Timing Is Everything

Diesel has been in the Canadian headlines for the past few months, but for all the wrong reasons. In the face of the Volkswagen TDI scandal that has drivers across the country questioning their faith in what was once touted as a ‘clean’ end-run around high fuel consumption, Land Rover has bravely forged ahead with its first major North American diesel campaign. Two fresh models – the Range Rover TD6 and Range Rover Sport TD6 – serve as the thin end of the wedge for a strategy that will eventually see most, if not all members of the Land Rover lineup receive the option of a turbodiesel drivetrain.

I spent two days behind the wheel of both of Land Rover’s new-for-2016 TD6 models against the red sandstone backdrop of Arizona’s Verde Valley, just outside the southwest’s spiritual centre of Sedona. The British SUV builder might not be able to control public perception of diesel technology, but it has definitely put its best 4×4 foot forward in its attempt to convince Canadians to at least give it a second chance.

Rigged For Silent Running

For a luxury brand with a reputation as established as Land Rover, a key consideration when introducing any new drivetrain technology is to avoid compromising the expectations of buyers as much as possible. In recognition of this fact, both the 2016 Land Rover Range Rover TD6 and Range Rover Sport TD6 almost perfectly balance the company’s core attributes with the realities imposed by diesel adoption.

Perhaps most important to the genteel sensibilities of Land Rover’s upscale client base is the phenomenal job that’s been done in insulating riders from the traditional bustle and racket of diesel locomotion. This was accomplished in several different ways, ranging from the use of a low-vibration compacted iron-graphite engine block to a redoubling of the soundproofing effort already applied to standard versions of the SUVs. The end result: it’s impossible to tell, based on your ears alone, whether you’re riding in a diesel-powered vehicle whether at idle or passing at highway speeds. Even approaching an idling TD6 gives very little away, which is rare in its class.

Be Patient When Passing

Where Land Rover stumbles somewhat – and I stress that qualifier – with the TD6 has to do with its on-road performance. There’s 440 lb-ft of torque lurking inside the 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine outfitted to the Range Rover TD6 and its Sport equivalent (along with 254 horsepower), but summoning them with your right foot elicits more of a shrug than a slam-dunk in terms of forward momentum. The effect is most noticeable when pulling away from a stop, for despite maximum torque being available at as low as 1,750 rpm, the TD6 presents a surprising reluctance to hustle. When pulling out to pass at highway speeds there’s somewhat more grunt on tap, but both SUVs feel like they’re dragging when compared to similarly sized turbodiesel offerings from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

By the Numbers: Land Rover Range Rover TD6 Diesels

Once the pavement ends you can forget all about comparisons to almost any other diesel SUV on the market (save for the much more affordable Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, of course). Land Rover’s people movers care little what type of terrain you place in front of them, a bravado that was on full display as we tackled hours and hours of off-road trail through the desert-like landscape in an unsuccessful bid to get either model stuck.

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