hybrid motoring stereotype one could imagine, not just in terms of luxury but drivability, offering excellent acceleration, bountiful torque across the eight-speed gearbox and a wafty ride that conjures thoughts of another British manufacturing touting the letters RR. I found it to be quite an exhilarating, and immensely comfortable and rewarding drive, made all the more impressive by the refined throne massaging me, Velar developed tech, Meridan sound and gesture controlled sunblind.
Like all Range Rovers, offroad capability is a critical component, and we got to sample a number of the car’s intuitive modes while wading depths of 750 odd millimetres across the Palace lake and tackling a particularly muddy trail around the Palace grounds. Despite the added electronic components, the PHEV doesn’t lose a millimetre of wading potential, retaining its 900mm rating. And mud? Well, it’s just another day at the office for Range Rover, not that even 1% off those built will ever see anything like it in this country, or abroad.
So what gives if you pick the plug-in hybrid? Outside of engine note, a 25km reduction in top speed and a 1.4 second slower dash to 100km/h than the Supercharged V8, there’s nothing. At no point of my drive did the 2.5 tonnes PHEV feel sluggish, or underpowered, and I went into this review assuming both those preconceptions would be confirmed. When I returned the keys, I did so a changed man, one who appreciated subtly and intelligence over power and numbers, utterly compelled by the thought of driving it around town without the need to fill it up.
Outside of the savings on fuel, the argument for the 2018 Range Rover PHEV is as simple as this. 9 out of 10 people who will ever see it, or have the pleasure to be in it, won’t ever know it’s a Hybrid. That’s of course until they comment on how quiet it is, and you tell them. To which they will respond in exactly the same manner I have, “well it’s absolutely lovely isn’t it”.
The 2018 Range Rover PHEV is Priced from $190 000 + ORC, for more information head to their website.