The Land Rover Discovery is the British Company's flagship off road vehicle. Here, we test the new supercharged petrol engine.
The current generation Land Rover Discovery is not long for this world, with an all-new and radically different version shown in concept form earlier this year and coming soon. It will be more rounded, more fashion-focused, more Range Rover-like, yet, it is promised, with none of the famous model’s seven-seat practicality and off-road ability taken away.
The final facelift of this Land Rover Discovery 4 – now five years old, but heavily based on the Discovery 3 with a decade vintage – is now available with supercharged petrol V6 engine (as tested here), shared with the Range Rover Sport and Jaguar F-Type, to name two.
Minor styling changes have been made, too. Across the bonnet, ‘DISCOVERY’ replaces ‘LAND ROVER’ for the first time, and the number ‘4’ is removed from the tailgate, leaving just ‘DISCOVERY’. Engine badging has been moved from the tailgate to the sides of the front doors as well. In this case, the Disco proudly proclaims ‘SCV6’ for our supercharged petrol engine.
In SE guise, the starting price for this model is $84,900. The retail price for our test vehicle however is just shy of a hundred grand, at $99,780, thanks to a slew of options over the base price (it’s clearly related to a Range Rover in this way…)
First up, there’s the ($4300) Vision Assist Pack, which includes xenon adaptive headlights with daytime running lights, auto high beam assist, and a surround camera system. Next, there’s satellite navigation - something that should be standard on a car like this - which includes both on and off road navigation and will set buyers back $3250. The ‘Grand Black Lacquer Trim Finisher’, which extends to gloss black detailing and inserts for the doors and centre console adds $1880. Metallic paint costs $1800, the high-end Meridian audio system, which includes 11 speakers asks $1750, digital radio adds another $850, and an active locking rear differential wants for $1060.
The highlight from all those options – especially if you intend to head off road anywhere challenging – is the active locking rear diff. The extra ability it affords off-road (especially when the going gets nasty and slippery) makes the asking price a steal, though the 2014 Land Rover Discovery SE isn’t quite as perfect in the rough stuff as it once was. The switch to ever-larger Brembo brakes across the model range means a requisite switch to larger wheels to fit over them. Serious off-roaders know that aggressive all-terrain tyres for 19-inch rims are just about non-existent, making the wheel sizing a real issue if you’re heading properly off the beaten track.
We’ve done plenty of off-roading with the standard road tyres in place and the Disco will still go a hell of a long way before tyres become an issue.
Our test vehicle was also been fitted with a genuine Land Rover tow pack ($309 for the pack and $345 for fitting) and electric brakes ($1160 fitted). Despite hooking up an oversized box trailer with around 800kg of building rubble inside, we didn’t need to employ the electric brakes on this test. The box trailer was big, but simple. Car trailers, for example, especially the higher quality models, will usually have electric brakes, and if you’re doing any towing of note, it’s absolutely worth having electric brakes fitted to your tow vehicle. With this install undertaken by a Land Rover service centre, the fit of the control units was neat and tidy too. No unnecessary holes hacked into the dashboard anywhere, which is a nice touch when you’ve spent this much on an SUV.
The 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine is supercharged and generates 250kW and 450Nm. Backed by the exceptional eight-speed ZF automatic, it’s interesting to be driving – and towing – with a Discovery that isn’t diesel-powered give the amount of testing we’ve done with the diesel engine. The power and torque characteristics are understandably completely different, and it’s something you notice straight away.
The ADR combined fuel figure is a not-too-thirsty 12.0 litres per 100 kilometres, and while the petrol engine lacks the diesel’s outright punch, the supercharger ensures there’s no lag or flat spots through the rev range – just a smooth surge of acceleration from just off idle.
The 3.0-litre twin turbo-diesel V6 engine generates slightly stronger torque of course (620Nm) and that’s a factor when you’re lugging a heavy load uphill. For just about every other daily driving chore, though, the supercharged petrol engine is up for the task and more than capable. It’s smooth too, with just a subtle whine emanating from the supercharger under the bonnet when the revs rise.
Outright handling isn’t the Discovery’s strong point, and nor has it ever been. That said, the incredible off-road ability of this platform more than makes up for the fact that the Discovery isn’t as dynamic on road as the segment leaders. With the projected switch to a much lighter monocoque design for the next generation Disco, Land Rover will need to make sure it is mightily capable to live up to the legend.
The current generation Land Rover Discovery remains supremely comfortable on road, though, with the adjustable air suspension soaking up any road surface effortlessly. On the subject of adjustability, being able to raise and lower the suspension when you’re hitching up a trailer is a godsend, especially on uneven ground. We needed to use the adjustability more than once hitching and unhitching the trailer. It’s extremely handy. The rear view camera makes lining the trailer up ridiculously easy too, and the steering is light and precise.
From the driver’s pew, the command seating position coveted by Land Rover designers affords exceptional visibility both fore and aft, and the seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment regardless of the size of the driver. The optional satellite navigation fitted to our test vehicle is accurate and easy to use, plus the Bluetooth phone connectivity is fast and reliable. We liked the clarity of the large, central touchscreen as well.
The large side windows and expansive windscreen deliver an airy feeling inside the Discovery’s cabin. It never feels cramped or claustrophobic – even trimmed in black, as is the case with our test vehicle. Likewise the second-row seating, which really benefits from the lifted roofline that provides more headroom.
The Discovery remains a proper seven-seater – not a ‘5+2’ like the new Range Rover Sport is – and that rising roofline along with a tiered seating approach remains a benchmark in the large SUV class. There’s room aplenty, and even with all seats in place, the split rear tailgate opens to a nice-sized boot.
All of which will need to be retained with the new-generation Land Rover Discovery arriving within a year. Despite its age, though, the current Discovery remains the most genuinely capable off road vehicle on the market, in addition to being supremely spacious and comfortable, effortless and refined, and attractive. If it’s a bit lighter and more efficient, then the next one should move the goalposts even further.