Land Rover Defender P400e plug-in hybrid review
The electrified version of the beloved off-roader is more efficient and less polluting than its petrol and diesel siblings, but costs significantly more than them, too
- Electric driving range
- Rapid charging standard
- More efficient than petrol or diesel siblings
- High price
- Only available as five-door
- Rivals better on emissions and economy
Electrification is clearly in Land Rover’s future, with six all-electric models arriving within the next five years, and the development of a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle already underway. But while we await the arrival of the brand's first zero-emissions model, a plug-in hybrid version of the Defender has arrived, aimed at both off-road enthusiasts and family buyers looking to reduce their emissions and improve their fuel consumption.
Plug-in hybrid power is now found across the Land Rover line-up, with electrified variants of the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Velar, Evoque and Discovery Sport already on the road. And the Defender's powertrain is also shared with the F-Pace P400e SUV from sister brand Jaguar. That means under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine coupled with an electric motor powered by a 19.2kWh battery.
Land Rover claims the Defender PHEV can cover up to 27 miles on pure-electric power and reach 87mph in EV mode. Unfortunately, the plug-in Defender isn’t capable of nearly the same economy as its Jaguar counterpart, which can hit up to 130mpg; the electrified Defender will only return between 72 and 85mpg depending on which spec and trim level you select. The plug-in Defender’s official electric range and fuel-economy figures are also less impressive than those of its electrified SUV rivals from BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.
The BMW X3 xDrive30e, Mercedes GLC 300 e and Jaguar F-Pace P400e also produce slightly less CO2, with the plug-in Defender emitting between 74 and 88g/km, which again depends on spec. However, those figures are low enough for the electrified Defender to qualify for a 19% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax rate – down from 37% for even the entry-level diesel version.
But the Defender P400e isn’t just for company-car drivers: Land Rover thinks it'll be popular with private buyers, too. Not only does it offer reduced running costs, but in terms of performance it's second only to the top-of-the-range Defender V8. Combined, the plug-in Defender produces 398bhp and a whopping 640Nm of torque, which allows the 2.6-tonne car to go from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds.
This Defender has already proved itself to be a well rounded vehicle, with the road manners of a modern SUV. Ride quality has been unaffected by the addition of the hybrid powertrain: the Defender is still surprisingly sharp to turn in, while the suspension also remains slightly firmer than the Discovery's.
There aren’t that many differences between the plug-in and internal-combustion-engined versions of the car, aside from its charging port on the left rear wheelarch and the pure-electric driving capability. You still get the full suite of Terrain Response off-road functions, as well as some electric off-road functions, including a low-range setting for the electric motor. Inside, you get a 12.3-inch driver's display and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
However, it's worth noting that the Defender P400e is only available in five-door, longer-wheelbase 110 guise and in X-Dynamic and XS Edition trim levels. Plus, the hybrid system does eat into boot space slightly – but you still get a huge 853 litres with the rear seats in place.
Hybrid is the default mode from start-up, allowing the car to decide for itself when to switch between the engine and electric motor. Thankfully, the way it shuffles between the two is almost undetectable, and when running on electric power only, the Defender is extremely refined and quiet. But when the four-cylinder kicks in, it’s noticeably less smooth than the six-cylinder petrols and diesels found elsewhere in the range.
Save mode ensures that the car’s battery retains a certain amount of energy, and will see you rely more on the petrol engine. Of course, in EV mode you can enjoy zero-emissions driving even on the motorway, although given the boxy design of the new Defender, the wind noise when travelling at higher speeds is noticeable.
In terms of running costs, when we tested the plug-in Defender across a mix of roads, we saw up to 40mpg from the display – less than half of the official figure. However, even the lower figure we saw is more economical than the rest of the Defender line-up, so as long as you keep it charged, the PHEV could be an affordable-to-run alternative to its petrol and diesel siblings.
Charging the Defender P400e is simple, too. Recharging the battery to 80% will take two hours from a 7kW home wallbox and the car's 50kW rapid-charging capability (unusual for a plug-in hybrid) means that if you find a fast enough public charging point, you can replenish to 80% in just 30 minutes.
Ultimately, the plug-in hybrid version of the Defender is a brilliant, more efficient version of the beloved off-roader. However, you need to stay on top of charging if you’re looking to match the official economy number, and you need to shell out a fair bit in the first place, too, with prices starting from over £65,000 – £15,000 more than the plug-in variants of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes GLC.