Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Td6 HSE

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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The British have some wonderfully ridiculous traditions. For example, gentlemen participating in the royal sport of fox hunting would be adorned in scarlet coats with tails, a top hat, and crisp white trousers plunging into tall black boots.

I’ve experienced most of the full-size luxury barges on sale today and believe the Range Rover surpasses them for creamy ride quality. Only the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII tops it, in my experience.

White pants to go into the woods? I can’t even keep white pants clean long enough to go to the supermarket.

“Modern” English hunters are more practical, wearing a shirt, tie, and those lovely, earth-toned tweed jackets. It’s more sensible (relatively speaking), yet still proper and dignified, just as God and royalty would want it to be.

For decades, many of those hunters have elected to leave their four-legged mounts in the stable, choosing instead to drive into the English countryside in their Range Rover. And while driving a $130,000 luxury car over rocks and streams seems as foolish as dressing smartly to tramp through brambles, the flagship of the Land Rover lineup is nevertheless well equipped to do so.

Range Rover’s off-road prowess is legendary, in fact, and this 2018 Land Rover Range Rover HSE is better equipped than ever before. For 2018, the Terrain Response suite of drive modes adjusts engine, transmission, differential, and chassis systems to optimize drivability over varying terrains. There are now seven settings available that can truly transform the Range Rover’s personality, from Dynamic mode for on-road performance, through Comfort and a series of optimized off-road scenarios like Mud/Ruts, Sand, or even Rock Crawl.

The former will have the Rover’s air suspension compressed and the big SUV hugging the tarmac, whereas the latter options will raise the body up, enabling impressive ground clearance. A note to the lords and ladies: attempting ingress and egress when the Range Rover is in tippy-toe mode will be decidedly undignified and is ill-advised.

Even in Dynamic mode, the Range Rover wallows around a fair bit. Those inclined to drive in a manner not befitting high society (aka, wanting to take corners at a brisk pace like we commoners tend to do), should seek out an SUV from most of the other manufacturers that have made handling a priority over ride comfort.

Indeed, the Rover’s ride under any circumstances or settings is impressive, but in Comfort mode, it’s sublime. I’ve experienced most of the full-size luxury barges on sale today and believe the Range Rover surpasses them for creamy ride quality. Only the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII tops it, in my experience.

This Range Rover clocked more than 1,200 kilometres during the week I had it, through varying conditions. The setting I used most frequently was Eco, since it blended the suppleness of the Comfort mode, with a relaxed throttle response to optimize efficiency.

Had this been one of the supercharged, gasoline-fuelled Range Rovers (the most potent of which dispatch 557 horses), selecting the Eco mode would be even more prudent given their thirst for premium is greater than the English love of tea. This Range Rover, though, is the Td6, or turbocharged, six-cylinder diesel engine. Its tepid 254 hp output is less than half its consumptive brethren, but its 443 lb-ft of torque mean that it never feels slow.

Paired to a liquid-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, the 3.0-litre diesel engine provides a fluid wave of thrust enabling the 2,249 kg Range Rover to reach highway speeds completely drama-free, yet cruise along at super-legal speeds with sheer effortlessness.

As much as the Range Rover Td6 is a surprisingly endearing machine to drive, the fuel economy for such a large and lavish machine is astounding. Officially, it’s rated at a combined rate of 9.6 L/100 km. My driving favoured a bit more highway time and we saw an average of 8.6 L/100 km. For perspective, a three-cylinder Mini Countryman (the sort of quasi-ute commoners might choose to drive to a hunt), is rated at 9.2 L/100 km combined.

If saving even more fuel is appealing, a plug-in hybrid version of the Range Rover will reach our shores for the 2019 model year.

The Range Rover’s interior is everything a six-figure SUV should be. Flawless, butter-soft hides cover acres of space, and the places that aren’t leather, wear high-gloss wood or brushed-metal trim. The seats don’t offer the infinite adjustability of those in say, a Lincoln Navigator, but their shape suited mine just fine. As it has always been, the windows appear to be a good storey-and-a-half high, enabling a comfortable, upright position and a brilliant outward view. The rear seat offers more legroom than most of its larger competitors, but Range Rover also offers a long-wheelbase option for those who need more, but sadly, not with the diesel.

Cargo space is also generous, enabling my family to wildly over-pack for a weekend up north, even putting the AC plug point to good use with a slow-cooker full of meatballs, surely just as Her Majesty would do.

Ergonomically the Range Rover is an improvement over previous generations, but still fraught with challenges. The primary gauge pod – all digitally displayed – is fine, but the centre console is dominated by a pair of 10-inch touchscreens. Visually they’re bright and crisp, and the graphics are slick and contemporary, but wearers of polarized glasses will be taken on a bad psychedelic trip in London, circa 1966; the head-up display will vanish altogether.

Worse is the cumbersome operation of the system, muddling through sometimes-illogical menus and lagging responsiveness. There are cameras mounted all over the exterior of the Range Rover to assist in off-road navigation, yet when reversing, the backward-facing camera would work only occasionally. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet, though it’s reportedly coming.

The Meridian sound system provides plenty of rich audio enjoyment, but the $3,400 Signature Entertainment Pack only enables DVD playback (not Blu-Ray) and features a pair of 10-inch touchscreens for the rear seat occupants. A couple of iPads would provide a considerable cost savings and be more versatile for rear seat occupants.

Still, these few idiosyncrasies do little to diminish the posh pleasures afforded by the Range Rover and can be considered akin to other British quirks like eating baked beans with breakfast. Or blood pudding.

The Range Rover has become an aristocratic entity revered the world over for either (or both) its capabilities on-road and off, and its cachet. For years it had only one real peer – the continental Mercedes G-Class – in terms of blending unmistakable driving prowess with poshness. Now we have super-luxury SUVs from unlikely sources that all seem like grotesque embellishments compared to the established and dignified Range-Rover.

And if a Rolls-Royce sport utility vehicle feels rather like wearing a red coat with white pants to go hunting, perhaps the tweed jacket Range Rover remains the more dignified and sensible choice; all the more so fitted with the level-headed turbodiesel engine.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 254 hp
Peak Torque 443 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 10.7/8.3/9.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb diesel
Cargo Space 900 / 1,943 L seats down
Model Tested 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Td6 HSE
Base Price $113,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,600
Price as Tested $129,450
Optional Equipment
$14,750 – Drive Pro Pack $2,200; Park Pro Pack $510; 21-inch gloss black wheels $2,860; Black Pack (appearance) $2,140; Heated Windscreen $410; Vision Assist Package $2,720; Signature Entertainment Pack $3,390; Terrain Response 2 $260; All Terrain Progress Control $260