UP­PER CLASS

The Dis­cov­ery SDV6 is unique here thanks to V6 bi-turbo-diesel, eight-speed au­to­matic and fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion.

4 x 4 Australia - - Test -

WHAT you see here is a Dis­cov­ery SDV6. More specif­i­cally, a Dis­cov­ery SDV6 SE, the lower of the SDV6 spec­i­fi­ca­tions, which starts at $84,880. That’s an $8K jump on the Ever­est Ti­ta­nium, but on par with the Prado Kakadu.

The cur­rent Dis­cov­ery is heav­ily based on the Dis­cov­ery 3, so is in ef­fect the end-prod­uct of 13 years of con­tin­ual evo­lu­tion and is now close to the end of its prod­uct life.

An all-new, con­sid­er­ably lighter Dis­cov­ery built on an alu­minium mono­coque, as per the cur­rent Range Rover and RR Sport, should be here midto-late 2017 to re­place the cur­rent (and heavy) steel sep­a­rate-chas­sis model.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

THE SDV6 des­ig­na­tion means this Dis­cov­ery has the more pow­er­ful of the two bi-turbo V6 diesel en­gines, which claims 183kw and 600Nm. The less ex­pen­sive TDV6 de­vel­ops 155kw and 520Nm, but is me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal to the SDV6 – the dif­fer­ence be­ing in the tun­ing soft­ware.

De­spite the SDV6 be­ing the heav­i­est ve­hi­cle here – 150kg more than the al­ready heavy Ti­ta­nium – its power and torque fig­ures eas­ily out­mus­cle the Ti­ta­nium’s 143kw/470nm and the Kakadu’s mod­est 130kw/450nm.

The SDV6 does this off the back of hav­ing two tur­bos rather than the sin­gle­turbo ar­range­ments of the Ti­ta­nium and the Kakadu. The SDV6’S two tur­bos are of a dif­fer­ent size and type, with a larger vari­able-vane unit and a smaller fixed­vane unit work­ing to­gether to op­ti­mise per­for­mance. The larger turbo clev­erly takes care of most of the driv­ing du­ties, while the smaller turbo only joins to as­sist the main turbo on wider throt­tle open­ings when top-end power is re­quired.

The SDV6 backs up the strong­est per­for­mance here with the best re­fine­ment, some­thing en­hanced by its smooth and very smart eight-speed ZF gear­box. It’s clearly the best gear­box of the three by a no­tice­able mar­gin.

The only down­side is that the SDV6 is also the thirsti­est of the three, some­thing

that’s in­evitable given it is the big­gest, heav­i­est and most pow­er­ful ve­hi­cle here. Mind you, it’s not far be­hind the Ti­ta­nium; al­though, like the Ford, it has a too-small fuel tank for re­mote-area driv­ing.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

THE Dis­cov­ery may be the heav­i­est ve­hi­cle in this com­pany, but it’s also the only one with fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion. On tight wind­ing roads the Dis­cov­ery’s hefty weight makes its pres­ence felt most no­tice­ably, while the fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion does its best work through bumpy cor­ners.

On a smooth road the Dis­cov­ery can’t match the sportier feel of the Ti­ta­nium, but other­wise it’s the best all-round­han­dling ve­hi­cle of this three. Part of its ad­van­tage is due to its lower on-road ride, some­thing it can get away with as its air-spring sus­pen­sion can be sig­nif­i­cantly jacked up for off-road use – un­like the Ti­ta­nium (fixed-height sus­pen­sion) and the Kakadu (which only has a small height ad­just­ment at the rear).

The SDV6’S rel­a­tively low-pro­file 255/55R19 tyres no doubt help to sharpen its pre­cise steer­ing, but they also add a some­what harsh edge to the ride qual­ity at lower speeds on rough roads. This is the only blot on the Dis­cov­ery’s ride, which is gen­er­ally bet­ter than the Ti­ta­nium’s but not quite up to the plush­ness of the Kakadu’s.

OFF-ROAD

THE height-ad­justable sus­pen­sion is one of the SDV6’S ma­jor off-road ad­van­tages here. Jacked up for off-road use, it sits a good deal higher than the other two. The neg­a­tive side of this is that ride qual­ity isn’t as com­pli­ant as it is on the lower set­tings, given the in­creased ten­dency for the sus­pen­sion to top out.

The Dis­cov­ery has the smartest and most ef­fec­tive 4x4 sys­tem, at least

When fit­ted with the op­tional rear locker, the Disco has the smartest and most ef­fec­tive 4x4 sys­tem

when it’s fit­ted with the $1060 op­tional rear locker, which isn’t stan­dard on any Dis­cov­ery – top-spec HSE mod­els in­cluded. The locker works won­ders for the SDV6 off-road, es­pe­cially on rut­ted and bro­ken ground where wheel travel be­comes an is­sue. Best of all, the locker doesn’t re­quire driver switch­ing and is fully in­te­grated with the other chas­sis con­trol sys­tems, and once en­gaged it keeps the elec­tronic trac­tion ac­tive on the front axle.

The Dis­cov­ery’s other off-road trump card is the vi­sion from the driver’s seat, which is way bet­ter than the Ti­ta­nium and no­tice­ably bet­ter than the Kakadu.

CABIN AND AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

THE Dis­cov­ery’s cabin is the big­gest and most ver­sa­tile here thanks to the fact that it has the only third row seats suit­able for larger adults, and that all the seats fold in­di­vid­u­ally and dead-flat for mul­ti­ple cargo/seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions.

The SDV6 has a sup­port­ive driver’s seat, ad­justable arm­rests, and the pre­vi­ously men­tioned good vi­sion. While it feels lux­u­ri­ous, thanks in part to its leather seats, the stan­dard equip­ment is poor com­pared to the Ti­ta­nium and the Kakadu. Not even sat­nav is stan­dard in the SE, al­though it is avail­able as an op­tion.

PRACTICALITIES

AS EVER, the weak­ness of the Dis­cov­ery is in the wheel and tyre spec. The stan­dard high-speed-rated 255/55R19s are too vul­ner­a­ble to of­froad da­m­age, while af­ter­mar­ket tyre choice is still lim­ited.

The 82.3-litre fuel ca­pac­ity is also too small, but rel­a­tively eas­ily at­tended to via af­ter­mar­ket en­hance­ment, which is good across the board for the Dis­cov­ery.

At 3500kg the Dis­cov­ery’s max­i­mum tow rat­ing is the best here, while its 600kg pay­load is sim­i­lar to the Ti­ta­nium’s and well ahead of the Kakadu’s.

LAND ROVER

DIS­COV­ERY SDV6 $84,880

With Disco’s sus­pen­sion jacked up, ob­sta­cles don’t stand a chance.

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