All posts in “Car Reviews”

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Review

The Trackhawk is a riddle to most people. They have trouble grasping it’s purpose, it’s very existence. This is because it completely flies in the face of everything that Jeep has every marketed itself to be. For decades, Jeep has held itself out as the manufacturer of the most capable off-roading, go-anywhere, do-anything vehicles in the world. “Trail Rated” has been their tagline and it has reinforced that image of rugged, capable machines that will keep it’s owners safe in the worst of conditions. If a zombie apocalypse occurs, Jeep is the vehicle you want to be driving. Heck, if the actual Apocalypse occurs, Jeep is the vehicle you want to be driving.

The Trackhawk though….the Trackhawk is something different. Something new. And while it may seem out of place in Jeep’s line-up, it’s really not.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been around for a few decades now. One of the original luxury SUV’s, it quickly developed a following among the upwardly mobile executive set at a time when the Western world was taking an interest in the environment and the outdoors again. Its capable on-demand four-wheel drive made it an excellent choice for middle-class buyers in America’s snowbelt and the empty stretches of the mountainous West. It’s comfortable and stylish interior and safety features made it an excellent choice for everyone else. While the Grand Cherokee is capable, most never leave paved roads. They are comfortable daily drivers that promise capability and safety while carrying the family and a load of groceries or towing the boat to the lake for the day. Someone at Jeep probably used their Grand Cherokee to tow their race car to the track on weekends, then – as these things usually happen – after a few beers and some good pizza, began to wonder if you could modify the Grand Cherokee so that it could actually RUN at the track.

This idea was probably furthered during a late night at the office while working on another project. Other Jeep and Chrysler engineers probably enthusiastically jumped onboard the “What If” session and the ideas started flowing. The end result is incredible. What they ended up with was a Grand Cherokee with an electrically adjustable Bilstein active-damping race suspension system, massive Brembo anti-lock performance brakes, and sticky steamroller-width Pirelli P-Zero performance tires. But what to power it with? Why not the 707 hp supercharged 6.2L Hemi V8 SRT Hellcat engine? That should move the heavy SUV along with some pep. I suspect that many beer cans were bumped together to cheers over this idea. But how to sell it to management? One good double-dog dare later and the project was green lit for production. God bless America and the employees at Fiat-Chrysler.

That, in a nutshell, is what we have here. It defies all your pre-conceived notions of what a Jeep is, what a Jeep should be, what a Jeep CAN be. People we explained it to were confused, scared even. “707 hp in a Jeep?! That’s ridiculous! That sounds dangerous!” It does actually. But does it work?

Good Lord, does it ever! We’re flying down a tree-lined backroad, exceeding the speed limit by a quite a lot but there’s so much power left to play with that it’s mind-boggling to consider too deeply. And anyway, we’re too busy looking waaaaaay up the road, watching for trouble. The suspension beneath us feels solidly planted. The roar of the engine explodes through the quiet country air, leaving it torn to ribbons of wind and sound as we weave through the curves on this delightful road. We pull the left paddle behind the steering wheel – yes, it has paddle shifters for its 8-speed transmission – to drop a gear as we approach a curve. There’s little lean through the corner and as soon as we’re through it we mash the throttle and the Grand Cherokee shoots up the road even faster before we upshift. Upshift again. The engine note drops but the sound is still ferocious. A squirrel starts to cross in front of us, but then thinks better of it and literally leaps back off the road. It wants no part of the Trackhawk or the incredible sound the big supercharged V8 makes. It sounds awesome. We’re impressed and having a ball.

On the outside, it’s easy to overlook the Trackhawk’s defining features that make it distinct from it’s more, ah, normal siblings. The black 20” wheels and the massive slotted brake discs and shoebox-sized yellow Brembo brake calipers are the biggest giveaways. The low stance is another. Only the most eagle-eyed observers will notice the four large exhaust pipes jutting out from under the rear valence. The slots in the front grill are shorter in height than on the standard model. There are an additional three horizontal slots beneath them. The other openings are all larger to duct more air into the hot engine bay. Overall, it’s a very sharp and aggressive looking SUV.

Inside you’ll find highly-bolstered leather seats, a thick grippy steering wheel, paddle shifters, and a very high-end feeling interior. Everyone who climbed into it immediately commented on how nice the interior was. And they’re right. It IS nice. It’s the kind of car you could drive all day and not grow weary. Especially with electrically-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, a heated steering wheel, heated leather rear seats and a huge cargo area. So it’s very luxurious. Is it practical? It sure is. With the rear seats folded flat, the cargo area is enormous.

As nice as the Grand Cherokee is, the main attraction in the Trackhawk is the massive engine under the hood. The SRT Hellcat engine is amazing. Not terrifically fuel efficient, but amazing nonetheless. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no problem in life that seven-hundred (and seven!) horsepower and six-hundred and forty-five lb-ft of torque can’t overcome and render a faint memory once you’ve stomped the throttle. It simply explodes up the road. With launch control engaged, we managed a 3.7 second time to 60 mph. Mind you, this is in a 2.5 ton SUV. Utterly mind-boggling. Launch control will literally scramble your neural synapses, leaving you confused but giddy as a schoolgirl with a new crush, as it accelerates away from a dead stop. Passing distance isn’t an issue. Mash the throttle and by the time your foot hits the carpet, you’ve already passed the slower car. Jeep says it’ll hit 180 mph and while i didn’t attempt it, I certainly believe it. And the sounds it makes – WOW. My knees get weak just listening to it idle. Make it roar and I nearly faint.

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Interior

The Hellcat engine is mated to FCA’s burly 8-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to utilize paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Left in automatic mode, it intelligently cracks off shifts and knows what gear to be in before you do. Eight speeds helps a bit with fuel economy, but it can only do so much with the thirsty Hellcat engine. We averaged 10.5 mpg while driving it, which is only a few mpg less than EPA estimates.

Bilstein’s active damping race suspension is also nothing short of amazing. It keeps the ride firm but not harsh, eliminates almost all of the lean through corners, and virtually eliminates squat and dive. Bumps and potholes come through a soft jostles but aren’t harsh at all. There are 5 drive modes that you can dial in: Normal, Sport, Race, Snow, and Tow. Sport and Race respectively up the ante as far as reducing computerized traction and stability control while quickening the responses of the throttle, steering, and transmission. Snow dulls that responsiveness and actively splits the torque 50% front and 50% rear to more capably and safely handle inclement weather and bad roads. This is different from the normal “4wd-on-Demand” that sends power to the front axle when needed. Lastly, Tow helps you pull a trailer by keeping the transmission in the torque band and using the engine to brake the load as much as the brakes themselves. It’s capable of pulling 7200lbs, which isn’t too shabby.

Did I mention the Brembo brakes? They stop this smooth but heavy brute easily and quickly. The six-piston calipers are enormous and straddle equally large slotted rotors that completely fill the empty space inside the barrel of the 20” wheels. They can be a little grabby at low speeds but man do they work well when you need them. The braking power can literally hang you up in the seat belts.

What flaws does it have though? Well, besides the abysmal fuel economy, none that we could find. And we weren’t that put off by the fuel economy when we were reduced to hysterical tears of laughter every time we mashed the throttle.

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Trackhawk starts at $86,200. Our test vehicle stickered at $101,610. Not cheap, but it’s a LOT of car for the money and there are few family haulers as capable and versatile as the Trackhawk. You probably can’t name another luxurious track-capable, towing-capable, family hauler that will do 0-60 in 3.7 seconds and top out at 180mph with a load of groceries and two kids late for soccer practice; let alone at that price.

I’m really not sure how the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk managed to get built but I’m glad it did. If it all started as I theorized, with an engineer wondering if a Grand Cherokee could make a decent track car, I’m sure he’s pretty pleased with his little experiment. Trackhawk owners will be just as pleased with his idea. It seems crazy to build a 707 hp Jeep with serious track credentials, yet here it is and it’s just that great. Here’s to the engineers at Fiat-Chrysler for their enthusiasm that keeps we gearheads grinning.

Fiat 124 Spider Review

The Fiat 124 Spider comes with a 1.4 liter four cylinder MultiAir petrol engine. It produces 140hp and 240Nm of torque. It is available with a 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual gearbox. Our test car comes with the manual gearbox which does 0-100 km/h in 7.5 seconds (the automatic is 0.1 seconds slower) and it tops out at 217 km/h. The rear-wheel drive spider weighs 1.125 kg – it is this combination of low weight and rear-wheel drive that defines its character.

The Fiat 124 Spider forms a modern interpretation of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider which was built from 1966 until 1985. True to the 1966 original it is again offered with a 1.4 liter four cylinder engine and a long elegant bonnet and low seating position. The drawbacks of the beautiful proportions are a relative small cabin and small luggage compartment.

It is no secret that the Fiat 124 Spider shares components with the Mazda MX-5 and it is not being build in Italy but in Japan. Similar to Toyota and BMW sharing development of the Supra and Z4 it is a way for Fiat and Mazda to save costs on development which should deliver a better product at a lower price.

The interior is quite simple and elegant with clear lines and only the necessary buttons. The extensive use of leather gives it an Italian touch. The 124 Spider is certainly not a car for tall people – everybody over 1.80m in length will struggle to find a comfortable seating position.

People looking for sport buttons and electronic gadgets are in the wrong car. The Fiat 124 Spider is more purist than many purist Porsches. The roof can be opened manually with one hand by just flicking one lever and pushing it down behind the seats until you hear it click.

Performance wise you can’t expect too much from the 1.4 liter engine. On my little autobahn run from Munich to Starnberg it took the entire length of the highway to reach just over 200 km/h. But it is not about top speed. It is about enjoying nice country roads with the roof down. And while doing just that along Lake Starnberg in Bavaria I’m enjoying this little Spider.

It is not the fastest but it steers and handles well, it draws a lot more attention than I would have ever imagined and it is very affordable.

One thing I truly miss with the Fiat 124 Spider is a proper sound. At no point through the gears and up and down the rev range did it sound good to me. And that is a real shame.

2019 Citroen DS3 Crossback E-Tense Review

Electrics are moving into the mainstream, and here’s yet another one that will fit the needs of a growing number of customers: French carmaker PSA is launching the DS3 Crossback E-Tense, a fully electric derivative of the conventionally powered DS3 Crossback. Both were launched at an event in Versailles last week.

Powered by a Continental-supplied 136-horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels, the DS3 Crossback E-Tense reaches 100 kph in a respectable 8,7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 93 mph – a bit slower in acceleration than the BMW i3 and significantly slower than the Tesla Model 3.

That’s not great for Germany, with its unlimited Autobahnen, but it is sufficient for virtually every other market in the world – particularly since DS is adamant the car will be able to sustain its terminal velocity until it runs out of charge. That’s in stark contrast to Tesla, whose models typically fail to deliver peak performance for more than a few minutes.

The DS3 Crossback E-Tense will be able to get around 200 miles on a full charge (though not at full speed), measured in the new and ultra-challenging European cycle. On a fast-charge station, it can be recharged to 80 per cent within a half hour. Actually, PSA had considered offering a version with less battery capacity, but the brand says that their top priority is changing the perception of electrics as short-range vehicles. A lesser version may follow later.

Design and attention to detail is where this French crossover really shines. The interior is incredibly futuristic, down to details like the gear selector. There are no less than six trim levels, all of which feature a distinct look and top-notch materials. Every part looks and feels expensive, and quite simply, there is no electric on the market with a similarly well-executed interior.

Fit and finish are exemplary

Tesla’s models, in particular, are cobbled together with low-quality parts, but the DS3 Crossback also eclipses the funky BMW i3 and other electrics. There’s a plethora of electronic assistance systems, and the DS3 Crossback E-Tense can be specified with a head-up display – another feature sorely missed in its competitors.

Okay, the flush door handles look like they’ve been taken straight from Tesla. But in the DS3 Crossback, they move out electrically, a design that beats the cheap, mechanical system of the Model 3. And unlike on the Model S, they move out at an easy-to-grab angle. The matrix LED headlights are a marvel of technology and style, and the taillights are three-dimensional. The sharkfin B-pillar is a reminiscence of the smaller DS3, PSA’s conventionally powered Mini competitor that will go out of production in a year or so.

Individualisation is what DS is great at: Beyond the six interior styles, the DS3 Crossback comes with a choice of ten exterior colours, ten wheel styles and three different roof colours. It’s a level of complexity other carmakers have failed to achieve.

Priced at close to 40,000 euros without any rebates, the DS3 Crossback E-Tense comes to market in mid-2019. It will compete directly with the ageing BMW i3, and it significantly undercuts the more powerful but deeply flawed Tesla Model 3, which currently retails on the US market for upwards from USD 49,000 (its promised entry-level version for USD 35,000 is a piece of fiction).

PSA, by the way, has announced its intent to move into the US market. We wouldn’t be surprised if this strategy were spearheaded by the upmarket DS brand, which was spun off Citroën in 2016.

And here’s perhaps the ultimate advantage of the DS3 Crossback: If you have not bought into the gospel of the EV, you can also get it with a range of highly efficient diesel and gasoline engines – from EUR 25,000 upwards.

2018 Mazda6 Signature Edition Review

We first test drove the Mazda6 GT last year. We were excited to try it out but found it….well, not quite up to GT Spirit standards. It was a decent car. In fact, after a few days we found ourselves really beginning to enjoy driving the car. But it really wasn’t a great car. The first problem we had with the car was that it seemed to allow too much wind and road noise into the cockpit. The 6 never held itself out to be the equivalent of a Mercedes E-class, but the additional noise gave it a cheap feel that wasn’t worthy of the price tag it carried. It was also woefully underpowered. Mazda has never followed the crowd when it came to power. They’ve preferred to prioritize overall driving feel and handling. However, the 6 that we drove really needed a horsepower infusion. So when Mazda announced that the 2019 Mazda6 would offer a turbo engine, we thought we’d give it a second look.

Mazda delivered us a 6 Signature Edition, with the turbocharged 2.5L engine, in the stunning Soul Red. The color looks good enough to eat. Or at least lick. The body style, updated last year, is a pleasant if subtle improvement. The chrome accents on the front of the car now extend into the headlights and set off the design with some brightwork. The grille retains it’s attractive shape and the front fenders still swoop dramatically over the front wheels. The sheetmetal then curves subtlety over the rear wheels. Another chrome accent connects the tail lights. It’s a very attractive design and the deep rich red paint sets off the beautiful lines nicely.

Inside, they’ve utilized a rich pallet of materials to make the passengers comfortable. Soft brown leather, ultra suede, and Japanese Sen wood are used together to create a comfortable and visually relaxing environment for the driver and passengers. The Signature Edition, Mazda’s top-of-the-line version, comes complete with all the modern conveniences you’d expect: heated and ventilated seats, blind spot sensors, a better stereo system, rich leather – you name it. The car is much better insulated against noise, vibration, and harshness. It’s built like a vault, with nary a squeak or rattle, and limits road and wind noise also. There is plenty of leg room in both the front and rear seats for adult passengers. The trunk is enormous, with plenty of room for luggage or groceries.

The turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder engine is great and a welcome improvement. The powerfully torquey engine makes 227hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which is quite a jump from 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. It feels surprisingly like a V8 all throughout the rev range. You can easily spin the front wheels when taking off. While it doesn’t feel as zippy as a lot of other turbo four-cylinder engines, it feels immensely powerful. Like a much larger engine than what it is. When coming out of a corner fast, you’ll find the typical turbo lag down low but it’s minimal and the torque curve quickly overwhelms the deficit. You just have to plan to get on the throttle quicker when going through corners fast. Otherwise, in normal everyday driving conditions the engine is responsive, fast, and just oozes torque.

While the Mazda6 is one of the last sedans to be offered with a manual transmission in the U.S., choosing the Signature Edition and the turbo engine means you can only get a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The transmission is nicely geared for every day driving, and there’s a “Sport” button that quickens the shifts and holds lower gears longer to take advantage of the more responsive nature. The paddle shifters work pretty well, but we enjoyed letting the automatic transmission do it’s thing.

The suspension is firm but comfortable too. It’s not too firm and not too soft, but just about perfect for everyday driving. It’s refined but playful. It corners confidently, doing what you ask and expect of it. It absorbs rough road imperfections well providing a pleasant ride, and keeps road and wind noise to a minimum.

The wheels are stylish 19” aluminum alloy wheels shod with Falken Ziex all-season tires. The tires aren’t the most sporting tires around but a lot of options exist in their size. The 19” wheels provide enough room for some quality anti-lock disk brakes and they do a phenomenal job of slowing the car down fast with great feel and control.

The Mazda 6 Signature Edition is a welcome improvement to the line-up. It’s more refined, more powerful, and it’s a great all-around car for the driver that likes both sport and refinement.

Official: 2019 Porsche Macan

Porsche may have created and dominated the segment of sporty crossover SUVs with the Macan, but the model has been somewhat eclipsed by the competition: The second-gen Audi Q5 stands on the more modern MLB Evo architecture, and the BMW X3/X4 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC offer actual coupe versions. Now Porsche has facelifted the Macan, added new engines and upgraded its electronics significantly.

Under the hood, there is an entirely new generation of V-6 engines, co-developed with Audi: The Macan S is now fitted with a 3.0-V6 turbo that makes 354 horsepower, and the Macan Turbo gets a 2.9 V-6 biturbo that’s rated at 440-horsepower. A Macan S D will follow, fitted with a 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel that makes around 300 horsepower, and some markets keep the wildly popular Macan base model, fitted with a 2.0-liter turbo four, rated a 245 horsepower. All models keep the 7-speed Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, a “wet” dual-clutch automatic.

Future derivatives will include a Macan GTS with around 380 horsepower, and possibly a Macan Turbo Performance Package with close to 500 horsepower. There will be no plug-in hybrid, which we don’t think is much of a loss.

The chassis has been slightly tweaked, and the Macan’s 18- to 21-inch wheel portfolio features a few new entries. Inside, the infotainment system is entirely new and now operates on a level with the Cayenne and the Panamera. The voice control system works better, the cruise control now offers enhanced stop-and-go assistance, and the touch screen grows from a modest 7 inches to a full 11 inches, forcing the air vents below. And, lo and behold, you can get an ionisator, for whatever its placebo effect is worth.

The Sport Chrono package now includes the red “Sport Response Button” that’s a fixture in Porsche’s other lineups equipped with the package. The fat stopwatch remains atop the dashboard, in stark contrast to the otherwise angular and futuristic ambience. The optional GT steering wheel gets smaller in diameter.

Up front, the Macan looks a bit wider and it comes with new LED headlights, but the real changes are in the rear: The wide, three-segment taillight stretches across the entire tail, and it makes the car look a bit more contemporary than before. The Turbo model gets exclusive bumper treatment.

The facelifted Macan comes to dealers in the autumn, targeting the upmarket versions of the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and X4, the Jaguar F-Pace, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. We think it will continue to do well on global markets.

2018 Peugeot 508 Review

A new mid-size sedan by Peugeot? It is safe to assume that this bit of news leaves the GTspirit community somewhat cold. Sure, the French have built some “hot hatches”, notably the 205 GTI, and some still remember the handsome 406 Coupé. But Peugeot is best known for sensible, affordable sedans. Why should we even look at the new 508?

Have a look at it and decide for yourself: The 508 has morphed from a bread-and-butter sedan into one of the few four-door coupes on the market – sized bigger than the Mercedes-Benz CLA but smaller than the CLS or the Volkswagen Arteon. From the low, aggressive front with LED “fangs” to the sloping roofline and the wide taillights, this is one of the fastest-looking four-doors this year. And it’s not just the styling elements. The proportions are right, too.

Open the frameless doors, and you encounter a cockpit executed in a hyper-futuristic design language, with “piano keys” on the center console and a small, thick and somewhat angular steering wheel positioned so low you need to view the digital cluster above. The top-level GT model is available with pretty awesome”gray oak” wood.

Incidentally, the electronic instrumentation used in the top models also offers a setting that displays the speedometer and tachometer in the form of a rolling drum – a nice flashback of French automotive history. But there is room for improvement: Since Peugeot competes in the cost-conscious volume segment, some of the materials are merely adequate. I also wasn’t very impressed with the built-in navigation system that tried to send me off the path more than once.

But what matters more are the powertrains. During the launch in Monte Carlo, I skipped the “fleet engines” and focused on both top-level engines: A 2.0-liter, 180-horsepower turbodiesel and a 1.6-liter, 225-horsepower petrol engine. Both are mated to an eight-speed, torque-converter-style automatic transmission. Depite its lower power rating, the diesel delivers more torque – a whopping 400 Nm. 0-100 kph takes 8.3 seconds, top speed is 235 kph. It it quick, quiet and responsive.

The top gasoline engine, rated at 300 Nm maximum torque, can do 0-100 kph in 7.3 seconds and reach a lofty 250 kph. But it sounds a bit more strained than the diesel, and its fuel consumption means you won’t get quite as far. Next year, Peugeot will launch a plug-in hybrid. Judging from my experience with this type of powerplant, my advice is clear: Don’t wait for it.

Surprisingly, the selectable drive modes have no effect on the engine sound. But the different settings for the electronically controlled chassis are clearly noticeable. Depending on your driving style, it is easy to find a good compromise between comfort and sportiness. The compact and flattened steering wheel supports the impression of go-kart-like handling.

In addition to the 508 sedan, there will be an equally sporty and elegant station wagon this autumn. If you, or anyone in your family, happens to be shopping for a sensible car in the EUR 30-50K range, I’d say the surprisingly cool and sporty Peugeot 508 is worth looking at. I did, and I liked it.

First Impression: 2019 Audi Q8

Like it or not, the crossover SUV segment is here to stay: It has become wildly popular in virtually every price range. The market niche that interests us most, of course, is the premium luxury category. And while there are many interesting entries, few of them are coupes. In fact, there is only the BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, and perhaps also the Range Rover Sport. Now they will face formidable competition from a new contender: The Audi Q8, an SUV coupe that is based on the Q7.

Even though the Q8 won’t be offered a third row of seats, it retains the wheelbase of the Q7. And thus, it dwarfs the competition from Stuttgart and Munich. Moreover, while the X6 and the GLE Coupe are clearly just derivatives of the X5 and the regular GLE, the Q8 features a completely different style. While the Q7 is an aestetically challenged holdover from a former design era, the Q8 epitomizes the new styling language conceived by chief designer Marc Lichte.

When Audi invited us to go along with the technical project director, Dr.-Ing. Werner Kummer, for a test round, we didn’t think twice. So here we are: Pulling the handle slightly, the door lock opens electrically. And like in a real sports car, the side windows are frameless. The dashboard is still covered, but it is clearly visible: The Q8 takes Audi’s SUV interiors to the next level. It is more A8 than Q7.

Just as expected, the Q8 is equipped with an ultra-fast telematics and infotainment system that offers multiple customisation options. The space is extremely generous, even in the rear. Surprisingly, Audi only plans to offer a five-seat layout. If one car is predestined for single second-row seats, this is it.

The Q8 is fitted with five-link axles front and rear, and the chassis is available in three variants: A steel suspension with damper control is standard, and as an option, Audi offers a regular and a sporty level of its air suspension. An optional four-wheel steering system reduces the turning circle at low speeds and enhances high stability at autobahn velocites. Power is sent to all four wheels through a mechanical center differential.

On our test lap, the Q8 prototype mastered bumpy roads confidently, and it charged through fast corners with virtually no body roll. The chassis offers high reserves and is tuned more sharply than the Q7’s. The standard progressive steering becomes more direct with an increasing steering lock angle.

In Europe, the Q8 will be launched with a 3.0-liter V6 TDI engine with 48-volt hybridization; a V6 gasoline engine will be added later, and we suspect Audi will add SQ8 or RSQ8 models later, powered by V-8 gasoline and diesel engines. Meanwhile, the V6 TDI, whose exact performance figures Audi keeps secret, leaves little to be desired. Except for a bit of sound: It is almost eerily quiet.

Going forward, all engines will be coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. And on the vast majority of markets, they will be fitted with 48 volt-hybridization (except for a possible high-voltage plug-in hybrid).

In Europe, the Audi Q8 comes to market this summer. Prices are not fixed yet. But one thing is clear already: With its futuristic shape, its clean and powerful engines and its perfectly integrated infotainment system, it will give the competition a lot to chew on.

2018 Range Rover P400e Plug-in Hybrid Review

It’s the beginning of a new era at Jaguar Land Rover with the launch of the Range Rover P400e, their first Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), pronounced ‘Pee HEV’. Prices start from £86,965 and the order books are open. It is JLR’s first combined electric motor and combustion engine powertrain although this quintessentially british luxury 4×4 chariot is still available in petrol and diesel variants, with the introduction of the new Ingenium engines.

Diesels are no longer in favour and governments around the world are doing their best to kill the combustion engine all together. We are witnessing the emergence of MEVs, BEVs, PHEVs and EVs! These are the only choices we’ll be making in the not too distant future after the demise of the combustion engine but for the time being a PHEV is the only choice at the JLR camp for anything electric.

The First impression of the Range Rover P400e were the exterior tweaks which include a flap cleverly disguised in the front grill hiding the plug-in charger and the new light clusters housing new pixel laser LED lights.

The other notable visual improvement is the upgraded interior which includes the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Probably one of the best dashboards in any modern car today. Paul Ray and his interior design team have breathed some magic on the already luxurious cabin by making it even better. They have created an environment that is both visually beautiful, highly functional and oh so comfortable. After-all any car offering 25 seat massage options including Hot-Stone wins my vote although you’ll have to read to the end of the article to find out whether there was a happy ending.

The P400e combines the new JLR Ingenium 2.0L 4-cylinder petrol engine providing 300PS (221kW) power with a 116PS (85kW) electric motor, together delivering 404PS (297kW) or combined power. The permanent four-wheel drive system will move you from 0-100km/h (0-60mph) in 6.8 seconds with a top speed of 220km/h (137mph). The electrified powertrain only emits 64g/km on the NEDC combined cycle and has an all-electric range of up to 51km (31 miles) without the Ingenium engine running. Electric rapid charging takes 2hrs 45mins via a 32amp wall box or 7hrs 30mins from a standard 10 amp home charging cable supplied as standard.

The JLR engineers have done a great job making the motor and engine work seamlessly together and when you need to get a pace on it certainly feels much quicker than what you would expect from a 2.0L engine. The power delivery is smooth and predictable aided by an 8-speed ZF auto gearbox. It’s actually very impressive considering that the combined forces of the electric motor and engine are pulling a nearly three ton carriage!

With 640Nm of torque the P400e was also a joy to drive off-road with its superior traction and rugged capabilities that we have all come to expect on all Land Rovers. The P400e was no exception and dealt with mud, ruts, rivers and snow with more refinement than combustion driven alternatives.

I developed a love hate relationship with the P400e as it was the complete package in both ‘Parallel Hybrid’ mode and ‘All Electric’ mode. As a V8 combustion engine enthusiast I found that there was something very special about the PHEV model. I developed a craving to experience the serenity that the ’All Electric’ mode provided, by wafting through urban jungles in total silence and with the satisfaction that I wasn’t polluting the atmosphere, not one little bit. But the batteries emptied too quickly and I wanted more, more tranquillity, more relaxation, more thinking time, more peaceful motoring. With 6mm thicker glass all round and in ‘All Electric’ mode, without kids or animals in the car, all that could be heard was the crisp tone of the Meridian Sound System. Stop the music and you can hear a pin drop and it was oh so calming and so very relaxing. A wonderful place to leave the stresses of modern day life behind just for that trip or rather just for those 51 precious kilometres.

The only stress caused by the P400e was pressing the ‘Save Electric Power’ button and deciding when to use that ‘All Electric’ power without consuming it all at the beginning of a long journey, never-the-less a great feature. That said, with batteries empty the car drove surprisingly well on the 2.0L engine without the help of the electric motor although it sounded unrefined when pushed hard.

For the school run, local commute and general urban driving the P400e PHEV would be the only option if you want a Range Rover and never want to see a petrol station again. However, if traveling further on a daily basis then the more conventional combustion engine options would have more appeal. Never-the-less you are sure to have a happy ending after every trip in the P400e PHEV as you arrive at your destination in complete silence.

Words by Paul Tarantino