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2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 400e: New PHEV shows promise, needs fine-tuning

2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 400e 4.JPG
2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 400e 4.JPG

The 2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 400e is comfortable, capable and smooth -- but just as thirsty if it doesn’t get its regular electric fix.

Land Rovers tend to be large and thirsty SUVs. So, when the automaker introduced plug-in hybrids, it made sense.

However, it truly only makes a lot of sense when you have an at-home charger so you can regularly drive in EV-only mode.

Design

The exterior design for Land Rover is classic and recognizable whether you opt for the Range Rover, Discovery or soon-to-arrive Defender line.

The Sport P400e falls under the Range Rover umbrella and lands in the upper middle of the Range Rover, Sport, Velar, Evoque pack.

The P400e has the same bold lines as the rest of the Sport line, and there really isn’t much to differentiate it from a regular gasoline model – other than the teeny tiny P400e HSE badging on the back.



The plug port is hidden in the front grille, which is perhaps not the best location. I tried to open it after driving in rain, and my fingers kept slipping off the ridges that denoted where you should press and pull to open.

Additionally, if there were snowy, icy conditions, I could see this flimsy plastic cover getting stuck or breaking when someone uses brute force to try to open it.

The interior of the P400e is also just like every other Sport model with the inclusion of some additional screens behind the wheels and on the center stack infotainment to show the hybrid battery flow, charging status and fuel economy.

Because the test vehicle was an HSE trim, it included a lot of nice amenities, such as the Touch Pro Duo info screens on the center stack, heated front seats, panoramic roof and a really cool puddle lamp with a Range Rover Sport outline.

As a petite driver, I was satisfied with the driving position with plenty of lift in the seat height to provide good visibility. The seats are mostly comfortable even if the seat bottoms are a tad too long. They were initially uncomfortable, but I got used to them as the test week wore on.



Ride & Handling

The Sport P400e is equipped with 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 105 kW plug-in hybrid motor. It delivers 398 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque.

If you step behind the wheel when the Sport P400e is in full EV mode, it’s initially disconcerting as the silence is overwhelming while driving. Quiet, calm and smooth are just some of the adjectives I’d use to describe this vehicle. But because of the instantaneous torque, it’s also fast, spirited and fun. It can go up to 85 mph in all-electric mode, so highway cruising is absolutely a part of the equation.

Once the battery is depleted and switches over to hybrid mode, however, the overall experience isn’t as pleasant. The engine is buzzy, and while it seamlessly shuts off when cruising or at a stop, it grumbles and stutters a bit when it turns back on.

Plus, if you need to move quickly with a turn into traffic and the engine is off, there is a brief lag between when you press the accelerator and the vehicle moves. Not enough to cause an accident, but long enough to think that it might.

The power equation itself – other than the from-a-stop lag – is still good when functioning as a hybrid, and passing maneuvers and highway merges are easily achieved.

Plus, for such a large vehicle, Land Rover has done a good job of making it drive “small.” With an excellent turning radius, decent visibility out all windows, rear backup camera and parking sensors, the test vehicle navigated tight city spaces really well – including parallel parking.



Fuel economy

Though the Sport P400e hasn’t been rated by the EPA yet, a Land Rover spokesman said that you should probably be able to expect 20 to 22 mpg of EV-only range, depending on driving style and environmental conditions.

The test vehicle came to me with 16 miles of range, which I gobbled up quickly. And when I tried to plug in at home, the power cable kept tripping the reset button on the outlet in my garage. So, I was never able to re-charge.

In the end, I averaged 18.6 mpg over 102 miles. The good news is: My range when I turned the vehicle in was still at 250 miles.

Land Rover says you should be able to charge via a regular jack in 7.5 hours or in 2.75 hours using a Level 2 at-home charger.

Tech & gadgets

The most visibly cool technology on the Sport P400e is the Duo Touch Pro infotainment system. The top screen manages audio, phone, navigation and EV information as well as a few other settings, while the bottom screen primarily manages climate and terrain control systems.

It’s also worth noting that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.



Other tech features on the test vehicle included the power gesture tailgate, passive entry, push-button start, the Meridian sound system, a WiFi hotspot with a limited data trail and navigation.

Available features that were added to the test vehicle as package options include a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, high-speed emergency braking, lane keep assist and a head-up display.

Trims

If you are opting for the P400e powertrain, you have two “specification packs” to choose from, with nearly a $10K difference between them.

HSE ($80,295): This trim comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, a fixed panoramic roof, leather seats, 16-way-power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, a clear exit monitor and a 360-degree parking aid.

Autobiography with Dynamic Pack ($90,285): This trim adds 21-inch alloy wheels, a black contrast roof, LED headlights, auto high-beam assist, 22-way-power-adjustable front seats, heated-and-cooled front seats, soft-door close, surround-view camera system and three-zone climate control.



Safety

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have rated the Land Rover Range Rover Sport in crash tests.

But standard safety features on the Sport P400e include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, traffic sign recognition with an adaptive speed limiter, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

New for 2019

The P400e itself is all new for the 2019 model year, and the other big new news is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the entire Range Rover Sport lineup.

A few of my favorite things

I’m usually not a fan of the double screen center stack, but this iteration works. With the four-color graphics and easy-to-navigate layout, the Duo Touch Pro system is intuitive and attractive. I like that the top screen has clearly delineated functions from the bottom screen, and there is no confusion about which screen should do what.

My husband did have to futz around with the climate control screens a bit to adjust his passenger side temperature to his liking, but I chalk that up to the learning curve that comes with buying a new car.



But speaking of those climate controls – they are another fan favorite. Dual zone was standard (#MarriageSaver), with the available four-zone included as a part of the Climate Comfort Pack (#FamilySaver).

What I can leave

I really don’t like the location of the EV charge port. I could see it getting stuck in the winter, and the overall design makes it difficult for clumsy fingers to open.

The one downside I noticed to the dual screen setup in the Sport P400e was because of my husband’s longer fingers. When he was adjusting the audio on the top screen his fingers dangled down and tapped the lower screen. However, the “damage” was minimal because he just tapped the top menu items, and the bottom screen kept flitting between seat, climate and terrain controls as he fiddled with the station settings above.

I couldn’t charge at home via my regular 110-volt power outlet because the charger kept tripping my test/reset button on the jack.



The bottom line

Generally speaking, I love the Range Rover lineup. It’s the kind of setup where Goldilocks would have no problem finding the vehicle that’s “just right.” Specifically, I love the idea of a plug-in hybrid slotted into that lineup.

However, I think this version needs fine tuning when it slips into hybrid mode to smooth out some of the rough edges, and I’d love to see a charging cable that won’t trip my jack outlet so at-home charging is more accessible.

As a plug-in hybrid with a small-ish battery pack, a wall-charger shouldn’t be necessary – especially since charging should be able to hit 100 percent in less than 8 hours on a regular jack.

The 2019 Range Rover Sport is comfortable and capable in any trim, but I’d probably hold off spending the extra $10K over the regular P360 gasoline model with the inline 6-cylinder engine until the PHEV system gets smoothed out.

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