According to a survey, the ultimate fantasy car is a congestion charge dodging super-wagon
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Ah, the pluggable versions we were promised. Indeed. When the new generation of Evoque and Discovery Sport were announced, we were told they needed a new platform to make space for batteries. Batteries that weren’t available at the start. Well now here we are: plug-in hybrid versions, so you can get a posh SUV on the company and pay little tax. And, if you actually do plug it in, terrific fuel economy too. How does it work? The pistons-and-flammable-liquid part is a tiny 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, making 200bhp. A conventional autobox drives the front wheels. A powerful starter/alternator can harvest extra energy to feed the battery. There’s no propshaft, as drive to the rear wheels is taken care of by their own 109bhp electric motor. Total then is just over 300bhp, and four-wheel-drive when both engine and motor are running.
Sounds a weighty solution. Actually, not so much. The three-cylinder engine is 37kg lighter than the petrol four, and lighter again than the diesel four. Plus there’s no propshaft or centre diff unit. So overall the PHEV petrol isn’t significantly heavier than the corresponding diesel. What are the figures? Electric range WLTP is 34 miles, and CO2 in the cycle 44g/km, and fuel consumption in the same cycle 141mpg. Acceleration is 6.6sec to 62mph. Quick enough. But numbers don’t say how it feels. Actually it’s really good. The Evoque in particular is extremely quiet, even when the little engine is working hard. It also transitions smoothly between engine-off and engine-on and vice-versa, in hybrid driving. Mind you it’s not that quick to hit full acceleration if the engine has been off. No bother, if you anticipate the need to go full bore, just tug a gearshift paddle and the engine lights up immediately. When the engine is on, there’s less hunting between the gears with this eight-speed transmission than the nine-speed that other Evoques and Discovery Sports use. Switching to the off-road modes also keeps the engine active so you have 4WD. From a full battery it’ll use electric mode and the rear axle’s power is enough for almost all suburban running and will take you (if you’re patient) to motorway speed. A mixed-road loop, driving pretty vigorously, netted me about 130mpg, and took the battery from full to fully depleted. If that’s your commute you’d be pleased with the economy. A progressively shorter daily drive, with plugging in at home, would improve the mpg towards infinity. You can choose whether to drive in EV mode, or hold battery charge til later when you know you’re approaching a city. Later OTA software updates will let it do this automatically if you’ve put your destination into the satnav. The braking system uses full blending, to get charge back to the battery, avoiding the discs until you broach 0.2g. It’s a progressive pedal too, and many hybrids can’t manage that. Oddly, the Discovery Sport is noticeably noisier. But performance and economy are the same. How’s the charging? It has a DC port, which most PHEVs don’t. It draws 32kW which can get the 15kWh battery back to 80 per cent in half an hour. Otherwise it’s a 7kW home wallbox or street charger for 0-80 in just less than an hour and a half. Final option: a three-pin plug means an overnight charge. Best to leave it plugged in on AC and use the app to tell it when you’re leaving so the battery and cabin are at their right temperature. Otherwise as with all EVs you’ll lose range on a cold day. And the rest of the car? Very good, as we’ve said often. This year they both get the new superfast infotainment system that launched with the Defender. They both have terrific cabins, and the Discovery Sport’s is rather wonderfully versatile. The Evoque is agile and fun to drive for a crossover, well damped and taut-riding but never harsh. The Discovery Sport is softer, rolls more and has heavier steering. It slots neatly between the Evoque and the super-comfy big-boat motions of the bigger full-house Discovery.