It is cruel and unusual punishment to drive an $85,000 Range Rover Sport across scrabbly rock outcrops that can slice tires and gouge aluminum body panels. But traversing these outdoor environments can be done in complete luxury — with street tires — with a Range Rover.
There’s a reason these SUVs cost so much. After a day out in terrain where a pretty city truck should not feel at home, a Range Rover’s value and engineering becomes evident.
There are more Range Rovers in Beverly Hills, California than the Black Hills mountain range in the northern U.S. And that is the dilemma and challenge for this British brand: making exploration-grade trucks that meet modern emissions and fuel economy standards, and also have enough technology and luxuries to charge a queen’s ransom.
Fuel economy has been an issue for these heavy SUVs. In the United Kingdom, a diesel engine has been available for the Range Rover Sport since 2010. In 2016, that range-extending 254-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 diesel is now available on this side of the pond.
It is a tough time to debut a diesel engine in the U.S., considering the recent Volkswagen scandal and a general resistance to these oil burners. But this one has the advantage of a long driving range of 658 miles from a 23.5-gallon tank.
And its gentle entry price is just $1,500 over the cost of the gasoline RR Sport with a supercharged V-6. Yet the diesel engine has the force of the 510 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 model. And it is not slow; it’s capable of going from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which compares to the gasoline-powered V-6 supercharged engine at 6.9 seconds and the V-8 in 5 seconds.
But the Td6 diesel beats them past the filling station. It has mileage ratings of 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 combined. Compare that to the V-8’s ratings of 14/19/16 mpg, or the 340 horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 at 17/22/19 mpg.
Calculate mileage costs per year for the Range Rover Td6, and the payoff for diesel is almost appealing. And few passengers will know they are sitting in a diesel-powered lap of luxury. The HSE Td6 tester had a starting price of $72,445 and finished at almost $85,000 with options.
The engine uses a Selective Catalytic Reduction system and diesel exhaust fluid to reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions. The exhaust fluid is injected into the exhaust to turn harmful nitrogen oxide emissions into harmless nitrogen gas. The fluid reservoir holds enough for about 10,000 miles of driving. Owners can top off the fluid themselves or have it done at a service interval.
Off-road or on, the Range Rover has an air of invincibility: It is solid as a vault, designed as a locomotive and capable as a bulldozer. Its all-wheel drive system prevents just about any wheel slip. Stop on a steep ascent and there is no drama with the restart — it just rolls onward and upward. The permanent four-wheel drive has a high- and low-range electronic transfer gearbox. The Torsen center differential is infinitely variable and there is a locking rear differential. Without those lockers, any formidable SUV is just a mall-crawling poseur.
Traction enhancers include: hill descent control, gradient release control, hill-start assist and roll stability control. The Terrain Response system modifies the engine, transmission, differentials and air suspension to maximize traction and control in driver-selectable settings for general, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and dynamic (sport) environments.
The Extra Duty Package adds an automatic setting to analyze the road surface and driving conditions and select the most suitable terrain program.
The four-wheel electronic air suspension is as coddling as any large sedan, and absorbs the effects of gravel roads or broken pavement of the city. Automatic load leveling steadies the cabin, which trims the potential for motion sickness. And there are driver-selectable suspension heights, such as entry (68.1 inches), standard (70.1 inches), Off-road and Extended Height (72.6 inches). Additionally, the driver can steer through water up to 33.5 inches deep.
Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes have large 15-inch vented front rotors and 14.4-inch vented rotors rear with all-terrain ABS.
Diesel engine technology has evolved to eliminate the usual negatives, such as smelly black exhaust, engine noise and slow acceleration. Not only is there little diesel noise; there is almost no interior engine noise, and all that can be heard outside the truck is a contented snarl.
In the luxury market, where there is less sensitivity to the price of fuel, diesel is the new platinum.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage