As a lifelong off-road adventurer, I’ve long been a fan of Land Rover vehicles, especially the high-end models known as Range Rovers. They have always had lots of great attributes – but fuel economy has never been one those.
That is, until now.
For 2016, Land Rover brought a diesel-engine option to its top two U.S. products: the regular Range Rover, and my test vehicle, the Range Rover Sport. In general, diesels have been commonly used in a variety of Land Rover vehicles for years – just not in the United States.
But that’s changed now with the introduction of the 3.0-liter turbocharged Td6 diesel engine, which was present under the hood of my 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 model (base price $71,450 plus $995 freight).
After a week driving this vehicle, I was quite surprised by how long I could go between fill-ups, but also by how powerful this engine really is. It’s rated at 254 horsepower and a whopping 443 foot-pounds of torque, which works to move the Sport off the line rather quickly. One of the best features of diesels is that the majority of the torque is available at low engine speeds, unlike gasoline engines, which have to spool up to high rpms before delivering the bulk of their torque.
The Td6 does all of this while giving us EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined. If you’ve ever driven a Range Rover with a V-8, you’ll understand what an accomplishment that is. Even on highway trips with earlier V-8 Range Rover models I would average somewhere in the low teens in fuel economy.
Over my week of driving the Range Rover Sport Td6, I was able to take a long road trip that normally would have forced several fill-ups with a gasoline-powered Range Rover. But I was able to cut that down to just one refueling stop, averaging about 27 mpg on the highway.
Overall, I averaged close to the stated 25 mpg combined rating while driving a 50-50 mix of freeways and city streets or country roads.
I’ve said before that some people argue that Range Rovers owners generally don’t care about fuel economy because they obviously have enough money to buy all of the gas they need. But that’s really not the case, because no one wants to spend more money than necessary on fuel, and everybody appreciates the long range between fill-ups that great fuel economy can give you.
With its 23.5-gallon fuel tank, the Range Rover Sport Td6 has a range of more than 500 miles with the 25 mpg combined fuel rating, or even more during eco highway driving (cruise set, easy on the throttle). It’s possible to go about 650 miles without refueling.
For an explorer like me, driving range can be an issue, especially if I’m planning to go into areas where refueling opportunities are few. And as I’ve said many times before, to me that’s what driving a Land Rover vehicle is all about.
The diesel engine, which is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, has 32 percent better fuel economy than that of the supercharged V-6 gasoline engine used in base Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. It provides its peak torque as low as 1,750 rpm, making it perfectly suited to towing heavy trailers (up to 7,716 pounds). We towed a car on a trailer behind our Range Rover Sport for several hundred miles, and we hardly even knew it was back there.
The low-end torque also allows the diesel-equipped Range Rovers to nearly match the zero-60 mph times of the Range Rover’s standard supercharged V-6 gasoline engine, which has considerably more horsepower (340).
Land Rover says the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Td6 models can go from zero-60 mph in 7.1 and 7.4 seconds, respectively, compared with 6.9 and 7.1 seconds for the V-6 gasoline models.
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.
The Td6 engine has a block made with Compacted Graphite Iron, or CGI, which has a higher tensile strength than standard gray cast iron, better fatigue strength than aluminum, and added stiffness, Land Rover says. The material allows the engine block to be smaller and lighter.
This is a clean-diesel engine, as well. 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.
Now let’s talk about how well-equipped and comfortable this Range Rover Sport is. I had two companions along for most of my time in the vehicle, 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.
And it comes with a long list of standard amenities and safety features. My rear passenger had no complaints about comfort, and neither did the driver or front passenger.
One driving feature that takes a little bit of getting used to is the “intelligent stop-start,” a system originally offered on hybrid vehicles to stop the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, such as at a traffic signal, and automatically restart it when the driver lifts the foot off the brake pedal. This helps with the city mileage rating, by eliminating some unnecessary engine idling. But it can be a bit annoying at times.
Among standard features were a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, power tailgate, Oxford perforated-leather seats, and an electronic air suspension (with driver-selectable height adjustment).
Optional equipment on our Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 raised the total sticker price to $86,410, but you could leave most of the options off and still have a great Range Rover. With a base price over $70,000, this is no stripped-down model even without the extras.
But one option I would want if this vehicle were mine was the Extra Duty Package ($1,750), which added a feature that used to come standard on all Range Rover Sport models: the two-speed transfer case for low-range driving. It also includes 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 ($2,620) 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 ($2,900) added lane-departure warning with traffic-sign recognition; perpendicular and parallel parking assist; 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 ($1,850); sliding panoramic roof ($500); tow package, with full-size spare ($900); adaptive cruise control ($1,295); an ebony headliner, dark gray oak interior trim, 20-inch wheels and heated windshield ($350); and Carpathian Gray exterior paint ($1,800).
Top speed for the Td6 model is electronically limited to 130 mph. There was never a question of enough power during my test, even with three people aboard and a trailer being towed behind the Sport.
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.
2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Td6
The package: Full-size, five-door, five- or seven-passenger, turbocharged V-6 diesel-powered, 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 is the diesel engine option, which dramatically improves fuel economy.
Negatives: Quite pricey, even without options.
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel.
Power/torque: 254 HP./443 foot-pounds.
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/low-sulfur diesel.
EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined.
Major competitors: Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz G and GL, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade.
Base price (2016): $71,450, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $86,410, including freight and options (2016 HSE Td6 model).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.