Driving a Range Rover is something most of us will never experience, and that’s truly a shame.
And because one of my favorite pastimes is to drive well beyond where the pavement ends, I’ve long been a fan of Range Rover and other Land Rover vehicles, which are products of the United Kingdom that originated with a need for ways to access the former British Empire.
In its current U.S. lineup, the high-end Range Rover brand of Land Rover vehicles has two models that are quite similar, the one called simply the Range Rover, which is at the top of the line, and the Range Rover Sport, which is – just barely – a step down from that.
Both are built on quite similar architecture, and are well above the base Range Evoque line, which is smaller and significantly less expensive. Also coming this year is a new second-tier Range Rover model called the Velar.
For now, Range Rover Sport models start at $65,650 (plus $995 freight) when equipped with the base supercharged V-6 gasoline engine, or $67,650 with the new turbodiesel engine.
In comparison, regular Range Rover versions begin at $85,650 for the standard wheelbase models, and $108,895 for long-wheelbase versions. The new Range Rover Velar starts at $49,900, equipped with its base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; $56,200 with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine; or $64,200 with a 380-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline engine.
Just last year, Land Rover brought the first diesel-engine option – the Td6 -- to the regular Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. But the base engine in both vehicles remains a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline V-6, which was under the hood of my test vehicle for the week – the Range Rover Sport HSE (base price $70,650 plus $995 freight).
This gasoline V-6 is rated at 340 horsepower and 332 foot-pounds of torque, while the new 3.0-liter Td6 diesel engine – which is turbocharged – has 254 horsepower and 443 foot-pounds of torque.
Land Rover’s main reason for introducing the diesel was its better fuel economy. Coupled with the eight-speed automatic transmission, the Range Rover Sport’s Td6 engine brings EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined, compared with 17/23/19 for our gasoline-powered V-6 Sport model.
I have tested both Sport HSE versions, starting with the 2016 diesel. After a week driving the diesel, I was surprised by how long I could go between fill-ups, but also by how powerful the engine was with that 443 foot-pounds of torque.
Still this past week’s tester, the 2017 Sport with the 340-horsepower supercharged V-6, offers better throttle response, and feels nearly as close to driving a sports car as one can get in a heavy SUV (except perhaps for the Porsche Cayenne Turbo).
Overall, I averaged close to the stated 19 mpg combined rating while driving a 50-50 mix of freeways and city streets or country roads. That week included a trip to the beach.
With its 23.5-gallon fuel tank, the Range Rover Sport has a range of more than 400 miles with the 19 mpg combined fuel rating.
Fuel economy is helped in city driving by the automatic stop-start system, which shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop such as at a traffic signal. It restarts instantly when the driver lifts the foot off the brake pedal. My passengers did notice when the engine stopped, and asked questions about the system, which does take a bit of getting used to. While it eliminates some unnecessary engine idling, it can be a bit annoying at times.
Both the diesel and gasoline models can tow trailers weighing up to 7,716 pounds.
The low-end torque also nearly allows the diesel-equipped Sport to match the zero-60 mph times of the supercharged V-6 gasoline engine, which has considerably more horsepower.
Land Rover says the Range Rover Sport Td6 can go from zero-60 mph in 7.1 seconds, compared with 6.9 seconds for the V-6 gasoline model.
A complete redesign for 2014 moved the Range Rover Sport to a new all-aluminum platform, matching the redesign of the regular Range Rover the year before. The V-6 gasoline engines were added to both models with the redesigns, replacing the previous generation’s V-8.
As a side note, in light of Volkswagen’s recent diesel emissions problems, the Range Rover Td6 is a clean-diesel engine. It uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions to meet U.S. air-quality standards. DEF is injected into the exhaust, turning it into harmless nitrogen gas. Most truck stops and diesel fuel stations sell DEF, and it’s also available at Land Rover dealerships.
With either engine, the Range Rover Sport HSE is quite well-equipped and comfortable for front and rear passengers. During my trip to the beach, I had two companions along most of the time, which means one person was always in the back seat.
The Sport has room for up to five people, or seven with the optional two-person third-row seat, which was not present on my test vehicle. My rear passenger had no complaints about comfort, and neither did the front passenger.
Among standard features on our Sport HSE were a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, a power tailgate, Oxford perforated-leather seats (front and rear), and an electronic air suspension (with driver-selectable height adjustment).
The Sport HSE comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and fulltime four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case providing low-range gearing, which is essential for serious off-road driving.
Also included is the Terrain Response 2, an automatic terrain-adjusting system that offers a variety of settings for different terrain or weather conditions.
I took advantage of the low-range gearing and the terrain response system during some beach driving in heavy sand, which was no challenge at all for my Range Rover Sport.
When driving off road, the terrain response system does most of the work, automatically choosing the proper driving mode. The driver can choose the mode manually, though, using such settings as mud/ruts, grass/gravel/snow, sand, rock crawl, and general.
Our Front Climate and Visibility Package (included on the HSE) brought 16-way power/climate-controlled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, adaptive Xenon headlights, blind-spot monitor and closing-vehicle sensing, and auto-dimming outside mirrors.
A Driver Assistance Package (also included) added lane-departure warning with traffic-sign recognition; blind-spot monitor; driver-condition monitor; 360-degree park-distance control; a head-up display; and pre-wired Wi-Fi.
Also included on our tester were an 825-watt premium Meridian audio system; sliding panoramic roof; 20-inch wheels; a tow package; and Kaikoura Stone exterior paint.
Top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph. There was never a question of enough power during my test, even with three people aboard.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
The package: Full-size, five-door, five- or seven-passenger, supercharged gasoline V-6 or turbocharged V-6 diesel-powered, full-time four-wheel-drive, luxury sport utility vehicle.
Highlights: Completely redesigned for 2014 on an all-new aluminum unibody chassis, the Range Rover Sport is a slightly shorter variation of the full-size Range Rover premium SUV from England. New for 2016 was the diesel engine option, which dramatically improves fuel economy.
Negatives: Quite pricey, even without options.
Engine: Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 (gasoline); turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel.
Power/torque: 340 HP./332 foot-pounds (gasoline); 254 HP./443 foot-pounds (diesel).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Length: 191 inches.
Curb weight (base): 4,727 pounds.
Cargo volume: 27.71 cubic feet (behind second seat); 62.2 cubic feet (middle row folded).
Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Fuel capacity/type: 23.5 gallons/premium gasoline (gas engine); low-sulfur diesel (Td6).
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/23 highway/19 combined (V-6 supercharged); 22/29/25 (Td6).
Major competitors: Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz G and GL, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade.
Base price (2017): $70,650 (HSE, V-6 gasoline); $71,450 (Td6), plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $71,645, including freight (2017 HSE gasoline model, no options).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.