Land Rover North America (LRNA) will add two diesel-powered Range Rovers and two diesel Freelanders to its test fleet, Automotive News reported, citing LRNA spokesman Bill Baker.

The vehicles will be used to demonstrate how well modern common-rail diesel engines perform compared with older diesels, Baker told the trade weekly.

According to the report, politicians, Ford employees and journalists will be able to drive the vehicles but the test does not mean Land Rover plans to offer diesels in US models.

DaimlerChrysler last November said it would begin test-marketing diesel versions of the Jeep Liberty (Cherokee) in the US from 2004. It currently makes and exports diesels, predominantly to Europe.

Land Rover’s Range Rover and Freelander both have engines bought-in from former owner BMW. Future models are expected to have newly designed Ford diesels developed by a joint venture with France’s PSA Group.

Citing Baker, Automotive News said the [three-litre, turbocharged straight-six] Range Rover diesel gets 22 mpg highway, compared with 14 mpg for the petrol-powered model, while the [two-litre, four-cylinder turbo] Freelander diesel engine gets about 30 mpg highway, compared with about 20 mpg for the petrol version.

Although 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol versions are built for other markets, LRNA sells only 2.5-litre V6 petrol models in the US. Their ‘K-series’ engines come from MG Rover’s Powertrain Limited plant in the UK.