LAND ROVER’S NEW DISCOVERY IS AS FAR REMOVED FROM A TRADITIONAL 4X4 AS YOU CAN GET, SO CAN IT STILL CUT IT IN THE BUSH?
OFTEN in the automotive world, less-sophisticated, lowercost designs are used to create more expensive upmarket models. Far less often the opposite is the case, but that’s exactly what’s behind this all-new Discovery, as it’s been developed from Land Rover’s premium platform as used in the current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. That platform – a high-tech aluminium monocoque with fully independent suspension – debuted just five years ago and came off the back of a huge investment by India’s Tata Motors, owners of Land Rover since 2008.
The key benefit of this 85 per cent aluminium monocoque, compared to the steel separate-chassis platform used with the Discovery 3 and 4, is the shedding of 480kg, which brings stronger performance, less fuel use, sharper dynamics and superior off-road ability. Included among the non-aluminium parts are steel suspension sub-frames, used for their strength and durability. Those sub-frames carry fully independent heightadjustable suspension (via air springs); although, base models come standard with non-adjustable steel coil springs. THE new Discovery comes – at this stage at least – with three diesels, two 2.0-litre Ingenium fours and the 3.0-litre V6. The V6, one of few carried-over parts from the Discovery 4, is slated to be replaced in a few years time by the new Ingenium in-line six.
In the meantime what we have here is the bi-turbo Sd4, which claims remarkable power and torque figures for a 2.0litre diesel, namely 177kw and 500Nm – compare that to the 2.8-litre Prado’s 130kw and 450Nm, or even the 200’s 200kw and 650Nm. Looking at this another way, the 200’s 4.5-litre V8 cranked-up to an identical state of tune as the Discovery’s twolitre four would produce 395kw and 1116Nm.
All that sounds good on paper, but how does it play out on the road. Well, in a word: astonishing. On the road this just doesn’t feel like a four-cylinder design and it certainly doesn’t perform like a four-cylinder that’s asked to power a large 4x4 wagon. Pedal to the metal it clearly out-performs the Prado and gives nothing away to the 200 except on initial urge. The fact the Discovery – although being close to the size of the 200 – is a little lighter than the Prado and considerably lighter than the 200 is a key factor here, while the Discovery also gains a benefit from the relatively close ratios of its eight-speed automatic.
When pushed the Sd4 is quite a revvy engine, but in general driving it is low-revving, relaxed and effortless thanks to its 500Nm being on tap at just 1500rpm. The Sd4 is also the smoothest, quietest and most refined engine here and, even when revved hard, is neither noisy nor harsh. It also proved the most economical of the three engines on the road, surprisingly even better than the consistently frugal 2.8 in the Prado. In another win, the Discovery’s eight-speed automatic shifts more smoothly than the two Toyota six-speeders and is more proactive in terms of auto downshifts to assist in descent braking.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
THE Discovery’s trim weight, as well as its fully independent suspension, plays dividends with its on-road dynamics. On tight, winding roads it’s a far more agile and sporty drive than either of the two Toyotas, especially the 200, while the electric power steering is very light at parking speeds but has plenty of feel at highway speeds. At higher speeds on rough roads the Discovery is also more stable than the two rear live-axle Toyotas.
What the Discovery can’t do is match either Toyota for ride quality, especially on sharper bumps. The 20s fitted to the HSE wouldn’t help here and no doubt the Discovery would be more comfortable on bumpy back roads with the narrower and taller 19s fitted to the S and SE models. That’s certainly the case with the base-spec Range Rover Sport that uses the same core platform and rides on identical-spec 19s.
FULLY independent suspension usually doesn’t offer travel to be effective off-road, but that’s not the case with the Discovery. As we have found previously with the RRS, this platform offers the sort of wheel travel you’d expect of a good live-axle 4x4. In this company it did everything the 200 did and generally outpointed the Prado in the gnarly stuff; although, our test HSE was fitted with the optional rear auto-locking diff, which makes a significant difference in extreme conditions.
In this company, the Discovery’s height adjustable suspension is also significant as it provides more clearance, deeper wading and superior approach, ramp-over and departures angles than either Toyota. On the downside, the Discovery’s ride deteriorates when the suspension is jacked up, a predictable and unavoidable outcome from the reduction in droop travel on the higher suspension settings.
The new Discovery’s lighter weight is a bonus on sand, feeling far better than the Discovery 3 and 4 and a match for the 200.
CABIN, ACCOMMODATION AND SAFETY
THE new Discovery’s cabin has lost the notably airy and spacious feel of the Discovery 3 and 4 and feels more closed in. It’s still a big, long cabin, but it’s not as tall. In this company it still feels bigger than the Prado and close to the 200 in size.
Up front the driver is treated to the best driving position here, and the second row seat is notably more spacious than the Prado and only a bit tighter than the 200 for three adults. The Discovery has the best third row and the only one that is really comfortable for two tall adults. All Discovery models have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and advanced safety features such as autonomous braking are either standard or optional across the entire range.
AS WITH the Discovery 3 and 4, this new Discovery is let down by its meagre fuel capacity, less than half that of the Prado. The only saving grace is that it’s good on fuel. Likewise, this new Discovery carries over the legacy of the less-than-ideal wheel and tyre spec of the Discovery 4; although, it’s better than before. For any given wheel size there’s a one-size-taller tyre and a nominal 12.5mm more sidewall.
More positive is the Discovery’s carrying and towing capacities. It has the highest payload here and is also rated to tow 3500kg, the same as the 200; although, anyone wishing to tow maximum loads would no doubt be better served by the optional 3.0-litre V6.
The new Discovery’s lighter weight is a bonus on sand