Is the Range Rover Velar Plug-In Hybrid Practical?

The Velar P400e continues to impress with its sleek design and advanced features. But does it deliver on its hybrid promises? We take a closer look

By Edward Moleke Makwana

When the Range Rover Velar first hit the scene in 2017, it instantly captured the hearts of automotive enthusiasts and luxury seekers alike. Its sleek, avant-garde design set new standards in the world of luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs), blending sleek lines with a sophisticated silhouette that turned heads and raised expectations. I vividly remember how the flush deployable door handles were a unique design feature at the time, inspiring various brands to follow suit.

I spent a few days living with the Range Rover Velar P400e, now available as a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa (JLR SA). The question is: does it still have the same spark, and is the P400e a sensible choice?

The test car was specified with optional Zadar Grey metallic paint, a black contrast roof, privacy glass, and 21-inch satin dark grey wheels. Inside, it featured an optional Deep Garnet ebony interior with Windsor leather and shadow grey ash veneer finishers. Given the winter season, the standard heated front seats were very useful. Compared to the initial model, the current one features new super-slim Pixel LED headlights that provide a jewel-like appearance and optimised visibility, while the exterior is enhanced by a new lower rear bumper and dark accents. Range Rover’s reductive design philosophy continues inside with a new single floating 11.4-inch curved glass touchscreen integrated into the centre console, providing immediate and intuitive control of all key vehicle functions.

The Range Rover Velar exudes capability and composure with advanced technologies that ensure exceptional on-road agility and all-terrain performance. An intelligent torque-on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) system optimises torque distribution to match driving conditions, seamlessly transitioning between 100 per cent rear-wheel drive and fully locked all-wheel drive in a mere 165 milliseconds. This dynamic distribution, managed by the sophisticated Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) system, enhances composure and driver confidence by continuously assessing data from multiple sensors to estimate road grip. The Active Locking Rear Differential maximises traction for both acceleration and challenging terrain navigation.

The Velar’s technology suite further includes the Terrain Response 2 system, accessible via the intuitive Pivi Pro6 interface, allowing drivers to tailor vehicle settings for various driving environments, from Eco to Mud-Ruts mode. For added convenience and safety, the 3D Surround Camera and ClearSight Ground View offer real-time, comprehensive external views for precise low-speed manoeuvres and obstacle navigation. The Rear Camera system provides enhanced visibility and precision for parking and towing. Additional features like All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), Low Traction Launch, and Hill Descent Control (HDC) ensure a controlled and composed driving experience, even in the most challenging conditions. These integrated technologies collectively elevate the Velar’s all-terrain prowess, ensuring luxury and performance in every journey.

JLR SA claims that the Velar P400e offers an electric range of up to 69 kilometres. However, during the test period, I managed only 55 kilometres, which tended to diminish quickly. Having tested numerous PHEVs, I strongly believe that this shortfall undermines the potential benefits of owning a plug-in hybrid, making it hard to justify the choice and price without a significant boost in the EV range. For the Velar P400e to truly shine, it needs an electric range comfortably reaching 100 kilometres, aligning with the expectations of a modern luxury SUV customer. This shortfall was also evident when I tested its sister brand, the Jaguar F-Pace PHEV — look out for this review in the July print edition of Your Luxury Africa Magazine.

Essentially, the Velar PHEV and F-Pace PHEV share the same engine. With a combined 297 kW of power and 640 Nm of torque from its 221 kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and 105 kW electric motor, the Velar electric hybrid can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. Not bad, given the Velar P400e’s gross vehicle weight of 2,740 kilograms and 19.2 kWh battery. JLR SA claims that the Velar P400e can travel on electric power alone up to speeds of 140 km/h. However, during my test, I could not accelerate beyond 120 km/h in EV mode. In terms of fuel economy, JLR SA claims 2.2 litres per 100km. However, I achieved a staggering 9.5 litres per 100km.

In terms of charging, JLR SA says customers can conveniently charge their Range Rover Velar in three ways. Firstly, via rapid DC charging, with a 0-80 per cent charge possible in as little as 30 minutes using a 50kW charger. However, the DC fast charger I used at Fourways Mall took an hour and fifteen minutes to fully charge. If you have installed a 7kW AC charger at home, JLR SA says that you can charge your Velar P400e from 0-100 per cent in two and a half hours, while three-pin charging is also possible. However, it will take much longer to charge using that method. You can also control and monitor charging via the Remote App, which can be used to precondition the cabin and set charging times to take advantage of energy-efficient off-peak tariffs or to suit your lifestyle.

Base pricing starts from R2 202 700. However, our test car had options totalling R129 567, bringing the total price to R2 339 267. Pricing includes a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and roadside assistance.

To conclude, the Velar P400e PHEV continues the legacy of aesthetic excellence, maintaining its position as the benchmark for style and elegance. It is a desirable choice for those seeking a classy luxury SUV for the family. However, while the hybrid model promises greener credentials, its modest electric-only range of under 100 kilometres leaves much to be desired.

Other PHEVs to consider in the luxury SUV segment are the BMW X5 xDrive50e, Lexus RX 500 Hybrid F Sport, or the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge, which I tested a few weeks ago.

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