Ever since the emergence of plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles, car buyers have relegated the faithful diesel engine to the back burner. This trend is particularly evident in the luxury crossover and SUV segment, with new crops of pure or partial-electric powered options sprouting like mushrooms after a spring shower. In the past couple of years, we have seen exciting new entrants such as the Jaguar I-PACE (reviewed here), Tesla Model X (reviewed here), Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, and Volvo XC90 T8.
With major companies such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz focusing their attention on gasoline and electric powered luxury SUVs, Jaguar Land Rover becomes one of the few companies that continue to offer a diesel engine, and they’re advertising it as an alternative to traditional gas engines with key advantages such as reduced emissions, and better fuel economy. We borrowed a 2020 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6, to feel out its charm and see whether the general public has been missing out.
The Range Rover Sport is painted in Firenze Red Metallic that looks magnificent under the sun. The styling is unmistakable, and the Range Rover carries significantly more curb appeal than most other luxury SUVs. The horizontal grille and wraparound LED light design is sleek and the use of gloss black hood and fender vents adds a dash on sportiness to the otherwise elegant appearance. The roof and waistline converge towards the rear, giving it a distinct fastback silhouette. I particularly like the optional 21” wheels on our tester; the silver and gloss back contrast look fitting for the overall exterior design and is by far the best of the eight wheel designs available.
On paper, the Range Rover Sport’s 3.0L V6 turbodiesel engine with 254 horsepower appears weak compared to its SVR sibling’s monstrous 575-hp figure (reviewed here). In reality, it feels anything but sluggish. Thanks to the Td6 powerplant’s healthy 443 lb-ft. torque output that arrives at an early 1,500 RPM, getting the 4,753lb. SUV moving from a standstill is effortless. The Sport Td6 has an impressive towing capacity of 3,500 kilogram (7,716 lbs.), and will get from zero to 100 km/h in a mere 7.7 seconds.
Many buyers repulse the idea of buying diesel-powered cars for the supposed lack of refinement, but Range Rover buyers need not to be worried. The Td6 engine is silky smooth, and Range Rover engineers have done an admirable job in keeping any cabin vibration to a minimal. The eight-speed automatic transmission acts in the same buttery manner with an emphasis of keeping the engine revs below 2,000RPM for maximum efficiency, and useable power just a nudge of the throttle away.
The Range Rover Sport is not as difficult to drive as its dimensions suggest. Steering is light and easy, and the Range Rover feels sharp and responsive on city streets. It does pitch and row a lot if you push it into a corner quickly, but that is beyond the point for a people carrier like this. The Sport comes standard with an air suspension system that adjusts itself to improve handling, as well as allowing for three different ride heights to either help with entry and exit, or increase ground clearance for better off-road capability.
Fuel economy is a major advantage of the Range Rover Sport Td6. It has ratings of 10.7L/100km city, 8.3L/100km highway, and 9.6L/100km in combined cycles. I observed a frugal 9.4L/100km over my week of testing. With an 86L fuel tank capacity, I would not be surprised to see over 1,000 km of drive range over a long distance road trip, which would be a phenomenal achievement as well as a meaningful feature for those who take frequent road trips.
Range Rovers have always had beautiful interior appointments and our tester is no different. Almost everything you see and touch is covered by the finest British cowhide, and put together by the best craftsmen in the world. The seats are comfortable and there is excellent head and legroom in both rows. Those who would like to have the option of hauling more than five passengers can choose the optional third row seating, although the space behind the second row is narrow and is recommended for children only. As a result of the high loading floor and sloping roofline, cargo space is limited to 780L, 100 less than that of the Acura RDX (reviewed here).
An 11-speaker, 380-watt Meridian premium sound system is standard on all HSE models. Range Rovers use an all-touch infotainment system called InControl Touch Pro Duo. It is a slick looking system with two screens on the centre console, with the top one motorized to allow tilt for a customized viewing angle. The bottom screen is used for climate control, the Dynamic Response system, and can also display media information.
While the touchscreen is not the most straightforward one, those who take a set-it-and-forget-it approach will not be too inconvenienced. Having Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is a bonus to minimizing distractions while driving. I noted that the steering wheel mounted buttons are inconsistent and sometimes require multiple presses to send in a command, and are better off left alone.
Our tester was equipped with a full suite of proactive safety technologies, including 360-degree Parking Aid with Rear View Camera, Blind Spot Monitor, Driver Condition Monitor, Rear Traffic and Clear Exit Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, and High-Speed Emergency Braking systems.
Range Rover’s vehicles have an expansive list of options, allowing for maximum customizability to spec the vehicle the way you want. This Sport HSE Td6 starts at $89,300, and add in a slew of package and options such as the 21-inch wheels, paint scheme, Driver and Vision Assist packages, and Heated Windshield, for an as-tested price of $101,240.
For around $100,000, there is a plethora of excellent choices such as the BMW X5 (reviewed here), the Porsche Cayenne (reviewed here), and the Mercedes-Benz GLE. However, there is a common denominator with the three competitors in that they have all ditched their diesel option (in North America) and instead focused their research and development budget on developing the plug-in hybrid versions, leaving the Range Rover Sport as the only choice for those who want to fill up with diesel instead of gasoline.
The 2020 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is a thoroughly excellent luxury SUV. It is gorgeous inside and out, offers a refined and comfortable ride, and has a remarkable reputation for being a true all-weather warrior. The diesel powerplant is particularly suited for people who spend lots of time on the road. With its efficiency, it is worth strong consideration as a gasoline-alternative option in the market. The EVs have a long way to go to be competitive for the road trippers and we await the opportunity to test the new plug-in hybrid luxury SUVs against the diesel-powered Range Rover.