In all of the massive and unprecedented success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is no element more satisfying and enjoyable to watch than Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki.
Playing the Norse god of mischief, Hiddleston took the character from the reckless villain to the reluctant hero, to the comic sidekick, back to the villain, and back to the less reluctant hero. Regardless of the arc’s story, this is very similar to a series of arcs, each one more impressive than the previous one.
The new Range Rover Sport strikes me as a little lucky. The original 2004 model was blocky, understaffed, and with a supercharged V8 positively wicked. The back-to-back models have fallen back on overt gullibility a bit, but the sport has gained a reputation in recent years for criminality from a climate perspective. Big, expensive, heavy, and with generally rotten engines coming as no surprise, any such symbiosis was an easy – and perhaps justifiable – target for those protesting the impact of luxury SUVs on the environment.
Now, though, it’s been somewhat turned upside down. You have a sense that if a Hiddleston-style new Range Rover Sport could move its heels and flash an amazing smile on camera, it would. Not that there is still some oddity in its bones (you can, after all, buy a 530hp turbo V8 version…), it’s that the oddity is now balanced by a touch of holiness.
The old Range Rover Sport could have powered the hybrid, but it was very short on electric range and still devastatingly thirsty if you dare drive it long distances. To change this script, Land Rover pulled the old turbocharged four-cylinder and installed a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo in its place.
This sounds like a step back, in terms of efficiency, but it was paired with a 105kW electric motor and a massive (in PHEV terms) 38kWh battery installed underground. Fully charge this battery – and it’s funny that you can charge it at up to 50 kW from a general fast charger, which irritates every Nissan Leaf owner in a 50 km radius – and the Range Rover Sport P510e has an electric range of 113 km. The same goes for the less expensive (slightly) and less powerful (much) P440e. Both badges indicate the vehicle’s total horsepower output.
If the old Range Rover Sport PHEV was an ecological fig leaf, this is the whole dusty tree. This range is very realistic – you definitely have to manage 90 km with little care, and Land Rover claims this is enough for owners to cover 75 percent of their normal mileage on battery power. We’ll have to wait until 2024 for an all-electric Range Rover Sport (and the larger Range Rover EV as well) but that’s suddenly, theoretically three-quarters of the way there.
It really works too. Start a ride with a full battery (if you can afford one of these, you’re also supposed to carry your home charger and space in the driveway to go along with it) and you can achieve some noticeable fuel economy. We drove 140 km from the wilds of central Spain to central Madrid, driving in hybrid mode. By doing this, we ensured that the car’s computers would automatically provide enough battery charge to be able to drive around town with zero emissions and when we arrived at our downtown destination after 140 kilometers of mountain roads, highways and urban mixed roads, on average 5.6 liters per 100 km. This is really impressive for someone so big and heavy (2.8 tons!).
Get the petrol and electric power working together and the blood quick too. On the clock, the powerful 530-hp V8 is faster to reach 100 km/h, but the P510e’s 5.4-second stopwatch reading is still a lot quicker than fast enough. When you wake the gasoline engine, it also responds with an exhilarating six-speed snarl.
In the corners, the Sport set of stiffer double-chamber air springs (compared to the single-chamber elements on the larger Range Rover), specially developed Bilstein dampers and sharper steering, which means it feels like a hot hatch at times. Sure, nothing this tall and bulky should be able to turn like this, and the Dynamic Response Pro’s active anti-curvature system curves just right in the physics in how to keep an athletic body level even in fast corners. Mr. Scott from Star Trek will have a bout…
Inside, everything is mostly quiet. The cabin is essentially identical to that of the larger Range Rover, so you get two great 13-inch digital screens and a distinct lack of physical keys. This all works well, although certainly better than many competitors’ screens. The seats are as comfortable as can be when you’re not reclining, and there’s decent space in the back seats as well. Unfortunately, there is no longer an option for seven seats. If you want to, you’ll have to upgrade to an expensive long wheelbase Range Rover, or be wise and get a Defender instead.
One option to avoid is saying yes to the massive 23-inch alloy wheels. It’s great but it ruins the low-speed ride quality and seriously detracts from the sport’s ability to taste and comfort as you cruise. Smaller wheels might make more sense. Off the track? It wouldn’t bother any owner, I guess, but the sport can still mix in with mountain goats and baby ponies when it comes to agility off the runway. Doesn’t make sense but is somehow reassuring.
Just like the Loki, the Sport has a bigger, more powerful brother in the form of the more luxurious Range Rover (read: Thor). While the bigger car is the most impressive overall, the Sport is definitely more fun, and given that for the same €142,000 price tag as the larger Range Rover P440e plug-in, you can get the sport’s more powerful P510e hybrid, well. …I know which one I would choose.
I can’t wait for that moment when I go to the parking lot with an electric charger, soaked in the hatred of those environmentally bent – like Loki – spoiling all expectations by plugging in a charger and packing in zero-emissions kilometres. The Range Rover Sport PHEV isn’t exactly where we need to get to, automotive-wise, but it’s a huge (and very fun) step on the right path from villain to hero.