Once diesel, now battery powered – how does the Range take to electrification?
By Matt Bird / Saturday, 9 December 2023 / Loading comments
Time to open a can of worms with one hand while poking the hornet’s nest with the other – it’s another electric classic car! You only need glance at the comments on the Inverted Range Rover news story to appreciate just how divisive this issue can be. Some are intrigued, some are aghast, some are nonplussed, some are enthusiastic. Nothing quite guarantees engagement like a battery-powered restomod, so when the firm asked if we’d like a go…
Inverted’s current demonstrator and prototype is the same car as seen in those original launch pics: once a two-door with a diesel engine, it’s now powered by a 77kWh battery pack from a Tesla Model S. For now, there are modules in both the front and the back of the car, though it’s expected that later builds will require less space for batteries with the use of more energy-dense hardware from cars like the VW ID family. There’s 456hp and 442lb ft, within the region of 200 miles range (the aero obviously doesn’t help much, and there are losses to account for using conventional propshafts and live axles). It can charge up to 100kW (using one of the unlocked Superchargers, if you wish, for maximum passer-by incredulity) and can reach 60mph in five seconds.
There’s seldom a moment the Inverted doesn’t feel like a Range Rover, and that begins from the moment you climb in. The commanding driving position, great visibility and – how to be polite – unique ergonomics couldn’t come from anywhere else. Perhaps some of the EV additions like the mode buttons and drive selector jar a little with the retrimmed retro aesthetic, but this particular car remains a work in progress. And even fully fledged manufacturers are forced into switchgear that’s not always desirable. The colours and materials ensure a nice aura.
A slip road provides the first surprise. Where we’re used to EVs catapulting forward on precious little throttle, the Inverted has a very long accelerator travel, meaning inputs really need to be thought about. Mat it, however, and the performance promised is plain to witness, the old Classic rearing up, hunkering down, and charging forward with real vim. Even the healthy V8s never, ever went like this. In Normal mode there’s about 75 per cent of the maximum; unleashing everything in Sport reveals a startlingly accelerative old car. Once more, though, you’ll know about it, because this is still a Range Rover Classic despite the loving restoration: the wind rustles on by, there are rattles, it squeaks a bit and so on. It’s oddly charming as a result, the imperfect EV.
Everything about the Inverted requires a bit of effort, which is welcome. The brakes are more powerful, with Alcon discs at the front, though still require a bootful to clamp into action; for now, the useful regen only works on the half-power Eco mode, which is a tad disappointing because one-pedal driving is fun – just not as much as having more than 450hp. So you stick with Sport and a confidence dab when required.
By modern EV standards, the handling abilities are modest, with a fair amount of lean and slow, fairly vague steering. But against an original Range Rover Classic it’s usefully improved with the fitment of stiffer springs, Fox dampers and Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres. By choosing not to create a modern experience – but rather optimising an old one in familar restomod style – Inverted has created a very likeable car to drive. Founder Harry Millington says speed-sensitive steering is coming, a system that will require less effort, though there’s something of the captain’s wheel about the current setup, like you’re guiding a great craft across the world. It’s nowhere near as precise as a new EV, though the modifications mean you’re often travelling faster than expected (both by you and everybody else) in an old Range Rover.
And having a fair amount of fun, too, particularly as these Classics aren’t now especially large cars by modern standards. It’ll caddishly scoot about like little else, squealing out of junctions and bundling into corners. The V8 isn’t missed, truth be told, because of how entertainingly this car goes, stops and corners. Not having to deal with an old auto or long-winded manual gives the Inverted an effortlessness that all Range Rovers should have. But it isn’t so freakishly fast in the modern electric tradition that you feel like a passenger.
Needless to say, it isn’t perfect. The whirrs and graunches and buzzes of stuff actually working beneath are endearing to an enthusiast, though perhaps a buyer coming from a new Range or EV might not be so impressed. Like the manual electric MG B, you have to wonder if those who want a warts-and-all old car – or indeed a beautifully presented restomod – might covet the full old-school experience, complete with combustion. Or an electric car that silently goes about the place. What might look like the best of both worlds to some – increased performance and usability with a traditional feel – might seem like the very opposite to others. Because it’s a classic Range Rover without a classic engine in. A V8 would surely be harder to part with than a diesel.
Inside, the dials provide all the information required, though don’t quite look like they belong in a Range Rover. Similarly, the modern head unit could be more sympathetically integrated. Details, basically, some refining of a concept and realising its potential. Because it works, the Inverted, offering a valid alternative to the usual restomod Range recipe. It’s a unique experience, crucially, offering up some traditional traits, modern hardware benefits and a sense of occasion few can match. It won’t be to all tastes, of course – name a car that is – but for those who want to use a Classic in a city (or just be a bit different) it’s easy to see the appeal.
It’s hard to offer up a definitive verdict on the price with the car not yet fully complete, though it’s challenging, even in the world of the restomod, to not feel it looks like a lot of money. Presumably getting donor Range Rovers is now never going to be cheap, and a lot of restoration must go into a car that’ll be at least 30 years old. It’s getting on for Overfinch 6.2 money, for some perspective. Let’s see what the finished article is like before saying for certain – Inverted already has a customer four-door identical to this in build, so impressed were they by the SWB. You might not love it, or even see the point – but there’s a lot about this experience to suggest that the owner will be very happy indeed.
SPECIFICATION | INVERTED RANGE ROVER CLASSIC
Engine: Permanent magnet synchronous motor, 77kWh usable battery
Transmission: 1-spd reduction gearing
Power (hp): 456
Torque (lb ft): 443
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 100mph
Weight: 2,100kg (est.)
MPG: 200 miles range, 2.6mi/kWh
Price: from £225,000 plus VAT
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