Every so often, I test-drive a vehicle I don’t want to give back. The new-for-2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 turbodiesel is one of those vehicles. On return day I should’ve told the fleet manager: “Sorry. I can’t find it.”
To start with, all the virtues that make the gas-powered Sport models so desirable are here. The Td6 radiates upper-crust breeding with its imperious stance, rakishly swept-back roofline, and substantial presence. Luxury abounds, from perforated leather seats to touchscreen infotainment, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof, and an 825-watt Meridian audio system (a $1,100 option). And you’ll get wherever you need to go, thanks to full-time all-wheel drive, an electronic air suspension, and a Terrain Response System for automatically tailoring the various traction and control systems for maximum performance in any on- or off-road driving situation.
Yet the Td6 delivers something its gas-fed siblings—which use either a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 or a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8—can only dream about. Namely: 29 mpg on the highway.
Until this model year, diesel Range Rovers have been available only in Europe and some other markets (where they account for as much as 90 percent of sales depending on market). But at last the studly turbodiesel 3.0-liter V-6 is available stateside. Yes, the engine is clean enough to meet U.S. emissions rules, thanks in part to a urea-based exhaust-treatment system that injects the fluid into the exhaust flow to reduce NOx emissions. (The system needs to be refilled every 10,000 miles but is user-friendly enough so owners can do it themselves.) And, no, the diesel doesn’t stink or belch out soot. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed even to know there’s a diesel under the hood at all. From the driver’s seat, only the faintest ticking hints at the engine’s oil-burning nature.
So, yeah, 29 mpg highway, plus a 32 percent improvement in combined mpg versus the base gas V-6. (The big supercharged gas V-8 ekes out a mere 19 mpg on the highway.) What’s more, the Td6 is a torque monster, churning out 443 lb-ft at just 1,750 rpm (the gas V-6 delivers 332 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm). Given the Sport’s 5,300-pound curb weight, the Td6’s bounty of low-end grunt is almost more welcome than its frugality with fuel. The diesel Sport surges forward from stoplights seemingly unburdened by its considerable mass. In fact, the engine never seems to work hard, the eight-speed automatic shifting early and often to keep the crankshaft churning away at low revs—where the turbodiesel is happiest. There’s a luxurious quality to such oomph, a feeling of effortless, unstoppable might—your own elephant barging its way through thick brush.
Annoyingly, the electric gear-selector lever will pull back to the “D” position but won’t actually select Drive until you squeeze the front trigger at the same time. More than once I pulled the lever back only to find I was still in neutral. It’s a pretty minor quibble, though, given the driving experience once you’re underway. Again, the engine is hushed. The air suspension creams over all but the really rough stuff. The cockpit shines with supple leather and Shadow Zebrano wood trim. I made numerous trips with passengers, and every one commented on the lusciousness of this machine. Such appeal is particularly appreciated in a rig that, thanks to its economy with fuel and 23.5-gallon tank, has a theoretical nonstop range of 658 miles.
New this year is optional All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), part of the $1,750 Extra Duty package. Once activated, the system will automatically crawl over obstacles or other challenging terrain without the driver needing to touch the throttle. Just set your speed with the cruise-control buttons on the wheel and let ATPC take over. Even in the hills around Malibu I couldn’t dig up any particularly challenging topography. But on a rocky stretch, I did find the system worked as advertised: It just motors along—albeit very slowly—all on its own, smoothly and easily.
You’ll pay a $2,000 premium over the gas V-6 for the Td6, but to me the call is a no-brainer. Yes, eventually the diesel will pay for itself in fuel savings (after roughly 30,000 miles at current gas prices), but I seriously doubt that “saving fuel” is a deciding factor for any buyer willing to pay more than $80,000 for a luxury SUV. A far more compelling draw is that low-end torque, the absolute ease with which this massive rig moves about town and country. It’s that broad-shouldered character, plus the off-road-ready chassis and countless creature comforts that make the Range Rover Sport Td6 such a peerless motoring experience—for driver and passengers alike. Let me tell you: Once you’ve tasted driving at that rarefied level, it’s hard to give it up.
2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6/254 hp @ 4,000 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||22/29 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||190.9 x 81.6 x 70.1 in|
|0-60 MPH:||7.5 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||130 mph|