Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 4, 2019
The future of diesel engines remains clouded in uncertainty, suspended in smog thicker than the excess emissions from the Dieselgate scandal. While still popular overseas in Europe, in Canada at least, we’ve seen more and more automakers opt out of selling diesels and instead, focus their attention on electric mobility. Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen have all jumped ship but GM still offers diesels for their Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. So does Jaguar with their sedans and SUVs. But if you want something a bit more premium and spacious without resorting to a pick-up truck, you’re all but left with the Range Rover portfolio. I’ve even heard of some Mercedes loyalists switching over ever since the GLS BlueTec diesel went under the guillotine. Anything for the sulphur fix, it seems.
Which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The Range Rover Sport’s 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 (Td6) is one of the smoothest, torquiest, and quietest diesels currently in production. With 254 hp and a whopping 443 lb-ft of torque on tap, it is hardly short on propulsive thrust. There’s a bit of lag when you step on the throttle but it fades into distant memory once the surge of power comes through. While it struggles to catch its breath at the top end of the powerband, the smart shifting 8-speed automatic keeps you in the meatiest parts where the tidal wave of torque is more than sufficient for overtaking maneuvers. Of note, the Td6 sprints from 0-100 km/h in 7.7 seconds, only 1.1 seconds behind the 3.0-litre straight-six-equipped variant.
But the real magic is in its real-world fuel economy. On the highway alone, I managed 7.9 L/100km, and combined with city traffic driving, I averaged 9.2 L/100km. That’s roughly the same mileage I received in the 2019 Mazda3 Sport with its petit four-cylinder. The range is exceptional as well (no pun intended) with 800 km from a full tank. Once people see the numbers, it’s usually enough to convince and convert them onto the diesel bandwagon. Yes, they will have to get used to finding gas stations that serve this type of fuel (which are fairly abundant in most cities and suburbs around Toronto) and line up for the specific yellow pumps but at the time of writing, diesel is more than ten cents cheaper than regular 87-octane gasoline. Keep in mind that this Range Rover Sport weighs nearly double that Mazda econobox yet achieves similar mileage. It’s the most cost-efficient and pragmatic spec, and comparing it against its other engine offerings seems almost silly. The last Range Rover Sport with the 5.0-litre V8 we drove averaged a pitiful 15.5 L/100km, not to mention the maniacal 575-hp SVR that drank up 18.9 L/100km.
That said, one of the largest downsides of a diesel is the distasteful engine noise. Diesels emit a signature tractor-like clatter during idle and acceleration, much like any lorry or heavy machinery that you may have passed by. The good news is that the Range’s cabin is so well insulated that it mutes out most of the noise, but you will distinctly hear it from the outside. It will irk some people that feel like it taints the “luxury car image” or upscale aura. Still, under wide open throttle, the V6 does emit a decent baritone-like grunt - just don’t expect it to sound as aggressive or as sonically pleasing as its gasoline variants. Such is the tradeoff.
And diesel or not, the ride quality is unaffected. After driving the new Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GLE, I always find myself gravitating back towards the Range Rover Sport and its cushy and confident ride, prestigious road presence, and classic sheetmetal. The X5 is more comfortable, the Cayenne handles better, and the GLE has the swankier interior, but there’s something about the Range that blends every one of those merits together into one cohesive package. It may not do everything better than its rivals, but it does more of them at once, and having a class-exclusive diesel engine only sweetens the deal.
For 2019, the Range Rover Sport receives a slight refresh including slimmer LED head- and tail-lights, a reworked grill design, new wheel options, and integrated exhausts. Inside, you will find the new dual touchscreens stacked on top of one another, as seen on the Evoque and Velar. They make for a vibrant centerpiece and the top screen can tilt for better viewing angles as well, further remedying any concerns about the screen being washed out by heavy sunshine. And i know many other SUVs offer this function, but having a dedicated button on the trunk to lower the air suspension makes cargo loading that much easier.
Our test vehicle was draped in what I like to call resale value styling, which means Ebony black leather everywhere - a safe choice but leaves much to the imagination. A bit of colour and wood contrast would have made the cabin slightly more inviting. Sadly, you can only spec the diesel engine with the base SE or HSE trim, meaning the Autobiography is out of bounds. As such, you are stuck with humdrum shades of leather and headliners - black, beige, grey - and a single-tone steering wheel with a flimsy plastic airbag cover, sans the atlas bezel around the circumference. Even the mid-trim Evoque and Velar models offer it with a leather stitched cover but alas, you will have to fork over for the Autobiography to receive one. You cannot spec the top-end 23-speaker Meridian Signature sound system either.
The changes to the Range Rover Sport for 2019 are minor but make a noticeable difference to the user experience. The diesel is still the star of the lineup, and its potent low-end kick and frugal consumption trump the majority of advantages provided by its supercharged sidekicks. The Td6 may not be the most thrilling choice of propulsion but despite what most people say, cars aren’t always an emotional purchase from the heart. Sometimes, it pays to listen to the brain.
Model: 2019 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6
Paint Type: Firenze Red
Base Price: $87,300
Price as Tested: $95,910
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,856 / 2,220 / 1,780
Curb weight (kg): 2,136
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Horsepower: 254 hp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 440 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.2