Web Spin: Land Rover Discovery 3 S V6 Turbo Diesel

Disco Dancer

Forget the mirror balls and flashing lights, Land Rover's new diesel Discovery 3 is not a twinkle-toes.

Land Rover, like Jeep, is one of those “catch-all” terms for four-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicle. It derived from the incredibly successful ‘Series 1’ of 1948 that started life as a post-WWII production project for Rover’s Solihull (UK) plant that was suffering from excess capacity.

Whereas Jeep, became a term more familiar with the US, Land Rover was the British equivalent and thousands went into service with the Australian Government in such varied duties as the Snowy Mountain Scheme, military, outback land and road surveys as well as rural communities. Land Rovers were even built in Australia for a period of time.

Following a development and maturity path generally ahead of other 4WD brands, Land Rover spun-off a luxury version in 1971; the venerable Range Rover. Substantially different in design and powerplant, the Range Rover was another hit and led the luxury 4WD market for over a decade despite lingering and unflattering reports about British build quality.

Conceived to plug the growing gap between the military-styled, utilitarian Defender and the plush Range Rover, Discovery launched as a mid-priced, comfortable fulltime 4WD. in the UK in 1989 and subsequently in Australia in 1991 with a fuel-injected 3.5 litre V8. The 2.5 litre turbo diesel followed shortly after and quickly became a mainstay of the range.

A relaunch under new brand owners, BMW, in 1999 successfully addressed most of the nagging reliability and build quality issues as well as uprating the diesel variant with a new 5-cylinder unit.

Now with Ford ownership, the first substantial redesign of the Discovery hit the market earlier this year. Creatively named the Discovery 3 it’s outwardly a very different animal and, so the stalwart manufacturer reminds us, is the future of the Land Rover brand. The launch blurb was typically upbeat;

“The Discovery 3 is a new generation Land Rover, a vehicle of great conviction that points the way forward for the company,” said managing director Matthew Taylor, “As you would expect from a Land Rover, it is awesome off-road. What may be more surprising to some is its great performance on-road too. The result is the widest breadth of capability in the class.”

Our test vehicle was a base model ‘S’ devoid of the fancy air suspension and much-lauded Terrain Response™ system, so we had to imagine what it was like to be able to dial-up a driving environment like “General driving”, “Grass/gravel/snow”, “Mud and ruts “, “Sand” or “Rock crawl”. Our brief attempt at beach driving ended in embarrassment, so be sure to order the full 4WD kit if you’re going for the dirty stuff.

Apparently the Terrain Response™ available standard in HS and HSE models so impressed the judges during the Overlander Magazine 4WD of the Year award, the V6 diesel Discovery SE got the big gong, toppling such contenders as BMW X5 3.0d, Ford Territory TS, Land Rover Discovery 3 SE V8, Nissan Patrol ST 3.0 TD and Ssangyong RX270 Sport Plus.

Our test included a lengthy highway jaunt to Forster on the NSW North Coast, some sand and forest tracks. As alluded to before, the Disco was just fine within its limits which, as we found, were substantially narrowed with the omission of the high-tech traction system.

Despite the public relations triumph of the 2004 4WD of the Year Award, press reports were not unanimous in there praise. Some critics were put off by the substantial bulk of the vehicle (2700kg) and the hard work requested of the powertrain. One vehicle, albeit an early production model, broke down on test. We found the new TD V6 very comparable to similar vehicles in its class with adequate power, smooth response, predictable (although not negligible) turbo lag, and fair fuel consumption, typically in the 11-12 litres/100km bracket. Fuel consumption becomes an issue with its petrol-powered brethren, suggesting that this diesel Disco is the choice of the range.

Interior brought praise from most critics with a spacious, very-usable layout and good comfort levels all around. Fully independent, coil sprung suspension delivers a sophisticated, supple road feel while preserving off-road stability. The anti-lock brakes are very good with such a heavy chassis, and so they should be in this class.

Still fresh on the market, it will make interesting observation to see whether the build and reliability issues are gone for good as vehicles begin accruing real mileage.

Our ‘S’ is priced at a shade under $65k, the SE (with the trick 4WD system) is an extra $10k and the smick HSE is a further $10k. The 4.0 petrol V6 is a saving of $8k on the comparable TD V6 sibling, whereas a 4.4 V8 is available for those with money to burn.


Standard Equipment:

  • 17” Alloy wheels
  • Five adult-sized seats with 65:35 split folding second row
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Rack and Arran cloth trim
  • Tow pack - Quick release tow ball receiver & wiring sockets
  • 6 speaker single CD system
  • Four-channel all-terrain ABS with ventilated disc brakes
  • Dynamic Stability Control and Active Roll Mitigation
  • Driver and passenger front, side head curtain airbags

Options:

  • 19” alloy wheels
  • Automatic climate control
  • Foldable rear seats
  • Active locking differential

We liked:

  • Solid, confident performer
  • Capable off-road performance (within limits)
  • High safety equipment levels
  • Tight, rattle-free and quiet

Not so thrilled about:

  • “Nobbled” off-road ability without Terrain Response System
  • Some door fit issues (rear hatch)
  • Heavy

Report by Rod Eime.

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buy a used or new hyundai terracan from a fctory dealer in great condition. It's a four wheel drive or 4wd for use off road or in the outback.