Just a few weeks after putting its Electric Defender through the rigors of field testing, Land Rover is highlighting its first-ever hybrid models. The Range Rover Hybrid and Range Rover Hybrid Sport will have a much surer track to market than the E-Defender prototype. In fact, they'll be available for order in less than a month.

While we've seen a number of SUVs get the hybrid treatment over the years, they've all been of the soccer mom-piloted, mall-shuttle variety. The Range Rover may see plenty of use for that too, but it's the first hybridized SUV model we can recall that regularly finds its way onto "best off-road SUVs" lists. Competitor off-roaders from the likes of Jeep and Toyota have yet to get hybrid variants.

In case you're still questioning the off-road credentials of the hybrid Land Rover models, Land Rover won't waste any time in attempting to change your mind. It is embarking immediately on a 10,000-mile (16,000-km), 12-country "Silk Trail 2013" expedition with three Range Rover Hybrids. The company says that these are the first hybrids to ever attempt this rugged inter-continental journey, which will run from Land Rover's home base in Solihull, UK to the Mumbai, India headquarters of parent company Tata Motors over the course of nearly two months.

"We are excited to introduce the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport Hybrids, the world’s first hybrid SUVs with legendary Land Rover capability," says John Edwards, Land Rover Global Brand Director. "The addition of a smooth electric drive enhances refinement, cuts CO2 emissions and delivers staggering performance on a par with our SDV8 engine."

The Range Rover hybrids combine a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 engine with a 47-hp (35-kW) electric motor that's integrated into the eight-speed ZF transmission. The hybrid system, which weighs in at 265 lb (120 kg), includes lithium-ion batteries, which are charged via regenerative braking, and an inverter. By mounting the battery pack below the floor, Land Rover says it is able to maintain the same amount of passenger and cargo space as the standard Range Rover. The models offer typical Range Rover off-road capabilities and include four-wheel-drive with Terrain Response 2.

The engine and motor combine to arm the wheels with 335 hp and a class-leading heap of 516 lb-ft of torque, giving the new Range Rover Hybrid and Sport Hybrid the ability to accelerate to 62 mph (100 km/h) in under seven seconds before topping out at 135 mph (218 km/h) and 140 mph (225 km/h), respectively.

On the more fuel-frugal end of performance, in driver-selectable EV mode the hybrids offer a mile (1.6 km) of pure-electric driving at speeds up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Land Rover estimates that the hybrid system will boost fuel economy up to 44.1 mpg combined while cutting CO2 emissions by 26 percent down to 169 g/km. For reference, the regular Range Rover gets 32.5 mpg combined when equipped with the 4.4-liter SDV8 engine and 37.7 mpg when outfitted with the 3.0-liter TDV6 engine.

Land Rover plans to open up its order books on September 10, the first press day of the Frankfurt Motor Show, with the first deliveries scheduled to begin in early 2014.

Source: Land Rover