Vauxhall courts plug-in hybrid technology with enticing electrified GrandlandX
Over the years, Iain Robertson admits to ‘Mickey-taking’ Vauxhall’s crossover model, mostly of its name but never in respect of the incredible sales success it has earned for the Luton-based brand and, now that he has driven the PHEV version, the respect grows.
While accepting that electrification is both a unit profits earner and an opportunity to whack up the list prices to the consumer, Vauxhall has a certain responsibility to its customers for keener pricing. As a result, the latest and literally the hottest versions of the Grandland X in combined hybrid and 4×4 forms start at £36,790 (Business Edition Nav Premium), with the range topped by the all-singing-and-dancing Ultimate Nav model at £46,650. It is a lot of money…but, then, it is also a lot of motorcar, for a mid-size crossover model.
The headline figures say what they need to: 300bhp combined power output, from a 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and two electric motors (hence 4×4 capability but without a power-sapping and weight-increasing propshaft connecting them). The combined fuel economy figure is given as 204mpg, supported by a CO2 emissions figure of just 34g/km. It is enough to whisk the Grandland X to a maximum speed of 146mph (84mph in EV mode, which also has a 35 miles range), having despatched the 0-60mph sprint in a zesty 5.9s, while formulating a low Benefit-in-Kind tax situation for business users and low road tax otherwise.
Yet, as showy as the numbers are, if the driving experience is numbed to the point of losing tactility, it might be termed readily as a waste of effort. Fortunately, on the Swiss back doubles of the test route, the Grandland X in Hybrid4 form benefits from locating the battery pack low down, between the front and rear axle lines. Driven ‘normally’, the car responds very neutrally, with most of the drive coming from the rear axle (notably in Hybrid, or EV modes). However, dig into its reserves to exploit its 300bhp and you can feel the transition of the front axle being drawn into operation through the seat of your pants but the overall handling remains engagingly neutral, without untoward steering deflections. All-round gas damping and coil springs ensure a balanced and comfortable ride quality and the car provides a hunkered-down, almost sporty appeal on motorways and main roads, accompanied by satisfying straight-ahead stability.
Four driving modes are available, all working through the electronically managed 8-speed automatic gearbox. ‘Hybrid’ focusses on optimising the entire drivetrain for the best fuel economy and efficiency. ‘Electric’ introduces the pure EV mode. ‘All-Wheel Drive’ means that both axles are operating continuously for maximum traction. Finally, ‘Sport’ mode allows the driver to access the maximum available power, leaving the intelligent transmission to direct drive wherever it is needed most.
The lithium-ion battery pack is rated at 13.2kWh, however, the car is also equipped with an on-board charger rated at 3.7kW (an optional 7.4kW unit is available for £500 more), which aids fast-charging (two hours only). All customers will receive a blank/inactive Polar card (which can be activated quickly online) and six months FREE service at any of Polar’s 7,000 charger national network. Thereafter, electricity will be provided at 12p/kWh (cheaper than recharging domestically from a 7.0kW wall-charger), with a monthly service fee of £7.85 becoming due. However, as there is no contract provided, the customer can elect to run with the Polar system, or make alternative arrangements to suit their requirements. On-route charger availability is presented through the sat-nav system. Brake energy recovery, with two levels of power being returned to the battery, and an e-save facility, which retains 12-miles’ worth of energy for subsequent use, supplement the drivetrain.
As you might imagine, the Grandland X Hybrid4 is packed to the gunwales with equipment, connectivity options and both driver and safety aids. The higher you move up the specification list, SRi Nav and Elite Nav variants are all over £40,000, the fewer the extra-cost options, such as automatic Intellilux LED headlamps that feature on the Ultimate Nav model. However, the hybrid technology is also available in front-driven form, with all of the EV range and recharging benefits but without all-wheel drive. The performance figures are mostly identical (although 0-60mph is 8.6s, with a top speed of 140mph) but the prices start at an even more advantageous £32,390 for the Business Edition Nav Hybrid model. The optimised petrol-turbo engine also develops 225bhp in combination with the single electric motor (180bhp engine alone). If you do not need a 4×4 system, this is the model that I would recommend.
A few years ago, a body colour ‘over’ another was a paint choice for a number of brands, usually of upper echelon models. I quite like the dark grey over main body colour option, which includes the bonnet, offered on Grandland X Hybrid (+£400). The cabin detailing is familiar to Astra owners, although the car’s 4.47m length and 2.76m wheelbase suggests that interior space is moderate. The driving position is multi-adjustable, both seat and steering column, with an adequate amount of space in the rear for three adults. Storage space is well considered in the passenger area, while the boot offers a slightly reduced 390-litres capacity (514-litres for non-hybrid Grandland X models), although folding the rear backrests forwards results in a more accommodating 1,528-litres (1,652-litres non-hybrid versions), as a result of the additional space required for the battery pack and rear electric motor.
Conclusion: What should prove to be attractive to most buyers is the fact that the hybrid technology is already tried and trusted and it is not all-electric, which resolves range anxiety and provides the Grandland X Hybrid owner with the best of both worlds. At around 35-miles EV range, city dwellers need never engage the petrol engine. While 4WD is available, the £4,400 saving for the 2WD alternative is the most compelling proposition from the range.