Diesel’s Very Alive & Found a Good Home
Some things are made for each other. We believe that goes for modern diesel engines and SUVs, particularly those capable of real off-road adventures. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6, which we drove at the recent Western Automotive Journalists’ Media Day program, fully embodies the concept.
Driving off-road road (and, we’d add, on-road) requires torque. It is the most elemental part of driving—that grunt power to launch from a dead stop or accelerate in critical situations. Not coincidentally, that’s why we love electric vehicles, since electric motors provide maximum torque at low speeds. But as the weight of the vehicle increases, electrics tend to strain as they have to add weight to carry the batteries that provide the power. Moving to the traditional internal combustion engine, the diesel version is one that provides a great balance of tremendous torque and a more acceptable power-to-weight ratio.
The other aspect where diesel thrives is moving large vehicles. It’s no accident that diesel power is behind locomotives, giant ocean-going vessels and some of the largest land equipment found in mines in the arctic. A compression ignition engine does the work, while delivering fuel efficiency superior to spark-ignited engines fueled by gasoline.
The Brits Take It to the Limit
While much of the automotive world has been treating diesel as a pariah in light of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, the Brits at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have taken an opposite tack. The company has a long history with diesel and a stable of luxury vehicles not oriented toward fuel efficiency, so diesel power is a logical approach to meeting the increasingly stringent standards for engines around the world while still delivering the performance expected in this class of convenience.
With its executives railing against the “demonization” of diesel, JLR has moved forward by introducing diesel powertrains in both its Jaguar sedans and SUVs as well as in the venerable Land Rover SUVs.
We drove the 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6, which we think is the perfect fit for the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine. It cranks out 254 horsepower, significantly less than the base 3.0-liter supercharged gas engine, but delivers 443 pounds-feet of torque, which is what a 4900-pound SUV really craves.
The power is needed to haul around the seven-passenger off-road machine, capable as are all Land Rovers of going far beyond the mall-cruising they are typically relegated to in this country. With its 26-mpg highway rating and 22.5-gallon tank, the diesel Land Rover is capable to taking you more than 585 miles on the highway or into the outback. As with most diesels, I suspect with some judicious driving and a light load 30 mpg highway is within reach in the Discovery.
A Full Luxury SUV
While Land Rover has its roots in hard-core off-road machines and retains that basic capability, in recent years it has moved dramatically into the hard-core luxury market. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6 I drove was probably the epitome of the brand. While a basic Discovery with the 340-horsepower supercharged gas engine starts at $49,990, the diesel variant starts at $58,950 and the Luxury model I drove began at $65,950 with a full-contingent of premium features. But, of course, you could add to that and easily push the cost up into the stratosphere.
Everything is easy, as it should be, in a luxury SUV. Surfaces seems soft-touch, where a gentle press of a finger brings electronics to life or alerts the features of your desires. I didn’t get a chance (this time—I have in the past) to take the Land Rover off-road to really get a feel for its capability, but on-road it offered smooth power with a wonderfully high-riding, commanding point of view from the 12-way power driver’s seat. The upgrade 825-watt, 14-speaker Meridian sound system was what you might expect. Other luxury and technology features were in abundance.
As is befitting a luxury vehicle, the slight diesel clatter at start quickly dissipated as the SUV got up to speed and smooth and quiet torque was available throughout the powerband. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6 continues a strong tradition as an unmatched four-wheel-drive off-road machine that simultaneously delivers a full measure of luxury. It was a pleasure to spend a short time with this aspirational machine.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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