I drove the Range Rover Vogue plug-in hybrid for a week and it was the first time I’ve had one on test. I was given the Vogue SE P400e model and on first impressions it is a massive vehicle; the largest I’ve ever driven on the roads. It was a bit intimidating to drive around because I felt people were judging me in a way that I don’t look like the typical driver of this vehicle (just last week I was mistaken for a 20yo).

In this post I’m going to introduce you to this particular type of car and share my experience with it, and thoughts I have about PHEVs in general.

What is a plug-in hybrid?
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a combination of a traditional fuel engine combined with a battery-powered electric motor that would need to be recharged by plugging into an external source for power.

It’s very literal, hence the term ‘plug-in’ because you are plugging it into a wall socket to charge; vs a conventional hybrid that cannot be plugged in. I have previously driven a conventional hybrid back in 2011 – the Lexus CT 200h. 

PHEVs have a limited electric range and it is used when you start up the car, and then gradually switches over to the petrol engine. There are a range of hybrids being sold in SA from BMW, Lexus, Toyota, Volvo and Honda.

Introducing the Range Rover Vogue SE
I must admit, I was a bit confused with the naming convention of the Range Rover, and the website didn’t explicitly say “Vogue SE” when I looked online. I’ve just seen it called Range Rover PHEV but there are two hybrid models, the Vogue SE and Sport.

The Vogue SE P400e that I had on test is a 2-litre 221kW petrol engine combined with a 105kW electric motor that has a total output of 297kW. The battery capacity is 13kWh, which roughly amounts 49km on a single charge. 

It’s a five seater with a spacious interior and premium finishes; it’s basically business class. For once I found the Driver Assist features useful, like lane keeping assist because the car was so huge and I was worried of veering into other lanes. It also comes standard with LED lighting, Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, full colour head up display and a seven mode Terrain Response.

Charging the Vogue SE

The vehicle comes with a home charger as standard that plugs into a regular wall socket in a nifty zipped bag that can remain in the boot. The charging point is located (hidden) in the front grille and impossible to say its there if you don’t know the car well enough. I didn’t find the opening mechanism very user friendly as my fingers kept sliding over it, and it took a few tries to open every time.

@nafisaakaborRecharging the Range Rover Sport plugin hybrid ##rangerover ##hybrid ##tiktoksouthafrica ##landrover ##phev ##rangeroversport ##fyp♬ Old Town Road – Remix – Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug & Mason Ramsey

One of the common questions I got asked was if it uses a regular plug. I think it’s easiest to think of a car charger (be it plug-in hybrid or full electric) the same way you see a phone charger. The plug will fit into any socket in South Africa, and the input will likely be a Type 2 connecter (think USB-C). The Type 2 connector is the most common one across SA, and what works on all public chargers (when using a Type 2 to Type 2 cable). 

It took me about eight and a half hours to charge the Vogue SE to 100% using the supplied cable in my garage (the website says ‘as little as 7.5 hours’). Given that the battery capacity is 13kWh, it gave me 49km of range. There is a timed charging setting that you can use so load-shedding doesn’t get in the way (if you live in South Africa). Unfortunately, the night before the car was being fetched, I had load shedding from 08:00pm to midnight so I didn’t recharge it. But, another common question was what about load-shedding with an EV or PHEV. I don’t see it as a reason not to buy this car. If you follow the time table and plan around it, especially if timed for an overnight charge, it should be ok. Or you could buy a faster charging cable.

Driving a PHEV

Firstly, driving the Range Rover Vogue was intimidating for me due to its size. It’s massive and just about fit in my garage. I had my husband give me directions when parking it so I didn’t bump the side mirrors. Size aside, it’s completely silent when you start it up; something I’ve gotten used to with EVs. 

I like the transition from the electric motor to petrol because it’s gradual; you don’t get this loud shuddery feeling when taking off. I found it to be pleasant and comfortable. It switches automatically from electric to petrol when more power is required. As with an EV, you can put your foot down flat to get the maximum torque of this vehicle. I didn’t need to do anything drastic as this car is huge and it wasn’t necessary to pull off at the green light in that way.

The Vogue SE PHEV is very much an urban suburban vehicle that is suited for going to the office, sitting in traffic, going shopping, and coming home. Like you would with any SUV-like vehicle and if you have a bigger family, all the better. Just an important thing to note here is that it doesn’t have a spare wheel, which also stopped me from planning a trip out of Johannesburg.

The car is comfortable for the driver, and for once, I appreciated the Driver Assist feature that is lane keeping assist due to the size of the vehicle. I didn’t need it in the traditional sense but it gave me peace of mind in case I veered onto another lane. I found the inside space to be a bit lacking, as I needed to put a bunch of keys, phones, coins, cards etc and the two cup holders filled up real quick, with the centre storage space not being as big as I would have liked it.

I hate to admit this, but I couldn’t find or enable the option on how to switch to a full electric mode on the vehicle. It uses a Parallel Hybrid Mode by default and I saw the Save function to prevent the battery from dropping below a level selected. If anyone reading this is inclined to share, let me know.

The technology on the Vogue SE

As mentioned, the Vogue SE comes standard with the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. It consists of two touchscreen interfaces sitting on the dashboard; a common look on all new JLR vehicles. The top one is the regular 10″ InControl infotainment display with split screen options. As always, I love pairing my phone over CarPlay or Android Auto for using Google Maps and using my phone safely in the car. 

The touch screen below is to access all the vehicle controls like climate, volume and car settings. The driver display was also useful for looking at my fuel economy in real-time; useful if you’re obsessed with driving efficiently but also how the two motors are working alongside each other. And it told me when I needed more pressure on a tyre. 

You can also access the My EV screen for more detailed statistics about your drive, and visuals on how and where you’re getting power from. It has useful info like your energy impact, and you can view history. I love stats and facts when presented visually, so this was great.

PHEV User Guidelines

The Vogue SE was sent to me with some guidelines printed and left in the car. I’m very much that person who doesn’t read the manual because when stuff is logical, its easy to figure out. However, in this instance, it was extremely important that I read it because the first thing it tells you is that under no circumstances should you use an extension cable to charge the car (it won’t charge). It lets you know it’s an AC charger, where the flap is, and to connect the cable to the power before connecting it to the vehicle. 

Also if you’ve never done this before, the guide lets you know that the charging port will flash green for ten seconds to say it is successfully charging. A flashing red light means exactly what you think – there is charging fault. The charging status can be viewed on the instrument cluster. When you unlock the vehicle, it will stop charging; and also enables you to remove the cable once unlocked. So nobody can steal the car if you’re charging it in public; the cable simply cannot be removed.

Final thoughts on owning a PHEV

Owning a Range Rover PHEV in South Africa right now is more suited for early adopters (who have the money), and people who are likely already in the JLR stable (but not necessarily) and want to transition to full electric but are not 100% ready. It’s a great way to test the waters because the electric feature is overall minimal; you still have your petrol engine and there’s not going to be any range anxiety – mind you it shouldn’t be a thing either on sister vehicle from the company, the full-electric I-Pace. I think it’s a good way to get the best of both worlds while South Africa irons out its issues around EVs.

That said, it is a large vehicle, so definitely something to factor in; will it fit in your driveway or garage? I found that the location of the charging point and length of the cable wasn’t suited for parking normally in my garage. I had to reverse park to reach my wall socket. Also, you have to ask yourself if an over eight hour charge is worth getting a 49km range, and if maybe buying a faster charger would be more suitable.

The Range Rover Vogue SE P400e is priced as follows:
From R2 292 500 for the standard wheelbase
From R2 595 300 for the long wheelbase

The variant I drove was the standard, kitted with extras was R2 484 500.