Test Drive: 2016 Range Rover HSE Td6

The Range Rover is a nearly-perfect SUV

Range Rover HSERange Rover is one of the world’s most capable vehicles, able to traverse any terrain, to ford water up to 35.4 inches in depth, to clear obstacles with aplomb. For my weeklong drive, I chose to test the Range Rover in the environs that it frequents most often: the tony streets of Scottsdale and outside of Palm Springs.

Three friends and I had planned our annual pilgrimage to Indian Wells, Calif., to attend the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, a trip that necessitated (in our minds) a large, luxurious vehicle that would get great gas mileage, transport all of us and our gear in comfort, and, of course, make us look good driving up to the tennis garden. The Range Rover, naturally, fit the bill.

Range Rover comes in four models: Base, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography. Our HSE came equipped with the Td6 diesel engine, which increases combined city/highway fuel economy by about 32 percent over the gasoline-powered model, and results in about 32 percent greater torque as well. It certainly achieves better-than-average gas mileage for an SUV – 22 city/29 highway/25 combined — and the large tank makes the Range Rover seem deceptively more fuel efficient. It’s the polar opposite of the Mini Cooper we tested recently – a fuel sipper that requires frequent trips to the gas station.

Fuel economy is improved by the intelligent stop/start feature, which shuts the engine off when stopped, for example, in traffic or at a stoplight. This is probably the only feature that I disliked; the stopping/starting is a little disconcerting, although there is no discernable delay or adverse effect in acceleration when it starts back up from a stop.

A diminutive vehicle like the Mini could practically be contained within the whole of the Range Rover’s interior as well, or be overtaken by it, registering little more turbulence in the cabin than a speed bump. Indeed, the Range Rover is capable, spacious and quiet, easily accommodating both passengers and luggage for our road trip. The Oxford leather seats were comfortable, heated and cooled in the front, and heated in the back. Just as driving a Range Rover feels like a privilege, passengers are easily spoiled as well, wowed by the technology and luxury features: the three-zone climate control, the sliding panoramic glass roof, the outstanding audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and thoughtful touches like the soft ambient lighting and power tailgate with hands-free open and close. Cargo capacity is ample, however, the rear seats do not fold completely flat. We cruised comfortably to California, satellite radio providing a musical backdrop, navigation system honed in on our destination, with nothing but smooth sailing, and nary a need to refuel. Of course, with a vehicle this powerful and comfortable, the cruise control does come in handy to ward off those speeding tickets, which could come easy with the Range Rover’s effortless acceleration.

While the Range Rover is certainly a big vehicle, it doesn’t drive as such. It feels surefooted, is easily maneuverable, and accelerates smoothly and effortlessly. The optional Vision Assist Package ($2110) further mitigates the size factor with a surround camera system, blind-spot monitoring with closing vehicle sensing, and reverse traffic detection. If parking ease is a concern, opt for the Driver Assistance Package with perpendicular and parallel park assist (including park exit) and 360-degree park distance control with head up display. In other words, just let the Ranger Rover’s technology move you in and out of those tight spots.

In short, the Range Rover is a nearly perfect SUV, whatever your driving intentions. It’s a family vehicle, a road trip car, a more-than-capable off roader, beautiful inside and out, technologically advanced, and ready to tackle any challenge you throw at it – whether cramming it full of spoils from the mall or copious amounts of camping gear for some serious adventuring.

The Range Rover starts at $84,950 for the base model and $139,995 for the Autobiography. The HSE Td6 tested here came with a base price of $93,450, and retailed for at $103,925 with the optional packages mentioned above, as well as a towing package, premium audio system, adaptive cruise control and a heated wood/leather steering wheel.

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