The sky was Alice Blue and the breeze was cold but the weak, wintry sun heralded a hint of warmer days to come. Thus the decision was made to drive to Weston-super-Mare for a stroll along the prom and to enjoy one of the finer things in life – fish and chips at Winston’s Fish Bar. As luck would have it we were able to make the journey inside our featured car, the Range Rover Hybrid pictured below, which, coincidentally, is also one of the finer things in life.
These days Land Rovers come in all shapes and sizes including this plus-sized long-wheel base version of the Range Rover. This is a car that is about the same size and weight as the Taj Mahal yet managed an astonishing average of a trip-computer registered 32.9mpg for the journey from a mix of urban and motorway speeds and without any eco-caution. This car is so big that when overtaking we were able to look down from our lofty eminence at the people in what appeared to be a diminutive Evoque. A bit later our rear-seat passengers, spread out in the luxury rear compartment like sleepy sultans, could do the same thing.You would think that given the sheer scale of this vehicle it would be impossible to park yet amazingly this is not the case. The Range Rover LWD Hybrid is festooned with cameras and parking aids which make manoeuvring a doddle. Clearly this isn’t a motor that you can squeeze into a tight spot but otherwise parking is straightforward.
The Range Rover Hybrid powertrain combines Land Rover’s 3.0L SDV6 diesel engine with a 35kW electric motor, integrated with an 8-speed ZF auto transmission. The system allows the driver to select from three different drive modes to maximise performance or efficiency, and is capable, say the company, of delivering 26% lower CO² emissions (169g/km) and 44.1mpg. I would suggest that this last figure would involve some serious hyper-miling techniques. I doubt that buyers who can afford this car (model featured £108,000+) will worry too much about the fuel bill but in any case the over 30mpg figure that we saw remains impressive. The mpg figure is aided by the intelligent Stop/Start feature and this, combined with electric only power – say when stuck in a traffic creep, meant that the engine registered ‘off’ for 21% of the trip.
Installing the hybrid diesel-electric powertrain in the LWB Range Rover has not compromised space, or indeed the driving experience. The long wheelbase offers the benefits of an additional 186mm of legroom for rear seat passengers and, with the option of the executive seating package, an impressive increase in the rear seat angle of recline to 17 degrees.The hybrid system uses the same proven Terrain Response system and all-wheel drive technology found in the other petrol and diesel-powered models. Wading depth capability is undiminished at a class-leading 900mm although the weather remained resolutely dry so we were not able to test the all-terrain/weather credentials. Doesn’t really matter as everyone already knows how good this car is off-road.The complete hybrid system, including a lithium-ion battery pack, inverter and electric motor, weighs less than 120kg. The electric motor produces 170Nm torque and operates to boost acceleration when required, and to drive the vehicle in EV (electric vehicle) Mode. The motor also acts as a generator, harvesting kinetic energy through regenerative braking, charging the battery when the vehicle is slowing. In EV mode the Range Rover Hybrid can travel at speeds of up to 30mph for a range of up to one mile before the diesel engine seamlessly restarts. Frankly, a mile is a tad optimistic. We managed about 400 meters from a full charge.Together, output of the diesel engine and electric motor is 340PS at 4,000rpm and a class-leading 700Nm torque between 1,500-3,000rpm, delivering performance on a par with the more powerful SDV8 engine. Certainly, out on the road the power is more than enough to make overtaking simple aided by blind spot monitoring in the door mirrors. The Range Rover Hybrid comes, just like its siblings, with a sport mode and flappy paddles. We tried both but most users will stick, as we did, with the regular drive because it is so good that anything else seems a bit superfluous. The Range Rover isn’t a sports car – that’s not how you drive it.It is however a powerful car. It will complete the traffic light sprint to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds, which is faster than some hot hatches. As you can see from the specification sheet below the Range Rover Hybrid comes with many, many extras and secret delights too numerous to list here. On this range-topping Autobiography model TV/DVD is available front and back and tech-savvy ankle biters can control their viewing pleasure with their own remote control hidden in the rear-seat centre armrest/cupholder. Our car came with a full sized spare wheel but this can be substituted by a third row of seats and a tyre kit. While we are around the back I should say that the boot is massive and very well shaped. The security cover folds back and the tailgate drops down to allow access.As mentioned this luxurious car is hugely expensive and it was privilege to have it for a full week. Even Mrs DriveWrite, normally a woman of high moral standards (and, by the way, still gorgeous as it says on the piece of paper just passed to me), began making nefarious suggestions about somehow managing to ‘lose’ it in a lock-up somewhere in Wiltshire. I admit I was tempted.You can buy cars that cost even more than this. You can buy cars that are even more luxurious and you can buy cars that go much faster. None of these cars though can be as much at home on the side of an Alp than they can be in Sloane Square. Range Rover’s off-road ability is legendary and just because this car costs more than some apartments (and is probably nicer inside) doesn’t mean that it can’t do the business when the going gets gnarly thanks to the variable Terrain Response system. Although the company is foreign owned the cars are still made in this country and traditionally are as British as our beloved fish and chips. The Range Rover LWB Hybrid is special. Pound for pound and all around it is my opinion that this car really is the best car, as someone – I forget his name for the moment – once said… in the world.