Large four-wheel-drive vehicles are routinely criticised for polluting the environment and guzzling more than their fair share of hydrocarbons, but that perception could change with cars such as the Land Rover Range_e, a prototype plug-in diesel hybrid, fulfil their promise.

The Range_e is based on the current Range Rover Sport. It swaps its trademark V8 engine, however, for a parallel hybrid system consisting of a 242bhp, 3.0-litre, TDV6 diesel engine, a 69kW electric motor and a 14.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

The battery, which can be charged via a household mains outlet in about 4 hours, has sufficient capacity to drive the Range_e for more than 20 miles. Should you venture beyond this range, the V6 diesel engine kicks in to provide a total driving range of 690 miles.

Land Rover says the Range_e can match the 89g/km carbon dioxide emissions of a Toyota Prius. Staggeringly, it even surpasses its eco-pinup rival with fuel economy of 85mpg -- 12.6mpg more than the Prius.

Despite its apparent eco-friendly nature, the Range_e promises to retain all the off-roading ability of its petrol-driven cousins. It uses a four-wheel-drive transmission with high and low range modes, front and rear differentials, a locking centre differential and clever electronics that decide whether to use electric, diesel power or both simultaneously.

It all sounds too good to be true, frankly, but Land Rover is planning to bring the Range_e to market "in the near future". It's already begun trials of five prototype vehicles in the UK that, between them, have covered 12,000 miles.

Fancy one? We certainly do. Have a gander through our photo gallery above while we pester Land Rover to have a go in one.

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