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Range Rover Sport HST? What’s that, a detuned SVR?

In a way, yes. It probably is best thought of as a stepping stone between the P400e plug-in hybrid and the full fat 575bhp supercharged V8 SVR. The HST has an eye on both sides. On one side, 395bhp from a turbocharged 3.0-litre, and on the other a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.

Can you plug it in?

No, that’s the P400e PHEV, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine mated to a 141bhp electric motor that takes power from a 13.1kwh battery. It can drive exclusively on electric and has lovely low CO2 emissions. It’s the Range Rover Sport for the concerned urbanite. The HST can’t be plugged in nor run exclusively on electric power.

Does it feel electric at all?

It feels… different. Here’s what’s going on: the engine is a brand new 3.0-litre straight six Ingenium that has quite a lot in common with the four-cylinder in the P400e. I know, a straight six, how cool is that? Or maybe you don’t see that as cool and I should move on.

It’s turbocharged, inevitably, and develops 395bhp and 405lb ft of torque. So far, so unsurprising. But the twin-scroll turbocharger isn’t only driven by exhaust gases, here it’s also connected to an electric motor.

This is powered by the 48v electric system that recovers energy under braking and stores it in a battery, before using it to spin the turbo when demanded. The electric motor works off the throttle, so when you press go, you don’t have to wait for the exhaust gases to start moving before the turbo activates. Instead the electric motor spins the turbo up from 0-120,000rpm in under half a second. The aim is to minimise lag.

Is this the same 48v system that Audi, Porsche and Bentley have?

No, here the 48v system only manages the turbocharger, rather than twisting an anti-roll bar to deliver the uncanny, physics-defying stability and body control you get from a Bentley Bentayga or Audi SQ7.

I’m sure Jaguar plans to develop it further in future, but actually the Range Rover Sport doesn’t roll much anyway. It’s a surprisingly poised and precise SUV for one so tall and weighty. Although 2,310kg doesn’t sound so much in the era of electric cars, when smaller Audi e-trons and Merc EQCs are nearly 2,500kg.

What’s the engine like?

Really rather pleasant. It’s smooth and makes a lovely noise. Not nearly as obnoxious as the bellowing SVR, but a more inwardly focused growl that you’ll notice and appreciate. And the performance is pacey. It’s not superfast – in fact its claimed 0-62mph time of 6.2secs is barely any faster than the plug-in hybrid (6.7secs) – but here it feels like a sports engine, one that’s eager to rev.

But to get the best from it you’ll need to knock the gear lever across to Sport and, ideally, pull the paddles yourself. If you don’t, the gearbox is lazy. Oh, you won’t mind that around town, where the shifts are gentle and unobtrusive, but if you want an extra snap of acceleration when pulling away from a roundabout, you’ll need to have pre-warned the gearbox, or pre-selected third instead of the fifth or sixth it will have already shuffled its way up to (eight ratios in total).

But get yourself in the right gear early and there is very little lag indeed. The power comes in nice and early and sustains itself across to the far side of the 6,500rpm redline. It’s snappy, almost naturally aspirated when charging along a B-road – something it does with reasonable aplomb.

As good as a Porsche Cayenne?

Not quite that much grip and schportiness. It feels heavy and there’s little steering feel, but it’s both accurate and maintains good body control when the going gets tough. The ride is surprisingly taut whether you’re in normal or Dynamic modes – the Sport never feels less than sporty, certainly not soft – but it’s only at low speed that you notice those 22-inch wheels cause any trouble.

What about fuel economy?

Way better than an SVR. Miles and miles. An SVR typically does about 17mpg, whereas the HST manages 27mpg. That might not sound great, but when we ran a Discovery 5 TDV6 a couple of years back, that would barely scrape 30mpg, so the fact a 395bhp petrol is in that ballpark shows the technology works. In my head a 395bhp six-cylinder turbo would be doing 22-23mpg, and this was 5mpg better – so pretty encouraging.

The new WLTP fuel consumption claim is 27.4mpg, but as yet there are no WLTP CO2 figures – instead the old NEDC cycle is 213g/km. Expect that to climb to around 225-230g/km.

Is there anything else new or interesting about the P400 HST?

At the moment it’s only available to special order, which is Range Rover’s way of saying the HST is a toe-in-the-water. The image is more angled to SVR than PHEV: there’s carbonfibre trim on the bonnet, grille, vents and tailgate, plus red brake calipers (although you can choose to have these grey instead).

There are five exterior colours (black, white, silver, red and grey), a choice of two different alloys, while inside there’s a suedecloth steering wheel and gear lever plus other bits of badging and trim to fit the sporting brief. The seats are 16-way adjustable, but overall a bit firmly padded.

And what does it cost?

It’s £81,250. Which puts it on a par with the mid-spec P400e, proving that they’re aimed at very different customers. Personally I rather like this as a package. It’s far less brash than an SVR, feels like a more intelligent, educated choice that doesn’t sacrifice drivability, but does appear to get some fuel economy gains.

Score: 7/10

Spec:
2996cc in-line 6cyl turbo, 8spd auto, 4WD
395bhp, 405lb ft, 0-62mph in 6.2sec, 140mph
27.4mpg, 2310kg

What do you think?

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