SUVs

2018 Range Rover P400e: The pinnacle of luxury SUVs, now quieter

A plug-in hybrid system might add complexity, but it doesn't change the overall character of Land Rover's flagship offering.

Land Rover

The Range Rover is one of the best SUVs on the market. Land Rover could fill the air vents with expired yogurt and it'd still be near the top of everyone's must-have list. You didn't think that adding a big battery and an electric motor would muck it up, did you? Luckily for well-heeled buyers everywhere, Land Rover did exactly that (the battery, not the yogurt) and I'm happy to report it doesn't mess with the Range Rover's character one bit.

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Part of a larger series of updates

Now in the fifth model year of its fourth generation, Land Rover's flagship receives a few key updates. Aesthetics are largely unchanged, save for a new set of LED headlights (that we don't get in the US due to draconian lighting regulations), a new grille and a new rear bumper with integrated tailpipes. It was handsome before, and the story stays the same for 2018.

The interior has a few quality-of-life upgrades, like seat controls that have been moved to the door panels for easier usability and glass that's 20 percent thicker for better noise insulation. The infotainment gets an upgrade to the same system that the new Velar uses, with a pair of 10-inch touchscreens that cover every iota of infotainment and vehicle settings, with a clear delineation of responsibility between each screen.

It looks pretty good in this muted blue.

Land Rover

Plug in to the good life

What brings me to the English countryside, though, is the introduction of a new plug-in hybrid variant. With a 13.1-kWh battery shoved in the back and an electric motor integrated into the gearbox, this powertrain puts out a net 398 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. With 31 miles of all-electric range on offer, the Range Rover P400e will go for quite a while before its 2.0-liter gas engine needs to kick in.

When it's sneaking around, a front-mounted speaker makes a noise like a quiet vacuum cleaner to prevent the blind from ending up inside the grille, which is where the plug is located, by the by. The P400e can operate in EV-only mode at speeds up to 85 mph, at which point the gas engine kicks in because it's the more efficient way to move down the road. There's a mode for holding the battery's charge level until you need to use it, or you can just let the computers do their thing. The only caveat is you can't use EV-only mode in conjunction with the Range Rover's low range during off-roading.

Hitting the dirt

The Range Rover PHEV lives up to every other Land Rover's nigh-legendary off-road capability. Multiple off-road modes are available, adjusting how and when the differentials lock as you traverse mud, water and whatever else you can throw at it.

My time in the dirt also includes testing the PHEV's damned impressive 35.4-inch wading depth (a success, and I didn't electrocute any fish) and its ability to handle deep, rain-soaked ruts (with aplomb). I don't think Land Rover would have released a PHEV Range without it being able to handle stuff like this, even if a majority of its drivers may never once touch half these settings.

Even on garden variety all-season tires, the Range Rover P400e can tackle some gnarly mud.

Land Rover

Hitting the road

While concessions aren't readily apparent in the dirt, you can find a few of 'em during the course of standard driving. It's not enough to detract from the experience, but they're worth mentioning.

Driving most Range Rover models is like floating over the asphalt on a leather-lined cloud. Perhaps due to its extra sprung mass, though, the P400e feels slightly stiffer than your average Range Rover, which lends to a bumpier ride than you'd expect. That mass is also quite obvious in tight turns. It feels a little more ponderous than your average Range Rover, so caveat emptor if your primary reason for scooping one up is its softness.

The immediate torque from the electric motor is nice no matter the ground beneath the car, and when the 2.0-liter Ingenium I4 kicks in, it usually does so with minimal fanfare. The gas engine does get a bit buzzy at higher revs, which again detracts from the typical Range Rover experience a smidge, but Mother Earth likely prefers the noise over the increased tailpipe emissions of non-hybrid models.

Otherwise, the experience is 100-percent Range Rover. The interior is lined with soft leather, the seats are adjustable and always comfortable and the view is as commanding as ever. It's a Range Rover -- you're paying for luxury, and you definitely get your money's worth here. Adding a complex plug-in hybrid system doesn't change the overall formula, so the future is definitely compatible with the present.

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