It is interesting how in a span of a lifetime people change, or don’t change. Four years ago I went to Poland where I met up with my childhood friend. As a child, my friend Paul has always had interest in outdoor and expedition type activities. While he’s not full-on car geek like me, he always preferred 4x4s over conventional cars. Many years ago Paul even bought my father’s old UAZ when he, ahem, upgraded to a Lada Niva.
Fortunately, Paul has done quite well for himself in the post-communist Poland, running a successful construction company. We four years ago, few days before I arrived for a visit, he happened to pick up a brand new Land Rover Discovery 4 (LR4 in U.S.) with the then new turbo-diesel V6 engine. After a few minutes in that vehicle I began wondering about the sanity of Land Rover product managers. Why were they not selling Rovers with this engine in North America?!
That new at the time compression-ignited force-fed three-liter engine was a perfect match for the burly Disco. With gabs of instant torque, it pulled like a freight train. On our weekend long trip, packed with kids and all the crap that comes with kids, we achieved nearly 30mpg. Like any proper Landy, it was also super comfortable for all occupants. What more could you ask for of a vehicle?
The good people at Land Rover have finally come to their senses and for 2016 are offering a diesel version of the big Range Rover and the not-much-smaller Range Rover Sport. The 3-liter, single turbo, engine makes 254 horsepower and 440 lb-ft. of torque at only 1750 rpm. It is mated exclusively to a ZF 8-speed transmission and, of course, full-time all-wheel-drive. EPA rates both vehicles at 22mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway. With a full tank, they can travel over 650 miles.
In real feel driving this translates to enough power to push your head back firmly against the headrest. Torque is beautiful, there is a lot of it here, and it comes on strong. Taking off from stop lights, highway merging, and highway passing become downright addictive. It isn’t a fast vehicle, with the manufacturer claim of 7.1 seconds from 0 to 60mph, but it damn feels fast. The eight-speed transmission reacts much butter to throttle inputs when it is in S, rather than D. There is a manual mode but I can’t see any reason why anyone would use outside of hardcore off-roading. There is minor turbo-lag, as expected, but significantly less than in the equally impressive Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel. I have not driven any of the Mercedes-Benz or BMW diesel SUVs and discussing VW/Audi/Porsche diesel is a moot point.
In terms of noise, with the Landy it’s more of a difference in noise from its gasoline counterpart rather than loudness. It is a little louder when standing outside the vehicle, but only car dorks would really notice the difference, and then they would nod in approval, of course. Likewise, unlike the Jeep, there isn’t much turbo whistle noise at WOT. A slight disappointment is JLR’s insistence on engine start/stop. While it may save some gas, it is rather annoying, but can be disabled, but it will default to on the next time the car is started.
Whereas other companies charge significantly more for their diesel-powered vehicles, Land Rover will throw in the Td6 for only $1500 more than the gasoline supercharged V6. That seems like a bargain but JLR has a lot more cushion built into their base price than the competitors (RR Td6 starts at $86,450 and the RRS Td6 starts at $66,450). In my opinion the diesel engine is an obvious choice over the gasoline V6, which, if I may be so honest, is just okay. But given unlimited funds and tossing sensibility aside, I would have to pick the supercharged V8 over the diesel because that engine is just bonkers grin-inducing-fuel-economy-be-damned crazy no matter if it’s in an F-Type or a LWB Rangie.
If you want to read more of my writing on the Range Rover Sport, go here for a winter test and here for a summer test. The 2016 differences seem minor. There’s the earlier mentioned engine start/stop on all the vehicles. Land Rover finally got newer infotainment system but I don’t think it’s that much better or faster. And the heated ventilated seats can now be controlled by pressing the temperature control knob, which is much faster than going through the slow infotainment system. This vehicle was riding on 20-inch wheels, rather than the 22s that were on the model I reviewed this summer, and I found the ride to be more comfortable and without any handling downsides. The Sport had no issues gaining traction in snow but I’d still love to some proper all-terrain tires on these rigs.
It has taken a long time, but we finally have the Range Rover with a proper engine. JLR also doesn’t seem to be considered with the whole VW diesel scandal as they got so diesel happy that they are will have diesels in the XE and XF sedans, and the upcoming F-Pace SUV, too. Personally I think the Td6 engine would be hilarious in the F-Type, but JLR doesn’t seem to share my humor.
I chatted with Paul the other night. His Disco 4 now has 85,000 trouble-free kilometers on it. He’s looking forward to the upcoming Disco/LR4 replacement. I predict that it too, will have a diesel engine, and not just in Europe.
Disclaimer: Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for this review. Images: ©2016 Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski, All Rights Reserved