Range Rover Hybrid first drive

Range Rover HybridAvailable to order now with UK deliveries early next year, Land Rover has developed and introduced the World’s first premium diesel SUV hybrids in the form of the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport Hybrid models.

Land Rover say their first ever hybrid vehicles provide the economy of a V6 diesel with the performance of a V8 but with no compromises for interior space and driving performance on or off road.

In its Autobiography top of the range specification the Range Rover Hybrid with its 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine and electric motor costs £98,415 and for the Range Rover Sport £81,550. This is around the same price as the current 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol Autobiography versions for both models and not far above the price of Autobiography version with the highly rated 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel used only for the Range Rover. When compared to the 3.0, V6 turbodiesel Autobiography non-hybrid models the Range Rover Hybrid has a price premium of £10,505 and the Range Rover Sport Hybrid £6,555.

Range Rover HybridTo showcase the Range Rover Hybrid, the company recently undertook a 10,000 mile test drive with four vehicles being driven by invited guests and company members from the home of Range Rover in Solihull to the home of the parent company Tata in Mumbai India. Taking in 12 countries en-route the all important average fuel economy was 47mpg.

This week a small group of the UK’s motoring press put the new Range Rover Hybrid models through their paces on road and for challenging off road driving at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, the traditional home for rugged off road testing of Land and Range Rover models throughout their 65 year history.

On the subject of UK sales expectations for the new Hybrid models a Land Rover spokesman said at this stage it was too early to predict, because this is a new area in terms of technology for them. Asked about adding a plug-in electric mode for their hybrid system their spokesman said it was something they were developing but until battery technology had improved the advantage for fuel and CO2 saving would be negated due to the weight of the extra batteries needed.

Land Rover said likely UK customers for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport Hybrid models could be ‘captains of industry’ who want to be seen doing the right thing for environmental and business reasons. Land Rover also has a rapidly growing number of Brand Ambassadors including VIPs, celebrities and ‘Royals’ who have adopted the use of Range Rover and other models for their personal transport. In the first ten months of this year retail sales of the new aluminium construction Range Rover have been 5,432 units and 4,077 for the new lightweight Range Rover Sport. Currently 80% of Land Rover’s UK production is exported to 180 global markets.

Range Rover HybridRange Rover HybridRange Rover HybridRange Rover HybridThe new Range Rover Hybrid powertrain features three driver-selectable modes and combines Land Rover’s popular 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine with a 35kW electric motor integrated with the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. The hybrid system, including the lithium ion battery pack, inverter and electric motor weighs less than 120kg. With the new Range Rover models introduced this year with aluminium construction they weighed in at up to 420kg lighter than the previous generation versions so even with the addition of the hybrid technology they are still considerably lighter.

The electric motor produces 170Nm (125lb ft) of torque to boost acceleration and can propel the vehicle in EV Mode only for a short distance. The motor also acts as a generator, housed in the gearbox casing, harvesting kinetic energy through regenerative braking, charging the battery when the vehicle is slowing. In driver-selectable EV mode the Range Rover Hybrid can travel at speeds of up to 30mph for a range of up to one mile before the diesel engine seamlessly restarts.

Together output of the diesel engine and electric motor is 340PS (335bhp) at 4,000rpm and 700Nm (516lb ft) of torque between 1,500-3,000rpm, resulting in performance close to that of the mighty SDV8 turbodiesel. Both the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport accelerate to 62mph in under seven seconds, delivering strong transient and mid-range performance with a top speed of 135mph for the Range Rover and 140mph for the Sport version. With a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions over the standard 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel the addition of hybrid technology produces a figure 169g/km, equivalent to 44.1mpg on the Combined Cycle. VED road tax is down to £285 for the First Year rate and then £200 for year two onwards. The non-hybrid 3.0 V6 turbodiesel with 196g/km has a VED rate of £475 and then £260. For those drivers who use a Range Rover Hybrid model as a company provided car they will benefit most with Benefit-in-Kind tax down from 34% to 28%.

The latest generation Range Rover models introduced this year had all been designed with the integration of a hybrid system in mind. Consequently the liquid cooled battery pack is mounted beneath the floor of the vehicle in a protective boron-steel cradle without impacting on the cabin or luggage space. The Range Rover Hybrid has the same five-seat capacity and luggage space as the standard vehicle and retains the full-size spare wheel. This no-compromise philosophy is echoed in the Range Rover Sport Hybrid whose interior is unchanged from the standard model, right down to the 5+2 seating.

Standard equipment includes luxury leather upholstery, eight-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, DAB radio, climate control, full length glass roof, surround camera hazard and parking system and automatic lights and wipers.

Both hybrid Range Rover models continue to deliver impressive capabilities and versatility, the only compromise being the considerable added purchase cost but then the tax savings and improved fuel economy do offer some compensation. Initially the most noticeable change was the lack of any engine noise as the Range Rover Hybrid pulled away using just the power from the electric motor with the only sound being the ‘crunch’ of gravel under the big 21-inch wheels. But within a few seconds the 3.0-litre V6 engine cut in seamlessly and quietly, fortunately the dials in front of the driver keeps them informed as to what power source is in operation and more importantly how much regeneration of the battery is taking place. With the engine and electric motor working in harness the immediate availability of torque is most noticeable for strong acceleration with linear power delivery. The eight-speed ZF auto gearbox has the usual Drive and Sport modes with the Hybrid control system prioritising efficiency, performance or engine braking regenerative charging modes depending upon driving conditions.

Range Rover HybridThe Range Rover Hybrid system on the road acts like most other hybrids I’ve driven. They work best gathering braking energy when not driving on motorways and dual carriageways. They harvest battery power more efficiently on the ‘overrun’ gliding up to traffic lights or roundabouts and so on, or in rural locations on the overrun going down hills or around corners. Other than stronger immediate acceleration hybrid power doesn’t add much during fast cruising conditions. I was surprised how little retardation there was in the vehicle’s speed on the overrun when the electric motor/generator combined unit cuts in to harvest power.

On some hybrid systems there is quite a strong braking feel during this slowing down phase and that can be useful saving braking pressure. On the Range Rover Hybrid there was little harvesting retardation of speed due in part to the weight of the vehicle, it felt like any other new Range Rover. Pulling up to country crossroads the diesel engine stopped very promptly, in some cases before the vehicle has come to a halt, which was a bit off-putting especially if it was clear to pull away. Because no sooner had the diesel engine cut out than it had to fire up again as we accelerated across the junction. Neither the lack of harvesting mode speed retardation or the abrupt cutting out of the diesel engine are issues, they just take time to get used to and are perhaps those functions are not yet quite as refined as the Lexus Hybrid petrol/electric system for their SUVs.

Off road there really was no difference in the abilities of the Hybrid Range Rover to that of their conventionally powered stablemate 4x4s. Neither should there be as the powertrain retains Land Rover’s renowned permanent four-wheel drive system, including the latest Terrain Response 2, and with the same uncompromised 900mm wading depth and ground clearance of non-hybrid models. With the height adjustable suspension raised, the Terrain Response dialled into the appropriate setting and descent control switched on, it was supreme off-roading performance as usual. Even having the batteries cradled in steel beneath the floor doesn’t limit ground clearance as the vehicle was designed from the outset to accommodate the hybrid power source. It was good to know during my test driving exercise the steel protection is strong enough to support the 2.4 tonne Range Rover should it ‘ground-out’ on muddy tracks, it is impervious to attack from jagged rocks and it is sealed to keep out the deep water, sludge and mud; all the best things Eastnor Castle’s off road facilities throw at vehicles.

Overall the Range Rover Hybrids have been brought to the market without compromising the brand’s legendary reputation for off road ability coupled with on-road limousine refinement. The only compromise is the price but for some wealthy high profile techno customers that is never an issue.

MILESTONES. Range Rover Hybrid Autobiography 3.0 SDV6 HEV. Price: £98,415. Drivetrain: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with electric motor 335bhp, 700Nm (516lb ft) of torque from 1,500rpm, 8-speed auto, permanent 4WD. Performance: 135mph, 0-62mph 6.9 seconds, 44.1mpg (35.9mpg on test on-road), CO2 169g/km, VED road tax £285 First Year rate then £200 per annum year two onwards, BIK company car tax 28%. Insurance group rating: tbc. For: Must-have efficient hybrid technology models for some global markets, much lower CO2 levels, lower taxes, no compromise on refined performance on or off road, no intrusion of interior or load space by hybrid components. Against: Expensive to buy, some technophiles might like more in the way of hybrid driving characteristics rather than the driving experience being the same as conventional powered models.  Miles Better News Agency

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