Land Rover's diesel — What the doctor ordered

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Despite the problems Volkswagen now faces with its diesel engine emission scandal, which will end up costing the German company billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of near-term vehicle sales, it actually has nothing to do with the modern diesel engine. The newer, clean diesels now showing up on a variety of vehicles in North America offer exceptional fuel mileage without the need for hyper-milling, and with exceptional torque ratings increasing the towing capability of trucks and SUVs.

For those two reasons, a large turbocharged diesel makes excellent sense for two of Land Rover's largest vehicles, the flagship Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport.

The 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine makes 254 horsepower and a robust 443 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Labeled the Td6, the engine is available in both vehicles for about a $1,500 upgrade. The Td6 is rated at 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 overall in both vehicles compared to the standard V-6 gas engine that carries an EPA rating of 17/23/19.

When you consider that the price of diesel fuel in most areas of the U.S. has fallen considerably the $1,500 additional charge becomes almost a no-brainer. We figure the extra six miles to the gallon, figuring the average base price of diesel fuel currently at $2.50 in the U.S., would save at least $1,500 if the SUV is driven 15,000 miles a year for three years. That would pay for the engine option. Of course, this is assuming that prices stay at their current low levels, which is problematic.

We discovered the Td6 produces very little vibration and noise. Even standing outside the vehicle, there's very little discernible diesel clatter.

From the standpoint of performance, the diesel is actually stronger off the line because of the massive torque, and nearly equal in 0-to-60 time compared to the standard gas engine V-6. Land Rover measures a run up to 60 mph at 7.1 seconds in both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

We were pleased with the overall performance of both vehicles, although the Sport, which weighs in about 175 pounds lighter, felt more ambitious than the Range Rover. Note that both vehicles, loaded with all the off-road goodies available on a modern SUV, are not lightweights, tipping the scales at 4,709 and 4,885 pounds respectively.

To meet U.S. emissions requirements, Land Rover has developed a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system that cools the exhaust before reintroducing it into the diesel engine. The Td6 also injects Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) into the exhaust stream in front of the catalytic converter, causing a chemical reaction that reduces the most harmful emissions. DEF is stored in a separate tank, and Land Rover estimates that refills will be required every 10,000 miles, which are provided free of charge at Land Rover dealerships.

Of course, if you want to put performance into your Range Rover or Range Rover Sport, and gas mileage be damned a 5.0-liter turbocharged V-8 produces 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque and the SV Autobiography trim level in the Range Rover and the SVR trim in the Sport get a tweaked version of the V-8 good for 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. Since 0-60 time (4.5 and 4.7 seconds) is is of paramount importance, the EPA-rating at 14 city, 19 highway and 16 combined on premium gas is meaningless.

Base price for the Range Rover Sport Td6 is $67,445 and base for the Range Rover Td6 is $87,445. Note that options are many and many are desirable. For instance our upgraded Range Rover HSE Td6 carried a base price of $94,445 and a bottom line of $106,325 with several options.

Several new features have been added to the Range Rover lineups for 2016 including an All-Terrain Progress Control, a hands-free tailgate that lets you open the hatch by waving your foot under the rear bumper, an updated infotainment interface with standard smartphone-app integration, and an air suspension that automatically lowers to ease entry and exit. The Terrain Progress Control was packaged with several other safety features on our Range Rover HSE for $2,110. It works like a low-speed off-road cruise control from 1 to 19 mph. Once its set simply take your foot off the accelerator and the SUV uses outboard sensors to detect traction whether on slippery surfaces or on rock-strewn back trails.

If you don't need — or want — the overwhelming performance of the big V-8 variants, it seems to us the new diesel V-6 is a perfect match for both the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport.

Base price: $87,445; as driven, $106,325
Engine: 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6
Horsepower: 254 @ 3,500 rpm
Torque: 443 foot-pounds @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: four wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Length: 196.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,883 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
Luggage capacity: 32.1 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 71.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 22.5 gallons (diesel)
EPA rating: 29 highway, 22 city, 25 combined
0-60: 7.1 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5

The Good
• Very fuel efficient
• Solid performance for diesel
• Very capable off-road
• Luxury appointed interior

The Bad
• Diesel prices can fluctuate

The Ugly
• Options are many and pricey