Usually, every action for the better has a downside. Want to lose weight? Exercise more and eat less. Want that advanced degree while working full time? Be prepared to dedicate your evenings and weekends to attending classes and studying while your friends are doing something else.
With that in mind, consider what Land Rover has done to improve fuel economy for the 2014 Range Rover. The company dropped the 5.0 liter, 375-horsepower V-8 engine for a 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 in the base and HSE trim levels of the Range Rover.
You’d think performance would suffer with this change. However, a week with a Range Rover equipped with the supercharged V-6 didn’t show any noticeable decline.
What was noticeable was markedly better fuel economy. EPA ratings showed an 18.8 percent improvement over last year’s base V-8 engine in the city/highway combined rating. This advantage grows to 26.7 percent over the supercharged 510-horsepower V-8 that is carried over from last year in the Supercharged and Autobiography models.
Performance remains invigorating with the new V-6 engine. A dash to 60 miles per hour took just 6.9 seconds. The engine, aided by the eight-speed automatic transmission, delivers a refined performance while displaying eager throttle responses from just about any speed.
Granted, this acceleration time is four-tenths of a second slower that my wife Paula and I recorded with the base V-8 last year and is 1.9 seconds slower than the supercharged 510-horsepower V-8. Still, any buyer of a V-6 powered Range Rover has nothing to fear with the loss of two cylinders. Consider the better fuel economy to be “gain without pain.”
Buyers also have nothing to fear from purchasing the base model, though most customers take the HSE trim level, which comes to about $5,000 more. The base model is still quite luxurious. The cabin is trimmed to high standards, using leather, wood and real metal. It’s so nice that it seems shameful to track in mud and dirt from an off-road trek.
Regardless of the engine, every Range Rover comes with the previously mentioned eight-speed automatic and a full-time all-wheel drive system with a low gear range for rugged off-road treks. Aiding in these off-road adventures is Range Rover’s Terrain Response System that allows for tailoring various settings for maximum drivability in rough terrain.
These settings result in a vehicle that can travel over just about any surface, on any trail and in any weather condition a driver is likely to encounter.
Yet the Range Rover is also suitably comfortable and rewarding to drive on paved surfaces. It’s a vehicle for all seasons and purposes. It’s just as at home on the daily commute as it is tackling rough off-road trails. It fits in perfectly at the country club or for a night on the town.
On that basis, it may be easier to justify the $83,545 starting price. After all, this is the one vehicle that can do just about everything and do it well.
After having the almost $100,00 510-horsepower Range Rover Supercharged for review earlier, I was prepared for a decline in performance and comfort with the far less powerful and less expensive 2014 Range Rover.
I was happily wrong. My husband Jim and I had the base trim level with a 340-horsepower V-6 for review this time around. Despite starting at nearly $17,000 less than our previous version, I couldn’t really find any detail that was missing.
The V-6 powered Range Rover is quick, comfortable and effortless to drive. The view ahead is excellent and surprisingly, the view to the rear isn’t bad either, though Range Rover does include a standard rearview camera in addition to front and rear parking sensors to aide maneuvering in tight parking lots.
As with the supercharged V-8, the power from this V-6 is silky smooth. Throttle response is excellent. Jim assures me that the V-8 is faster, but this version is still plenty fast.
The more I drove it, the more I noticed the feeling of security that this vehicle imparts. The Range Rover eventually becomes an extension of the driver.
One interesting feature that improves fuel economy in city driving is stop/start. It stops the engine when you stop at a red light. This can be unnerving the first time, as you think the car has stalled. When you remove your foot from the brake, the engine restarts. This usually happens smoothly, but there’s occasionally a mild shudder.
As for its fuel saving potential, we averaged 18.3 gallons on the recommended premium fuel. This compares to 16.8 miles per gallon with the supercharged V-8. In all fairness, we had the V-8 in the summer. Cold weather, not to mention winter blend fuel, takes a toll on fuel economy, so in a direct comparison I suspect that we’d see an even better improvement.
One final note for shorter drivers and passengers: The Range Rover’s air suspension has an access mode. It lowers the vehicle two inches to make it easier for people to get in and out. Shorter drivers and passengers will appreciate the gesture. It certainly made me feel more welcome.
Engines: Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 Supercharged 5.0-liter V-8
HP: 340 510
Torque (lb/ft): 332 461
EPA: 17/23 13/19
Starts at: $83,545
Next week: Dodge Charger
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org