The diesel-powered Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6 trades a little straight-line speed and horsepower for greatly increased fuel economy and range. The engine delivers V8-like levels of torque, but is also quiet enough that you might not realize it's a diesel. The Td6 is a $1,500 upgrade to SE and HSE models, and considering its increased fuel efficiency, the engine makes a strong case over the standard gas V6.
What Is It?
Td6 is Land Rover's designation for its 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine that is newly available in both the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. It may be Land Rover's first diesel offering in the U.S., but the engine powering it has been in use around the world for some time. In fact, half of the company's global sales come from diesel-fueled vehicles. In the U.K., where Land Rover is headquartered, the only gas-powered Range Rover Sport available is the supercharged V8 in the high-performance SVR model.
What's Special About the Engine?
The turbocharged diesel V6 is rated to deliver 254 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. That's considerably less horsepower than the base gas V6, but the diesel's torque number tops the gas by 108 lb-ft, nearing that of the supercharged V8. All that torque is also available at lower engine speeds, so it makes a very noticeable difference around town.
The diesel V6's block is constructed out of compacted graphite iron, a material that's becoming popular in modern diesel engines for its increased strength, lower weight and greater resistance to engine vibrations. To meet the stringent U.S. emissions requirements, Land Rover has also added a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system that cools the exhaust stream before reintroducing it into the engine.
The Td6 also injects Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) into its exhaust stream before 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. The Td6 starts warning its driver 1,500 miles before a fill is due, at which point they can go to a Land Rover dealer and get topped off for free. Land Rover will also top off the tank during normal maintenance visits, and owners can do it themselves using the filler neck under the hood.
What Kind of Fuel Mileage Does It Deliver?
The EPA rates the Td6 at 25 mpg combined (22 city/29 highway). Compared to the gas engines, it's not even close. The gas V6 is rated at 19 mpg combined, while the V8 is rated at 16 mpg in combined driving. The fact that they both require premium gas will also tilt the cost savings equation heavily in favor of the diesel.
Though the Td6's fuel tank is 4.2 gallons smaller than that of the gas engines, its 25 mpg combined rating means a range of 588 miles — greater than any other Range Rover Sport. And when it's time for fuel, the Td6 also comes equipped with a device in the filler neck that won't accept a gasoline nozzle, reducing the risk of an accidental fill.
How Does It Drive?
Plentiful torque at low engine speeds makes the Td6 feel more powerful than the gas V6. Land Rover's stated 0-60-mph time of 7.1 seconds puts it a couple tenths slower than the gas V6, so the diesel does eventually run out of steam at higher engine speeds.
The eight-speed automatic is the same transmission used in the gas engines, and its smooth gearchanges match the diesel's low-rpm output well.
The engine itself is wonderfully isolated, producing little vibration and noise as it smoothly builds power. New engine mounts and an acoustic laminate on the windshield have been tuned to reduce noise and vibration from the engine bay.
They're effective enough that you can hold the engine against its 4,800-rpm redline and the passengers won't notice. From the outside, there's a slight diesel rattle, though it doesn't sound too different from a modern direct-injected engine.
What Else Is New?
For 2016, all Range Rover Sports receive a few upgrades like a hands-free tailgate access feature that lets you open the hatch by waving your foot under the rear bumper. A new infotainment system called InControl Touch offers an 8-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration and navigation. While an improvement over what's in current Land Rovers, the system still reacts more slowly than others in the segment. There's a more advanced "Plus" version that boasts a solid-state hard drive and rear-seat entertainment screens, but we weren't able to try it out.
The new All-Terrain Progress Control works like a low-speed off-road cruise control. When enabled, you set your target speed from 1 to 19 mph using the cruise control toggle. Once it's set, you take your feet off the pedal and steer. When the Range Rover Sport encounters a slippery surface or steep incline, it uses onboard sensors to feel out the traction at each tire and apply power to match.
We used the system to climb a moderate rock hill. While it took longer than someone with off-road experience would, the system smartly made its way up and over, stopping occasionally to determine the appropriate amount of power for the traction available. For those will little experience off-road, it's a good way of discovering what a Land Rover can do in a safe manner.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
The diesel-powered Range Rover Sport occupies a small niche in the luxury SUV world. While diesel engines are available in the Audi Q5, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, the closest in character to the Td6 is the Porsche Cayenne Diesel. It offers similar output (240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque) and fuel economy (23 combined mpg). Porsche also claims similar 0-60-mph acceleration and prices it competitively, starting at $63,295.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You like the idea of V8-like torque without the V8 mileage hit. Or maybe you just want to save a few bucks on fuel. Either way, the Td6 delivers.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you want the "Sport" in the name to really mean something, go for the supercharged V8 over the less athletic Td6.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.