Both market and fiscal demands are directing PSA-owned Vauxhall into electrifying all of its most popular models, reports Iain Robertson, and its latest plug-in Grandland X crossover packs in the technology, with some unusually high-performance purpose.
While a full-on commitment to full electrification is coming slowly but surely across each of PSA’s brands, apart from a few concept and show cars, Vauxhall has never shown much interest in the technology. Of course, the pressure is now on, from a number of quarters, to address growing market demands. To be fair to Vauxhall, pursuing a hybrid route is actually more productive than committing to all-electric, when the numbers of recharging posts, let alone how much an EV driver might be paying for electricity obtained in a parking bay, are still pretty much up in the air.
Of course, the situation is improving all the time but, with an uptake rate for EVs and hybrids in the UK still not topping even one per cent of the total new car registrations every year, a change for change’s sake approach might be judged as being a touch ‘previous’. Of course, Mitsubishi has ruled the roost in the UK, with its Outlander PHEV; a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, by which its EV operation is prioritised, to grant it a tax-reduced bonus and free access to congestion charge zones (as a result of being to operate noiselessly and in pollution-free EV mode for upwards of 30-miles). Now, it has a direct rival from Vauxhall.
The new Grandland X Hybrid4 is Vauxhall’s first-ever plug-in hybrid and features state-of-the-art technology. Its powertrain comprises a 200bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged, direct injection, four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric drive system with two electric motors (combined output 109bhp), all-wheel drive and an in-built 13.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Together, the petrol engine and electric motors produce up to 300bhp (there is always a small power loss involved in the combination of the two power sources), to offer a combined fuel consumption of 128mpg, while emitting a mere 49g/km CO2, slap-bang into Mitsubishi territory.
The largely familiar petrol engine has been re-engineered specifically for the hybrid powertrain, the front electric motor of which is coupled to a modified eight-speed automatic transmission, while the second motor and rear differential are integrated into the electrically-powered rear axle, providing all-wheel traction on demand, without the need for a weighty propshaft running down the centre of the car’s platform. Four driving modes, electric, hybrid, AWD and Sport, are available. In EV mode, the car has a range of 30 miles, which is more than adequate for most in-town situations, while in hybrid mode, the car selects the most efficient method of propulsion automatically and without driver intervention. In either AWD, or Sport modes, you can expect a 0-60mph time of around 6.0s, with a maximum speed probably restricted to around 125mph; it would do more but Vauxhall will not wish to compromise the Lithium-ion battery pack. Its four-wheel drive system will be more of a soft-road type, rather than full-on off-road capable, designed to provide enhanced stability and performance under a broad mix of driving conditions.
While the Grandland X is well-suspended and handles benignly in standard form, the incorporation of a weighty battery pack and the extra drivetrain components will alter its dynamic balance markedly. Naturally, the firm’s engineers will endeavour to retain much of the donor car’s inherent stability, although quite different spring and damper settings are going to be required.
The car comes complete with a 3.3kW on-board charger, with an optional 6.6kW version also available, which is an intriguing advancement. Vauxhall will also offer devices for fast charging at public stations, as well as domestic wallboxes. With a 7.4kW wallbox, customers can fully charge their batteries in less than two hours, which pales the up to eight hours demanded by several of Vauxhall’s rivals. In addition, Vauxhall suggests that with access to more than 85,000 charging points across Europe, owners will benefit from the company’s Free2Move Services. Included within the sat-nav system is a trip planner, which suggests the best routes based on the car’s remaining range and highlights the location of charging stations en-route, which is a practical courtesy that has long been inherent to the Tesla EV proposition.
To enhance efficiency, the Grandland X hybrid features a regenerative braking system, which can increase the electric range by up to 10 per cent and, by using the steering wheel paddles, the use of the car’s brakes will be reduced. Of course, this aspect of technology has revealed some unfortunate by-products in the form of conventional braking systems seizing and ceasing to operate efficiently but Vauxhall may have a fix in place for that occurrence. Its comprehensive list of technological advancements also incorporates the latest Vauxhall Connect telematics service, which includes ‘live’ navigation, with real-time traffic information, as well as the ability to check key vehicle data via an app. Direct connection with roadside assistance provides the driver and passengers with additional peace-of-mind, by depressing the red button on the centre console. If the seatbelt tensioners, or the airbags are deployed, the emergency call is activated without the driver having to do so. The black bonnet of the car in the pictures is available as a no-cost option; there are no stated benefits for it.
The Grandland X Hybrid4 reinforces Vauxhall’s intention to electrify and hybridise its entire product range by 2024. Later this year, the fully battery-electric version of the next-generation Corsa goes on sale. It will be followed by the new Vivaro Life MPV, new Vivaro LCV and the successor to the Mokka X crossover, all of which will feature fully electric variants. It does seem as though Vauxhall, for the first time in its existence, is able to butt heads with Mitsubishi’s PHEV model, which is going to be an interesting scenario for buyers seeking that class of car.
Vauxhall’s future is looking more assured today than it did even a couple of years ago. There are no prices stated as yet but you can reckon on a Grandland X hybrid costing around £40,000, before any dealer discounting, when it is launched officially in August 2019.