Land Rover goes environmentally friendly with the new Range Rover PHEV

Diesel may rule in big four-wheel drives, but Land Rover is giving a glimpse of its green side with its latest new addition, the Range Rover PHEV.

While it looks and smells like a regular Range Rover, beneath the skin it's a mix of traditional petrol power and futuristic electric propulsion.

Hence the PHEV moniker, which denotes plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

Charging forward

Plug it in and the PHEV takes about six hours to charge its 13.1kWh battery, or closer to two hours if you've installed a wallbox charger.

From that you can expect something like 40 kilometres of all-electric driving – with a catch.

The big catch is that performance is modest if you select the EV (all-electric) mode. There's only 105kW of power from the electric motor, less than most small city hatchbacks. When you're lugging around almost 2.5 tonnes, acceleration is limited.

So you'll either be hoping there aren't many hills around or taking things at a leisurely pace.

Muscling up

There's more power if you want it, courtesy of a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the same one used in various Jaguars (Land Rover's sister brand).

The thought of a 2.5-tonne Range Rover being driven by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine would have been laughed at only a few years ago.

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But combine its 221kW/400Nm outputs with those of the electric motor and there's a heady 297kW and 640Nm to play with. That's plenty in anything, even a big off-roader like the Range Rover.

Acceleration to 100km/h takes just 6.8 seconds, just 0.1 seconds slower than the base model Porsche Macan.

Not so fast…

Accessing all that power isn't always easy, with some inconsistencies to the way the electric motor and petrol engine play each other off.

Start gently calling on more and it goes from being a tad sluggish to suddenly getting excited.

And if you get enthusiastic with the throttle there's some occasional clumsiness in the way the engine awakes and chimes in.

But there's no ignoring the generous acceleration on offer, something in keeping with the whole Range Rover ethos.

Topping up

The trick is making sure you've always got some charge on tap.

With electrons in the batteries you'll always have that full 297kW and 640Nm.

But drain them – on an extended uphill run, for example – and you're down to only the petrol engine, at which point performance isn't as spritely.

Numbers game

At $210,000 the Range Rover PHEV is about $10K more than the V6 diesel.

As well as the unique drivetrain you get a few extra bits of kit (sunroof and Meridian sound system the most notable), although owners will be looking to fuel savings as the benefit of the PHEV.

Claimed consumption is 2.8 litres per 100km, well below the 7.9L/100km for the V6 diesel.

But working out how much fuel you'll save is not that easy, because there's almost no chance you'll get anywhere near that 2.8L/100km claim; blame it on the way the government test is defined.

In suburban running we often used no fuel or very little, the electric motor doing the work. Sure, we set a leisurely pace, but in some ways it's in keeping with the character of a Range Rover.

Horses for courses

Whether the PHEV is right for you depends entirely on how you plan to use the car.

If you're mainly around town or doing shorter trips, it's a great way to use very little fuel in a vehicle that otherwise looks and drives just like a regular Range Rover. You could easily halve your fuel bills – or better.

But if you're hitting the open road or doing lots of towing (the tow capacity is 2500kg, a tonne less than other Rangies) the limited range of the electric power will eliminate those fuel savings and, in some cases you could use more than you would if you'd picked the diesel.

Getting rough

Elsewhere, though, the PHEV lives up to the Range Rover promise. The batteries are well protected under the boot floor so you can drive through up to 900mm of water. And it has the same capability as other Range Rovers, which translates into one of the most capable off-roaders on the planet.

In that regard, it's the most off-road proficient rechargeable car on the market. For now, at least.

Very tyring stuff

There are compromises, though, the most serious of which is the lack of a spare tyre. The boot floor where it normally sits it chock-full of batteries there's no room for a replacement, with a repair kit in its place.

If you're the adventurous type, that could seriously limit where you want to take it, the prospect of an irreparable puncture not much fun in the Victorian High Country or Fraser Island.

The boot floor is also slightly higher on the PHEV, dropping the luggage capacity from 639 litres to 540L.

That said, it's a broad space – and space elsewhere is thoroughly welcoming, too, the back seat just as luxurious as those up front.

Surprise packet

All of which adds up to an unexpected surprise, albeit one best suited to those predominantly confining their luxury off-roader to the suburbs.

The PHEV oozes all the Range Rover goodness but in an eco-friendly package that provides a great entry point to the imminent electrified world.

The fact there even is an electric Range Rover also powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine is evidence of how far the car industry has shifted over the past few years.

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