Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 22, 2023
Every manufacturer is racing to stick a socket in every one of their cars and Range Rover isn’t immune either. Hybrid is the new diesel, and we can expect a fully-electric Range Rover Sport next year as well. But for now, we have the P440e model, a plug-in hybrid that utilizes an inline-six engine paired with an electric motor and a 38.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. In all, this Range will produce 434 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, and promises around 80 km of electric-only driving range.
We didn’t really gel with the V8-powered Range Rover Sport P530 that we tested last winter. We couldn’t get along with its pokey throttle response, jarring ride quality and somewhat average driving experience. Not at all what we were expecting from a $140,000 rig. But the P440e seems to operate on a different wavelength, one with a more relaxed mojo mixed with a hybrid personality. The ability to drive with nothing but unicorn dust flailing out of the dual exhausts adds an extra layer of polish and refinement that the V8 Sport lacked. And the ride quality fairs better as well, floating over bumps with only a hint of underlying firmness. It does an excellent job disconnecting the driver from the road ebbing and flowing underneath, soaking most minor oscillations up like a sponge. The hybrid is cheaper too.
Electric propulsion fits right in with the Range Rover lineup. Instead of focusing on track performance, which let’s be honest, doesn’t really suit these off-road rigs very well, it highlights its stronger areas of comfort, quietness, and efficiency. The P440e is smooth and relaxed at speed, and it’s difficult to tell when the engine actually tags in. The transitions are seamless and sometimes the only way to tell the cylinders are firing is by peering at the tachometer needle.
With all pistons and electrons whizzing on deck, the P440e will launch from 0-100 km/h in an impressive 5.5 seconds. Acceleration still lacks the immediacy of the V8 but it’s still no slouch, and we didn’t encounter any instances where we longed for more horsepower. Even on highway overtakes, the inline-six was more than up to the task and has proven itself in other heavy applications like the Land Rover Defender 130. Of note, there’s an upcoming SV variant of the Range Rover Sport with 635 hp, and they claim it will be the fastest Range Rover ever produced.
The battery and electric motor are there to enhance the engine, not to be stars of the show. Because on electric power alone, acceleration is tepid and you feel vulnerable on highways and when overtaking. The P440e won’t slingshot forward like a BMW iX but it’s respectable and usable enough for light city driving. There’s a dedicated EV button as well should you need to cycle through the three modes: Hybrid, EV, and Save, the latter of which allows you to use the engine without battery assistance.
We achieved 79 km of range on a full battery in city driving only, which makes it more viable than a BMW X5 xDrive50e (64 km) or Volvo XC90 Recharge (53 km). If you have access to a home charger and have short commutes, its inline-six engine might actually become a dust bunny, but one can expect a combined driving range of around 700 km. Unfortunately, the maximum charging rate for the Range is a measly 50 kW from a DC charger, which will take about an hour for a full battery. A household 7 kW plug will take about five.
Smoother and sleeker though less muscular than the outgoing model, the new Range Rover Sport follows the brand’s new design language brought forth by the Evoque and Velar, but the rear comes off as somewhat generic and anonymous, and we wouldn’t blame you for mistaking one for a Nissan Pathfinder. Varesine Blue is also too subtle for our tastes and doesn’t show off its broad shoulders as well as shades of black and white. Minimalism and soft shapes are all the rage these days but we think the sheetmetal is too conservative and too difficult to distinguish from the other models in the range (no pun intended). From some angles, the Sport exudes celebrity road presence but from other angles, not so much.
At least the squared-off exhausts look less pretentious than the quad pipes in the V8 model. And the PHEV is almost indistinguishable from the gasoline variants, with the plug cover disguised on the driver’s side rear fender like a gas cap. There are no P440e badges on the trunk lid either, only on the VIN plate embedded on the front windshield. The only real telltale signs are the green license plates that allow PHEVs to roll in high-occupancy lanes with only a single occupant.
The cabin is essentially a shrunken-down Range Rover, the only real differences being the center console and steering wheel - unsurprising as they share the same vehicle width and wheelbase dimensions. The design and upholstery in this cabin are impeccable, with buttery semi-aniline leather covering the majority of surfaces. Complementing it is a large 13.1-inch curved center screen and 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster.
The red leather adds a deserving splash of colour and shows off its finely crafted steering wheel, cozy couch seats, and adjustable armrests. An improvement over the outgoing Sport are the flat window sills that make it easy to rest your arm on like in the full-size Range - it used to be acutely angled. And typical of Range Rovers, the cabin is extremely well insulated from unwanted noise, muting out wind and tire squeal better than any in its class.
No winged headrests on this Dynamic HSE model but we still have upper and lower glovebox compartments and open storage behind the center stack. Also noteworthy is the diamond button on the steering wheel, which acts as a programmable shortcut button, but it’s not as limited to what you can program it to like in Audis and Porsches. Here you can ask it to turn on the massaging seats, Apple CarPlay, mute the audio, or summon the air quality display that shows just how well the car’s built-in air ionizers and filters are working.
We still have some nitpicks. The suede material on the shifter doesn’t seem to hold up very well against scratches, stains, and sweaty palms. Fingerprints constantly mar the touchscreens but that’s not exclusive to Range Rover. We also experienced some odd electronic wiggles like the rear seat light that kept turning on by itself, a signal stalk indicator that goes into tachycardia, and some creaking noises from the driver’s side A-pillar. We also became annoyed at the beeping noise when in reverse gear, which sounds like you’re operating a forklift in a parking lot, but it’s a necessary evil to abide by the EV rules.
While it may seem like a rushed job to fit every offering with a plug-in socket, the Range Rover Sport feels well-suited to hybrid duties. Its serenely quiet and refined under both electric and gas operation, and upholds its luxury mojo with a supple and stable ride. It’s not very sporty as its name might suggest, but we’re glad it’s geared towards coddling its occupants instead with top-shelf materials and a copious list of modern amenities. TL;DR? Skip the V8 and go straight to P440e.
Model: 2023 Range Rover Sport P440e HSE Dynamic
Paint Type: Varesine Blue
Base Price: $123,050
Price as Tested: $137,176
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,945 / 2,047 / 1,821
Curb weight (kg): 2,658
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six engine + 38.2 kWh lithium-ion battery
Horsepower: 434 hp
Torque: 457 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.2