The last time we tested a Range Rover Sport, it was the rompin’ stompin’ 2014 Range Rover Sport Autobiography, a vehicle that somehow defied physics with an ability to launch harder than 5,000 lbs. of anything not hooked to a catapult on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. This time around we’re defying physics once again, in this case the 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6, squeezing more miles out of a gallon of petroleum derivative than a two-and-a-half ton vehicle, and it does it, perhaps not surprisingly, with a diesel engine.
Of course, the 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 has all the advantages and disadvantages of any other Range Rover Sport. The ride height that helps with off-road proficiency also thwarts easy entry and exit. Like all Range Rover Sport models, however, our tester had variable height air suspension which raises and lowers the Sport over a 4.5-inch range. It can go down 1.9 inches for an access mode on command. It’s not exactly kneeling, but it does make entry and exit easier. (Hey, Land Rover, how about automatically lowering the vehicle when the transmission is put in park.
On the other hand, it can raise itself for additional off-road clearance, even automatically if it should bottom out with its “reactive grounding response. The Range Rover Sport has gradient acceleration control, which prevents sudden acceleration in uphill off-road driving, gradient release control, which smoothly transfers from fully stopped to hill descent control. And of course, the Land Rover Sport comes with Terrain Response System, along with the usual traction control, brake force distribution and so on.
But we didn’t take the 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 off road. Instead, we drove it as most owners would most of the time, and we were particularly interested in the performance and fuel economy with the diesel engine.
The diesel is used in a variety of Land/Range Rover and Jaguar vehicles, and it’s leading edge tech. It’s a pure diesel engine, not sharing elements with a gasoline-fueled engine. Its block is made of compacted graphite iron (CGI), which has a higher tensile strength than standard grey cast iron, better fatigue strength than aluminum, and is stiffer as well, which means it can be lighter and smaller. Additionally, the deep-skirted, cross-bolted design and one-piece structural aluminum oil sump absorbs combustion noise.
The selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to reduce NOx emissions for the Td6 achieves US LEV 3 status. The DEF is injected into the exhaust and, as the resulting mixture passes through the SCR, NOx is turned into harmless nitrogen gas. (DEF is readily available and owners can refill the fluid themselves when needed, or of course anyone who changes the vehicle’s oil can do it as well).
Emissions are also reduced via a new low pressure EGR system. Unlike traditional high pressure EGR systems, which recirculate gases directly from the exhaust manifold to inlet manifold at high pressure, the low pressure EGR takes the exhaust gas after the DPF filter in the exhaust pipe and feeds it back to the turbocharger inlet. From there it passes through the intercooler, which reduced the temperature of the incoming charge, which in turn results in a lower peak combustion temperature. A higher peak combustion temperature increases NOx is production, so the low pressure EGR system reduces NOx emissions the SCR system has to scrub.
The Jaguar/Land Rover diesel engine also incorporates a two-stage oil pump that reduces engine losses. Revised design fuel-injectors improve efficiency and cut hydrocarbon emissions, and two-stage injection reduces the rattle that typically comes with diesel engines.
The output of the 3.0-liter turbodiesel in the 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is rated at 254 horsepower and 440 lb-ft or torque peaking at 1750 rpm. The low-end torque of the Td6 provides effortless response around town, and Land Rover claims 0-60 acceleration time of 7.1 seconds, compared to 6.9 seconds for the gasoline-fueled V6 model. It’s not a road burner like the Autobiography, but then you also won’t have to wait until Hell freezes over to get up to highway speed.
The EPA fuel economy estimates for the Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined, a third again more than the gasoline V6 engine. Land Rover estimates the total range of the Sport’s 27 gallon tank at 658 miles, a gain of eight percent for the Range Rover Sport. If you can drive that far without stopping, you are indeed the master of your own bladder.
But perhaps even more impressive than the official numbers are the fuel economy stats we achieved on the road. The “advanced features” of the trip computer keeps a running tally of the best journey and the last three trips. Our best? How about 34.8 mpg. We can’t quite seem to believe it either. Our worst was a local drive of only 5.2 miles where we got 20.9 mpg. A reading for 2,578 miles—combined with other drivers over 40 hours at a 35 mph average speed, the 2016 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 turned in 25.3 mpg. You don’t get closer to a combined versus real life fuel economy than that.