Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $84,900 (plus onroads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/450Nm 3.0 V6 supercharged petrol | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.0 l/100km | tested: 16.2 l/100km
Since experiencing the sublime 3.0-litre supercharged V6 in the Jaguar F-Type, we've been smitten with it. The power delivery, cracking exhaust and smooth-revving nature make it a real driving pleasure.
Rather than keep it 'cooped up' in a coupe, Jaguar has since fitted it to its XF and XJ sedans. Now, though, it has found its way into Land Rovers.
It joins the brilliant 3.0-litre V6 diesel and its 600Nm of torque in the Discovery range. That diesel makes light work of this seven-seat behemoth, on road, and off it.
The question then is whether the supercharged petrol V6 will cope with a 2.7-tonne offroad beast like the Discovery. And will its 450Nm be up to that task?
The cut and thrust of daily traffic should sort out the answer to that question. We spent a week behind the wheel both on-road and off it to see which V6 will best suit most drivers.
Quality: Since the update from the Discovery 3 to the Discovery 4, the big Landy's interior has matched its premium price tag.
Inside the latest Discovery (which is basically a Discovery 4.5 but without the numerical designation), it's simply a continuation of the same theme.
That means Range Rover-like presentation but in one very practical package.
The plastic quality is excellent, and it’s easy to clean. The fitment of interior parts is also very good, and the metal accents are top shelf. Our tester was optioned in piano black, which had a lustrous shine and resisted scratching.
Comfort: It's here that the Disco shines. Every seat in this seven-seater is bliss. It's covered in a durable hide, and the padding and long-distance comfort is top shelf.
This is one of the few cars in which three baby-seats can be placed in a single row. It's also one of the few cars in which full-size adults can occupy the third row with no complaints.
Legroom and headroom for the rearmost row (sixth and seventh seats) is nothing short of amazing, and is unmatched by anything else in the segment.
In fact, you could ignore its supreme capability when tacking the rough and buy it on its space alone. Which is what most people do.
But that would be to miss out on what makes Land Rovers the machines they are - off-road specialists.
Equipment: Our tester was the middle-spec Discovery SE, which is by far the most popular trim-level on sale in Australia. With all the included equipment, it's easy to see why.
As standard, the SE gets power folding mirrors (very handy off-road), electric front seats, dual-zone climate control (separate rear aircon is optional), cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and self-dimming rear-view mirror.
Also included is automatic headlights, headlamp washers, push-button start, rear-parking sensors and a load-space cover.
Storage: With so much space available, storage is plentiful.
Apart from the large glovebox at knee level, there's a smaller glovebox above, plus a small ledge to rest pens or similar on.
The centre console has a deep cubby-hole under the armrest, which can also be optioned as a mini-fridge. Cupholders are supplied for all three rows as well.
The door pockets are deep and wide, and each will take a water bottle standing up.
The third row is supplied with long panels with lidded storage bins along each side, which double as armrests.
Boot space is plentiful, especially with the rear seats stowed away - 1192 litres is one of the biggest in the business.
ON AND OFF ROAD
Driveability: Press the small start button on the dash and there’s a brief spin of the starter motor, followed by the V6 quietly kicking into life. Unlike the diesel Disco, this petrol motor is silent at idle.
The rotary gear-selector rises into the palm of your hand, and a quick flick to the right slots it into Drive. The electric park brake automatically comes off and you’re away.
Sure, the Discovery is a massive, heavy beast, but with 250kW and 450Nm available, the 3.0-litre acquits itself remarkably well.
It'll run from 0-100kmh in 8.1 seconds, but it can feel quicker than that, especially in roll-on acceleration.
For overtaking at highway speeds, the petrol Discovery is ridiculously smooth, quiet and responsive.
So, that’s a tick for its on-road performance. What about off-road though?
Land Rover’s trump-card is called Terrain Response. Press a button and you can call up specific settings for various terrain types. Sand, mud, rock-crawl, grass, gravel and snow - no matter what you’re tackling, the Disco has it covered.
Having tried rock and mud before (and with the Disco proving its mastery) it was time to try something different.
We decided to see if there were improvements made to the 'Sand' mode over previous models. Weighing just over 2.5-tonnes, the Disco’s mass is certainly working against it in soft conditions.
It’s prudent, then, to drop tyre pressures a little to help it along. Heading in on road pressures is asking for a few hours wasted behind a shovel instead of behind the wheel.
In this case, we chose to drop them to 25psi which gave us some room to move if necessary. Of course, the obligatory snatch-strap, gloves, shovel and compressor were brought along also.
The next step was as simple as choosing Sand on the Terrain Response panel. After that, Land Rover does all the work. Just point and shoot. And brake, of course.
It backs-off the stability control to allow plenty of wheelspin to keep the momentum going, but if it senses a slowing of forward movement under the same power (as in hitting a boggy patch), it will 'kick' one of the wheels by a quick, sharp stab on the brake.
This forces the car to jump slightly sideways and give more purchase on the soft ground.
It’s an ingenious solution, and it works: the result meant we never even looked like sinking to the axles. It would have to be very hungry powder to bog this technology down. (And we still had plenty of air left in the tyres to lower pressures further, should the need have arisen.)
So, no problems in these conditions. Beach runs will never be a chore in this car.
The only drawback is the thirst. Over a range of driving conditions, on highway, as well as off-road, we averaged 16.2 l/100km.
You'll do better if you stick to the highway and are not too enthusiastic around town.
Refinement: Being a petrol, refinement is understandably excellent. The Jaguar-sourced motor is free-spinning and even under load, there's no harshness.
It's quiet on the road and only at high speed is there any hint of wind noise from the large wing mirrors.
Ride and Handling: Understanding that this is a big car is key to how it's driven. Just looking at its dimensions tells you that approaching corners means dialling back the enthusiasm.
Do that and you will start to get a feel for what this car really is like.
While it does resist leaning over very well, its forte is in its amazing ride quality. Ai- suspended cars can have trouble with very small bumps, as they can’t react as quickly as coil springs. Not so the Discovery.
While very small judders can be felt a little, this really is one of the plushest off-roaders in the segment. And when off-road, it’s even better - no back-breaking journeys in the bush.
Braking: The Discovery uses disc brakes front and rear, like others in the segment. But due to its size it sports ventilated 360mm front discs and, unusually, ventilated 350mm rear discs.
Braking feel is excellent, with the pedal never feeling spongy nor is it overassisted.
ANCAP rating: ANCAP has not tested the Land Rover Discovery.
Safety features: Along with Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which adjusts stability and traction control levels for the chosen surface, the Discovery also hosts a complete suite of safety features.
There are eight airbags, ESC, ABS, brake assist, roll stability control, trailer sway control, reversing camera and parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: A standard three-year/100,000km warranty is included, with extended packages available.
Service costs: The Discovery’s intervals are 12-monthly (26,000) intervals. Contact your respective dealer for off-road service pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes-Benz GL 350 CDI ($129,990) - For a seven-seat German four-wheel-drive, the GL is hard to beat.
But it’s a heck of a lot more expensive and not as capable or comfortable. But Merc’s reliability could be the trump card here. (see GL reviews)
Toyota Prado VX ($77,990) - The default choice for a seven-seat SUV, the Prado has built its reputation on rock-solid dependability and good off-road chops.
It’s a lot more agricultural than the Disco, though, and the ride is nowhere near as nice. (see Prado reviews)
BMW X5 xDrive35i ($107,400) - Although not the most spacious seven-seater around, the X5’s driveability and quality is first-class.
The Discovery however offers way more ability in the rough, despite its cheaper entry price (see X5 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
So far this year, Land Rover has shifted over 2000 Discoverys in the Australian market. Just last month, it hauled in 18 percent of the segment.
After our week behind the wheel, we're not surprised.
With the old, scratchy V6 gone and the thirsty 5.0-litre V8 replaced by this creamy-smooth Jaguar engine, the Disco really has hit a sweet spot.
Of course, the diesel is the first choice - it offers the best resale value, more torque and uses far less fuel.
But if you don't mind the paying the extra money on fuel, and prefer the silkier and quieter characteristics of a petrol V6, this drivetrain combo really is a winner.
Yes, the Disco is big, brash and doesn’t handle quick direction changes without some body-roll. But its perfect ride, acres of space and supreme comfort make this a superior 'wagon'.
Throw in 3.5-tonne towing capacity, brilliant ability when heading into unknown territory, plus storage to spare, and the Discovery covers all the bases for the Australian family shopping at the upper end.
It may be getting long in the tooth, but Land Rover’s Discovery has saved the best ‘til last.