COMPARO: LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 4 versus NISSAN PATROL
Photography: Jan Glovac
Vehicle Style: Upper Large SUV
Land Rover Discovery 4
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Despite what you might see outside school gates, four-wheel-drives actually do have purposes other than shuffling kids around. Of course, we’re talking proper 4WDs here.
You know, good ground clearance, low-range gearing, masses of torque – the real work units.
For buyers looking for a real off-roader, one you can take into the bush every other weekend, or even for the round-Australia trip, we’ve pitted two evenly-priced vehicles against each other to determine where you’re best to place your dosh.
With each priced similarly at just under $100K, and each with seven seats and matched at 550Nm of torque, they’re perfect sparring partners. Of course, one is a diesel V6 - the Disco - the other has a thumping petrol V8 under the bonnet.
It's 'a given' the Discovery will win on fuel economy, but that's just one part of the heavy-duty equation. So don't discount the Patrol just yet.
The ring for this match-up was a private farm which had narrow tracks, mud, rocks, dirt, scrub, hills and gravel. Plus a long highway drive to get there.
Let the battle begin.
Quality: Depending on whether you prefer a modern-industrial look or a more-traditional leather and wood presentation will guide your choice on which wins here.
For some, the Discovery can look a little plasticky, though the plastics are high grade. The leather is coarse but it’s more resistant to scratching. The metal accents also look very smart.
The Patrol’s leather is definitely smoother and the woodgrain is of a high standard, but the ruched door trims look out-of-place.
Also, some of the chrome trimming around the All-Mode 4x4 dial creaks when the surrounding buttons are pressed, cheapening the feel somewhat.
Comfort: Given the size of each car, you’d think the gargantuan Patrol would romp it in. But Nissan’s priority has been to give masses of space to rows one and two with little regard for the third.
Nissan’s fold and tumble mechanism makes accessing the third-row easier, however legroom there is appalling for a vehicle of this size.
The Discovery, however, can seat adults reasonably comfortably in its third row with deep footwells and excellent legroom.
The third row of the Disco is without doubt the best of any seven-seat SUV.
The Patrol however has the edge for sumptuous feel - its seat-padding is much softer than the more utilitarian-feeling Discovery.
Equipment: Both cars feature climate-control for the second row and plenty of vents for the third. Both have push-button start, powered front seats, cruise control, colour touch-screen, plenty of 12V outlets – all the stuff you’d expect.
But the Patrol misses out on sat-nav and Bluetooth audio streaming, a major omission on a car costing over $90K.
Storage: Both cars are evenly matched in terms of oddment storage, but the Patrol has the bigger boot. At 1490litres versus 1192litres, it’s quite a booty.
That said, loading it is an issue, with the back-end so high that lifting heavy items into the boot can be a challenge. The Disco’s 'access mode' lowers the suspension so loading into the split tailgate is a cinch.
ON AND OFF THE ROAD
Around town, you’ll notice an immediate difference between these two – the Patrol is much, much bigger.
While the Discovery can be wheeled into a parking spot with ease, the Patrol generally needs a couple of attempts due to its longer wheelbase and larger turning circle. Its size also presented an issue off-road.
If it’s aural pleasure you’re after however, the unbelievably smooth V8 note from the Patrol easily outdoes the gravelly V6 timbre of the Disco. That said, there’s little in the way of vibration from either, though on startup the Patrol has the edge.
The steering on the Disco is a lot heavier, which is better on country roads, but a fraction too meaty for parking. By contrast, the Patrol’s lightness also deletes feel and has an unusual 'springy' feel when close to dead-centre.
At low and middling speeds, the ride quality in both cars is very similar; slightly lumpy without being crashy. On the highway though, the Discovery’s air-suspension provides a more comfortable ride.
While both cars’ initial compliance was the same – hard-edged bumps can still be felt – on smoother undulations the Patrol feels stiffer, while the Disco is more relaxed.
But on washed-out gravel tracks, the Patrol has a slight edge. Equipped with springs, rather than the airbags of the Disco, it responds more quickly.
That said, the Discovery equals the Patrol for off-road ride-comfort, and proved the more competent on heavy-duty tracks.
That 5.6-litre V8 puts 298kW of power on tap with fantastic throttle response. Also, with tall-profile tyres which bag-out easily, it can power in and out of sandy hollows and boggy holes with ease.
Not that the Discovery struggles, it just needs to be driven more carefully to build the momentum to power through the deeper patches.
The Disco comes with 'sand launch control' which helps when setting off. That said, our experience suggests it works better in sand with all electronic aids off.
It’s here that the major issue of the Patrol rears its head – the car’s size.
On tracks which get progressively narrower, the Patrol will have you wincing as branches scrape the bodywork. Even with the mirrors folded, it’s a full two-metres wide.
The tracks were largely clay, but wet underneath with plenty of large rocks and overgrown grassy sections; perfect for testing out the traction control systems in both.
The Patrol has an All-Mode 4x4 switch which can changes between sand, snow, rock and on-road modes. The Discovery counters with its Terrain Response which has sand, grass-gravel-snow, mud-ruts and rock-crawl modes.
The Patrol’s ground clearance is an impressive 283mm, but the Discovery betters it, climbing to 310mm at its highest setting.
Climbing the steeper sections, it’s immediately obvious that the Discovery relies a lot more on its traction control than the Patrol.
While it may seem like the Patrol has more mechanical grip, it also benefits from a locking rear diff. With that switched off, it utilises its ESC to help it climb.
The two in fact have extremely similar capabilities and are very closely matched for climbing ability. Both reached the same point up the steep muddy hill before grinding to a halt.
(Sure, optioning the Discovery with a locking diff ($1100) would have seen it make the climb.)
Both vehicles, however, suffered from brake fade after repeated reliance on their ESC systems.
When off-roading, the lack of air-flow means the brakes retain more heat in the pads. And, if continuously activated, the ESC system will eventually cause the brakes to fade.
This reduces the effectiveness of the ESC as well as affecting the hill-descent control.
While the Disco reacts instantly, clamping and releasing quietly dependent on slip, the Patrol’s brakes sound like a slow-motion machine gun: bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. The Land Rover’s hill descent is certainly superior.
So, both very capable offroad, but with the edge going to the Discovery.
Fuel consumption is what really splits these tow cars however. On our jaunt with both vehicles driven in the same conditions, at the same time and at the same speeds (including off-road), the Patrol used 45 litres of fuel.
By contrast, the Discovery 4 sipped its diesel, using only 21 litres.
ANCAP rating: Neither vehicle has been ANCAP-tested, and only the Land Rover’s predecessor, the Discovery 3 was tested by EuroNCAP, receiving a 4-Star rating.
Safety features: Discovery: ESC, ABS, Eight airbags, roll stability control, trailer sway control, reversing camera with parking sensors. Patrol: ESC, ABS, six airbags, third row has one child-seat anchor point, reversing camera with parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Both vehicles carry a standard three-year/100,000km warranty with extended packages available.
Service costs: The Patrol’s services are done at six-monthly (10,000km) intervals. The Discovery’s intervals are 12-monthly (26,000) intervals. Contact your respective dealer for off-road service pricing.
Evenly matched for performance off-road, which of these vehicles you would choose will likely come down to your priorities as a buyer.
They're also equally-matched if you plan to put them to work with a van or horse-float hitched behind: both vehicles have a 750kg unbraked and 3500kg braked towing capacity – the maximum in their respective categories.
Drill down into the specs however, and the Patrol requires you to reduce weight slightly to achieve a 350kg towball downforce-rating, whereas the Discovery will take the full 3500kg with 350kg of towball weight.
The Discovery is also better-specced, with an excellent sat-nav and Bluetooth streaming as standard (strangely omitted as standard features in this model Patrol).
Throw in far better fuel economy from the diesel-engined Discovery, a far more usable third row, better stability control and a more compliant ride, and the Land Rover is our pick for the vehicle to get away from it all.
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