Imagine a house. It’s a beautiful house, perched on a corner lot in some bougie neighborhood with its many rooms outfitted from floorboards to crown moldings with Restoration Hardware furniture. It’s a grand place, except that a few times a month at completely random intervals, the doorbell rings while the lights flash on and off. Other times, the smoke alarms sound off for no reason whatsoever. Would the rest be worth it?
The Range Rover is like that house. Undeniably desirable and eminently versatile, the luxury SUV is as adept towing a race car or moving an apartment full of furnishings as it is wafting down the arteries of the country’s top-earning zip codes. Need a date-night chariot? Something in which to schlep dogs to the vet? One of our editors even threw a mean, one-eyed groundhog he trapped in his backyard, cage and all, into the cargo area to set free near our office. It surely was the most luxurious experience that woodland creature has ever had, and the Rover’s rubber cargo mat ensured that the smelly varmint’s brief ride didn’t rub off on the interior. More regularly, staffers road-tripped their families all over the country in it.
Due to its popularity, the Rover cleared 40,000 miles in just 54 weeks, a few months sooner than is our average for a long-term test. This diesel-powered example even averaged a nearly unbelievable 26 mpg. Inside and out, no matter what you looked at or touched, the Land Rover reaffirmed its superiority . . .
. . . Except for those Electronics
In our tainted-house metaphor, it’s the ones and zeros behind the Range Rover’s electronics that give us pause. Throughout the test, drivers and passengers were frustrated by finicky electronic snits, most of which centered on functions managed through the 8.0-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard.
The display’s pixelated graphics are more abacus than Apple, and its response to touch inputs is consistently inconsistent. Whether listening to satellite radio or Bluetooth audio, the displayed song details often fell behind the actual music playing by several tracks, sometimes freezing altogether, forever stuck showing one song as the audio for another continued on unabated. Worse was the wonky navigation behavior or total screen blackouts. Other Jaguar Land Rover products, such as our own long-term Jaguar XE sedan, have begun receiving a newer touchscreen setup with sharper graphics and supposedly better software. We’d say it couldn’t come soon enough to our Range Rover—it was added to this model for 2017—but only if JLR fixes that buggy, at-times-unresponsive system, too.
At just under 34,000 miles, the digital gauge cluster joined the touchscreen in boycotting functionality. The screen went dark with the Rover plodding down the highway at 80 mph—in the dark. A few minutes of dashboard swatting on our part brought critical readouts (such as the car’s speed) flickering back to life. Three thousand miles later, the same thing happened to a different driver. Electronic hiccups are one thing. Those that come and go, so that they don’t stick around long enough to be shown to a dealership technician during service visits, are worse. We’ve said it before: The Rover’s electronic issues would actually be better were they catastrophic failures. Then at least we could replace the components and hope for better.
Non-electronics-focused complaints were few. Some testers didn’t shine to the softly tuned air suspension’s allowance of body roll, brake dive, and squat under hard acceleration. Indeed, the tall, heavy Range Rover is no dynamic star. If you can deal with the sensation of sailing the high seas, the payoff is a quiet, comfortable ride quality.
There was the day that, despite the suspension performing just fine, the Range Rover nonetheless displayed a suspension-error message that sent us packing for the dealer. Our Rover’s chassis-control module was given an electronic update, and the air-spring silencer (a muffler for the valve that releases air from the compressor pump to decrease ride height) was replaced. The error message disappeared, and the work was covered under Land Rover’s warranty.
Oh Yeah, It’s a Diesel!
That we’re only now touching on the Rover’s diesel engine should be telling. Aside from an annoying low-speed accelerator delay, the turbocharged V-6 went largely unnoticed and provided good passing power once underway. It has more than enough torque to tow and haul people and their stuff, and it sips fuel on the highway more like a mouse than an elephant. From inside the car, the diesel is barely audible, its clatter indiscernible from that of many gasoline-fueled, direct-injected engines.
The Td6 engine’s emissions equipment is less praiseworthy. To clean up the diesel V-6’s gaseous byproducts, Land Rover equips it with a urea-injection aftertreatment system. Given its long, 16,000-mile service intervals, the Range Rover is all but guaranteed to need diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) additions to a tank under the hood between scheduled dealership visits. This is no problem for owners who heed several stages of dashboard warning messages that appear as the tank nears empty. Land Rover figures most owners will see the messages and bring their cars into their local dealers for a DEF top off. Easy peasy?
Not so fast. The warnings flash across the gauge cluster only briefly each time the engine is started and are easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. (We chronicled each warning in a separate test in which we ran the DEF tank completely dry to see what would happen.) Should the DEF run out, the computers prevent the engine from restarting until the fluid is replenished, to avoid running afoul of emissions regulations. Uh-oh!
This zero-sum result makes checking the fluid’s level critical, regardless of whether you end up going to the dealer or filling the DEF tank yourself. Land Rover makes the process neither intuitive nor obvious, as we explained in an earlier update. Whereas our diesel-powered long-term Nissan Titan XD pickup gives drivers an easy-to-read digital DEF gauge, the Rover forces owners to navigate a fiddly gauge-cluster menu that appears only when the vehicle is in its accessory power mode. Even then, the readout shows only miles to empty, not a more useful gallon figure, which would make it easier to gauge (pun intended) how much fluid to purchase and add to the tank.
Our diesel’s low-effort life on the open road kept its DEF consumption to just 23.2 gallons over 40,000 miles. This rate is well below Land Rover’s estimate that most owners will use 1.5 gallons per 2000 miles, or 30 gallons over 40,000 miles. A half-gallon bottle of the stuff costs about $14 from the Land Rover dealer, and generic brands cost less. At least the Rover required little else. The aforementioned suspension issue was resolved under warranty at 23,356 miles, and our two scheduled service visits came to $1183. Shortly before our test concluded, in late spring, late-night revelers in a pickup truck sideswiped the parked Range Rover’s right-rear quarter-panel. The hit-and-run tore off the corner of the bumper, shattered the taillight, and grooved the aluminum body aft of the wheel opening. A cool $3802 later (picked up by insurance), we had the Rover back in our lot, shiny and repaired, just in time for its departure.
Choosing either the Range Rover’s standard gas-fueled, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that is entirely acceptable and quicker—or the optional supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that is a notch or ten above acceptable—solves the DEF issue. Unfortunately, checking boxes on a Land Rover order sheet can’t fix the SUV’s electronic gremlins. We aren’t generalizing here. It isn’t an isolated problem. Nearly every Jaguar Land Rover product that passes through our parking lot suffers from similar touchscreen maladies and curious fritz-prone electronics. It is the only catch, the unavoidable blemish on the Range Rover’s dreamy aura. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that everyone’s favorite features, the tall seating position and huge windows on all sides, also make it easy to spot Land Rover dealerships.