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Bracket creep. It’s a term used by finance types to signify the often unintentional shift from one tax bracket to another. In the context of cars, the meaning is quite similar.

For years we have seen mainstream brands pushing ever more premium offerings, which in turn attract more premium pricing. Once thoroughly blue-collar brands creeping into more white-collar territory, where the peak of the ‘everyday’ matches price with base of ‘prestige’.

Our example sees the new 2016 Ford Everest Titanium face up against the venerable Land Rover Discovery 4 SDV6 SE.

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Before Everest, the most expensive Ford SUV you could buy was the $56,740 (all prices are noted before options and on-road costs) Territory Titanium. The new $76,990 Everest Titanium eclipses that by some 35 percent, or around $20,000.

Even more thought provoking is that the entry-level Land Rover Discovery comes in at $68,940 – more than $8,000 less than the Ford.

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In the interest of closest price and specification parity though, our test car is the $84,040 mid-spec SDV6. Which, to keep the maths going, is about $7,000 or 9 percent more than the blue oval.

Both then, are off-road capable, urban friendly, seven seat, luxury SUVs. Both cars feature diesel engines, automatic transmissions and a host of comfort and convenience features.

Make sense? Let’s get started!

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Design

Now before Land Rover fans spit out their chardonnay at the mere prospect of this test, the relationship between the cars is closer than you think.

At the next Ford-Land Rover family reunion, that crazy uncle on your mum’s side will remind everyone of when Ford owned Land Rover between 2000 and 2008, and when during that union, the Discovery 3 was born.

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The Disco 4 (launched in 2009) as we see it today is still essentially an evolution of the older model and many of those old Ford parts-bin elements are still present. The window and mirror switches can even be seen on a variety of other vehicles developed during the FoMoCo era, including Jaguar and Volvo.

Big, boxy and unmissable, the Discovery has a warranted presence on the road. Our car in Loire Blue ($1,800 option) still looks imposing and modern despite the overall shape being over 12 years old.

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Fitted with adaptive front headlights ($1,800 option) which include the signature LED strip running lamps, the Disco has a much more traditional SUV demeanour and dimensions. It is 193mm wider than the Ford, and 50mm taller thanks to the trademark two-stage roof level.

A big glass house, including the ‘kinked’ rear window offers excellent visibility and further completes the Discovery’s unique look. Our car also features an optional sunroof ($3,860) and rides on standard 19-inch wheels.

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In contrast, the Australian designed Everest looks just different enough from its Ford Ranger cousin that you forget the ute forms the engineering basis of the SUV. The LED running lights and tail lamps here are standard equipment

The Everest, in Sunset Red ($500 option) hides its size well, and is actually 63mm longer than the Land Rover. It’s a modern looking vehicle, and feels very much part of the global Ford truck family, thanks to the giant chrome grille up front.

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The higher bonnet line, tapered treatment of the side windows and standard 20-inch wheels create the illusion of a more compact and stocky, yet tough car.

A sunroof is standard on the Everest Titanium, as are the side steps. Curiously there is a near-identical vent on the front fender of both cars; form and function?

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Each car could look at home on Bourke Street as well as it could out the back of Bourke itself but perhaps it’s the wider stance and no-nonsense ‘rectangle’ statement made by the Discovery that puts it in front at this point.

Price and Equipment

As is becoming apparent already, the Everest comes fully loaded for its $78k price tag. Heated and electric leather seats, DAB radio, panoramic sunroof, and adaptive cruise control are all standard items.

The only options are metallic paints (a choice of eight colours are available) and a tow pack.

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It’s not perfect though, I’m not sure too many other $80-thousand dollar cars can claim to require a key to start!

For $84k the Disco is well featured with satellite navigation and electric leather seats as standard equipment, but it misses out on much of the more modern gadgets that are included on the Ford.

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Driver assists, surround view cameras, even a water-fording sensor are all available but all optional. The personalisation list is suitably long and distinguished, and to include the functions that the Everest has fitted would add an extra $16,000 to the bottom line.

Price parity then goes out the window, so the Ford takes the value prize.

Interior

Being the top-specification of a cheaper car as opposed to the lower-specification of a more expensive one is never more telling than on the inside.

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While the Everest has lots of fun buttons, the materials and finish betray its more conservative origins. The embossed panel above the glovebox in particular has a very hollow sounding knock to it.

The seats are comfortable and there is good storage, but the eight-inch touchscreen is prone to glare and the stitching on the dashboard top looks a bit cheap.

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Rear passenger space is excellent, and the inclusion of air-conditioning controls as well as a 230-volt power socket are supremely convenient touches. The second row is split 60:40 but the larger division is curb-side, making it less than ideal for passengers to climb into the third row.

While the seats stow and open at the touch of a button, the third row space is strictly for smaller passengers. There are cup holders back there, and vision is still good despite the tapering roofline.

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Under the powered tailgate, the Everest has a 450-litre boot with the third row erect, or 1050-litres with it stowed. For convenience in shopping carparks, the tailgate doesn’t open to an extreme height – but watch your noggin if you are over six-foot as you will need to duck to fit under it.

The extra width of the Land Rover makes an immediate difference to the interior comfort.

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Both front seats include arm rests either side of a large console storage bin. The layout of the Discovery looks older than the Ford, but the tactile nature of the cabin is a definite step above.

The rubberised dials and ergonomically arranged buttons show that this is a car that has matured well over time. Yes, the seven-inch touch screen is dated and a bit hard to read but for a car at the cusp of retirement, it has held up very well.

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Split into thirds, the middle row is again very comfortable and while it misses out on some of the features of the Everest, the stadium seating arrangement and square-slab sides of the Disco give excellent visibility for passengers.

Deploying the third row is a considered process, with handy illustrations needed to take you through each step of the clipping, folding and pulling process. Once up though, access is easy thanks to the fold-and-tumble middle seats, and room is impressive even for adults.

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Boot space however, despite the handy (but heavy) split tailgate design, is almost non-existent with the seats up. At 338-litres, it is over 100-litres smaller than the Everest and the floor isn’t sealed, allowing loose items to disappear (forever) under the third row seats.

It’s now more apparent why many Discovery owners run about with a Thule storage box on the roof!

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As a seven-passenger car, the Disco is excellent… but it’s a five-or-six passenger with luggage car at best.

Despite this, the fit and finish of the Land Rover is what you would expect of a car at this price point. Yes the Everest is well equipped and very functional, but its working-class Ranger heritage is still noticeable.

Drivetrain

Hauling around 2,495kg (yes, both cars weigh the same) is no easy task, so both our players have plenty of diesel oomph under the bonnet.

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The Ford Everest runs a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 143kW of power and 470Nm of torque, while the Land Rover Discovery is powered by a meatier 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel engine that produces 183kW of power and 600Nm of torque.

A six-speed automatic drives all four wheels in the Everest, where the Discovery achieves the same through an eight-speed auto.

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Both cars claim mid-8-litres per 100km consumption and while we saw higher than that on our on- and off-road loop, both cars were regularly sitting below 7-litres per 100km on a highway cruise. That’s lower than claimed.

At the conclusion of our full test program, the Ford recorded 10.2L/100km and the Land Rover 9.8L/100km.

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Although we didn’t perform any towing tests, both cars are rated highly at 3-tonne for the Everest and 3.5-tonne the Discovery.

Despite the slightly different approach to the powertrain, the Land Rover gets more power, more refinement and better economy from its twin-turbo motor and takes the points for this round.

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Off Road

To form a basis of evaluation, we conducted a series of off-road driving tests through some challenging obstacles. Both cars have selectable terrain management systems allowing you to essentially tell the car what surface you are driving on and let it figure out the rest.

With air-suspension and the optional ($1060) active rear differential, the Discovery will automatically adjust the amount of torque needed at each wheel. For our mixture of side-to-side undulations, steep drops and climbs and sand trails, the Disco simply walked through everything like it was popping down to the shops.

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Not to be shown up, the Everest has a five-link coil spring rear suspension setup with a (manually) lockable rear differential. It too managed our ‘adventure’ course easily. Other than the river crossing, the terrain was predominantly dry and the 265mm-wide tyres didn’t skip a beat. We’ve seen too that the Everest can mix it up with the segment sales leading Toyota Landcruiser Prado too.

Our course was more extreme than most owners would have subjected these expensive SUVs to and essentially highlight that the capability of the cars is greater than than of most drivers.

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We’ll call this a draw.

On Road

Transitioning back to the big smoke, where both cars will undoubtedly spend most of their lives, our route took in some sealed, semi-sealed and decidedly patchy unsealed roads before dropping onto billiard-table smooth three-lane arterials.

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Both cars exhibited a talent for disguising the surface, the ride feeling much the same on the gravel as it did the tarmac. Even straddling the paved surface and soft gravel shoulder didn’t faze either SUV. This type of stable and predictable handling is a must for these cars.

Around town, the electrically assisted steering of the Ford makes is a tremendously light car to punt around. Drawing on lessons learned from the excellent ride of the Territory, and the mixed-message desire of many drivers wanting truck-like height with car-like handling, the Everest is a very livable car in the city.

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Off the line the Everest’s 5-cylinder can be quite unpleasantly noisy, but once moving the cabin is quiet and the gear-changes are smooth. The throttle can be quite touchy too.

Outward vision is excellent and you do feel like you are driving a smaller vehicle.

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The Land Rover’s ‘Command’ driving position is at total odds to the Ford, but in its own way is a very rewarding experience. You sit high and upright with excellent vision out the front of the car, however the rear view is hampered by the third-row headrests.

Heavier than the Everest, particularly when parking, the Discovery is much more a traditional SUV ‘truck’. It feels a bit sluggish from a standstill but settles quickly and is quite fun to drive.

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Ride comfort is excellent, although there tends to be a bit of minor oscillation from the springs when compressing over larger bumps.

Different approaches, and horses for courses – car-like and light, or high-up and solid – each car has their benefits. Another draw.

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Ownership

A three year, 100,000km warranty is the same for both cars. Your Everest will need to visit the dealer after 2,000km then every 15,000 then on. Ford offers capped price servicing for the life of your car, plus a free loan vehicle when yours is in for a service. Expect the Everest to cost around $500 per year at the dealer.

Somewhat of a service avoider, the Disco needs to only pop in for a checkup every 26,000km or 12-months – whichever comes first. Land Rover doesn’t offer a capped price service program, but expect it to be slightly up on the Ford.

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Land Rover ownership though brings you under the wing of a select club of adventurers, along with an opportunity to experience Land Rover Experience courses as well as adventure travel destinations around the world. It’s not just a car, it’s an experience.

Value and convenience to the Ford, special feels to the Land Rover.

Verdict

This was not a traditional CarAdvice comparison, and unlike an M. Night Shyamalan movie, there is no wicked twist at the end.

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A seemingly obvious outcome, the Land Rover Discovery has had longer to perfect its art and as such is the winner here. It might be more expensive than the Ford, but even without any of the options added, is a comfortable, luxurious, practical and capable machine.

However, there isn’t daylight between the two.

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The Ford Everest has shown this was no ‘knife to a gunfight’ type battle. It held its own with a far more experienced player and for the most part, kept up the whole way.

Bracket creep is real. Ford is changing their market positioning and creeping closer and closer to becoming a proposition to the premium brands. While being the ‘best’ of lesser isn’t quite the same as the ‘less’ of better, the lines are blurring.

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This Disco is still a formidable choice, but if a more favourable value option is needed then the Everest is a real contender.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser. Videography by Mitch Oke.



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