A weekend in the diesel-powered 2016 Ranger Rover HSE Td6 left me thinking that this Land Rover might be the best luxury SUV you can buy. It takes all the things you expect from a luxury vehicle of any sort -- high-end features, ridiculously comfortable interior, and a country-club name -- and combines it with something that today's high-end buyers find as fashionable as leather seats: fuel economy.

The interior is a feast for the senses. Your fingertips glide across soft leather and warm woods, punctuated by the cool metallic touch of the circular gear selector, audio and climate controls. There's a simple elegance to the layout, and a harmony of textures and colors on the dash, doors, and seats. The glass areas are all big, making this big SUV easy to drive in traffic, or off-road if you need to. Turn on the Meridian audio system for 825 watts of audio clarity. It even smells good inside, not because of a fancy perfume dispenser, but thanks to the soft leather on virtually every surface.

Off-road prowess

Lest you think this Land Rover is an on-road-only tenderfoot, make no mistake that Queen Elizabeth's official SUV has the off-road chops you'll need to ride out the apocalypse in style. The full-time four-wheel drive system includes a two-speed transfer case for those most difficult of off-road excursions, and the Terrain Response system lets you tailor how the system works to whatever is under the Range Rover's tires, be it snow, mud, sand, rocks, or pavement. The air suspension lets you raise or lower the ride height, and a ton of other tricks let you customize how the Range Rover will behave. We're guessing most drivers will just leave it in "Auto" and let the computers work it out for themselves.

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But this is all familiar territory for Range Rover SUVs. The luxury-plus-ruggedness equation has served the company well for the past several decades. But now add this in: Fuel economy, thanks to the new-for-2016 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel-burning V6 engine. It has all the acceleration you could want in a luxury SUV, offers up a quiet idle that's as smooth as the leather seats, and yet it delivered an observed 25 mpg in mixed driving. Getting 5,000 pounds of luxury SUV moving in a hurry is one thing; doing it with the fuel economy of a family sedan is remarkable.

Grace and pace

It all comes together with a grace you don't expect in such a capable off-road truck. A weekend day trip to play in the El Nino-provided snow in our local mountains was effortless. The adaptive cruise kept speeds steady, and the air suspension wafted across road imperfections. The steering was spot-on, and while the suspension's overall softness made it roll a bit more in corners than we'd prefer on mountain roads, nobody got carsick, and the overall sense was one of elegance. OK, we're not hugely fond of the infotainment system's touch-screen, which feels like a throwback to the days when Ford still owned the company (because in some ways, it is). But we made our peace with it, and it didn't distract so much that it ruined the driving experience.

It all feels expensive, and at a $105,725 as-tested price, it is. But this is one of the rare vehicles that justifies its six figure price tag. You get everything you want, can impress your friends and colleagues, and of course enjoy the splendors of a high-end luxury SUV. 


 

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