The Land Rover Range Rover has a legendary off-road reputation just like the Jeep brand, but with an added air of refinement and luxury that no Wrangler or Cherokee could ever hope to match. Still, despite the current sales rush toward everything SUV, the luxury off-roader can’t stick its proverbial head in the sand and rest on its Land Rover laurels. Fuel economy matters — even in the realm of high-end SUVs.
Enter the plug-in hybrid electric version of the Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport, the first electrified SUV from the Range Rover stable. When you think about a Range Rover, things that spring to mind are probably a posh interior, four-wheel drive and powerful engine under the hood. You’re in luck: All of these things are still present and accounted for here.
The problem is, the refinement part of the equation turns up missing. During our time with this Range Rover, we were maddened by the unruly behavior of the engine, shaken by a stiff and bumpy ride, and downright mystified by an infotainment system that sometimes didn’t want to wake itself up.
For a complete rundown of our time with the PHEV SUV, be sure to check out our expert review from Cars.com’s Aaron Bragman via the related link above. But if you prefer to peruse some of the major hits and misses, then keep reading. Here are six things we like (and three we really, really didn’t) about the 2019 Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport PHEV we drove, which is expected to be identical to the 2020 model:
Things We Like
1. Corners the Market on Cachet
Let’s admit it right off the bat that the Range Rover brand combines the best of both worlds: luxury and off-the-asphalt adventuring. Big, powerful and with a broad-shouldered design, the Range Rover Sport PHEV continues the tradition of being a highly recognizable and highly coveted SUV. In terms of image and marketing message, Range Rover is tough to beat.
2. Elegant Interior
True to tradition, the cabin of the Range Rover Sport PHEV looks elegant and is filled with quality trim. We loved the mix of leather, wood veneer and true metal trim — no chintzy, metallic-look plastic here — used throughout the interior of our test vehicle.
3. Spacious, Comfortable Seating
You can’t fault the front or rear seats for space and comfort. There is plenty for those seated in the front buckets or perched on the second-row bench. Bragman’s test vehicle featured heated and ventilated front seats along with 16-way power adjustments. The rear seats are also heated and cooled, and there’s plenty of legroom back there, too.
4. Great Visibility
Climb into many of today’s most popular cars and trucks, and you’ll realize that having a clear and unobstructed view of the outside world has itself become something of a luxury. Thankfully, in the Range Rover Sport PHEV, the high seating position and large windows create an airy cabin with excellent sight lines.
5. All-Terrain Capability
We talked about the Range Rover image, but the fact of the matter is that this luxury SUV backs up the boasts when it comes to trekking over terrain. You get permanent four-wheel drive standard and true rock-crawling capability — that is, if you’re willing to actually take your $80,295 vehicle (as tested, including a destination charge) off the pavement.
6. Electric-Only Driving Range
According to Land Rover, the Range Rover Sport PHEV offers an electric-only driving range of 31 miles (though it’s important to note that this figure is based on European testing methods, not official EPA figures). That theoretically could get you through your daily commute entirely in electric-only mode.
More From Cars.com:
- 2019 Land Rover Range Rover: What’s Changed
- Research the 2019 Land Rover Range Rover
- 2020 Range Rover Gets Electric Boost, Fancier Plug-In Hybrid … and Higher Charge
- 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Review: Form Over Function
- Shop for Your New SUV
Things We Don’t
1. Unimpressive Hybrid Engine
If this Range Rover PHEV was an entrant in the U.K.’s charming “The Great British Bake Off” TV series, this fancy SUV would be sent home for being half-baked. During our time with it, the engine droned and rattled like a diesel, the electric motor would respond only intermittently (negating that electric-only range, in our experience) and the entire drivetrain felt woefully underdeveloped. Despite some impressive-on-paper specs like 398 horsepower and 472 pounds-feet of torque, there’s no sugarcoating the fact that this is just not a good hybrid powertrain.
2. Infotainment System Is a Mess
When it did decide to work with us, the infotainment system in the Range Rover was difficult to use. The touchscreen controls are hard to manage at a glance, so you’re constantly needing to look directly at the screen for even the smallest inputs. Worse still, the screen sometimes just up and decided it didn’t want to play; it would go blank and require a complete restart to get up and running again. Not good Range Rover … not good at all.
3. Unrefined Ride
OK, so the engine lacks some polish, but the ride is going to be well controlled, right? Wrong. Blame the 21-inch wheels fitted to our test vehicle, the low-profile tires or the fact that that the Range Rover Sport PHEV weighs more than 5,400 pounds, but the ride was brittle and not in line with an SUV in this price range.
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