Red Rover, Green Rover
Land Rover leery of diesel in the States
Phil Popham, Land Rover’s top executive, strongly suggested that Land Rover won’t be offering diesel engines in the U.S. That’s despite the fact that a sweet new Jaguar-designed diesel -- a 3-liter with dual turbochargers that produces 272 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque -- will be a popular option on the face-lifted 2010 Range Rover Sport in Europe and other international markets. (A slightly detuned version of that diesel will also power the Euro-market Discovery, the model now known as the LR4 in the States.)
At a media dinner in Vermont, where I put the thoroughly revamped 2010 Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and LR4 through their on- and off-road paces, Popham acknowledged that the high-mileage, torque-happy diesel configuration is perfectly suited to these nearly 3-ton SUVs. But company market research, he said, makes it clear that Land Rover can’t sell enough diesels here to make it worth the additional investment required to make them compliant with U.S. emissions standards.
“We see the diesel market, at best, at 10 to 15 percent of American buyers, and that’s just not enough,” Popham said. Instead, the new Rovers headed to our shores employ the same engines that power the latest Jaguar XF sedan and XK sports car: a 5-liter V8 with 385 horsepower for the LR4, Range Rover and Rover Sport, and a 510-horsepower supercharged variant playing the up-level engine for the latter two.
Terrific engines, for sure, with far more oomph than the outgoing BMW-based 4.4-liter V8 -- though, impressively, with identical fuel economy. Yet that mileage is still nothing to brag about, as attested by the roughly 13 to 14 mpg rate at which the supercharged Rover and Rover Sport were sucking down premium fuel.
With higher mileage standards looming for 2016, Popham said that Rover was committed to making its vehicles lighter without losing the formidable off-road ability that’s part of Land Rover’s heritage. In that vein, the company is developing hybrid technology, which Popham said clearly has the upper hand in America -- not least because the government, unlike in Europe, does not heavily tax gasoline and drive consumers towards diesels instead.
During the trip, the company also confirmed that the compact, 2-door LRX crossover -- which dazzled everyone in eyeball range when it was shown in Detroit in 2008 -- will reach showrooms next year as a 2011 model. That LRX, designed by Gerry McGovern, will spotlight Rover’s new bid to make its vehicles lighter, more efficient and environmentally sustainable.
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