Land Rover Dis­cov­ery

The new Disco dances bet­ter in the Bush than looks might sug­gest

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS MATT W OOD

Ihave to kick this one off with a dis­claimer. I’m prob­a­bly not the best per­son to re­view the re­cently launched Land Rover Dis­cov­ery. Why? Be­cause I’m an old Land Rover nut. Yes, I’m one of those an­noy­ing peo­ple who still haven’t stopped whin­ing about the demise of the De­fender.

For peo­ple like me, the Land Rover badge is steeped in Camel Tro­phy images of De­fend­ers and Dis­cov­er­ies ford­ing in­sanely deep jun­gle rivers. Or trail­ing a dust plume into the sa­van­nah sky. An evoca­tive slab-sided bush truck that’s all bars and brush wires.

The prob­lem with this ro­man­tic no­tion is just that. It’s all ro­mance and lit­tle sub­stance. And it does ne­glect to re­call some­times trou­bling re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues and some­what ques­tion­able er­gonomics. But re­ally, I prob­a­bly just read too many Wil­bur Smith nov­els when I was a kid.

So it was some­what of a chal­lenge to push all of this aside when climb­ing be­hind the wheel of this gleam­ing black Disco and see it for what it re­ally is. Tata’s buy­out of Jaguar Land Rover nearly a decade ago has seen much-needed in­vest­ment in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment – some­thing that has been gath­er­ing pace ever since.

And it’s hard to ar­gue against that! So, maybe to ap­pease jaded old lud­dites like me, the Disco is cov­ered in lit­tle styling cues that re­flect Land Rover’s for­mi­da­ble off-road her­itage. The steer­ing wheel cen­tre, for ex­am­ple, em­u­lates the shape of the old De­fender’s dash­board.

The mir­ror-mounted down­lights not only pre­vent you from alight­ing into a fresh cow pat or onto a sleep­ing taipan, they also project lit­tle Land Rover lo­gos onto the ground. Which kinda makes it all feel pretty spe­cial for an LR fan­boy like me.


The new Disco comes with plenty of sur­prises. For a start, it’s pow­ered by what seems like a tiny 2-litre, 4-cylin­der turbo-diesel from JLR’s In­ge­nium en­gine fam­ily. This is the mid-range en­gine op­tion. The en­try-level TD4 makes 132kW (165hp)/430Nm while the top-spec 3-litre V6 makes 190kW (255hp) and 600Nm. The TD4 is also avail­able as a 2-wheel drive.

What the SD4 en­gine lacks in stature it makes up for in grunt, 177kW (237hp) at 4000rpm and 500Nm at 1500rpm. Be­hind that sits an 8-speed dual- clutch au­to­mated trans­mis­sion. The down­sized power plant is also re­ported to be fru­gal with a claimed thirst of just 6.2L/ 100km. Not too shabby for a truck that tips the scales at 2184kg at the kerb. The Dis­cov­ery SD4 is also rated to tow a braked load of 3500kg, though TD4 mod­els are rated at 3000kg.

What I wanted to know when grab­bing the keys to the SD4 HSE was whether it was now a soft-road­ing SUV with a Landy badge or whether it had the abil­ity to back up its badge cred­i­bil­ity. This HSE has been op­tioned up with some ex­tra fruit, in­clud­ing 20-inch spoked al­loy wheels, 16-way ad­justable leather seats, a sun­roof, DAB au­dio and seat­ing for seven.

“The Disco is cov­ered in lit­tle styling cues that re­flect Land Rover’s for­mi­da­ble off-road her­itage”


Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude wood fin­ish on the dash, a dual-range 4x4 sys­tem with air-sus­pen­sion and a touch­screen mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem with nav­i­ga­tion. Three-zone cli­mate con­trol, auto lev­el­ling and washer- equipped LED head­lights are also stan­dard equip­ment. No­tably for those that leave the city be­hind, the Dis­cov­ery also gets a full- sized spare wheel.

Tick­ing all those op­tion boxes means that this shiny black fourby will set you back $118,275.00 be­fore on roads. With­out op­tions, the SD4 will cost you $ 96,950.

All of which places the Disco firmly in high-spec 200 Se­ries Land­Cruiser ter­ri­tory. Is that a fair com­par­i­son?

I wanted to know how the smooth-styled Landy coped away from the city lights and shop­ping cen­tres, a fair call for a ve­hi­cle with her­itage steeped in off-road cred­i­bil­ity.

From the out­side, the Disco looks ev­ery bit the ur­ban as­sault ve­hi­cle. The styling is a lit­tle non­de­script yet there are sub­tleties that still speak of Disco evo­lu­tion, from the slight kick up in the roofline to the cutouts and win­dow shaped in the (elec­tronic) rear tail­gate. Ini­tial im­pres­sions were lean­ing to­ward the ur­ban rather than the ru­ral.


In­side does have a pres­tige feel. From the trans­mis­sion se­lec­tion dial that smoothly raises from the con­sole when you press the ignition but­ton, to the smat­ter­ing of wood grain on the dash, and, of course, the cow skin seats add to that feel. You def­i­nitely feel as though you’re driv­ing a ve­hi­cle from the Range Rover fam­ily. It makes you feel spe­cial.

It feels nim­ble on the road too. While it’s hardly a feath­er­weight at over two tonnes,

85 per cent of the Disco’s mono­coque body is alu­minium. This shows when on the move – it’s cer­tainly no slouch. Re­gard­less of weight, this is still a siz­able truck. The au­to­mated trans­mis­sion, how­ever, like many dual-clutch units, can be a lit­tle in­de­ci­sive and it shifts hard when cold.


On-road han­dling, though, wasn’t a strong point. Steer­ing and cor­ner­ing feels quite numb. There’s a sense of dis­con­nect from the driver’s seat. This is even still ap­par­ent out on the high­way; the Dis­cov­ery feels a bit dis­en­gaged. Com­pe­tent but re­mote.

But while its styling may sug­gest a ve­hi­cle more at home in the sub­urbs, it wasn’t un­til we were in the bush that this car re­ally started to shine. It’s a great thing off road.

That sense of dis­con­nect on the black­top soon be­comes en­gag­ing once the dirt roads start. Power de­liv­ery from the diesel four-pot is peaky but pre­dictable.

But once the more gnarly lumps and bumps start, Land Rover’s ex­cel­lent Ter­rain Re­sponse 2 sys­tem comes into play. Se­lect low range and the Disco raises it­self to its full height on air sus­pen­sion. Point it at a de­cent ob­sta­cle and it clam­bers over with aplomb. On steep down­hill sec­tions, the hill-de­scent con­trol comes into play, keep­ing the Landy straight and com­posed.


While the en­gine is quite revvy in na­ture, peak torque from 1500rpm saves you from wring­ing its neck.

This off-road abil­ity may be a hall­mark of the Land Rover badge but it’s at odds with the styling and feel of the car on road. It has a fi­nesse in the dirt that is quite un­ex­pected.

With some pretty 20-inch al­loy wheels fit­ted, we didn’t get too car­ried away in the bush. How­ever, suf­fice to say I came away im­pressed. What the Disco lacks in on-road en­gage­ment it does make up for in off-road abil­ity. Not bad for a seven-seater wagon trimmed in leather with a 10-speaker 380-watt stereo sys­tem. But, then again, con­sid­er­ing the ask­ing price, it’s a fair cop to ex­pect the best of both worlds.

Chances are most Dis­cov­er­ies will rarely leave the city lights be­hind. And the op­tion of 2-wheel drive for some mod­els is telling.


As bush trans­port, some may be scep­ti­cal. The no­tion of ditch­ing a lad­der-chas­sis 4x4 wagon may be a step too far for some. How­ever, the bush is where the Dis­cov­ery ac­tu­ally comes into its own. It’s pretty fru­gal too, with this HSE re­turn­ing a fuel av­er­age of 8.5L/100km over var­ied roads and ter­rain.

To an old-school Land Rover fan, the Dis­cov­ery cer­tainly sur­prised in the rough stuff. On the open road, how­ever, it lacks the fi­nesse that one would ex­pect from the brand and the price bracket.

“While its styling may sug­gest a ve­hi­cle more at home in the sub­urbs, it wasn’t un­til we were in the bush that this car re­ally started to shine”

Top: Styling is a bit bland but there are lit­tle Land Rover styling cues dot­ted around the new shape

Above: Third-row seat­ing is a $3400 op­tion. The seats fold flat elec­tron­i­cally

Above: The in­clu­sion of a full-sized spare wheel is an im­por­tant one for those who ven­ture into the back blocks on a reg­u­lar ba­sis

Be­low: It’s a big wagon, both on the out­side and the in­side

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