We get a first taste of the new Range Rover Sport in plug-in hybrid P510e form
4.5 out of 5
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Adding more advanced plug-in tech to the new Range Rover Sport’s repertoire has pushed the price higher, but this third-generation car offers a broader range of talents than ever. There are still more agile SUVs on sale, but the Sport offers just the right level of engagement and balances this with a big step on in terms of luxury that places it closer than ever before to the full-size Range Rover. Refinement and zero-emissions running are both great, there’s lots of tech and it’s practical and desirable. Just one or two small compromises and weaknesses stop it receiving the full five stars. But make no mistake, this is a very accomplished SUV.
Following the recent reinvention of the Range Rover for the electric era, it’s now the turn of the full-fat model’s more dynamic sibling, the Range Rover Sport, to be replaced with an all-new model as part of Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Reimagine’ plan.
We sampled the new Range Rover Sport from the passenger seat at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this year and the signs proved promising, and now we’ve had our first taste from behind the wheel.
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The Sport is based on the same MLA-Flex platform as the Range Rover, allowing for plug-in hybrid models and a full EV version that will join the range from 2024. There are also 48-volt mild-hybrid variants and the storming 523bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 P530 model that we’ve also tried, but it’s the plug-in hybrid P510e that we’re focusing on here.
Car group tests
Mechanically and electronically, the powertrain is identical to the Range Rover plug-in, and like that car there’s also a less powerful P440e model available.
Both PHEV’s use the same 38.2kWh battery feeding a 141bhp electric motor alongside a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six petrol engine. However, for the P510e the petrol unit’s output is upped to deliver total combined figures of 503bhp and 700Nm of torque – the latter available from just 1,000rpm and sustained to 5,000rpm.
It’s this that gives the car its easy-going feel, especially around town and at lower speeds, because despite the plug-in hybrid Sport’s significant 2,735kg bulk, it has a surprisingly urgent response to even slight inputs with the throttle.
It means you move off smoothly and quickly in full EV mode, with pretty much all of the luxury and refinement present in its larger brother. When the petrol engine kicks in it’s smooth and also pretty well suppressed; you only get a muted roar from under the bonnet at high revs on full throttle, and the six-cylinder engine note is fairly musical too.
Ask for everything and despite the 5.2-second 0-60mph claim the car doesn’t feel that fast, though. Possibly because the e-motor’s delivery fills in for the petrol engine’s slight deficiency at lower revs, where the combustion engine then takes over higher up, meaning the resultant delivery is linear and smooth.
The same is true of the transmission’s gear shifts, slurring changes nicely to deliver refined progress. However, we’d like them to be snappier, and taking manual control highlights that the gearbox’s responses are sometimes a little sluggish. Occasionally you get a faint jolt as the petrol engine kicks back in too, especially if you ask for a burst of quick acceleration. But most of the time the transmission between propulsion is managed nicely.
Flat-out isn’t the P510e’s forte – and nor would you expect it to be given the focus on efficiency. Instead, let the car dictate when to use its electrical energy, petrol, or a combination of both, and drive with a relaxed approach, and the Range Rover Sport is extremely convincing.
Hybrid mode is the default setting, while you can force the car to run in EV, where with a full battery Land Rover claims up to 69 miles of emissions-free running in high-pec Autobiography trim. With rapid charge capability (unusual for a PHEV) an 80 per cent top-up takes less than an hour, while recharging using a standard home wallbox sees this rise to five hours.
The car deploys its electrical energy carefully and cleverly – especially if your intended destination is in the heart of a low emissions zone. The nav knows how much energy to save for deployment later on in these areas – or you can manually select Save mode for the same end result.
While it’s unlikely you’ll get close to the 327.7mpg claim, we did find the predicted electric range to be pretty accurate, albeit in 30-degree conditions. Of bigger benefit might be the 19g/km of CO2 emissions, which combined with its all-electric range claim puts this £108,600 car in the eight per cent Benefit-in-Kind company car tax banding. Just one more mile would have dropped the Range Rover Sport into the five per cent band, although the more basic P440e SE does sit in this class.
It’s a cost-effective way of running a very refined, very luxurious car though. This third-generation Range Rover Sport’s ability is broader than ever. The car feels as though it now can do some of what the pukka Range Rover can deliver, with a flowing ride that has a lovely light touch on the road for such a heavy car.
Yet it’s lost none of its dynamism or agility, which is clearly baked in to the new platform. It’s not as sharp as a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid to drive, but the steering is direct and offers up a lovely weight and resistance-free feel to how you wind on lock.
In Dynamic mode the Sport’s chassis feels tauter, with ripples from the road surface more noticeable. The benefits this brings in control thanks to the adaptive air suspension, Dynamic Response Pro active anti-roll control and an electronically controlled rear differential with torque vectoring are palpable, yet the ride isn’t badly corrupted either.
You still can’t throw the car about, you need to manage its weight and smooth out pitch and roll with gentle inputs, but it’s relatively agile for such a big machine – and nicely judged. This is a high-end SUV first and a sporty car second, and it delivers its dynamic qualities in this order.
There were moments on our undulating Spanish test route outside of Madrid where the Range Rover Sport’s body just went light on its suspension as we rounded awkward, cresting corners, but the body control kept this movement in check before the chassis deftly settled on its air springs in the following compression.
Agility is boosted by active all-wheel steering, where the rear wheels can turn by as much as 7.3 degrees. In slower corners – and tighter streets and car parks which, let’s face it, is where the Sport will operate on a regular basis too – manoeuvrability is impressive.
As with the way the car rides and handles, inside, the Range Rover Sport clearly has a more dynamic focus compared with its bigger brother, but it doesn’t feel like it sacrifices luxury in any way. Much of the cabin architecture is shared with the full-fat car, including the 13.7-inch digital instruments, the sweeping horizontal dash structure that houses the 13.1-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up and the centre stack beneath it. It’s a more cosseting cabin though, with a sportier feel as a result.
Material quality is great throughout, and the Ultrafabric cloth and chopped carbon fibre inserts on the door cards give a different feel. However, just like the regular Range Rover, the nasty plastic for the Meridian stereo’s speaker pods on the front door tops seem like a real oversight.
It’s a small blot on an otherwise impressively clean copybook, however. The rear seats are impressively spacious offering plenty of legroom, and despite the Sport’s lower roofline and our car’s panoramic glass roof there’s still no issue when it comes to headroom.
Boot space stands at 647 litres, which isn’t the largest but still offers a respectable level of practicality, and there are nice storage touches inside the cabin, with cup-holders that reveal a big, deep bin beneath them in the centre console, plus a little cooler cabinet behind.
Autobiography trim is pricey – even more so in plug-in hybrid form – but for the cash you get a lot of kit. There’s lots of connectivity, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa voice assistant and Spotify, plus more downloadable apps available as well as over-the-air software update capability.
Heated and ventilated leather seats with massage functionality also come fitted as standard, along with full keyless go with soft-close doors, Land Rover’s advanced off-road camera tech and Terrain Response system, wireless phone charging, loads of advanced driver assistance tech and everything you’d expect from a top-spec Autobiography Range Rover model.
|Model:||Range Rover Sport P510e Autobiography|
|Powertrain:||3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol & 1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
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