Sedona, AZ -- Land Rover has a long history of producing diesel-powered vehicles, but until recently, there has been very little interest in introducing the technology to the North American marketplace.
This is about to change, as the stalwart company is set to roll two diesel-powered models of its popular Range Rover sport utility into company showrooms for 2016: the Range Rover HSE Diesel and Range Rover Sport HSE Diesel. This move signals the company’s desire to offer diesel technology across the Land Rover lineup in the near future.
Under the aluminum bonnet you will find a 3.0L Td6 turbocharged V6 diesel engine that produces 254 horsepower and a prodigious 440 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is readily available even at the low 1,750 rpm mark.
The Td6 engine is a pretty trick piece of kit. The evolutionary engine was designed in-house to provide maximum performance and efficiency, but also to be refined enough to suit the wants and demands of Range Rover’s affluent clientele.
The engineering team worked hard to ensure that emissions are kept to a minimum, and as a result, every aspect of the Td6 engine was optimized. The Td6 employs a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, which uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to reduce NOx emissions.
Quiet and refined
Diesel engines have a bad reputation in North America for generating excess noise. In an effort to change this, the design team at Land Rover worked overtime to ensure that the company's diesel models would deliver traditional Range Rover refinement. It works exceptionally well as there is just a hint of diesel engine clatter at around 1,500 rpm when operating at low speeds.
Land Rover has had tremendous success in the showroom since the Range Rover lineup was remodeled for model year 2014, and sales of both Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are at record highs. Range Rover is presently the fastest growing luxury brand in North America. With the addition of the two diesel variants, this upward trend is likely to continue, as the product will appeal to an even broader segment of the consumer market.
Fuel economy and performance
The Td6 engine offers improved fuel efficiency over the company's two gasoline-powered supercharged engines, the 3.0L V6 and the 5.0L V8. In the Range Rover’s case, the Td6 is capable of delivering an impressive combined rating of 9.4L/100km, which represents a 32% improvement over the company's own gasoline-powered V6, and up to 8.1L/100km on the highway.
Efficiency was the main priority for the development of the Td6 engine, but performance was a close second. Both Td6 models feature Range Rover's well sorted ZF-engineered, 8-speed automatic transmission. This smooth operator helps deliver the Td6's low-end torque as efficiently as possible, and the Range Rover Sport Diesel will sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a very respectable 7.6 seconds, whereas the Range Rover Diesel will accomplish the task in 7.9.
The inherent stiffness of the body and chassis bless the 2016 Range Rover with dynamic handling, which enhances the driving experience whether you are pounding the pavement or exploring off-road. All Range Rovers have a low centre of gravity so there is very little body roll when cornering, and oversize performance tires do an excellent job of adhering to the asphalt. Ride comfort is exceptional, and long-distance touring is where Range Rovers excel.
There are few vehicles on earth that can match the four-wheel-drive capabilities of the Range Rover, so when the pavement ends or road conditions take a turn for the worse, you can be secure in the knowledge that you have a good chance of making it to your destination. To further enhance this prowess Land Rover added a new system called All-Terrain Progress Control. This new system allows the driver to select a course speed between 1.7 and 30km/h, in both forward and reverse, by using the cruise control function.
During our evaluation this system proved itself to be robust and tenacious. Having it on board to make many of the operating decisions while traversing difficult terrain helped alleviate much of the stress that comes with driving a vehicle in less than ideal conditions.
Thinking of you
In an effort to make passenger ingress and egress a little easier, all 2016 Range Rover models now come standard with a system called Automatic Access Height Control. This system will automatically lower the vehicle's ride height when the engine is switched off, and then drops even further (to a full 1.9”) when the seatbelt is unfastened and the door is open.
Also new for model year 2016 is the addition of a convenience feature called Hands-free Gesture Tailgate. With keys in hand or pocket, the driver merely has to wave his or her foot under the rear corner of the vehicle and the hatch will open. Placement of the sensors in the corners rather than the centre prevents the operator from getting whacked in the head by the up-swinging hatch.
A new user interface system is also on board, which allows more intuitive operation of accessory controls and incorporates a new suite of infotainment and communication applications.
Diesel has become more readily available in the past few years, and many of the major auto makers have recognized this trend and are capitalizing on it by introducing a wider array of diesel-powered automobiles. At present, about 15%-20% of buyers in the luxury SUV sector select diesel over gasoline models in North America, and the folks at Land Rover are expecting a similar demand for their Td6 product.
Selecting the diesel option will up the initial purchase price of the vehicle by $1,500, but this extra cost is offset by substantial fuel savings -- especially when you consider that diesel fuel is typically less expensive than premium gasoline in most markets.
The evolution of the Range Rover platform has spanned five decades, and over that period it has established a loyal following and a solid reputation for its capabilities. With the arrival of the proven Td6 engine, North American consumers will finally have the opportunity to see Range Rover at its best, and parent company Land Rover is better equipped to stave off increased competition from Europe and Japan.