Range Rover P510e PHEV: simply majestic – and terrifyingly expensive

·6-min read
Two figures stared out of the specification sheet: this vehicle’s weight at more than 2.8 tonnes and the price at £154,300 – ouch to both - David Shepherd
Two figures stared out of the specification sheet: this vehicle’s weight at more than 2.8 tonnes and the price at £154,300 – ouch to both - David Shepherd

With production limited by scarcity of semiconductors, the fifth-generation Range Rover has been a rare sight since it was launched in April. Both of the international launches have been kyboshed by cancelled flights so driving time has been severely curtailed, and with Land Rover bowdlerising images of the vehicle into little more than a perfume advertisement on TV, I honestly would have struggled to describe it to you before this test opportunity.

That might also have something to do with the bland design of the current, L460 version of this 52-year-old institution, which back in 1970 set the tone for the premium SUV market which followed in its wake: Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lamborghini and Audi, they all came much later.

Yet the original’s stand-out features such as the large glass area, the long rear overhang, the clamshell bonnet, round headlights (yes, and its infamously wide panel gaps) have been smoothed with a designer’s Surform, refined and surfaced to the point where, like the Cheshire Cat’s smile in Alice in Wonderland, the Range Rover has simply ceased to exist.

It still sells, though, to a seemingly insatiable market for big and powerful luxury off-roaders, though time and legislation are catching up like a sheriff’s posse. The EU is strongly rumoured to have vehicle weight (along with life-cycle CO2 emissions) in its sights after it reveals its punitive Euro 7 emissions requirements.

With little evidence of electrons flowing through the battery, the whirring electric motor or the four-wheel drive system, the Range Rover floats along the road - David Shepherd
With little evidence of electrons flowing through the battery, the whirring electric motor or the four-wheel drive system, the Range Rover floats along the road - David Shepherd

High cost of luxury

A fully electric version is promised by 2024. Until then, even today the tax costs of running a combustion-engined large SUV are exorbitant, hence the growth of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) such as this P510e version of the Range Rover in upmarket Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) trim.

Two figures stared out of the specification sheet: this vehicle’s weight at more than 2.8 tonnes and the price at £154,300 – ouch to both. In fairness, however, a standard (non-SVO) P510e can be had for a bargain £126,455 and the less powerful P440e PHEV from £103,485.

The hybrid drivetrain starts with Land Rover’s own 3.0-litre, in-line, six-cylinder turbo petrol unit, which drives into a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with an electric motor along with a torque converter in the bellhousing. A large lithium-ion battery (31.8kWh usable energy) completes the picture, which is enough to give an electric-only range of 69 miles, which you can hold in reserve if entering a zero-emissions zone late in the journey. The total power output is 503bhp and torque output is 516lb ft, enough to give a top speed of 150mph and 0-62mph acceleration of 5.5 seconds.

Whether you approve of near three-tonne vehicles hurtling around at these sorts of speeds and rates of acceleration, or indeed the generous tax benefits that accrue to their drivers and the write-down allowances and National Insurance benefits open to the companies that purchase them, is a moot point and some might even accuse it of wealthy greenwashing.

Refined drivetrain

The original’s stand-out features such as the long rear overhang have been smoothed - David Shepherd
The original’s stand-out features such as the long rear overhang have been smoothed - David Shepherd

The fact is, however, that for those who tow and/or cover long distances, PHEVs are a more practical solution than a pure electric car. As one vehicle engineer from a rival once put it: “Nature doesn’t recognise who saved that gram of CO2.”

What’s undeniable here, too, is the fine work that has gone into managing such a complicated drivetrain. With little evidence of electrons flowing through the battery, the whirring electric motor or the four-wheel drive system, the Range Rover floats along the road. Depending on which setting you’ve dialled in, it either combines electric and petrol, or uses one or the other in a way most suited to refined peregrination.

The official WLTP figures show a combined fuel consumption of 318.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 20g/km, which as we all know are complete horse feathers, but if you charge its battery the PHEV can provide pretty economical transport. With a DC fast-charge ceiling of 50kW, a 0-80 per cent charge can be done in about an hour, while on a 7.4kW AC home wallbox a full charge can be had in five hours.

On the road

The seats adjust every which way and are deeply plush and comfy - David Shepherd
The seats adjust every which way and are deeply plush and comfy - David Shepherd

Clearly the off-road agility of such a heavy beast will be marginally compromised, but for most uses the P510e will more than cover it. And as a means of covering miles on Tarmac in comfort and in luxury, it has few peers. Even the short wheelbase version will accommodate five in comfort with leg and head room to spare and the 818-litre boot will carry their Louis Vuitton luggage with ease.

While the interior has a tautly upholstered and simply shaped facia, not all of it is completely convincing, with the door-to-dash meeting looking pretty amateurish. The seats adjust every which way and are deeply plush and comfy and Land Rover’s Pivi Pro touchscreen software is relatively simple, although it’s easy to become lost in there and miss a vital turn on the satnav instructions.

The Telegraph verdict

Arguing the case between the Range Rover driven here and the Range Rover Sport I tested two weeks ago is as pointless as rowing over whether Aretha Franklin or Dionne Warwick’s version of Bacharach and David’s Say A Little Prayer is the best. There’s little to choose between the two Range Rovers and both have the same magnificent qualities and flaws, not least the terrifying price and thirst.

And as ever with Range Rover, there’s a gulf of difference between want and need. Few, if any, will use the formidable off-road performance and given these cars’ patchy record on reliability, buying one will always be a bit of a gamble, but in this plug-in specification its emissions (if not its tyres) tread a bit more lightly on the planet.

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