Just how much good is a diesel Range Rover Sport?
Range Rovers are overweight, thirsty, and basically offer no more interior space than a mid-size station wagon.; These gigantic beasts are pretty much the antithesis of everything I look for in an automobile. So why am I impressed with a Range Rover Sport TDV8 in which I had the pleasure of flogging around the midlands of England this past weekend? Because of the truck's enormous torque and impressive chassis dynamics.
The TDV8 nomenclature means that this English vehicle is fitted with Land Rover's new 3.6-liter diesel V-8. Don't get too excited about this engine, as, at least for now, it is not coming to the USA. Our strict emissions standards, inexpensive fuel, and general disinterest in diesel vehicles keep most of the fabulous oil-burning vehicles of Europe only a dream for the educated car nut. At least manufacturers are working hard to make their diesel vehicles U.S. compliant and it looks like a growth of this segment in the future is a real possibility, especially if fuel prices scoot back up above the $3 per gallon. But back to the specifics on this Rover's engine. Not far off idle (2000 RPM), the twin-turbo lump puts 472 lb ft of torque to all four tires. In a drag race, the TDV8 is about on par with the normally aspirated gasoline V-8 Sport-0-60 time in the mid-8 second range. But in the real world, the diesel will show its taillights to its thirstier sibling with only a wiggle of your big toe on the throttle. You see, the 4.4-liter gasoline V-8 available in the States only puts out 315 lb ft of torque at a lofty 4000 RPM. The diesel develops that same amount of torque at only 1200 RPM. But power is only half the story as the TDV8 actually obtains fuel mileage that is on par with many large passenger cars. Using our calculators and lots of good old guessing, we figure the TDV8 Range Rover Sport would get an EPA mileage rating of about 18 city, 24 highway, This is quite an impressive improvement on a percentage basis over the 14 city, 20 highway rating for the gasoline V8 model.; The engine in the TDV8 is also very smooth and quiet, so much so that Land Rover was able to tune the exhaust to belt out a very aggressive and sporty engine note. I don't know about you but the low-end torque of a diesel just fits the personality of an SUV perfectly. I don't want to have to spin an engine to the moon just to get a truck moving when a gentle squeeze of the accelerator does the same thing.
But what about the impressive chassis dynamics noted above? First, I must say that the Range Rover Sport is not a go-kart. It is a vehicle that drives far better than any SUV weighing nearly 3-tons should. The Land Rover engineers deserve a big round of applause for pulling off the fabulous body control and flat cornering nature of this beastly truck. I was able to scream along the English back roads at speeds that would put to shame many sporty cars. On top of this, my passengers were in supreme comfort and rarely aware of our pace due to the refinement off the Sport. Walking around the outside of the SUV, I cannot help thinking how difficult it must be to tune the suspension on a vehicle with this much unsprung weight. Twenty-inch wheels and tires, large Brembo brakes, and hubs designed for extreme off-road use all add up to serious bulk at each corner. Despite this, the engineers have tamed the Range Rover Sport into something fitting of its badge.
Impressive torque and fine handling are wonderful and I really like the Range Rover Sport but I still wouldn't buy one. You see, BMW offers an oil-burning package in Europe for about 25% less money and a bit more my style, the 535d wagon. This super wagon can accelerate from zero to sixty in about 6.5 seconds and the German company needs to fit a speed limiter to keep it from pushing past 155 mph. Even with this performance, it is still able to average around 30 mpg. The BMW diesel also features more space behind the rear seat than the Land Rover. Yes, the 535d can't climb mountains and doesn't offer the elevated driving position of the British SUV but the BMW doesn't just drive well for a wagon, it drives well period. That said, if you are married to the idea of an SUV but still value handling and body control then take a look at the Range Rover Sport. Also, take a minute to write a letter to Land Rover USA asking them to bring the excellent TDV8 to the States.