Land Rover has a penchant for putting its concepts into production. The Range Stormer concept from 2004's Detroit Auto Show became the Range Rover Sport. The LRX concept from the 2008 Detroit Auto Show has gotten put into production too, becoming the Range Rover Evoque. The last concept that Land Rover showed off was the Range_E plug-in-hybrid at this year's Geneva Auto Show. While not officially slated for production yet, it's been spotted testing out in the wild.
According to the folks across the pond at Autocar, the production version was spotted out in the wild testing with Bosch engineers -- the same folks who built the parallel hybrid system in the Range_E concept. While the Range_E concept was built using a Range Rover Sport body, the mule that Autocar spotted testing was clearly the larger Range Rover, proper.
Before we continue a little background on the Range-E. The Range_E concept was a plug-in-hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport. The concept was fitted with a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with an electric motor mounted where the torque converter would be on the eight-speed, ZF-supplied automatic transmission. According to Land Rover, the Range_E had an EV range of 20 miles, while its hybrid range was 691 miles.
That being said, what makes us so sure that the mule spotted by Autocar is a hybrid version of the Range Rover and not some other test mule? The giveaway is said to be the metal box mounted in back of the prototype, where the spare tire would be on a conventionally powered Range Rover. That metal box means two possibilities. The first is that it's just plugged into testing equipment mounted in the cargo area of the Range Rover -- possibly computers used to monitor the conditions that the electrical drive system is undergoing. Another possibility is that this mule's electrical components (batteries, etc) are what's actually mounted in the cargo area because of the amount of load space available back there, especially with the rear seats removed. That would also explain why the hybrid system is being testing in a Range Rover and not a Range Rover Sport like the Range_E; the Range Rover being bigger, has more room to test those components.
While Land Rover is out testing a hybrid version of the Range Rover now, don't expect to see it in your local dealership anytime soon. The hybrid Range Rover and Range Rover Sport probably won't be put into production until the flagship next-generation Range Rover debuts late next year, while the smaller Range Rover Sport gets it sometime afterwards. Also, don't expect it to be a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt. In order to save weight and complexity, Land Rover has ditched the plug-in system for a more traditional hybrid drivetrain.
Check out the whole gallery over at Autocar.