A staple for European luxury customers, diesel engines have long been known for providing better off-the-line power with improved fuel economy over gasoline models. Yet, this performance comes with a bigger price tag and one which consumers seem ready to splurge on. With the 2016 Range Rover Sport, are customers ready to splurge on a diesel? If they want more power and substantially better fuel economy then they better be ready to pay for it.
In the past few years, consumer attitudes towards diesel engines have been changing. While companies like VW have long fought consumer perceptions on dirty, black smoke perceptions of these images, most car companies have opted to not offer them in the United States. However, with fuel economy needs playing a larger role in consumer buying habits, companies like Land Rover are starting to offer them albeit with an additional up-charge ($1,500 in the case of the Range Rover) which often undercuts the gains in fuel economy for several years.
While, on paper, the fuel-economy savings from diesel takes years to return the investment, the driving performance of a diesel-powered vehicle helps offset this for some consumers. Such is the case of the 2016 Range Rover Sport featuring a 3.0L turbocharged V6 diesel engine, mated to a 8-speed automatic transmission producing 254 HP and an astounding 443 lb-ft of torque.
Just a few months ago, I tested the 2015 Range Rover turbocharged V6 gasoline version and comparing the two, they are at first blush fairly similar. Both SUVs are surprisingly fast off the line and give the sensation of driving a smaller, sports car. However, the diesel engine provides that extra oomph through the 0-60 range through the slower-burning nature of the fuel.
The extra performance of the diesel is also seen at the pump with the turbo-diesel returning 22/29/25 city/highway/combined fuel economy versus the gasoline engine of 17/23/19 city/highway/combined. With nearly 6 MPG gains through all driving scenarios, the diesel engine really delivers significant fuel economy improvements.
These improvements in off-the-line and fuel economy are offset by both the up-charge and, well, sound of the diesel engine. While many consumers understand diesel engines sound louder than gasoline models, this isn’t always the case. For example, the 2016 Nissan Titan XD with its 5.0L Cummins diesel is shockingly quiet and makes the case that diesel doesn’t have to be loud. In contrast, the 3.0L turbo-diesel in the Range Rover is well loud at start-up and is especially loud when it is cold outside. After the engine is warmed up and temperatures climb above freezing (most of my early morning driving was below freezing), the engine quieted down substantially.
The big question with the Range Rover turbo-diesel is whether luxury customers are ready to trade fuel economy and power benefits for noise. Joe Eberhardt, President and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, thinks so. According to Green Car Reports, Eberhardt has said that virtually every model from Land Rover and its sister brand Jaguar will eventually offer a diesel powertrain in the U.S.
Beyond the diesel engine question, our test model was the standard wheelbase variety and not the long wheelbase I tested earlier. The differences here are as significant as the diesel versus gasoline debate. Long wheelbase models offer a substantial improvement to rear seat room with 7.3” of extra legroom thanks to the additional 7.8” of wheelbase. This additional space does comes with a $5,000 price tag over the base model. It is also only available in the upper trim levels of Supercharged and Autobiography. While it is an expensive option, the legroom differences are substantial and it should be strongly considered if you are quite often carrying around passengers.
One quick dislike to add is the cupholders. Time after time, the plastic ring of the cupholder held onto my cup and I would have to separate the two before putting my drink back down. At first I discounted it as just an annoyance, yet the prolonged continuance of the annoyance turned it into an issue that drove me nuts.
In the end, consumers will have the final say on whether the timing is right on diesel-powered Range Rover. However, if you are already spending upwards of $80k on an SUV, the $1,500 up-charge is probably a drop in the bucket.
Model: 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE
Engine: 3.0L Turbocharged V6 diesel
Performance: 254 HP and 443 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy: 22/29/25 city/highway/combined
- Front Climate Comfort & Visibility Package (16-way power seats, heated/cooled, sun visors, adaptive xenon headlights, auto dimming exterior mirrors, blind spot monitor w/closing vehicle sensor & reverse traffic detection, 60/40 rear seat w/load thru) – $2,620
- Driver Assistance Package (lane departure warning w/traffic sign rec., perpendicular & parallel park w/park exit 360 degree park distance control, head up display, wi-fi pre-wire) – $2,900
- Extra Duty Package (terrain response 2 auto, adaptive dynamics, two speed transfer box, all terrain progress control) – $1,750
- Tow Package (hitch receiver with electrical connector and full-size spare) – $900
- 825 Watt Meridian Premium Audio – $1,850
- Sliding Panoramic Roof – $500
- Adaptive Cruise Control w/Queue Assist – $1,295
Price As Tested: $84,260 with $995 destination charge
- Fuel Economy
- Interior Comfort
- Engine loudness when cold
- Rear legroom in standard model versus long wheel base model
- Cup holders