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Range Rover Hybrid on UK roads
Hybrids work well in the official fuel tests, but in real life their economy numbers tend to fall flat. So I’ve just done three tankfuls end-to-end in a Range Rover hybrid, all over Southern England, in pretty well all sorts of driving.
Slightly against my expectations, the powertrain made a case for itself. We’ve covered mileages here at Top Gear in new Range Rover diesels of the non-hybrid V6 and V8 kind. We tend to get about 27mpg from the V6, and 23-ish from the V8. I got 27.2 (the computer claimed 28.5) out of the hybrid. And the hybrid is pretty well as quick as the V8.
So that’s the hook: V6 economy, V8 performance. The price is the same as the V8 too by the way.
Does an 18% improvement in economy actually matter to an owner of a car so expensive? Nope. But the 60-70 miles extra tank range is nice. And I liked the way the consumption is predictable: very much the same in town, motorway and country driving.
It works by sandwiching an electric motor between the engine and the eight-speed auto, so once the engine is running it feels like the standard V6, just with an extra dose of immediate torque. But the engine can be declutched, so the car can coast if you lift off even at motorway speed with the e-motor to nudge it along.
And in town, you can often go a few hundred yards with the engine off. No, the electric power doesn’t get you very far or very fast, but in gummy city traffic it still amounts to quite a lot of time.
And that’s the thing. The best thing about this Range Rover is its urban refinement. In London the trip computer said the engine was switched off for up to 40% of the time, and then it’s properly silent, smooth luxury travel. The re-starts under way are imperceptible to passengers (even ones who are paying attention to the matter), and even I often missed them - it was only when I watched the rev counter that I saw how often the needle dropped to 0rpm.
The regenerative braking is well integrated: pedal travel and weight remain pretty consistent, though sometimes there’s a small click at the top of the pedal.
I wonder if the extra 150kg makes a difference? It rolls more than I remembered in corners and just felt a little more ungainly. Certainly an RR Sport is lighter on its feet. Remember, this is a ruddy vast car and I wasn’t hanging about, which makes the real-world 27mpg so impressive.
How big? Down in the west country, it utterly filled the lanes. London width restrictors are a pain, multi-storeys intimidating. The cliche that Range Rovers are driven by the inattentive must be wrong: it takes finely honed spatial skills to operate one in London.
So the hybrid still feels as comfy and smooth-riding and imperious as Range Rovers always feel. It certainly isn’t any sort of sacrificial experience.