We’ve already reported on exactly this powertrain in our review of the bigger Range Rover P400e earlier this year. Unlike the diesel-electric Range Rover Sport ‘HEV’ hybrid, the P400e marries Land Rover’s 2.0-litre 296bhp turbocharged petrol Ingenium engine with a 114bhp, 203lb ft electric motor, the latter drawing its power from a 13.1kWh lithium ion drive battery. The electrified powertrain gubbins of some of the Land Rover’s key rivals (Audi Q7 e-tron, Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid) can work a little harder and carry a little more electrical charge – although the 2019-model-year Range Rover Sport’s drive motor will move to 141bhp in order to address at least one half of that relative vulnerability.
The car is very slightly less practical and capable than its rangemates in a couple of respects: it has a slightly raised boot floor and smaller maximum boot volume (because the drive batteries are carried where the spare wheel would otherwise be), and you can’t get a seven-seater version (although Land Rover reports that very few Sport owners bother with the ‘five-plus-two seat’ option anyway). The car has all the necessary drivetrain and suspension technology and clearance angles to wade, climb and descend like any other Range Rover Sport, but lags behind its rangemates on maximum towing weight (2.5 tonnes).
The Range Rover Sport’s interior has had a few material quality and equipment improvements in order to keep up with the luxury SUV class’s increasingly high standards on perceived quality and technological sophistication. Some of its switchgear now has a more expensive-looking chromed finish, although most of it remains as it was; and it stands up well enough to comparison with what you’ll find in an Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90, without particularly standing out.
The big development is the adoption of the Velar’s ‘InControl Touch Pro Duo’ infotainment system, with its twin 10in touchscreens stacked one on top of the other. The system isn’t as intuitive to use as some, and doesn’t offer quite as much screen size either, leaving the line of shortcut ‘buttons’ you use to flip between menus at a slightly fiddly scale. It’s a worthwhile improvement for usability on what went before, though, and while it still doesn’t yet do proper Apple or Android smartphone mirroring, Land Rover says that’ll come before long.
The P400e has the increasingly familiar ‘parallel hybrid’ and zero-emissions ‘EV’ driving modes, as well as a ‘save’ mode that preserves the drive battery’s current state of charge. Our test drive suggested you’d be likely to see between 20 and 25 miles of electric range from a full battery charge depending on driving style, and then a real-world fuel economy return of 28-32mpg from the car in normal ‘hybrid’ running once the drive battery is empty. Unless you’re planning a lot of short-range commuting in the car, Land Rover will admit, an SD4 diesel would certainly be more economical – and an SDV6 might well be.
But neither diesel will match the P400e’s 6.3sec 0-62mph acceleration performance. The car feels at its most brisk when getting away from rest, the electric motor’s torque being most apparent through the lower intermediate gears. Roll-on performance isn’t quite as convincing; the car’s gearbox can be a bit unresponsive in selecting the optimum gear ratio during kickdown, and when you select a higher gear yourself and allow the powertrain to knuckle down from middling revs, you’re made more aware that there is more weight for the car’s hybrid powertrain to move here than in other Range Rover Sport derivatives, and less outright torque to move it with.
The P400e’s overall weight penalty compared with an SDV6 is just under 300kg. On a car weighing 2.5 tonnes overall, that’s not an impossible burden for the hybrid to carry – and the car’s well-rounded ride and handling bears testament to that.
There is perhaps a little bit more body roll here through bends, and marginally more head toss over uneven B-roads, than you’d find in a lighter sibling derivative, but at everyday speeds you’d be hard-pressed to notice either. By and large, this is a very comfortable-riding, dynamically secure and well-contained SUV. That it feels slightly larger, taller and more substantial on the road than some rivals is mostly to do with the fact that it’s a Range Rover – and that’s how Gaydon prefers to do things. None of the above makes it cumbersome or hard to guide.