Of all the models in the Land Rover fleet, the Range Rover Sport has been the most surprising success. Long before BMW launched the X6, the Range Rover Sport offered buyers an unusual mix of on-road performance, off-road prowess and uncompromising luxury. And as the sales figures prove, the Sport is a very popular choice – as long as you have the dosh. But what happens if you retire the V8 turbodiesel, and replace it with a V6 turbodiesel? By DEON SCHOEMAN.
When Land Rover first launched the Range Rover Sport, there wasn’t a diesel on the planning schedule. This was a vehicle meant to achieve the impossible: Combine the all-terrain talents demanded of a Land Rover with the swift dynamics of a sports saloon.
In its finest iteration, the Sport offered prodigious power from a supercharged petrol V8: The kind of muscle that can shred tyres, flatten eyeballs and embarrass even the hottest hatch in the ‘hood. It was – and remains – a true hooligan machine, only thinly disguised as an aristocratic SUV.
But this latest Sport adopts a somewhat different approach. As strange as it may seem, it attempts to appease the bunny huggers by turfing out the aging and environmentally obnoxious 3,6-litre TDV8 that used to represent the turbodiesel cause in the Sport family.
In its place is a smaller, lighter, more eco-friendly powerplant. In fact, the high-tech 3,0-litre TDV6 is exactly the same unit already fitted to the latest-generation, highly acclaimed Discovery 4.
On paper, the swap should be less auspicious than Land Rover would let us believe. The old TDV8 managed to extract 200kW and 640Nm from its 3,6-litre capacity, which allowed the big SUV to get off the mark with impressive alacrity.
However, while the new TDV6, with its smaller 3,0-litre capacity, can’t match its predecessor’s wallop, it is both significantly lighter and more compact, which contributes to a substantially lower kerb mass and an improved centre of gravity,
So, while its urge is less than the old TDV8’s, the smaller TDV6 has less weight to propel, which equates to better dynamics.
It’s also a high-tech powerhouse that employs two turbochargers arranged in a parallel sequential configuration. One turbo looks after bottom-end urge to combat lag, while a second focuses on extended power.
The result is a maximum output of 180kW, linked to torque peak of 600Nm. Even better, the delivery is instantaneous from rest, and there’s a linear surge of power that never lets up as the rev counter spins around the dial.
Let’s not forget that this new TDV6 is also cleaner and more efficient, which reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. At the rate the cost of fuel is climbing, that’s perhaps the most important improvement of all.
The new Range Rover Sport TDV6 achieves a claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of just 9,2litres/100km, while its open-road thirst comes to only 8,1litres/100km. By comparison, the previous V8’s combined figure came to 11,1litres/100km.
The rest of the package remains very much true to the original Range Rover Sport concept. The chunky silhouette is instantly recognisable, as is the SUV’s almost haughty, bullying presence. It’s a commanding vehicle and proudly so.
The titan-finish grille and side vents add further purpose to its presence, and that tall stance dwarfs everything around it. The example under scrutiny here is the HSE Luxury version, which means it gets special 20-inch wheels, model-specific badging and an extensive list of standard equipment.
But there’s not much else to alert the casual observer to the HSE Luxury’s elevated status. Those observant enough will notice the standard surround camera system, but some features are impossible to spot.
For instance, the headlights are equipped with automatic high-beam assist, which dips the headlights automatically when oncoming traffic is sensed at night. I found it disconcerting to use, often taking just that little too long to dip the lights, and probably blinding the poor sod in the approaching car.
But it’s the cabin that really sets the Luxury apart from lesser Range Rover Sport models. It looks and feels upmarket and expensive, with a list of standard kit as long as my arm. The execution is aristocratic in the best British tradition and the seating position is suitably regal too.
The front seats are electrically adjustable in almost every dimension – height, reach and rake. Even the side bolsters can be made wider or narrower at the push a button in the interests of comfort and lateral support. The steering column also offers adjustment for reach and rake, so that dialling the perfect driving position is quickly and painlessly achieved.
The entertainment system is a further highlight and includes a full-colour touch screen display, configurable satellite navigation, iPod integration and a rear entertainment system that includes a dedicated remote control and headsets.
The sound, via multiple speakers and a subwoofer, is particularly good, especially given the fact that the acoustic environment presented by a vehicle – even a classy one like this – is hardly ideal for high-fidelity audio. The Sport gets pretty close, though!
The Sport doesn’t feel as spacious as its Discovery 4 stablemate, but there’s ample room both front and rear, while the innovative dual-stage tailgate allows access to a decent luggage compartment. Visibility from all positions is excellent.
And so to what really matters most: The performance of this latest TDV6-powered monster.
I have to confess that I consider the V8 Supercharged model as the quintessential Range Rover Sport. It has the shove of a Boeing and can feel terrifyingly quick.
By comparison, this new, TDV6-motivated modem feels swift and resolute, but at Reef altitudes, there’s some initial lag at pull-off. And it doesn’t surge forward with the V8 Supercharged’s unbridled enthusiasm. Even so, a 9,3 second zero-to-100km/h sprint time is brisk enough, and the 193km/h top speed could get you into lots of hot water.
While those stats confirm the brisk performance credentials of the TDV6, it’s also true that the tall stance and angular aerodynamics blunt the Sport’s performance. And the steering always feels over-assisted and lifeless.
The six-speed auto gearbox is slick and refined, though, and the air suspension is one of this vehicle’s biggest plus points. It adds composure and control to the big SUV’s road manners, while also soaking up the rough stuff. It’s a vehicle made for rapid, long-distance, cross-country trips.
Even better, there’s no need to stick to tar: the Sport is a consummate off-roader, despite those 20-inch wheels and their city-slicker low-profile tyres. It has all the 4×4 bells and whistles: permanent all-wheel drive, low range, diff locks and Terrain Response.
The substantial ride height and adjustable air suspension means the Sport is not intimidated by even the most daunting of off-road obstacles. And the Terrain Response system is as intuitive and effective as ever, further inspiring confidence.
In fact, I’m tempted to describe the Range Rover Sport as the ultimate all-terrainer – a vehicle that is as comfortable tackling thick mud, deep sand and steep inclines as it is conquering the urban jungle. It’s easy to take anywhere and always feels unstoppable. The Land Rover pedigree really shows.
It’s the sheer breadth of talent that makes the Range Rover Sport so special – and that is as true of the new TDV6 as it is of the rest of the range.
It may have less grunt than the TDV8 and it’s not nearly as sporty as the mind-boggling V8 Supercharged, but the TDV6 offers the best balance of refinement, economy and power. And that makes it the pick of the Range Rover Sport bunch. DM
Range Rover Sport TDV6 HSE Lux
2 993 cc V6, turbodiesel
180 kW @ 4 000 rpm
600 Nm @ 2 000 rpm
9,2 l/100 km (combined)
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