We’ve all known, or seen, or sat under a big dog who has a little dog complex.
You know the one: Maybe it was a friend's Great Dane who tried to curl up in your lap the second you sat down on the couch; maybe it's your own pit bull, Apollo, who demands to sleep on the pillow by your chin every night.
Cars can be like that, too. Like the new Range Rover HSE TD6, for instance.
It’s big (nearly 17 feet long and six feet high) and brawny (245 horsepower with 7,716 foot-pounds of towing power). It's the size of a Rottweiler, if Rottweilers came in aluminum. But it has athletic suspension that lowers automatically to ease entry and exiting, elastic steering, and the fuel efficiency of a much smaller rig. It won’t fit into tiny parking spots—and big dogs don’t fit into pillbox kennels—but it shares the spirit of its much-smaller counterparts. It thinks it’s small.
Nice and Big inside
Speaking of dogs, I used this Rover to drive a friend and her snow-white American Eskimo pup to the Ivy Hotel in Baltimore last week as part of my review. We had the entire car cased, alternately placing Piksi in the rear with our bags, in the front on my friend Laurel's lap, and pretty much everywhere in between. It all worked fine. The space, as you might imagine, was extreme: 83 cubic feet of storage in the very back (big enough for a couple St. Bernards—or your bike and weekend bags); ample head- and leg-room throughout (unlike last week’s G Wagon); and seating for five.
The standard and long wheelbase models are equally posh, especially in Autobiography trim, and feature extras like power adjustable front and rear seats; a power tailgate; a massive sliding glass automatic sunroof; ambient lighting; a 380-Watt Meridian sound system and a full entertainment system in the rear with headphones and remote control. (The new configuration even allows you to integrate your smartphone apps with the whole system.) It’s all coated in Oxford leather and positioned in such a way as to give equal access to controls for both driver and passenger.
The HSE version I drove is more expensive and better outfitted with richer interior styling and exterior badging than the base and “Range Rover Sport” models, too. It adds new twin tailpipes, 20-inch alloy wheels, a solar reflecting windshield with privacy glass, and heated rear seats.
But the real strength of the Rover comes from its brand-new turbocharged V6 diesel engine. And here I’ve saved the best for last. This is the engine that Land Rover promises will deliver 32-percent increased fuel efficiency over the supercharged V6 gasoline engine to achieve 29mph on the highway.
It hits 443lb-ft of torque on the low end (the regular V6 gets only 332lb-ft at higher rpm). That higher twisting force under lower engine speeds means TD6 is better-suited that the conventional version for towing heavy loads and off-roading on unstable terrain. That extra boost also gives the TD6 extra attitude on the highway—it’ll hit 60mph in 7.4 seconds. It’s a fraction of a hair of a second slower than the conventional Rover (7.1 seconds for that one) and much slower than most of the other big SUVs from the likes of Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche. Top speed is 130mph. (This HSE trim, by the way, boasts an additional 40 horsepower over supercharged V6, too.)
I appreciated the 8-speed automatic transmission with three drive modes (Normal, Sport, and Manual shift), automatic adjustable cruise control, a torque converter for more aggressive use, and a top speed of 130mph. From behind the wheel of this Rover, barreling down the turnpike toward Baltimore became akin to flying in a small private jet: smooth and quiet, except for the gentle hum of the engines beneath us. Laurel and Piksi had no idea our ride was diesel until I stopped to get gas on the way home.
A Good Luxury Value
Here’s the bottom line: Land Rover has hit the mark again with these new engines, with the updated styling, and with the fair price ($93,450, or $106,325 for the one I drove with options) on its new HSE edition. You can approximate it with other things—Mercedes offers more bling and way more speed for double the price; Audi offers a vanilla practicality for significantly cheaper prices; Volvo offers excellent safety and design but no real caché; BMW offers superior handling but oblong styling. (Current offerings from others—Lincoln, Lexus, Infiniti—don't quite bring enough heat to belong in this group; Cadillac's SUV is good but also just, big. Really big.)
But if you’re okay not winning the spring cup on your local drag strip, choose this. For all-around luxury of style, performance, economy, technology, space, and off-road and towing progress, the Land Rover Range Rover HSE Diesel hits the target.