Range Rover P400e Autobiography
What's the new hybrid Range Rover like on a big, long road-trip?
What’s better than one visit to the Alps in summer? That’s right, two visits. And what’s quite possibly the very best car on sale to do that trip in? Got it in one: our long wheelbase Range Rover. Sam Philip and Ollie Marriage were your smug chauffeurs for this one.
OM: Great minds think alike eh, Sam? 3,300 miles we’ve managed to pile on between us across the autoroutes and mountain passes of France. I don’t see your pics brimming with kids and plastic toys – what were you up to out there?
SP: A glorious, child-free jaunt to catch a big mountain stage of the Tour de France, because there’s no finer way to spend a weekend than eating cheese while watching tiny men power their way up 20-degree inclines. No messing around getting out to the Alps here: bike in the boot, flat out across Eastern France, one fuel stop halfway. A proper test of the Range Rover’s mile-mullering abilities – which, obviously, it smashed. Speaking of tiny men and bikes, you love your cycling, right? Surprised not to see the RR covered in bikes for your trip?
OM: There’s a reason for that. I was meant to take an electric mountain bike out with me, y’know, the old hybrid bike/hybrid car opportunity, but it was too heavy to go on the roof and – here’s a secret worth knowing – you can’t have a towbar fitted to a long wheelbase hybrid, for reasons I haven’t yet got to the bottom of. Anyway, how was the Tour? Did you manage to sit on the tailgate and bray like you were at a point-to-point?
SP: Yes, but in French, which is somehow more acceptable, I think? Allez! Bon courage! Peur du pamplemousse rouge! Went full local with my parking, too. Watching the Tour is something of an… improvisational experience: there’s no organised parking, so you simply find yourself an inviting section of verge, drive on in and set up camp. That’s where the Range Rover excels. You can bung it into hillsides and ditches you wouldn’t dare tackle in a regular luxury car. It’s a go-anywhere relaxation pod.
OM: It is sensational at that, isn’t it? I snuck off one afternoon simply to go and find some tracks and slopes to see what it’s capable of. And it’s actually bizarre. You’re sat in these immaculate cream seats, the ambience is plush squared, you have silent progress from the electric motor yet you’re crawling over loose gravel, past cattle, up vertiginous slopes. At times it feels like AI-generated immersive 3D cinema.
SP: I do find the RR’s bipolar nature – serious off-roader and luxury limo – a bit disconcerting at times, though. 150 grand plus mud-and-undergrowth is a puckering combination. I couldn’t shake the fear of scratching the glossy paintwork with a bramble, or defiling the thick-shag carpet with a mucky walking boot. I’d definitely spec my Range Rover with a darker shade of leather. And possibly cover the interior in that plastic they use to wrap suitcases at airports. While we’re talking about inappropriate Alpine activities, I can also report that the Range Rover is not the car for a spirited assault on an empty mountain pass, unless you wish that spirited assault to end in a thicket of pines trees. It’s a wafter, not a fighter, this lad.
OM: Yeah, this is not one of those luxury SUVs with rigid body control is it? It leans heavily and does its best to encourage you to slow down, admire the world outside, appreciate the imperiousness of it all. If only sudden impacts from expansion joints and potholes didn’t jar and kickback through the chassis.
SP: Far less of an issue on marbly autoroute tarmac, though. The phrase ‘continent crusher’ is hideously overused, but there’s no better way to describe the RR. It just hoovered up the 700-mile drive across France, all easy waft and leathery luxury. If you’re doing big miles and money’s literally no object, I’m not sure there’s a better car on the planet. A Bentley Continental? You certainly wouldn’t be so comfy in the rear. It’s an absolute business lounge back there. While I drove the stint from Calais to Troyes, my brother conducted a three-hour business meeting via Zoom from a rear throne. Nothing like receiving a deep tissue massage while you’re blathering through Powerpoint slides.
OM: I had five on board a lot of the time, so centre rear got a definite short straw. I only sat in the back during the inevitable four hour delay at Eurotunnel on the way home. I saw then why no-one else had volunteered to drive. It’s spectacular.
SP: One point to note: those (literally) mega reclining rear chairs do compromise luggage space a bit. Even with one of the rear seats folded forward, it was quite a fiddle to fit a bike in the boot alongside our luggage. They don’t fold nearly flat, and everything happens electrically and takes forever. OK, it’s hardly Jag F-Type territory, but not necessarily the cavern you’d expect from the Range Rover’s vast exterior silhouette. I suspect that’s partially the fault of the big hybrid battery under the boot floor, which is the price you pay for what’s actually a useful slug of electric range.
OM: I stuffed it on a public charger, worked out that was an expensive nonsense and resorted to putting it on a 3 pin overnight – crawling around the healthy, clean atmosphere of a ski resort in electric just felt so much better. However, overall it only improved economy from 28mpg to 32mpg.
SP: But I did enjoy the sensation of gaining a few miles of electric range through regenerative braking on those long mountain descents. Nice to put the RR’s many, many kilos to good use. And on the subject of electric cleverness, a shout-out to the genius digital LED headlights, which read the scene ahead in real-time, and magically, microscopically shift their beams to avoid dazzling oncoming cars. Loved them. Proper Tomorrow’s World stuff, and it actually works.
OM: Speaking of working – or not – my biggest issue came at Eurotunnel on the way home. Sat at the barrier with a line of cars behind, barrier goes up, Rangey starts, but there’s no powering steering. None. Family find this hilarious, I’m sweating buckets within 200 metres. Shows how heavy the car is, what effort it’s putting in. It woke up within a few hundred metres, but it was palpitating stuff.
SP: I notice you neglected to mention that particular glitch before handing over the keys.
OM. Eh yeah, sorry. That wasn’t all either. When we came to get off the Eurotunnel, the engine failed to start for about five increasingly panicky jabs of the button. And the increasing rancour of those behind.
SP: You can’t expect perfection for a mere £150k, right? Behaved itself immaculately for me, though. Clearly I’m possessed of greater mechanical sympathy than you. Cracking trip though. And what a car for the job.