Driving Miss Dashboard: A twist on a classic – the first ever Range Rover plug-in hybrid

Alexandra Tilley Loughrey takes a little local road trip to The Cotswolds Distillery

Love or loathe the most classic of ‘Chelsea tractors’, the Range Rover is a not uncommon sight, especially in the Cotswold lanes and car-parks. I have tended to fall into the loathe camp. I find that I am often the one driving up the verge in a considerably smaller motor, making way for a driver who - while driving a car capable of going over a ploughed field - often appears to be worried about their paintwork.

However - a Range Rover that has such low emissions (it’s only £15 tax for the first year!) and claims you can get up to 83 miles to the gallon because it’s a plug-in hybrid (a car with both electric and petrol modes)…that’s got to be worth a drive, surely?

So where better to go and try out this twist on a classic than The Cotswolds Distillery – our local distiller, putting their own spin on classic British gin and whisky – and winning awards in the process. My husband and I dumped the children on some unsuspecting neighbours and took a trip along the wide rolling lanes of Todenham and Cherington – arriving at the pretty village of Stourton, near Shipston on Stour. As soon as we turned into the gravel driveway and parked up, the smell of really good booze (definitely not to be confused with the sort of smell you get from going into a bar the morning after the night before) hung in the air. Divine!

We had a nosey around, admiring their two beautiful copper gin stills (as stunning as an Anish Kapoor sculpture) and breathing in the barley for the whisky. I was particularly taken with the smell of their version of London Dry gin, a classic tipple infused with juniper berries, to which one of their added ingredients is Snowshill lavender. As I was more than happy to be behind the wheel, I watched my husband enjoy the tasting – and like all drivers who visit the distillery, was given samples to enjoy at home.

I drove all the way there (and nearly back) on pure electricity. You just press the EV button and it all gets incredibly quiet. It is a remarkable feeling that such a beast of a car can climb steep hills or glide along effortlessly without the turbo charge of fossil fuel.

As with most plug-in hybrid cars, charging is easy. As long as you have access to a charge point, it’s as easy as charging a mobile phone, which we all do, at various points throughout the day – with a full-on boost overnight. On a regular socket, a full overnight charge takes 7.5 hours, but if you owned one of these you’d have your own fast charger which will get you up to full in 2.5 hours. Of course, being a hybrid car, if the electricity runs out while you’re away from home, the car automatically opts for the petrol engine. And yes, you can charge it in the rain. Nothing will go bang.

As you’d expect from Range Rover there are lots of little added luxuries. Before the car was delivered I was telling my children what I particularly liked about it – and mentioned the fridge (the hot and cold box in the middle of the two front seats). On first inspection one of my kids was verging on indignant - “but you can’t fit a chicken in there, mummy!” Point taken, but it does chill chocolate to create that perfect snap!

So yes, it is a most luxurious “motor". What other (not uncommon) car has the smoothest of leather seats, with leg rests for all passengers and the driver, coupled with a steering wheel as smooth as the proverbial silk?

But did I feel like I was joining the eco green revolution driving it? Well, in a word, no. It’s a huge whale of a car that still smacks of ostentation and tradition, not innovation. At least the car's manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover, are moving in the right direction, so when they’ve perfected their ingredients for a pure electric version I’ll look forward to toasting that. Cheers!

Fast facts

Fuel consumption – Jaguar Land Rover claims the car can do up to 83 mpg. On pure electric mode you can travel up to 31 miles.

Road tax - As a sweetener £15 for first year then £440.

Safety – Depending on the model there are features like Lane Assist (stops you from veering our of lane on motorways), blind spot monitor, air bags a-go-go.

Media -  A traditional looking (i.e. not sci-fi) touch screen system to access DAB radio, satnav, blue-tooth connection, you get the picture.

That Bling Thing – Being the ultimate in bling, it sure is flash inside. The seats recline so far you could actually sleep in it.

This seasons colours – A whopping 32 colour options. Well, you wouldn’t expect anything else from a Range Rover, surely.

The drive – Incredibly comfy to sit on those fine ‘perforated Windsor’ leather seats – and a dream for those in the back – as long as you’re not travelling around too many country lanes, as it can roll about quite considerably – and made a couple of my passengers feel a tad nauseous (cue comments about my driving style).

Trim – Three price options of Vogue, Vogue SE and Autobiography, offering soft, luxurious leather upholstery and a range of alloy wheels and added extras – from safety features to widgets. And the usual beeping parking sensors a-plenty – rear and side. Beep beep beeeeep!

Automatic or manual – Being a twin engine or hybrid, it’s automatic – with an 8-speed 4-wheel drive gearbox. As you’d expect, there are loads of touch button options so that you can opt to save your electricity for driving in town, as well as buttons for driving across raging rivers and deserts….(say no more!)

Optional extras – The one that really did it for me was the ‘hot stone massage’ seats. It’ll cost ya though. But for the ultimate in footballers’-wives-style bling, you can have your name engraved on the treadplates!

Warranty A lengthy 8 year or 100,000 mileage

Price from £87,600

Tasting tours of Cotswold Distillery are available every day. See their website for information cotswoldsdistillery.com

Follow Alexandra on Twitter and Instagram @MissDashboardUK for a refreshing take on cars.