What is it?
The diesel version of the new Range Rover Sport we’ve already heavily sampled in its 5.0-litre Supercharged spec. Where most of those cars will be destined for the Persian Gulf and North America, the 288bhp SDV6, with 199g/km CO2 emissions and 37.7mpg potential, is the variant you can expect to see on a driveway near you sometime soon.
There will be an entry-level model beneath it — with 254bhp and precisely the same peak twist — but that will only be available in lowly SE trim. The SDV6 comes in the more desirable HSE, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic clothes. Adding the word Dynamic to your car is important too, as it delivers the adaptive anti-roll bar and dampers which make the Sport a better overall prospect.
As standard, this is the first car Land Rover has offered with a single-speed transfer case. Said to be 18kg lighter, the new system uses a Torsen centre differential to deploy a default 42/58 per cent front-to-rear torque split. It will send as much as 78 per cent to the rear and 62 per cent to the front; if you want to go beyond that, you’ll need the optional two-speed transfer box.
The multi-plate clutch in its centre differential defaults to a 50/50 spread, but is capable of increasing that to 100 per cent on each axle if the conditions insist upon it. It also offers selectable low range and all the advantages that come with it. Clearly this is the more off-road capable option (it’s the one tested here), and by making it an extra, Land Rover has set out its stall – the Sport is an on-road machine first and foremost.
What’s it like?
In Autobiography spec, stellar. If the ’charger is the cherry on top of Land Rover’s new cake – glossy, super-sweet, slightly superfluous – the V6 is the icing, sponge and cream actually intended to sate the craving. There will be a TDV8 above it by next year, but it’s hard to see where the capability gaps are for it to plug, so congenial, lean and seemly is the performance meted out here.
There’s a tendency in the petrol V8 model to value only one facet of the new Sport – it’s ability to carry and accommodate huge and unlikely speed. Everything else fades into the background of its combustible snarl and that colossal lick. In the diesel, the car feels more three dimensional; better capable of muffling tedious miles and making quiet, expedient progress around town.
Which isn’t to say that the SDV6 is slow: 0-60mph is accomplished in 6.8 seconds – plenty fast enough for a two-tonne car with two full metres of girth – and there’s a fat, 442lb ft seam of torque to endlessly exploit. But it doesn’t careen out of the gate like the V8 so there’s less temptation to bully it all the time; instead what you get is a swift, seamless pull away under a half throttle – precisely the amount of acceleration most of us use in the course of an average day.
It follows this up with impeccable manners. Obviously the petrol-engined car (and its exhaust) is tuned to remind you what you’ve forked out for, and the diesel is deliberately more inconspicuous, although so crafty is JLR’s tweaking that it’s possible to draw almost as much satisfaction from its insulated hum at cruise and the heavy throb that accompanies rising revs. As with most eight-speed gearboxes, the transmission is predisposed to downshifting at the slightest provocation, but the utterly superb ZF unit makes these blips almost unnoticeable.
The Sport will happily dispense bigger speeds in its default mode, but the Dynamic setting does the familiar business of altering the steering, gearbox, throttle and suspension settings. This inevitably makes the car’s already slightly more abrasive ride (compared to a Range Rover) that bit stiffer but it also allows its new dynamic character, warm and fluid before, to unmistakably set.
Aided by torque vectoring at the front and the (optional) rear diff, the Sport will now turn in on its standard mud and snow tyres with squealing conviction, and then shift merrily sideways for a moment as drive is biased towards the rear axle. In the V8 this occurs ridiculously early in the engine’s repertoire; in the V6, it feels encouragingly like you are testing and harnessing both in some kind of harmony.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. The new Sport, from a keen driver’s point of view, might just be the best SUV in the world at the moment, and the SDV6 is just the engine to enjoy (and abuse) all of its brilliance. No, it isn’t anywhere near as mighty as the Cayenne’s new diesel V8, and some might justifiably prefer the superior presence of the not-much-more expensive TDV6 full-size Range Rover Vogue SE, but neither of those cars has quite the same breadth of talent.
Smooth and soundless on the motorway, high and mighty in traffic, inevitably brilliant off-road; and now a genuinely entertaining steer when the mood takes you – the Sport (with all its option boxes ticked) has a wonderful capacity for rising to any occasion. Unless the less powerful and cheaper TDV6 – with its passive systems and single transfer box proves otherwise, the SDV6 is where we’d save up to put all our money.
Range Rover Sport 3.0-litre SDV6 Autobiography Dynamic
Price £74,995 ; 0-60mph 6.8 sec; Top speed 138mph; CO2 199g/km; Economy 37.7mpg; Kerb weight 2115kg; Engine longitudinal V6, 24v, 2993cc; Power 292bhp at 400rpm; Torque 442lb/ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic
What is it?