Can you also drive well off-road with an electric drive?

That is the question when you leave the paved road with a (semi-)electric all-terrain vehicle and end up in the adventure in which petrol and diesel engines used to show their strengths.

AutoWeek took the test and entered the field with three new plug-in hybrids.

The atmosphere is immediately different, as it turns out.

For once no smoking, roaring engines, but whisper-quiet cars that try to survive under the most difficult conditions.

Electrification is no longer a taboo among these types of cars, AutoWeek notes. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Land Rover Defender P400e and Kia Sorento PHEV go for the test on one of the most beautiful off-road courses in the Netherlands: Adventure Experience in Loon op Zand of former motocross champion Gerard Rond. This is where many a Dakar team hone their skills before entering the toughest rally in the world.

The hybrid off-road vehicles immediately have an important advantage, as it turns out.

Because an electric motor guarantees more than a combustion engine a lot of pulling power as soon as you press the pedal.

However, these cars also have a significant disadvantage: the extra weight of the second motor and - above all - the battery pack.

Weight is very undesirable in the off-road, because it can, for example, lead to the car sinking into the mud earlier.

The hybrids come with another drawback.

Once their batteries are empty, they lose the extra pulling power, but the batteries still press on the axles unabated.

As a result, they remind the lonely toiling petrol engine more painfully of the help it has to do without.

The extra weight of the batteries is a disadvantage in the terrain.

The extra weight of the batteries is a disadvantage in the terrain.

Photo: Autoweek

It is important to go out in the morning with a full battery

As with any plug-in hybrid, these 4x4s also have a limited electric range.

Moreover, even more than with regular PHEVs, you want to determine for yourself when the electric power is available with an off-roader.

That is why it is important to set out in the morning with a fully charged battery and to spare it as much as possible on the way to the real adventure.

After a few miles of fun, but unchallenging, bumping along forest trails, the test drivers suddenly find themselves face to face with an almost impregnable slope.

They estimate it at about 50 percent and to prevent the slope from being too easy to take, someone has put concrete slabs on it.

The Jeep, the world's most famous off-road vehicle, can take on the reconnaissance work as an alpha male on this tour.

He lifts his nose and starts the climb in good spirits.

With the considerable torque of the electric motors, this Wrangler immediately and fluently puts its teeth into it.

He takes the ramp like a Leopard tank up a speed bump.

But then the front wheels hit the slippery concrete and lose traction.

This is easily solved by the test drivers with the differential lock, which makes it possible to distribute the driving force separately to the wheels.

This advantage only lasts until the whole car is on concrete and then things start to slip dangerously.

They let the car roll back and make a second attempt, this time with a slightly faster run-up.

That helps and moments later the Wrangler is proudly at the top.

The Range Rover also makes it in one well-aimed run

The Range Rover Evoque is put in the Sand position of the driving menu and the electric motor on the rear axle goes against it with its full 109 hp.

Aided in part by the foreknowledge of the hill that the driver gained in the Jeep, he also makes it in one well-aimed run.

But then the Kia Sorento.

It is often praised for its luxury, space and completeness, but that is of little use in this situation.

Still, as a PHEV, he does have a few things on board with which he pretends a certain degree of off-road capability.

For example, there is the Drive button, with which you can choose Terrain: Snow, Mud or Sand.

The Sorento also has a technical assistant for controlled descents.

A major concern with this Kia is the fairly long wheelbase in combination with relatively limited ground clearance.

Yet the Sorento also bravely climbs to the top.

The petrol engine hums quietly, relying on the extra power the electric motor sends to all four wheels.

'You definitely feel those few hundred kilos of batteries'

The AutoWeek test team ultimately judges positively about the qualities in the terrain.

For all three cars, you definitely feel those few hundred kilos of batteries, but the magnificent pulling power definitely outweighs that.

"For the seasoned off-road rider, it will certainly take some getting used to to plow hybrid, or even fully electric in EV mode, through the wasteland. But the surplus of torque more than makes up for that. Now some charging stations in the wilderness and also the sport of off-roading is ready for a sustainable future."

AutoWeek entered the field with three plug-in hybrids.

AutoWeek entered the field with three plug-in hybrids.

Photo: Autoweek

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