2019 Land Rover Range Rover PHEV Autobiography
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  •   Engine
    2.0L Turbo I4 / Electric Motor
  •   Power
    398 HP / 472 LB-FT (Total Output
  •   Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  •   0-60 Time
    6.4 Sec
  •   Drivetrain
    4WD
When Land Rover announced its changes for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport lines, one of the most notable updates was the addition of a plug-in hybrid variant for each. On paper, it sounds impressive, with a total of 398 horsepower between the turbocharged inline-four and electric motor. It even boasts an all-electric range of about 30 miles, though overall fuel economy has yet to be released. To find out if it is as good as it looks on paper, Land Rover brought us out to California for a very short drive (a little over an hour) in pre-production cars, as evidenced by the big red emergency stop button we were asked to please not press unless absolutely needed.

Our test car was a lovely light blue Range Rover Autobiography, which, being the second-highest trim in the Range Rover lineup, made for a thoroughly luxurious place to experience the hybrid powertrain. But in the United States, the Autobiography trim won't be available with the hybrid system, and that's unfortunate because the powertrain didn't detract from the opulent, leather-slathered experience. The turbocharged four-cylinder may not have the rippling soundtrack of the Autobiography's standard V8, but as four-pots are concerned, this one is impressively smooth and quiet, and even when it becomes noisier under hard acceleration, the engine note isn't unpleasant.

Acceleration with both engine and motor was also perfectly adequate and smooth, if not exhilarating. But really, a Range Rover like this isn't meant to be hustled like a sports car, it's meant for comfortable wafting and cruising. It should definitely compare favorably with the diesel and gas V6s in base and HSE trim Range Rovers, both of which have less power and less torque.

Of course being a plug-in hybrid with a solid range, the Range Rover PHEV can be driven in fully electric mode, and it can stay in that mode all the way up to 85 mph. Our test route down Latigo Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway didn't really afford us an opportunity to test that, but we don't doubt it's capable of it. The trick would be keeping your foot light enough to keep from kicking in the engine while reaching that speed. It's quite a trick, too, since when this massive SUV is running solely on the 114-horsepower electric motor, acceleration is painfully slow in normal traffic. The ideal circumstances for running in electric-only mode seem to be slow or stop-and-go traffic. Otherwise, you'll probably be jamming down the pedal enough to bring the gas engine into play again.

We have one other nitpick with the hybrid powertrain, and that's the brakes. Land Rover needs to do some more work on getting the feel right. Much of the pedal travel is mushy and numb as the regenerative braking does its stuff, and when pushed enough that the physical brakes activate, they grab harder than expected, making smooth stops tricky.

But overall, the system works great with both engine and motor working together. And you really don't lose a thing compared with the regular models. The cabin is still as plush as you would expect, the steering is beautifully weighted and reasonably precise, the high seating position, and the low window sills and upright pillars permit excellent visibility. You can't even really tell from the outside that it's a hybrid, let alone a plug-in one, thanks in part to the well-hidden plug-in door in the grille. The full complement of off-road features is still available, too, including different drive modes for different terrain, adjustable ride height, and a traditional four-wheel-drive system with low range, all of which we experienced on a dirt trail before the road drive.

The Range Rover PHEV really is a Diet Range Rover in the best possible way. Almost the identical flavor of any other Range Rover, but without the guilt of guzzling gasoline. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but you'll be able to find one at your local Land Rover grocer this coming summer.

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