The King Goes Hybrid — Range Rover P400E Autobiography
When the covers came off the very first Range Rover in June of 1970, the whole world sat up and took notice, because there was nothing on four wheels that offered such a combination of abilities. It could seat five in enclosed comfort, carry a sizable amount of goods, do 160kmph on road (without falling over at the first corner) and could go off-road just as well as the farmer’s favourite series Land Rovers, thanks to long-travel coil springs and a compact footprint. Press and public alike loved the thing and it was even exhibited at the Louvre in Paris as an “Exemplary work of industrial design”!
Originally launched as a fairly utilitarian thing with a hose-down interior, it didn’t take long for Rover to realize that buyers were asking for more luxury. They delivered one with nicer trim and more toys, a four-door version in 1981 and more. The original Range Rover lasted an incredible 26 years on the market and by the time it was finally replaced in 1996 it had established a practically unassailable position as the one-true-king of SUV hill.
Subsequent generations kept the flag flying despite ever increasing competition and the current fourth generation model (which has been around since 2012) keeps to the tradition of being at the peak of its class while still being constantly improved. Compared to the last model, this one is nearly half a ton lighter, thanks to a completely aluminium monocoque structure, though it’s still no lightweight. The biggest news is the introduction of the Plug-in Hybrid; For the first time ever, a Range Rover has a four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. Does that make it a neutered shadow of its proper V8 self? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Opening the door triggers an electric side step to appear from under the sill, to make Sir/Madam’s egress as easy as possible, of course. The other big change with the refresh is the interior, which has adopted the same multi-screen layout and touch-sensitive controls first seen in the Velar. Visually, it’s very impressive because the only physical controls are two temperature knobs and a volume control, with everything else controlled by dual touch screens in the console. Even the instrument panel is a completely customizable LCD, which is actually something Jaguar/Land Rover has been doing for a while now. It really does feel like you’re on the bridge of the starship Enterprise from the driver’s seat, but while this stuff is mighty impressive, touch controls instead of physical buttons mean that you actually need to look away from the road at the screen if you want to deal with most functions, which is rather silly.
Speaking of functions, the amount of ways to keep yourself amused in the interior of the RR is endless. For example, the seats can be adjusted in a multitude of ways and include extendable thigh support as well. Electric lumbar support is obviously expected at this level but here you get full on massaging seats! With multiple different massage choices! While that may sound like a gimmick, when activated it seriously feels like a trained masseuse is inside the seat working on your back and is something that really needs to be experienced to be understood. Oh, and the seats have both heating and, more importantly in our climate, cooling options, that work brilliantly well. All of these features are available to rear passengers as well
Many words in and we still haven’t talked about how it drives. Firing up is via button and thanks to the electric motor, if the battery is charged the engine doesn’t fire up at all on power up. The power-unit consists of JLR’s 2.0L “ingenium” turbocharged four cylinder, combined with an 85KW electric motor. If fully charged, the P400E can travel upto 49km on electricity alone and even go upto 136kmph, which is useful. In theory, if you plug it in every day and primarily use it for commuting in the city, it’s possible to run it completely on electricity alone. But that would be a shame, because on the open road this thing is rather brilliant. The combined output of the two motors is 398bhp and a staggering 640Nm of torque. Though the P400E weighs a porky 2,500kg, the sheer force generated by the powertrain is more than enough to make it move very briskly indeed. In fact, Land Rover says that this is the second quickest Range Rover after the Superchaged V8. 0-100 is ticked off in 6.7 seconds and the top speed is claimed to be 220kmph, which we believe. The way this thing rolls down the road is relentless; at whatever speed, serious shove is only an ankle flex away. Unlike some four-cylinder/electric combinations, it doesn’t run out of breath at the top end, nor does the battery being low affect the power output, so pretty much any on-road situation is dispatched with imperious ease, and it keeps pulling hard well into extra-legal speeds.
The laws of Physics still apply though, so when the road gets twisty and undulating, you need to slow down a bit. Air suspension and full-time four-wheel drive work together to manage traction and body movement fairly well, but this is still a long, wide, tall and heavy object so you can feel all of that when pushing hard. There’s a fair bit of body lean, and the suspension set-up is clearly tuned more for wafting than corner carving, but it will gamely hang on. Case in point, during our test we had the more driver-focused Range Rover Sport on hand and big brother managed to keep it in sight during a brisk drive up a twisty mountain road. So, the big Range can certainly hustle.
So, on road it’s good, what happens off road? Unlike basically any other 4×4 with luxury pretentions, the Range Rover does not compromise at all on the off-road hardware. You get locking differentials, a proper low range, height adjustment via the air suspension and Land Rover’s “Terrain Response 2” off-road programmes, which have a setting for basically anything you’ll encounter off the beaten path, from muddy ruts to desert sand. Seeing as this is a rather expensive vehicle, we didn’t do any serious rock crawling, but on some muddy trails it proved to be totally unstoppable, gliding along as if it were being driven to the shops on Galle Road. We can safely say that whatever you throw at it, the Range Rover can handle.
Our test car now retails upwards of a rather eye-watering LKR54mn, (it was LKR38mn when we first tested it in 2018) which is a sum that can get you a remarkable range of vehicles, from luxury sedans to sports cars (and of course, multiple different vehicles if you prefer). Not to mention, even at our insane property prices, a pretty decent house or apartment is also an option. When a vehicle costs as much as a property, it does need a bit of thinking about. Still, if we’re honest, the Range Rover is such an incredibly complete package that is so good at basically everything you’d use a vehicle for, that even at that number it somehow seems like a worthwhile purchase. Also keep in mind that the only vehicle that can really come close to the Range Rover’s combination of luxury and go anywhere ability is perhaps something like the Lexus LX570 and thanks to our tax bands, those will be over twice as expensive due to engine capacity. So the Range Rover P400E is basically in a class of it’s own. Pretty much business as usual, then.
Engine: 2.0 litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol with 85kW single electric motor, 398bhp, 640NM
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Performance: 0-100kmph 6.7secs, 220kmph
Price: LKR53mn (Short Wheelbase), LKR54.5mn (Long Wheelbase)
*Prices are accurate for model and trim specified at the time of publishing
Sajiv is an automotive journalist with a deep-seated love of cars and a wide range of automotive tastes.