Jeremy Clarkson claimed the Range Rover is all the SUV you will ever need during latest episode of The Grand Tour. But what if you want to make the school run more eco-friendly – can the hybrid version compete? We decided to find out which is the best hybrid SUV / off-roader / 4×4 money can buy.
Only the most ardent petrolhead can deny hybrids have their place, especially when it comes to larger cars that would typically drink their way through your earnings and create a small hole in the ozone layer.
Maybe that is a tad dramatic, but then big cars are increasingly difficult to justify when you consider a good estate is nigh-on as practical and crossover versions do allow a modicum of off-roading shenanigans for that once-in-a-decade moment you actually leave the comfort of tarmac.
Even superminis are not so mini anymore and therefore even better than ever for a family, so you can see why an SUV is a tougher sell beyond that lovely commanding seating position and the feeling of superiority that goes with it.
Luckily you can spare yourself the guilt and go for a hybrid SUV. Think about it, you get to make other cars look puny while retaining the ability to drive over all kinds of terrain and without harming the planet as much. Plus, you know, the less money you spend on fuel the more you can spend on the fun stuff.
But which hybrid SUV is best and why? It was about time we found out so we decided to compare Range Rover Sport Hybrid, BMW X5 PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8 and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Design & appeal
People care about the look of an SUV and king of them all has to be the Range Rover. Not only does it have bags of road presence, it is good enough for the royal family and routinely comes out as the best SUV money can buy. The interior is a beauty, too. No wonder Clarkson loves them so much.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e is nearly as imposing and carries badge appeal. It just lacks the same desirability as the Range Rover and the interior is less exciting to behold. But for some petrolheads, that double-kidney front grille will earn you respect – even when attached to what is essentially a box with windows.
Volvo’s take on the SUV is refreshing in that it tries to look smaller than it is. We rather like its more understated ways, especially as the interior is arguably about as good as it gets these days. Seriously, go sit in one and try to fault it. Plus Volvos are somewhat immune to badge snobbery. Volvo drivers are sophisticated and so avoid being bought by footballers.
As for the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, it benefits from the heritage of the Evo but even the recent facelift has done little to make the latest model shine. You could say it is refreshingly honest in its square appearance, but that is a nice way to say it is a bit of an eye-sore. The interior is acceptable, mind you, but lags far behind in terms of luxury and flair.
Therefore we must give the point to the Range Rover because it oozes cool, with the Swede’s design brilliance sneaking the XC90 into second, narrowly ahead of the BMW X5.
Winner: 1st Range Rover, 2nd Volvo XC90 T8, 3rd BMW X5
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Practicality
On the practicality front, the Range Rover lets you seat 5+2, unlike the BMW X5 PHEV, which loses the option because of the battery needed to power the electric motor. Then there is the fact the Range Rover can house up to 784 litres of stuff in its five-seat arrangement, rising to 1,761 litres with the rear seats out of action.
That is significantly less than the BMW X5’s 500 litres in its hybrid form, although it can expand to a more impressive 1,720 litres if you leave your rear passengers at home. Both cars also offer cup holders, various storage spaces and automatic tailgates.
Here the Volvo XC90 T8 really shines because its 451-litre boot can easily be expanded to 1,102 litres if you fold down the third row of seating, which is capable of seating adults up to 5ft 7inches (170cm). Fold down the second row and you get 1,951 litres of Ikea flatpack-swallowing vastness in addition to other practical storage spaces and an automatic tailgate.
Standard boot space in the Mitsubishi Outlander is 463 litres, a drop of 128 litres over the non-hybrid model. This can be increased to 1,480 litres with the rear seats folded down, or longer items can be accommodated by using the 60:40 split-fold capability. That bulk does come in handy here, but it loses out because of the lack of seven seats and sheer volume of storage potential.
Winner: 1st Volvo XC90 T8, 2nd BMW X5, 3rd Range Rover
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Performance & handling
Now it gets more fun. The Range Rover and BMW would usually walk away with this in their sporty versions, but the former takes 6.5 seconds to go from 0-62mph – 1.5 seconds longer than the Sport. Power is a healthy 335bhp at 4,000rpm while torque is 516lb/ft from 1,500rpm. Big figures, which makes sense when Land Rover combined the 3.0-litre V6 diesel and an electric motor.
In the handling stakes, the Range Rover Hybrid is more than 200kg heavier (over 300kg in the long-wheelbase model) although it still manages to feel anything but a barge. For gliding along and making you feel good, it is as good as it gets in the SUV world – hybrid or not.
The BMW X5 is capable of 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, which looks bad compared with the Volvo T8’s sprint time of 5.6 seconds. No surprise, really, when you consider the X5 kicks out 450Nm of torque, while the Volvo offers 600Nm. Not only that, its 313bhp output is less than the T8’s 407hp.
As for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, it offers 200bhp and 244lb/ft of torque from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor combination. That and the fact it weighs upwards of 2.5 tonnes keeps it to an 11-second 0-62mph.
The Outlander is, therefore, far slower but the fact the torque-heavy electric motor does much of, if not all, of the lifting at low speeds ensures it feels spritely at lower speeds. Though by no means does it have the same confidence, ride quality and ability as its rivals in the corners.
Tough fight here, but the pricier T8 wins because of its extre firepower, with the X5 claiming second over the much slower but slightly more sure-footed Range Rover because of the enhanced pace.
Winner: 1st Volvo XC90 T8, 2nd BMW X5 PHEV, 3rd Range Rover Hybrid
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Economy & efficiency
Now it gets serious because hybrids can be used to enhance performance, but in hybrid SUV land we are more interested in fuel economy and CO2 emissions, both of which can make a car cheaper to run and govern whether it is justifiable over a comparitive diesel.
The Range Rover Sport Hybrid lacks the plug-in ability of the other cars, which is a handicap. Yet the fact it would take someone who drives 12,000 miles a year nearly a century to recoup the fuel economy difference (44.1 vs 40.9mpg) between the hybrid and standard SDV6 is inexcusable for the penny-conscious buyer.
Even the hybrid emissions are high at 169g/km. Mind you, that will be less of an issue after April 2017 because expensive cars – although subject to a £310-a-year nice things tax applied to cars over £40,000 for the first five years of ownership – will cost £140 a year thereafter, a decrease on what owners of the SDV6 pay now albeit not a huge one.
BMW’s hybrid X5 is said to offer up to 94.2mpg, although real-world figures were sub-50 during testing before the battery ran out. Speaking of which, it can go 19 miles on electric alone at up to 75mph, allowing it to do short journeys without drinking a single drop of fuel. CO2 is 78g/km so it is currently free to tax.
The T8 has the same electric-only party trick but better, owing to its larger battery cell that allows it to travel up to 25 miles. In reality, of course, it will be less as is the case for the X5. Fuel economy comes in at a claimed 134.5mpg and real world figures were better than that of the X5 but not by much.
The Mitsubishi Outlander does well here (partly why we included it). It can travel up to 33 miles on electric only and now all models have an EV-priority mode so even the budget 3h model benefits. A by-product of the larger battery is the fact it can manage a claimed 144mpg, the bet figure here.
As for CO2 emissions, the Outlander and XC90 come in at 41 and 49g/km, respectively. That means both are free to tax and qualify for the government’s plug-in grant of £2,500 (neither has the electric-only range to qualify for the full £4,500 enjoyed by electric cars).
It also means both cars are exempt from London’s congestion charge, which means a saving of at least £10.50 a day for those who drive into the capital’s congestion zones plus the registration cost of £10. Therefore the Outlander just wins, although if you factor in carrying seven people the T8 is the least harmful to the planet.
Winner: 1st Mitsubishi Outlander, 2nd Volvo XC90, 3rd BMW X5
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Equipment & value
Given that the Range Rover Hybrid costs from £94,250, it is a bit rubbish at being good value for money. The top-spec SVAutobiography, meanwhile, costs an eye-watering £159,600. For that, you do get unrivalled levels of opulence (perhaps until a hybrid Bentley Bentayga comes along), luxury and gadgetry to make each journey supremely comfortable.
A BMW X5 starts from £52,105 before you start adding extras, a few of which are worth having such as the head-up display. Some may also crave the M sport’s more aggressive styling, which sends the cost towards £60,000, but even with a big spend it never matches the Range Rover. Navigation is standard.
The Volvo XC90 also gets navigation as standard, but the higher engine output, superior performance and greater interior luxury costs from £60,455, making it harder to save up for than the X5 yet technically better value for money. Generous levels of equipment help the cause.
Sitting at nearly half the price of the Volvo XC90 and nearly a third of the Range Rover is the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 3h, which can be had from just £34,789 if DAB digital radio with Bluetooth connectivity is enough to compensate for zero navigation. That means it flies under the radar on the aforementioned nice things tax on cars costing more than £40,000.
A tad more luxury can be had in the form of the £39,399 PHEV 4h, although the cabin is comfy enough as is. Dual-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels and cruise control are standard on the 3h. Keep it basic and reap the rewards of clean and cheap big SUV motoring.
The low price of the Outlander PHEV makes it the most economical and the fastest to recuperate the initial cost, but the seven-seat nature of the XC90 makes it a very close second for those that can afford it when you consider the extras it comes with and level of luxury.
Winner: 1st Mitsubishi Outlander, 2nd Volvo XC90, 3rd BMW X5
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Safety
Family wagons should be safe. Of course, by virtue of their size and weight occupants tend to have a high default level of crash protection. Though the lithium-ion batteries could catch fire, so could the fuel tank and instances of either are rare as far as we can tell.
More of an issue is the fact fire crews have more of a task avoiding the battery and high-voltage cables, but in a plug-in hybrid the compact nature of said battery should at least ease the issue somewhat.
The more recent T8 comes with autonomous emergency braking and lane assist as standard and was the safest car of 2015, according to Euro NCAP testing. Autonomous braking is also standard on the Range Rover, but only a lane departure warning and not lane assist.
You have to go up the range in the Outlander PHEV to benefit from automatic braking, although the fact it is generally slower makes it safer by default and the sheer size of the thing means only an oil tanker will be better off in the event of a crash.
Winner: 1st Volvo XC90, 2nd Mitsubishi Outlander,
Range Rover vs BMW X5 vs Volvo XC90 vs Mitsubishi Outlander: Which is best, then?
It seems the Range Rover is a class-leading SUV in most areas, but being a hybrid isn’t one of them. Simply put, the fuel economy gain of the hybrid over the equivalent diesel is insufficient to command such a high price tag – one that could buy a Range Rover Sport with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8.
If anything, our comparison has sparked greater interest in a proper plug-in hybrid Range Rover as that would almost certainly put up a better fight. Until then, though, its hybrid nature is really only a case of posturing.
The BMW X5 PHEV is far better as a hybrid than the Range Rover because it has a proper-sized battery and, therefore, fuel economy worth writing home about. But it lacks the same electric-only range as the Volvo XC90, a point somewhat justified by the fact it costs substantially less to buy.
Faulting the Volvo XC90 T8 is tough because SUVs command much higher prices that buyers willingly pay. £60,000 is a lot but then it can ferry around seven people and offers a winning combination of competent handling, refinement, eco-friendliness and comfort. Is the Range Rover £40,000 better? Not if money means something to you.
As for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, it was always going to struggle against pricier competition, but the fact it offers cheap(-ish) care-free motoring coupled with oodles of space means it is worth considering if you absolutely have to have an SUV. In hybrid form, it is a surprisingly refined machine – just avoid looking at it for too long.
So which is the best hybrid SUV? Well it isn’t the Range Rover, nor is it the BMW X5. Nope, that title can only really be levied at the Volvo XC90 T8 if you have an enviable salary. For those who are poorer, the Mitsubishi Outlander wins by default because the competition is non-existent.
That is not to say the Mitsubishi Outlander is better than the Range Rover, but as a hybrid the former has such a pitiful electric range and fuel economy benefit that you would be mad to buy it. The same goes to the X5 PHEV although to a substantially lesser extent.
Whichever way you go, a key point to take away is that failing to keep the battery topped up means the same, if not worse, fuel economy as a diesel because of the extra weight. So ensure you have somewhere to plug the car in or avoid going the hybrid route entirely.
Overall winner: 1st Volvo XC90 T8, 2nd Mitsubishi Outlander, 3rd BMW X5