Last December, we took the turbo diesel Range Rover Td6 off-road in the wastelands outside Sedona, Arizona. It was a nerve-wracking, exciting experience, as we crawled across desert terrain in low gear, ascended rocky outcroppings, and played with every crawl control and hill descent setting available. But that was the extreme side of Land Rover, the rugged, roguish side that few buyers actually use as they go about their daily lives, with a Starbucks cup in hand and one eye on the kids in the back seat.
For as sharp as these machines are, it pains me every time I see one parked outside of Nordstrom with not a scratch or spec of dust to be seen. The exploratory British bruiser has been domesticated to the point where the majority spend their lives taking kids to the pool or fighting other SUVs for parking spots in the Whole Foods parking lot. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s like carving your steak with a $100,000 Hattori Hanzō samurai sword: equal parts overkill and squandering all at once.
But sometimes a bit of overkill is in the cards, and since I had already put the diesel-powered Range Rover through its paces off-road, it was time for a “daily commuter challenge.” And after a week of running errands, taking the kid to daycare, and hoofing it to birthday parties and picnics on the weekend, I walked away from the Td6 equal parts enlightened and perplexed.
You have to give it to Land Rover; after all these years, it’s remained current aesthetically while still hearkening back to its roots. LED lights may have replaced incandescents, the body and chassis have become lighter and stronger, and useful tools like keyless entry and power-folding mirrors are now commonplace, but there’s no mistaking it for anything else. Range Rovers have always been distinctive, and the HSE continues to stand as a touchstone for simplistic and practical styling.
Exterior pros and cons
+ New ovular daytime running lights (DRLs) and tubed rear brake lamps are classy, contemporary, and very effective.
+ Power-folding, proximity-based mirrors with puddle lights, a heated windshield, and an automatic folding split tailgate are extremely useful.
+ Small stuff like branded headlight sconces, metallic trim pieces, vehicle plaques in between door jams, and a hidden wiper beneath the rear spoiler are all tasteful.
– Power-folding mirrors won’t fold completely flush and the sunroof’s pop-out windscreen is pretty flimsy.
– Even with the suspension in its lowest setting, it’s difficult to get a child in and out of a car seat if you’re slight in stature.
– Small fog lights look disproportional, the shark fin antenna is kind of bulky, and the wheels are a bit bland.
The turbo-diesel Td6 V6 is a real treat, and while the supercharged gas version features way more horsepower, the torque generated is more than enough to get this SUV up to speed. This is a great powerplant, and with a slew of traction modes, a smooth-shifting German gearbox, and virtually zero turbo lag, there’s not much to dislike. You also can’t argue with the fuel gains, especially since this thing weighs almost 2.5 tons and has the aerodynamic drag coefficient of a fishing barge.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ 443 foot-pounds of torque and 254 turbocharged horses give you a 22/29 mile per gallon estimate, which is commendable for a vehicle of this size.
+ Most drivers will never use any of them, but this thing has tons of drivetrain traction settings, all of which are German engineered and easy to use.
+ Sport mode bumps the powerband and adjusts the eight-speed auto’s shift points; paddle shifting delivers even more control when a manual override is needed.
– Solid torque numbers don’t always equate to speed in something this heavy.
– Since fuel prices are low right now, the demand for diesel is poor as most Americans continue to prefer gasoline-powered automobiles.
– Start/stop function is annoying since diesel startups can be a bit rough.
This is the real reason why the Range Rover name has become synonymous with shopping trips, soccer practice, and executive chauffeur sessions: Land Rover’s current interiors are so outstanding that the mere thought of getting mud inside the cabin is cringeworthy. This is one snazzy way to get around, and everything from the control knobs to the leather-bound steering wheel, customizable LED ambient lighting, and panoramic canvas sunshade feel upscale.
Interior pros and cons
+ Oxford leather, multiple LED mood lighting options, a large array of rear controls, digital gauges, contrasting piano black overhead controls, hidden hinged door pockets, and adjustable wrap-around headrests are all winning touches.
+ Practical considerations include a full-size spare on a matching rim, sizable stacked gloveboxes, rugged silicone and metal floormats, and a cargo cover that is exceptionally sturdy.
+ Upgrades like dual rear seat entertainment, a heated wood steering wheel, and a 825-watt Meridian audio system are all fantastic.
– There’s no way to manually lock the doors from the inside, so if your key fob dies, you’re left vulnerable.
– Polished surfaces collect dust and fingerprints at an alarming rate; avoid the ivory interior option if you have kids.
– Removable cup holder inserts that stick to your water bottle and a lack of rear window shades are small but annoying oversights.
Tech and safety
Another reason why the Range Rover line has become so domesticated is because it’s a tech-filled wonderland, and an incredibly safe one at that. JLR’s newfound love affair with aluminum has helped make its vehicles safer than ever before thanks to a bevy of preventative safety tech features on board. Oh, and did I mention its tons of infotainment goodies can be temperamental and tedious to use? It has those in abundance, too.
Tech pros and cons
+ Wheel geometry tracking screens, surround cameras, fully customizable interfaces, electronic e-brakes, ride height adjustability, a head-up display (HUD), and so much more are all standard.
+ Heated and vented seats, available Wi-Fi, a power adjusting steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and LED lighting add a lot of value, comfort, and convenience.
+ From emergency braking assistance and blind spot monitoring to accident mitigation warnings and reverse traffic detection, the safety side of the tech game is strong.
– Getting a movie to play in the rear via DVD proved troublesome, and since the front video screen automatically turns off when the car is moving for “safety purposes,” skipping scenes and selecting from the title menu is completely hopeless for parents.
– The nav has overly basic 3D graphics when compared to what automakers like Mazda are using. It isn’t very intuitive and can become convoluted with touchscreen buttons and pop-ups.
– Nav prompts within the MID featured dated graphics, and for as advanced as this SUV is, there isn’t an option for wireless charging.
Bounding around town in a Td6 is quite the contrast to what I experienced in the gorges outside Sedona last December, but in certain ways it’s just as challenging. I appreciate how all-encompassing this vehicle is, both in its powertrain and amenity departments, but isn’t exactly an easy vehicle to pilot in an urban environment.
This is a large SUV, and even though it’s responsive under throttle, to steer, and technologically clever, it’s still a lumbering beast. When it’s not wandering in and out of lanes due to its soft suspension and lofty ride height, it dives under heavy braking, and makes squeezing into parking spots an adventure.
Even though there’s a lofty, serene feeling to the drive, it gets somewhat negated by a few key shortcomings; key offenders included the brakes, which felt under-sized for the chassis and were squealed after just 5,000 miles, and the ride height adjustment setting that refuses to let you lower the vehicle to access height at higher speeds. As smooth as it is, with its quiet cabin, capable diesel engine, and exceptional driver amenities, the body roll, brakes, and large proportions tend to make it somewhat unwieldy, even if it is easy to drive.
Wrap up and review
The Td6 is magnificent, and offers one of the poshest cabins imaginable outside of the gorgeous Autobiography edition. But it isn’t a very good daily driver, despite its respectable fuel gains and comfortable ride.
As refined as it may be, I stand behind my statement that it belongs in the wild, not the concrete jungle. There’s just too much off-road potential here to deny the Td6 its birthright, for it has both the bloodline and physique to conquer any area of the world it so chooses.
Don’t condemn the HSE to a fate of suburban life, with over-sized aftermarket wheels and trips to the golf course on weekends. Let the people who don’t mind spending $106,000 for a loaded diesel adventure SUV have it, and opt for something like the tarmac-oriented Range Rover Sport SVR instead. You’ll get a smaller, more nimble SUV with big Brembo brakes, tons of awesome interior goodies, and a supercharged V8 that generates 550 horsepower. But if you really enjoy off-road adventures, get the Td6 because it’s going to get you there and home again with plenty of torque, superb fuel economy, and one hell of a sweet cabin.