Range Rover Sport buyers are a look-ahead crowd, so the option of a smart Hybrid version ought to be right on the money. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Land Rover has fast tracked itself from a conservative and somewhat parochial company into a dynamic global brand. At its heart are cars like this Range Rover Sport Hybrid. Most hybrid SUVs to date have looked a bit overpriced and underdone when compared to their diesel brethren. Not this one. Not by a long chalk.
Range Rover Sport buyers used to inhabit a completely different demographic to traditional Land Rover customers. Diehard devotees of the Solihull brand saw 'Sport' people as 'new money' to which the company didn't need to pander. That might well have been the case if 'old money' had spent any of it, instead of continuing to patch up thirty year old cars - but that's another issue. The fact was that the Sport tapped into a rich seam of buyers looking for something with real presence and panache. It's a formula that has since been rehashed with the phenomenally successful Range Rover Evoque. Now the Range Rover Sport has gone a couple of steps further. This improved second generation model moves the game on quite considerably and the version that is perhaps the most interesting is this smart Hybrid-powered car.
Billed as the first diesel/electric luxury SUV, the Sport was launched alongside its bigger brother, the mechanically similar Range Rover Hybrid. That also gets joint promotion as the first SUV riding on an aluminium monocoque structure, so you can rest assured that Land Rover isn't cutting any corners here. Powered by a 258PS SDV6 diesel engine, it also integrates a 35kW electric motor mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. The hybrid system, including lithium ion battery pack, inverter and electric motor, weighs less than 120kg and doesn't compromise the car's wading ability or ground clearance, not that too many Sports are put through the mill off-road. The electric motor produces 170Nm torque to boost acceleration and drives the vehicle in EV Mode, where it 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 at 4,000rpm and you get a monstrous 700Nm torque between 1,500 and 3,000rpm. The Range Rover Hybrid will accelerate to 62mph in 6.4 seconds, with a top speed of 140mph, so it's got some serious get up and go.
Design and Build
There's nothing too surprising about the Range Rover Sport Hybrid's appearance. It's good looking, neatly detailed and very eye-catching. It's also some 62mm longer than its predecessor, yet at 4850mm, is shorter than most other 7-seater SUVs. A significantly longer wheelbase than was offered in the first generation Range Rover Sport (up by 178mm) provides much more room inside. Actually, that wheelbase isn't that far off a full-fat Range Rover but shorter overhangs at the front and rear, a more sharply raked windscreen and a sloping roofline distinguish this model. The Sport's interior features typically Land Rover strong, architectural shapes, this time mixed with even cleaner surface treatments, finished with soft-touch surfaces in key touch points around the cabin. The sporting cues come courtesy of a smaller, thicker-rimmed steering wheel, and deeply bolstered seats with a lower hip point than you might expect. Interior packaging is optimised to create a more spacious rear cabin with 24mm more knee room, while occupants also benefit from the wider cabin. The liquid cooled battery pack is mounted beneath the floor of the vehicle in a protective boron-steel cradle that doesn't impact on cabin or luggage space. The Range Rover Sport Hybrid's interior is therefore unchanged from the standard model, right down to the 5+2 seating.
Market and Model
There's a choice of two SDV6 Diesel Hybrid Range Rover Sport models, either the 'Dynamic' variant at around £75,000 or the top 'Autobiography Dynamic' derivative at around £87,000. Think in terms of a premium of around £7,000 over an equivalent non-hybrid SDV6 diesel model. The Hybrid rides on 21-inch diamond-turned alloy wheels, features Ebony Oxford perforated leather upholstery, 18-way adjustable front seats with memory function and climate control, heating for the rear seats, an 825w Meridian sound system with nineteen speakers, a full-sized panoramic sliding glass roof and xenon headlights. Should you wish to go further you can specify a colour Head-Up Display, a digital camera system which supports Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and Automatic High Beam Assist. All at a considerably lower price than Land Rover asks for a Range Rover Hybrid. If you want diesel/electric power from this Solihull brand, we'd say that this is the car to choose.
Cost of Ownership
It's hard to argue with the bald facts that a 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel Range Rover Sport gets to 62mph a tad slower than the Hybrid but will only manage 33.6 miles from a gallon of fuel where the Hybrid will get 45.6mpg. Around town, the difference is even more marked. It's a similar story when it comes to emissions, the Hybrid bettering the diesel by a hefty margin, 164 versus 219g/km. In fact, the Hybrid gets the same economy and emissions as a smaller-engined SD4 four cylinder diesel Range Rover Sport, a car that will cost you about £15,000 less. All of which would appear to make the Hybrid arguably a quite desirable model in the Range Rover Sport line up. Gliding about on pure electric power is a very cool way of stuffing it to those who rail at SUVs in the city too. That's hard to put a price on.
It's a bit of a road test staple that when it comes to big hybrid cars, you're usually better off buying a conventional diesel. It'll be cheaper, faster, usually more economical and will hold its value better. Land Rover have turned that completely on its head with the Range Rover Sport Hybrid, the reason being that it's a diesel/electric hybrid instead of the more usual petrol/electric hybrids you get that are unable to match a diesel's inherent torque and efficiency. So this one is a bit different - and a bit special too. Any car that can make the stonking 4.4-litre V8 diesel Range Rover Sport look a distant second best has most certainly got our attention. What you're looking at here is not merely an eco-minded Range Rover Sport. It's a new paradigm. It's the way big SUVs are all going to be powered within a few years. Just remember who was there first and who will have the most experience in this sector.