Whilst we all pay through the nose to fill our petrol & diesel cars with fuel at the moment, electric cars are cashing in. However, for plenty of reasons, not everyone can live with an EV & if you’re a company car driver, a plug-in hybrid offers a good solution; petrol on fast roads, electric on slow roads. For many, the status of owning a large off-road SUV or the necessity of having one, often outweighs the cost to fill one up & it’s environmental impact, so a Land Rover Defender PHEV is really good news.
The Defender P400e is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain, a combination of a petrol engine with an electric motor & a battery. Don’t panic though, because it’s as capable off-road as all other Land Rovers. The Defender we tested featured Terrain Response 2, which enables you to select drive modes for Ruts, Grass, Gravel, Snow, Mud, Sand & Rocks & you even get Wading Mode up to 900mm.
The Land Rover Defender 110 P400e X-Dynamic S that we were driving costs £65,915. Other model choices are X-Dynamic, XS Edition & X with a choice of three trim levels S, SE & HSE.
Standard spec on all models includes, a body-coloured roof, LED headlights, 18″ Style Gloss White steel wheels, all-season tyres, full size spare wheel, fabric 8-way heated semi-powered front seats, All Wheel Drive, twin-speed transfer box, Terrain Response, 10″ touchscreen with Pivi Pro, Smartphone Pack, 180W Sound System with six speakers, 3D Surround Camera, 360° parking aid, Wade Sensing, cruise control with speed limiter, Lane Keep Assist, Emergency Braking & Traffic Sign Recognition.
X Dynamic S trim adds 20″ alloys, a sliding panoramic roof, leather 14-way heated & cooled electric memory front seats, head-up display, keyless entry, Electronic Active Differential, orange brake callipers & Terrain Response 2.
Just one, but it’s very good. So factor in a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine with an electric motor powered by a battery producing 404 hp & 640 Nm of torque, which is good for a 0-60mph time of just 5.4 seconds & a top speed of 119 mph. Not bad for a heavy 4WD.
For persons of a certain age, the Defender definitely has a ‘Tonka Toy’ look about it. Our test car featured a black contrast roof & bonnet, sliding panoramic roof, orange brake callipers, black exposed rear recovery eyes, 20″ 5 split-spoke alloys, darkened tail lights, a cross car beam in dark grey with a full size spare wheel hanging off the rear door. It looks fantastic !
The quality of the cabin is excellent. So you get the latest version of Land Rovers Pivi Pro infotainment system, incredible build quality & all the latest safety features you’d expect from a luxury SUV. It’s also hewn from rock & feels bullet proof whilst also featuring some lovely finishes, even lower down & on the doors, where many other premium brands cut corners. The automatic gear selector sticks out of the dashboard & is easy to reach as are al of the cars switches & controls.
Defender features All Wheel Drive, a Twin-speed transfer box, Coil suspension & Terrain Response. It will also wade up to 900mm. The inclusion of electronic air suspension means that you can raise the height of the suspension to give 291mm of ground clearance.
All versions of Defender offer a maximum towing capacity of 3,500kg. However, thanks to the inclusion of the battery, the PHEV will only tow 3,000kg. There’s also 499 litres of boot space, or 1,946 litres with the seats down, which is 119 litres down on the petrol or diesel Defender & you can’t have the seven-seat option with the P400e model either.
Cabin storage is generous, so you get a large glove box, under armrest storage, large door pockets, central twin cup holders, twin USB’s & a 12v socket. Rear passenger space is good, with plenty of head & legroom. Rear door pockets are small with room for just a bottle in each. The front seat backs feature tidy pull-down storage. As a bonus, rear passenger’s also benefit from their own climate controls & twin USB’s.Battery & charging
On a 7kW home charger, the Defender P400e will take 3 hours to charge. But, unusually for a PHEV, the P400e has the ability to be rapid charged using a DC unit where available, cutting the time to top up to 80%, to just 30 minutes.
The claimed combined mpg is 85.6-72.4 with CO2 emissions of 74-88g a km. When we drove in electric mode for 3 days we were seeing an average range of 150mpg. However, a fully laden Defender with three adults on board & a 250 mile motorway trip, saw the petrol engine kick in & the mpg fall to 28.9.
Company car driver
The reason most driver’s will choose any new PHEV over a petrol or diesel equivalent will be down to the company car tax benefits. Even though the PHEV is more expensive than the petrol & diesel only models, the P400e attracts a rate of 19% benefit-in-kind, compared to 37% for the petrol & diesel models. The saving for a 40% tax payer then, is close to £3,500 a year on the cheapest plug-in Defender versus the equivalent Defender diesel. And, as fuel prices show no sign of lowering, plugging in at home overnight on a lower rate of 7.5p a kWh, will allow you to charge your P400e up for just 23p each time for 25 miles of urban driving.
The Defender drives impeccably. This is unquestionably aided by the cars electronic air suspension, which makes this large, heavy vehicle, glide over the road ahead. It’s quick when required, quiet & easy to handle in town & a brilliant motorway cruiser. You can select the required drive mode either by rotating the left-hand cabin temperature dial, or by pressing the touchscreen.
Select the EV button located on the dash to change from Hybrid to Electric, or choose Save which will keep your electric charge until you need it or will top it up as you drive along. This is great for local driving. For example, we took delivery of the Defender on a Tuesday & didn’t come out of Electric mode until Friday night, when we drove to North Wales. You can theoretically drive up to 27 miles on electric power & to be fair to Land Rover, we managed 25 miles of pure electric driving which was most impressive.
If you want the car to do the thinking for you, then select the cars Smart mode & the car will choose the best combination of plug-in & petrol power. When it changes between these it does so seamlessly. Furthermore, the brake regen is very subtle so you’ll not even know when its working , but it is & it works. On a 120 mile motorway jaunt our electric range recharged from zero to 75% in just 2 hours. Most excellent !
The overall feel of the plug-in Defender is that it’s actually a great fun even sporty car to drive, not something you can say about many large 4X4 SUV’s.
Land Rover image & looks make it stand out in any crowd. Brilliant to drive, practical & built like granite. Off road it’s unbeatable. Company car drivers can smile too, with big savings over the Defender diesel or petrol versions & a pure electric range of 25 miles.
Expensive, load space & towing capacity are compromised compared to other Defenders. Despite the plug-in powertrain, 30mpg isn’t what you’d necessarily expect. The Pivi Pro infotainment system is still not as good as others out there.
Whilst the P400e isn’t cheap, it’s company car tax saving credentials are the real winner here. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a large SUV with an image, that offers so much versatility, you’ll not find anything better. As a bonus it’s on road manners are impeccable, it will cope with most off roading & it’s fitted with a lot of useful tech & safety. The cabin is comfortable, spacious & practical. It’s also a fantastic looking car.