2012 Range Rover Sport: 33 MPG Turbo Diesel … But Not For US

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Well, this is a drag.

The 2012 Range Rover Sport will offer a brand-new 3 liter turbodiesel engine and eight speed automatic capable of 33 MPG.

Oh. Wait a sec. It just won’t be offered here. It’s a Euro-only deal.

U.S.-bound Range Rovers get a number of important improvements – including an updated interior with dual-view touchscreen audio/entertainment that makes it possible for the driver to use the GPS while passengers watch a DVD – plus wireless headphones and other good stuff.

But 33 MPG? forget about it.

Don’t blame Land Rover, though – blame the (note, not our) government. for making it hard-to-economically-and-otherwise-impossible for the car companies to bring the diesel engines they sell in export markets to this market. (See here for more on this business.)

What was it Barry said about the importance of increasing fuel economy… ?

Never mind

WHAT IT IS

The Range Rover Sport is – you guessed it – a sporty (and slightly smaller) version of the Range Rover, the high-end, full-size 4WD SUV built by Land Rover. It’s about half a foot shorter, four inches narrower through the hips and weighs about 150 pounds less than than the regular Range Rover.

It’s also a lot less expensive.

Though at the time of this review, Land Rover hadn’t released official MSRPs for the 2012s, the current (2011) carries a sticker price of $59,645 for the HSE and $73,345 for the more powerful supercharged version – vs. $78,425 for the regular (slightly larger) Range Rover and $94,275 for the supercharged version.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2012

UK and other Euro-markets get an all-new 3 liter turbodiesel engine capable of an astounding (to us bedraggled Americans) 33 MPG on the highway – only a few MPGs off the pace of a current-year compact economy sedan. But it won’t be sold in the United States, apparently because of compliance-related issues having to do with our “clean diesel” rules.

But we do get the new Dual View monitor, wireless audio reception, a power tailgate and (later in 2012) special Autobiography and Limited edition trim packages.

WHAT’S GOOD

About half the price of a Benz Gelandewagen (the only other uber-premium SUV that matches the RR’s cachet as well as its off-road prowess).

Supercharged version is $30k less than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Acceleration now appropriate to price – and better than some of the comparably priced competition

Handles better, easier to park/maneuver than the standard (larger/heavier) Range Rover – while giving up nothing as far as presence/exclusivity and features/amenities.

Tremendous off-road capability.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

No 33 MPG for us. We get 13 MPG.

Headroom’s a little tighter than in the Range Rover (the price you pay for the Range Rover Sport’s extra sportiness).

Gas mileage (13 city for the non-supercharged version) limits the range of this Rover – even with a 23.3 gallon tank. It’s not hard to run it dry in 200 miles of real-world driving.

Fill-ups are forbidding – even for the affluent clientele that shops Land Rovers: About $70 a pop at current prices of $3.40 per gallon.

All that technology…. scares me. When the warranty runs out… watch out!

UNDER THE HOOD

The 2012 Range Rover Sport comes standard with a 5 liter V-8, with a supercharged version optional. Without the supercharger, the V-8 produces 375 horsepower. With it, the power jumps to 510 hp – making it one of the strongest engines available in a high-end SUV.

For some perspective: Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo delivers 500 hp – 10 hp less – than the supercharged Rover. But it costs more. A whole lot more: $106,000. That’s $30,000 in your pocket. Even at this level – for people with serious means – that is serious money.

The Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic, another competitor, starts at $84,450 but gives you just 382 hp – not even in the same league as the supercharged RR and pretty much dead even with the base ($59k) non-supercharged RR. It also can’t match the RR’s moves off-road, given its much more street-minded 4-Matic AWD system. And the Mercedes model that can match the RR off-road – the G550 Gelandewagon – is a top-heavy on-road nightmare (the Mercedes Hummer H1 Alpha) that starts at $105,750.

With the standard 5 liter, 375 hp V-8, the Range Rover Sport accelerates from 0-60 as quickly as the 2009 supercharged Range Rover sport (7.2 seconds). With the supercharged version of the 5 liter engine, the 0-60 time drops to an extremely quick 5.9 seconds – quicker than the price-comparable Cayenne GTS (6.1 seconds for $72,400) and enough to harry the enormously more expensive six-figure Cayenne Turbo (4.9 seconds).

On the upside, gas mileage for the ’12 RR is actually slightly better than in the last-generation RR – even though the new model has larger and much more powerful engines. The non-supercharged 5 liter V-8 manages 13 city, 18 highway vs. the old RR’s slurpalicious 12 city, 18 highway.

On the downside, it is still shockingly consumptive – worse than a ’69 Chrysler Newport 440 in need of a tuneup.

Both versions of the 5 liter V-8s are teamed up with a six-speed automatic transmission and Land Rover’s impressively capable full-time Terrain Sensing 4WD system, which comes with multiple settings for different types of conditions such as Mud and Snow, Sand and Rock Crawl – as well as driver-selectable 4WD Low range gearing. There’s also a height-adjustable suspension that can raised or lowered by depressing a switch on the center console.

Maximum trailer towing capacity is 7,700 lbs. – same as the Cayenne but more than twice the Benz G500′s startlingly meager 3,500 pound rating.

ON THE ROAD

The previous Range Rover Sport with the 300 hp 4.4 V-8 was on the borderline side of slow – at least, for a vehicle at the top of the proverbial food chain in terms of brand status and snob appeal.

It took the 4.4-equipped RR Sport about 8.2 seconds to reach 60 – about what a Toyota Corolla can manage. No one who buys a nearly $60k (to start) vehicle wants to be looking at the bumper of a $13k car leaving you in the dust.

The Range Rover’s just to heavy for even 300 hp to be sufficient. In ’09, it was almost mandatory to buy the much more expensive supercharged version – which even then wasn’t actually quick, just acceptable.

So, the fact that there’s 375 hp under the hood of the as-it-sits RR is happy news – and not only because it makes the standard RR quick enough and responsive enough to stand up to Porsches.

The broader point is it’s no longer essential to spend the additional $14K to upgrade to the supercharged version. The 510 hp supercharged engine is truly optional – in the sense that it’s something you decide to buy because you want vertebrae-adjusting speed, not merely enough reserve on tap to pull safely onto a busy road or make a fast pass.

The other aspect of the RR is that, relatively speaking, its handling is indeed sporty – at least, much more so than the very capable off-road but horribly clumsy on-road Mercedes Gelandewagen. That thing is a beast – one of the few new SUVs you can buy that still feels as though it might roll over taking corners at even normal, posted speeds. The traction/stability control system comes on constantly if the G is driven even a little bit aggressively on asphalt. There’s really no comparison; the RR is exponentially more civilized – yet it’s as or even more capable of hitting the dirt (or crawling over rocks) as the Benz G.

The Cayenne beats the RR on-road, with 911-sharp steering and excellent reflexes overall. But it’s more car-like design limits what it can do off-road (at least relative to the hunky Range Rover). If you really do need 4WD go-anywhere toughness, it’s advantage RR.

A wild card: The Lexus GX460 offers similarly poised on-road manners as well as billy goat off-road capability, but like the previous RR, the Lexus is underpowered, with just a 301 hp 4.6 liter V-8 under its hood (and no stronger optional V-8 available). On the other hand, it’s (for this class) cheap: $57,840 – top of the line and loaded. But on the other hand, it’s nothing-special looking and can’t come close to matching the presence/curb appeal of the handsome RR.

All in all, nothing else out there can match the straight-line acceleration (even in base trim), off-road bona fides and curb appeal of the Range Rover Sport – at least, not for $59k and change to start.

AT THE CURB

Land Rovers have a classic upright/boxy shape you either like – or don’t. The current model could be parked next to a 1970s-era model and though there are numerous small changes and upgrades, the basic profile is like father-to-son.

It’s a handsome vehicle in my opinion. Not brutal-looking like the Benz G-Class (a vehicle whose military origins are obvious) or minivan-looking (like the GL Class).

It stands out, too – something the plain-looking Lexus GX460 doesn’t do.

The Cayenne’s got similar curb appeal – but it also has the price tag.

Size-wise, the RR Sport is physically smaller than the standard Range Rover (the RR Sport’s wheelbase is 108 inches vs. 113.3 for the standard RR) but visually it’s hard to tell the difference unless you park them side-by-side.

In no way does the RR Sport seem less substantial or downgraded.

Both the RR Sport and the regular Range Rover seat five and – surprisingly – there’s actually more front and rear seat legroom in the physically smaller RR Sport than in the larger overall regular Range Rover (42.4 inches/front seat legroom vs. 38.9 inches and 37.6 inches of rear seat legroom vs. 35.5). Headroom is tighter in the Sport, though (38.5 inches up front vs. 39.3 in the regular Rover) which can be a problem for taller drivers.

Cargo capacity is almost identical: 71 cubic feet for the RR Sport vs. 74 cubic feet for the regular Range Rover.

The fact that the Sport has about the same interior/cargo room as the larger-on-the-outside standard Range Rover is pretty cool. The fact that it handles/maneuvers more nimbly as a result of its arguably better use of space even more so.

You don’t really lose anything by going with the RR Sport over the regular Range Rover – except sheer bulk and perhaps a bit of off-road capability under extreme conditions (the regular RR has a bit more ground clearance and its wheel/tire packages are more dirt-oriented than the aggressive performance rubber fitted to the RR Sport).

THE REST

The Range Rover appears to be meticulously put-together but it is a very complex vehicle with extremely complex sub-systems, including the computer-controlled Terrain Sensing 4WD and the new state-of-the-art split-screen GPS/entertainment unit and wireless headphones.

Previous Land Rover models have sometimes had bugs and could sometimes be unusually expensive to maintain. That said, there’s a helluva cushion built into the RR Sport’s $59k starting price – which is nearly $20k less than the base price of the larger on the outside but otherwise very similar standard Range Rover.

That makes up for a lot, even if some bugs do crop up.

Land Rover provides a better-than-average four-year, 50,000 mile basic/powertrain warranty, too – which roughly tracks when most typical Range Rover buyers would be about ready to trade-in.

Safety-wise, the RR comes with “everything” – including Hill Descent Control (electronically controls throttle and brake action to prevent the RR from building up excessive speed going down a steep grade) and (in supercharged versions) an emergency braking function that will slow (and even stop) the vehicle automatically if the cruise control is on and the driver doesn’t notice traffic slowing down and begin to brake on his own.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s a bit weird to be talking about any vehicle with a nearly $60k starting price as a “bargain” – but that’s what the Range Rover Sport is.

It’s just a crying shame that we won’t get our hands on the turbodiesel engine the Europeans will have access to.

A 33 MPG Range Rover? That would be killer.

Throw it in the Woods?

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  3 comments for “2012 Range Rover Sport: 33 MPG Turbo Diesel … But Not For US

  1. Kennedy Akwe
    October 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    i love this ride ive bin dying for it wld do any fin to get it i hav bin a secret admirer of it kissses to it

  2. juls
    November 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    nice article. what popped into my mind while reading: the funny thing about the diesel/supercharge question is that here in europe we have the diesel but we would like to have the supercharge. Of course it IS available over here but prices at the patrol station are much higher than in the states. The diesel is too slow compared with the modells of the competitors like BMW, Porsche or Mercedes. They have well-engineered diesel machines which are much more pushing forward than the one of Land Rover does.

    • November 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      A high-powered diesel would be a nice compromise! Probably, it’d be possible to build one with about 500 lbs.-ft of torque that still was capable of 30 on the highway. That would work for me. The current gas supercharged unit is a hog of impressive appetite – single digits, if you drive at all aggressively.

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