JIA Chieftain Range Rover

Twist the key and that big-chested 430bhp V8 woofles into life. With so much power and torque, there’s an effortless elasticity to the performance, the Chieftain gathering speed like a Wile E Coyote-dropped anvil plummeting off a cliff edge. It’s helped by the eight-speed automatic gearbox (we’ve yet to sample the ten cog version), which delivers quick, clean shifts when you’re in the mood, yet slurs them nicely when you’re not. There’s the odd shunt through the transmission as you tip into the throttle at low speed, but otherwise it’s smooth and neatly integrated.

So quick is the standard car that for many the supercharged version might be considered overkill. Stll, who’s going to turn their nose up at a square-rigged superannuated SUV with up to 700bhp and a NASCAR-aping soundtrack? Not us. From almost any speed, a suggestive flex of the right ankle is all that’s needed to kick down one gear (if you’re feeling timid) or two (if you’re certified free of heart murmurs) and access and sustained thump of torque skelps you down the road, that bombastic engine note trailing in your wake. The blown V8 will pull strongly from 2750rpm, but keep it between 3500rpm and 6000rpm and this plush wagon becomes a raging hot rod.

For the PHEV, its cleverly integrated powertrain adds a compelling new ingredient to the electromod recipe. At the flick of a switch on the centre console drivers can choose to run either in petrol, EV or hybrid modes, the latter serving up over 700bhp and four-wheel drive traction that allows it match the supercharged car almost blow for blow in the performance stakes, with a rapid 6.2 seconds all that is needed for the 0-60mph dash.

n the move the system is remarkably well resolved, with the switch between power sources almost imperceptible, apart from the guttural bellow from that V8 as it churns into life. Acceleration in EV mode is brisk enough to keep up with the flow of traffic and there’s enough torque to light up the front wheels on our wet test drive. Call upon electricity and unleaded for motivation and the Chieftain lunges forward with serious intent, its progress matched by the laugh-out-loud snap, crackle and pop of from the twin exit exhausts.

Despite the prodigious power output, the initial throttle response and torque map in the full EV model means it doesn’t feel face-pullingly fast off the line (0-60mph takes a little over eight seconds), and it’s only once you’re rolling that the Chieftain feels as quick as the numbers suggest. In fact, between 30 and 70 mph it’ll put the frighteners on some serious performance machinery. Better still, those AP brakes offer superb stopping power and excellent pedal feel.

Yet it’s the seamless integration of the EV powertrain that impresses as much as the pace. There’s virtually no shunt, fight or noises-off from the driveline (a remarkable achievement for an old Rangie). And while there’s a small amount of motor whine at low speed, it disappears the faster you go. In fact, apart from some wind noise on the motorway, refinement is strong. Given that JIA’s R&D budget probably wouldn’t cover JLR’s monthly biscuit bill, the results are remarkable.

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