Until recently, the Range Rover stood as a seemingly impermeable bulwark against the very concept of downsizing. The physical scale of Land Rover’s flagship luxury SUV was imposing enough, but this was also matched by power plants that clearly equated bigger with better, intended for an ownership demographic with little concern about fuel costs. Sure, there have been diesel versions for some time, initially for European skinflints and also now in America, but the first full-size, gasoline Range Rover to use anything other than a V-8 appeared fairly recently, in 2012.
Now the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that understudies the current eight is being joined by an even smaller powerplant, one set to further trim the clan’s average cylinder count. Despite its muscular-sounding model designation, the new P400e, arriving in Europe at the same time as a lineup-wide facelift, uses an inline-four as its prime mover. This 296-hp version of Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium turbocharged 2.0-liter works in conjunction with a 114-hp electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission, a powertrain the U.S. market will first see this summer in the smaller Range Rover Sport P400e. The combined output is 398 horsepower, more than either of the V-6 variants although still way short of the 518- and 557-hp supercharged V-8s. The more striking number is the one delivered by the 13.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that sits under the rear cargo floor: 31 miles. That’s Land Rover’s claim for pure-electric operation.
Several of the P400e’s other statistics seem flatly contradictory, although that’s largely due to the peculiarities of the European testing regime. The outright silliest is the score equivalent to 84 mpg on the EUDC consumption test, which is only possible because the assessment allows a plug-in hybrid to begin with its battery pack fully charged and finish with it fully depleted. That’s a bit like letting a standard combustion model get an undeclared top up from a jerrycan stashed in the back. For any journeys substantially beyond its electric range, Land Rover acknowledges that the P400e’s fuel economy is unlikely to prove better than that delivered by the Td6 diesel model; on the basis of trip-computer readings rather than brimmed tanks, real-world economy in the low-20-mpg range seems likely. A large percentage of the world’s Range Rover fleet, however, is used primarily for short journeys in close proximity to charging ports.
Recharging the onboard battery pack entails opening a flap integrated into the radiator grille to access the plug. According to Land Rover, a 32-amp Level 2 connection can top off the electrons in 2 hours and 45 minutes, but times on a standard 120-volt supply will be far longer, at a claimed 14 hours. The sizable battery also adds mass, and we’re estimating a 5700-pound curb weight. According to Land Rover’s own figures, it’s 558 pounds heftier than the V-6 and 278 pounds more than the 518-hp V-8 edition. (The 557-hp V-8 model is only 27 pounds lighter than the P400e, Land Rover claims.)
Yet at lower speeds the powertrain’s ability to blend both gasoline and electrical power effectively disguises this increase in weight, and the P400e launches keenly as the motor lends its assistance (Land Rover claims a 6.4-second zero-to-60-mph time). Responses are also a measure snappier than in conventional Rangies, with the electric side of the powertrain filling the gap as the turbocharged engine spools up. While acceleration starts to fade as the P400e approaches triple-digit speeds—in marked contrast with the lesson in anti-physics that is the Range Rover Sport SVR—it still feels plenty quick. Refinement under everyday use is good, but the gasoline engine makes some inappropriately proletarian noises when pushed into the top quarter of its rev range. Far better to adopt a more relaxed pace and enjoy the near silent electric running that the car defaults to at low speeds.
Wade in the Water, Waft Down the Way
Impressively, the P400e will still go as far off-road as almost any other Range Rover. Our drive route included a chance to experience both the battery compartment’s waterproofing and the car’s claimed 35.4-inch wading capability—with the air-spring suspension in its raised position—by driving through a shallow lake. As the electric motor sits between the conventional engine and the transmission, its effort is sent through the eight-speed ZF automatic and on to all four corners through the same array of electronic and mechanical traction-boosting aids as its non hybrid sisters. At very low speeds, the electric motor’s instant torque allows for finer control than with a conventional engine; this is the model to pick for rock-scrambling.
On the highway, the pillowy air springs continue to impress, although the P400e’s considerable mass becomes more evident as velocity rises. Ride quality is outstanding at urban paces, even over broken surfaces and in a car that rides on 21-inch wheels. But moderate cornering loads create noticeable body lean, and the ultimate grip limits are predictably modest, as the soft springs struggle to maintain discipline at higher speeds. The steering is accurate behind light assistance, and the Range Rover remains an easy car to place even on narrow English lanes thanks to the excellent visibility given by the pedestal-like driving position, but it is definitely happiest at a stately pace. Regenerative braking is less aggressive than in many hybrids and EVs—partially because it’s much heavier—and blends cleanly with the hydraulically operated friction brakes at lower speeds.