The Land Rover Defender’s transformation from rough, tough and gruff to clean, green and surprisingly serene has been completed with the addition of a plug-in hybrid model.
Gone are the straight beat ’em panels, the rudimentary interior and the growling diesel of the neglected old workhorse – qualities no longer befitting a vehicle now operating in £60,000 territory and with sales aspirations beyond of those who simply live and work in the countryside.
This version combines a lively gasoline engine with an electric motor and battery, and is only available as a five-door, medium-wheelbase 110.
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This rules out the commercial two-seat Hard Top and the compact 90, whose shorter frame provides insufficient space to accommodate the batteries.
In theory, PHEV power offers motorists a handful of potential advantages over all-electric.
For starters, the inclusion of a combustion engine makes it much better suited for towing, and having an easy-to-fill 90-litre tank eliminates range anxiety.
Compared to pure combustion, there is also the potential for lower running costs if the electrical element of the powertrain is fully exploited through regular charging, thus reducing gas consumption to a minimum.
And, with both power sources combined, it can deliver sizzling performance.
The catch is the price. This model starts at under £66,000 and our tester had £8,000 of typical extras, making it several times more expensive than a six-cylinder equivalent.
Company car buyers might be able to offset some of this through tax savings – the in-kind benefit is 19% – although there are more attractive financial benefits to going all-electric .
Land Rover Defender 110 P400e
- Engine 2 liter petrol
- maximum energy 404hp
- Max torque 640Nm
- Transmission Eight-speed automatic AWD
- Combined economy claimed 72-86mpg
- Economy as tested 31mpg
- Electric range 25-27 miles
- 0-60mph 5.4s
- Top speed 119mph
- lester 2600kg
- Towing capacity 3000kg
- Starting price £65,915
- Price as tested £73,755
How does it look?
It’s a big piece. At 2.1m wide, 2m high and 5m long with the spare wheel at the rear, it looks more like a previous generation Discovery, dwarfing the original Defender.
It’s also heavy, with the battery and motor adding around 300kg for a total close to 2.6t.
The iconic boxy silhouette is still there, but with a more rounded waistline and flared wheel arches, and our test car’s khaki green is pleasingly understated compared to the all-black versions that seem to hog dealer forecourts.
How it works?
While the rest of the Defender lineup remains reliant on raw combustion power, the PHEV mixes gasoline and electric.
The main part of the powertrain department is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ingenium engine that, at 296 hp, isn’t a shrinking purple. The same engine is used in the gasoline-only P300 model.
It can be used in unison with the 139hp electric motor to deliver a combined maximum output of 404hp and 640Nm, which ranks just below the V8 model in terms of power and pace.
The motor is powered by a 19.2 kWh lithium-ion battery buried under the boot floor. Officially, that should be enough for a 27-mile electric odyssey in “EV” mode, but we found 20 miles a more realistic target. This is slightly less than equivalent vehicles from Volvo and BMW.
“Hybrid” is the default mode. This trusts the car’s computer to decide when and how to switch between power sources, which it does almost imperceptibly.
There is a slight lag on the power take-off as it determines which, or both, powertrain elements to use; but once decided, he launches with puppy-dog enthusiasm.
There is also a mode called “Save” which maintains battery charge by engaging the motor only, with minor energy recharges through regenerative braking.
Charging can be a hassle, but it’s worth getting used to, as it’s the only way to recoup the higher initial investment compared to a standard model.
A 50kW fast charger is the one you want, recharging the battery to 80% in half an hour.
A 7kW wallbox does the same job in two hours, while a three-prong household outlet is an overnight affair at seven.
Helpfully, it is possible to set the start and stop time of the load to target off-peak charges.
The economy depends entirely on what you do.
A short jaunt into town and back after a full charge will cost peanuts, but long drives where the battery is quickly drained can get expensive – to the tune of around 30mpg.
How is the interior?
One reason for the high list price is that the PHEV is only available in Land Rover’s X-Dynamic trim or above.
Among the range of standard kits at this level are 20-inch alloys, heated and cooled front seats with memory and the company’s Terrain Response 2 system.
The finish is a cross between luxury and faux everyday. In places it’s eminently practical, with easy-to-clean plastic footrests, useful grab handles and plenty of storage.
Everything feels solid and chunky, but not necessarily in a £74,000 way.
The front row seats are ccomfortable and surprisingly far apart, while the rear three enjoy decent head and legroom, plus access to air conditioning controls and a good distribution of charging ports.
The boot is square but, with the floor raised 30mm to accommodate the batteries, slightly smaller than the standard petrol and diesels.
As a result, there is no third-row seating option, although buyers can specify a “booster seat” which replaces the front center console to increase cargo capacity to six.
For all its thrift, this Defender – and the rest of the range, for that matter – is well equipped for good off-roading.
It has permanent all-wheel drive and the two-speed transfer case offers a low range that can be driven on gasoline or electric, as the power sources are coupled separately to the eight-speed automatic transmission. ZF.
This, as well as the settings of the center and rear differentials, are controlled by the Terrain Response 2 system.
As usual, there are various riding modes on mud, sand and rocks, which alter throttle and transmission response, as well as a “low traction launch” setting.
Ground clearance is 218mm in road mode but 290mm with the airbags fully inflated, transforming the approach angle from 30 degrees to 37.5 degrees and departure from 38 degrees to 40 degrees.
Paddling depth is 900mm – 50mm deeper on coil-sprung versions – and our model is fitted with Goodyear Wrangler AT tyres.
The only drawback is the reduced towing capacity, down from 500 kg to 3,000 kg.
The current state of fuel prices means that PHEVs, for all their shortcomings, are becoming more attractive by the day.
But to recoup their higher upfront cost, buyers must avoid gas pumps and maintain a tedious charging regimen.
For many rural buyers, the diesel will make more sense – it’s cheaper to buy, better for towing and available as a commercial Hard Top, in 90 or 110 trim.
love and reproach
✔ Fast charging standard
✔ Handles well
✔ Good offroad
✘ Bad economy when battery drained
✘ Reduced towing capacity
A slightly cheaper way into Land Rover’s PHEV family is the Discovery Sport P300e which, thankfully, you can hit the road for under £50,000.
It comes with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and a 109hp electric motor to produce a combined output of 309hp and 540Nm.
It takes just 6.2 seconds to go from 0-60mph, which is slightly slower than the Defender, and top speed via the eight-speed automatic transmission is 130mph.
The biggest difference is that, like the Range Rover Evoque PHEV, the electric drivetrain only powers the rear wheels, so it’s not possible to have four-wheel drive in EV mode.
Inside, it has the same touchscreen as the Defender and most of the mod-cons, which are part of the R-Dynamic SE package.
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