2012 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 4 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large 4x4 SUV
Price: $68,900 (plus on-roads), $92,360 as tested
Fuel Economy: (claimed) 10.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy: (tested) 13.1 l/100km
The endless popularity of the SUV has seen the market awash with so-called ‘soft-roader’ all-wheel-drive wagons.
But it’s reassuring to see the class benchmarks are still built to handle the rough stuff. Like Land Rover’s Discovery 4.
There’s no surprise here: Land Rover knows a thing or two about building rugged go-anywhere four-wheel-drives - after all, it’s been at it for more than 60 years.
But because it’s also a smart looking bus, the square-jawed, broad-shouldered TD V6 ‘Disco’ looks quite at home in the suburbs.
We put the entry spec TDV6 Discovery 4 through its paces in both the bush and the ‘burbs to see how it stood up as a genuine dual-purpose wagon.
Quality: Climb up into the Discovery 4 and there’s little to offend. With the leather trim option, there is plenty of high-grade hide adorning the seats, door and dash.
Impressive real metal highlights, mixed with solid high-grade plastics and a durable soft-touch centre stack all contribute to a decidedly premium feel.
If it opens, slides, rotates or is otherwise intended to move, the action of the dials and compartments has a heavy-duty feel - there’s nothing rough or clunky, it’s all supremely solid. We found no sign of loose or rattling trims on test.
Comfort: Be it first, middle, or rear row, the interior of the Discovery 4 is plush and spacious. A high roof and theatre-style seating means plenty of headroom and a commanding view for all occupants.
In the middle and rear, seating is a little upright, but not uncomfortably so. The only dimension that’s tight is rear-row foot space. For stretching out with up to seven on board the big Land Rover is the equal of, if not better better than, some dedicated people-movers.
Equipment: In its standard form the Discovery 4 TDV6 includes cloth trim, multi-function trip computer, power windows and heated power mirrors, rear park assist, cruise control, auto wipers and headlights (including self levelling), leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel.
There's also 18-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking with alarm and an eight-speaker CD sound system including Bluetooth, aux-in ports for 3.5mm and USB jacks, MP3 and iPod compatibility.
Optional equipment as fitted to the car TMR tested includes dual screen rear seat entertainment with wireless headphones ($4100), HDD navigation, voice control and off road mapping ($3240), surround camera with front side and rear view cameras ($2860) third-row seats ($2500), powered front seats with arm rests ($2500), Harmon Kardon audio upgrade ($1750), privacy glass ($1100), active rear E-differential ($1060) power folding mirrors ($900), centre console cooling box ($900), Xenon headlamps ($750) metallic paint ($1800)
Storage: With multi-configurable folding seats, there’s a plethora of ways to configure the Discovery 4’s interior.
With all seats in place storage measures a relatively paltry 338 litres of available cargo volume. That extends to an impressive 1124 litres with the third row stashed away, itself not a simple task, but far from the hardest folding-seat system around.
From the rear door to the back of the front seats there’s an almost van-like 1950 litres on offer with a near-flat floor.
In the cabin, dual gloveboxes, deep door-pockets, a large centre console and additional small recesses for phones, wallets and keys mean storage is rarely in short supply.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Land Rover has an intimidating on-road presence; disguising its bulk is no easy task. Even with 440Nm of torque available at 1900rpm, the Discovery 4 can feel a little sedate pulling away from a standstill.
Once rolling though the scenario improves. The laggy nature of the engine is most noticeable in stop-start situations, but in flowing traffic or on the freeway the engine feels much more capable.
The 140kW of power that becomes available at 4000rpm, and the low down torque, gives it a healthy turn of speed for overtaking or pulling out of a corner.
Off Road: The Discovery 4 couldn’t be simpler to take off road: turn a knob to select the terrain type, adjust ride-height at the push of a button, select low-range the same way and you’re off.
On the centre-screen, the system will show where the front wheels are pointing, the vertical movement of each of the wheels and which differentials are locked (when fitted with locking diffs).
Or, change the setting, and the optional surround camera system lets you see what’s coming, how close to the edge you might be and what you’ve left behind.
That information is all well and good, but would count for nothing if the Discovery wasn’t truly capable. You get a sense it could climb a wall.
We’d point to the factory-fitted tyres as the weakest link in the chain, otherwise the strong torque, high clearance and rugged underbody should get the Discovery 4 just about anywhere you’d like to travel.
Refinement: Noise insulation is used to great effect in the Discovery 4; there’s just minimal hint of the diesel engine detectable at idle.
When at work, the engine can be heard, but it keeps its oil-burning secret hidden within a deep and not-unappealing thrum in the higher revs.
The six-speed automatic is a smooth unit. It seems a little slow to react at times, but the shifts are delivered with minimal intrusion making the Discovery 4 a sublime cruiser.
Suspension: The four wheel independent suspension can be adjusted through three different height-settings as part of the Terrain Response system.
Dynamically the system is no match for more road-biased SUVs - for handling and cornering - but is unmatched for ride comfort, both on the road and across jagged off-road terrain.
Braking: There’s a set of big powerful disc brakes at work, so braking performance is good.
There’s a long throw to the pedal travel, but the feel is quite good for precise adjustability.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars (Test result from 2004 Discovery 3 model)
Safety features: Dual front and side airbags and curtain airbags for first and second-row occupants; electronic aids include ESP, rollover stability-control, hill-descent control, trailer sway-control and electronic brakeforce distribution.
All seven seats feature headrests (adjustable in first and second rows) and three-point seat belts for all positions.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 km (six years anti-corrosion warranty)
Service costs: Service costs may vary, consult your Land Rover dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado GXL ($64,490) - Another great choice when it comes to serious off-road work, but the Prado’s turbo diesel engine lacks refinement compared to the ‘Disco’.
Inside a narrow interior means potential second row squabbles, but it does come standard with seven seats. (see Prado reviews)
Mercedes-Benz ML 250 ($81,400) - Despite a much higher price, the ML rewards with a generous equipment list and incredible power and torque figures from a four cylinder engine that uses roughly one-third less fuel.
Seating is strictly for five and venturing too far off road isn’t quite the ML’s forte. (see ML reviews)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland ($69,500) - Not only is the Grand Cherokee Overland stuffed to the gills with equipment, but it also promises to match the Discovery 4 in just about every off-road situation.
It’s secret is a simple to use Quadra-Trac II system (although not quite as fail-safe as Land Rover’s Terrain response); it also boasts more power and torque.
Although braked towing capacity is the same, the Grand Cherokee will have an easier time of it. (see Grand Cherokee reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Discovery 4, is, without doubt, a fine vehicle - comfortable on-road and immensely capable off it.
Its passenger accommodation betters that of some dedicated people movers and its ability to tackle rough terrain is uncompromised by its creature comforts.
In town it may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but this vehicle was arguably not designed to shine in the tight confines of the city. Give it an open highway or a muddy trail however and it will really impress.
Against newer competitors it struggles a little in the value-for-money stakes, but offers vault-like construction and ample room for the family.
Its lower ANCAP score is a result of poor pedestrian protection, and not to do with occupant protection issues. For the breadth of its abilities and the accommodation it provides, we’d recommend putting it high on your list.
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