site search by freefind
MotorBar: 1200+ unique in-depth car reviews. Plus travel & destinations, and 1000 DVD and CD reviews. Online for 14 years. Written by experts.
Land Rover Range_e

Click to view picture gallery“When the first Range Rover came
  on the scene in 1970, it immediately
  set a benchmark for luxury off-road
  travel. And now, with the diesel-
  electric hybrid Range_e models due
  in 2013, it’s about to do it all again...”


The Range_e plug-in diesel-electric hybrid 'Rangie' builds on the Range Rover's already established sure-footed engineering to provide Land Rover's response to a looming energy crisis the hybrid Range_e arrives in just a year's time; followed, a few years later, by the Plug-in Diesel Hybrid.

However, you don't have to wait four or five years to discover what the first fully capable 4WD Plug-in Diesel Hybrid will be like to drive, because I've just driven a development model — and it is very, very good.

First revealed to the world at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011, the Range_e was created after about six months of engineering work starting with a Range Rover Sport bodyshell — adaptations to accommodate the electric motor, battery pack, control system and charging feed were made in a manner intended to minimise compromise to the premium off-roader's refinement and go-anywhere capability.

“About 1 is what Land
Rover say a
four-hour charge costs.
And for that, the big
Range_e can go 20 miles
without emitting any
tailpipe emissions,
which would allow it free
access to many cities charging for CO2-
emitting vehicles
...”
The result: the Range_e has the same full 4WD capability as the standard model with high and low range transmission and centre, front and rear differentials.

The engine management system has been modified to automatically select the most efficient drive method and regenerative braking has been fitted to boost battery charging.

Only a plug-in charge point adjacent to the fuel filler distinguishes the Range_e from the outside. Inside it's virtually 'standard' Sport spec, apart from a bespoke instrument panel on the prototype to display the battery state and charging mode.

Beneath the illustrious bonnet you'll find a familiar, made-in-Britain (at Ford Dagenham) 3.0 TDV6 diesel engine putting out 241bhp and mated to an eight-speed ZF auto' box; in addition, a 69kW electric motor is connected to the 14.2kW/h lithium-ion battery (located in the spare-wheel well) which can be charged in just four hours via a conventional 240V socket.

About 1 is what Land Rover say the four-hour charge costs. And for that, the big Range_e can go twenty miles without any tailpipe emissions, which would allow it free access to many cities charging for CO2-emitting vehicles.

Factor in the time the diesel engine would normally be in use (with power boosted by the electric motor to 334bhp) and the overall CO2 emissions work out to 89g/km — yet this green Range Rover can reach 120mph and return 85mpg overall meaning it could cover 690miles without pulling over for fuel. Pretty amazing.

Even more amazing is actually driving the Range_e. Land Rover has decided it should be as close to what Range Rover drivers are already used to if it's to win over existing owners, so it has a remote key, push-button starter, the usual electric parking brake and a conventional throttle.

“The diesel cuts in
seamlessly during
overtaking to provide
additional punch
but with the system
fully charged it quickly
cuts out again as the
electric drive takes
precedence.
Apart from the diesel
s
engine note cutting in or
out, you wouldn
t know
there’s a hybrid beneath
the bonnet
...”
The prototype requires a double-push of the button to start; then only the rising rotary gear selector knob indicates it's ready to run.

It moves off smoothly and near-silently and pulls strongly as you join traffic. Through the gears there's no hesitation whether going up or down the box, just very good pick-up when you want to make progress.

The diesel cuts in seamlessly during overtaking to provide additional punch but with the system fully charged it quickly cuts out again as the electric drive takes precedence.

You can watch the system sorting itself out on the instrument display, but other than the diesel's engine note cutting in or out, you wouldn't know there's a hybrid beneath the bonnet.

Comfort, practicality, ride and handling are all the same (and as good) as on a conventional Range Rover. Whether or not there will be any further changes for production versions remains to be seen although it appears unlikely.

The Range Rover enjoys a genuine water-wading reputation and work is still going on to evaluate and test the Plug-in Diesel Hybrid for its abilities off-road. However, it would seem that Land Rover has found that water and electricity can mix without compromising the Range Rover's inherent off-road abilities. Looks like another benchmark! — Robin Roberts

Full performance data was not available at the time of this first drive
of Land Rover
's Range_e prototype