The latest trend in the automotive industry is to tough up a utility vehicle and sell it at a premium price as an aspirational object to those with deep pockets. Sometimes it doesn’t feel quite genuine; other times it feels like blatantly cashing in on a fad. But Range Rover has been offering high-end, go-anywhere kinds of SUVs for decades, allowing the company a bit more flexibility regarding how to stand out. The solution seems to be electrification, with our first taste coming with the Range Rover Sport Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

When Range Rover’s official literature dubbed this an “Extended Range Electric Vehicle,” I rolled my eyes, but the plush, yet capable, SUV boasts a fairly reasonable all-electric driving range of about 77 km. Beyond that, it even supports DC fast-charging, making it one of the only PHEVs with such a feature. Sure, it only charges at the slowest DC rate of 50 kW, but that’s more than enough to get a bunch of juice back into the 38-kWh battery in about an hour. Expect about five hours to fully charge the SUV using a 7-kW charger.

The battery powers a 141-horsepower electric motor, which works in tandem with a turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine for a total of 434 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. The PHEV might not turn heads like the growling V8 version of the Sport does, but it is relatively quick, hitting highway speeds from a standstill in 5.8 seconds. It feels like a moderate step up from the mild-hybrid six-cylinder equipped P400 model of the Range Rover Sport. Smooth take-off along with quick shifts from the eight-speed automatic help the PHEV feel refined and luxurious.

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

Stick it in EV mode, and you’ll find all four wheels can be driven with the electric motor. Furthermore, the Dynamic drive mode won’t encourage the powertrain to swap into the gas-electric hybrid mode, but a nudge of the gear lever to the ‘S’ mode will give you the full sporting potential of the combined drive units. Only the most speed-hungry drivers will miss the V8.

When the electric range ran out, the vehicle consumed fuel at a rate below 10 L/100 km, which is respectable, given the displacement and output of the inline-six engine.

Despite weighing over two tonnes, the newest Range Rover is responsive to steering inputs. It earns its “Sport” name thanks to its stiffer chassis and fancier suspension technology. Dual-chamber dynamic air suspension helps flatten out the ride and mitigate body roll, meaning there’s a lack of pitch when slowing the SUV down from highway speeds. There are also fancy dual-valve Bilstein dampers to keep the ride agile and responsive.

In action, the SUV behaves like a car on initial braking or quick lane changes. It’ll wobble a bit if you try to upset it, but when you’re not goofing around, it’s surprisingly flat and comfortable. There’s also a rear-wheel-steering system to help the PHEV feel more agile in tight spots or when off-roading. The air suspension can also raise the vehicle, providing 274 mm of ground clearance. It can also lower to ease the entry or exit from the SUV.

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

Now all together, the Range Rover Sport is more enjoyable to drive than its last generation, but I’d stop just short of saying it’s more fun to drive than a properly equipped BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. While an inevitable Range Rover SVR will help close that gap, or surpass those rivals for on-road performance, the real trick to a Range Rover comes with how it performs off-road. And this one is plenty capable.

We navigated tight, rocky trails thanks to the various cameras used by the SUV to stitch together a video feed that displays what’s happening under the hood, allowing us to place the Range Rover Sport with precision. There’s an automatic off-road cruise control system that allows you to set a speed and your preferred comfort level. From there, the system just trundles through the route, using various sensors to detect if the ride is too choppy for you, then slow down or speed up accordingly; you don’t even have to use the brakes or throttle.

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

Naturally, there’s a confidence-inspiring hill descent control feature, a low-range gearbox, and various drive modes that have been perfected for different road conditions. It makes the Range Rover Sport a far more capable off-road vehicle than any of its rivals. Every off-road obstacle that Range Rover set out for us seemed tougher than the last, yet the Sport managed to handle it with ease.

Beyond the on- and off-road upgrades, the exterior design of the Range Rover Sport has been modernized, while the interior receives a more significant overhaul. Gone is the two-screen infotainment setup, and in its place is a large 13.1-inch touchscreen that covers all bases. There are a pair of HVAC knobs that transform into seat controls when you push them, or fan speeds when you pull them, adding some secret functionality without cluttering the dashboard. That infotainment system even includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A small slot below the screen features a wireless phone charger, while the centre console hides a massive storage area, along with a cooled armrest storage.

The minimalism of the dash extends to the rest of the car, which features upscale materials and attractive accents. One gripe comes with a few of the controls, like the mirror controls, or the ones on the steering wheel, which have a shiny plastic to them that feels flimsy and cheap.

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

android, first drive: 2023 land rover range rover sport phev

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

The cabin is quiet and spacious, though savvy observers will note that the Range Rover Sport features two rows of seating. Unlike previous generations, there is no optional third row of seating, forcing shoppers to move up into the full-size Range Rover if they need the extra seats. There’s dual-zone climate control for the rear-seat passengers, as well as vented and heated thrones.

The exterior design is instantly recognizable as a Range Rover Sport, with cool, light copper highlights on the lower front lip and fender garnish. There’s also a plastic bit on the hood where vents used to be, but here it just seems like a bit of extra flair. Massive wheels help make the Sport stand out; 22-inch wheels are standard, but 23-inch wheels are available.

Even with those massive wheels, the Range Rover Sport impressed with its smooth on-road performance, excellent off-road capability, high-tech cabin, and strong PHEV efficiency. With a $123,050 asking price before luxury taxes and other charges, it’s significantly more expensive than PHEV versions of the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90, while sitting between the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and its S E-Hybrid models. The Range Rover Sport justifies its price with its larger battery with more range, not to mention DC fast-charging support, and the ability to withstand harsh road conditions. For those with deep enough pockets, there’s simply no equal to what the Range Rover Sport can do.

Keyword: First Drive: 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV

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