BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS LARGE
Nice wagon, but the original Land Rover DNA is long gone. A facelifted model with new engines was launched in late 2020.
OTA owned a Discovery 3 for three years, so we reckon we’re in a good position to evaluate the improvements (and otherwise) incorporated in its successors, the Discovery 4 and the Discovery 5 that was released in July 2017.
Our experience in owning a Land Rover Discovery 3 wasn’t a happy one, in terms of Land Rover support.
We had many electronic problems that Land Rover refused to classify as warranty issues, despite our having purchased an extended warranty package.
It cost us a lot of money to rectify these issues and some – including the engine’s going into ‘limp’ mode on any steep hill – were never rectified.
Worse, some of the issues we had, including a locking-on handbrake and leaking sunroof gutter, persisted with the Disco 4.
That said, Land Rover is undoubtedly the 4WD world innovator, so what the company develops is often copied by its competitors, usually more reliably.
Land Rover confused everyone with the introduction of the Freelander II replacement dubbed ‘Discovery Sport’, capitalising on the Disco name and eradicating a name that wasn’t highly successful. We have reported on the Discovery Sport, in our Softroader section.
The ‘real’ Discovery launch was the Discovery 5 that replaced the box-shaped Disco that had been with us since 2004. Like its predecessor the new vehicle was full-sized, with optional three-row, seven-seat layout.
The latest Discovery was released in August 2017, with pricing from $65,960 for the Td4 S five-seat model.
Apart from its more streamlined appearance the latest Discovery boasted different construction from its predecessors. Like the Range Rover models the Discovery body was pressed from aluminium panels and welded into a monocoque structure that’s said to make it up to 480kg lighter than the outgoing vehicle.
The four side doors were pressed from sheet steel that’s much more resistant to ‘dings’ than aluminium.
Also new was an optional four-cylinder Ingenium 177kW diesel engine with 500Nm of torque.
As result of these weight saving measures the Discovery tared from 2105kg.
The suspension was mounted on optimised steel front and rear subframes that were designed to withstand off-road impacts.
The fifth-generation model retained the stepped roofline that has characterised the four previous generations of Discovery, but it’s less noticeable.
The stepped profile optimised headroom for passengers travelling in the third row of seats and accommodated Discovery’s customary stadium seating configuration, which sees each row of seats positioned higher than the one in front.
The Discovery 5 was able to accommodate seven full-sized adults in a body measuring less than five metres in length. Most similar-sized competitors provide 5+2 seating but the Discovery was designed for 95th percentile adults to sit comfortably in its rearmost seats.
Both third-row seats incorporated child-seat ISOFIX mounting points, making four in total.
The interior continued the design concept started by the Discovery Sport, where customers can specify a range of premium materials, including luxurious Windsor leather upholstery and natural oak veneers.
The Discovery provided a claimed world-first Intelligent Seat Fold technology, allowing customers to reconfigure the second- and third-row seats, using controls at the rear of the vehicle, the central touchscreen and even remotely via a smartphone app as part of the InControl Touch Pro Services.
The innovative feature allowed
owners to rearrange the seats from inside a shop while they queued to pay for large or bulky items, ensuring the vehicle was perfectly configured to accommodate their purchases.
All three rows could be specified with heated seats – heated and cooled in rows one and two – and massage seats were available for the driver and front passenger to optimise comfort on long journeys.
Auto Access Height technology reduced the ride-height by up to 40mm as passengers prepared to enter or exit the vehicle.
An InControl Touch Pro infotainment system featured a
large 245mm touchscreen positioned high on the centre console, allowing a reduction in the number of switches on the centre console by a third.
Seamless iOS and Android 5 connectivity combined with an optional 14-speaker Meridian digital surround system with an additional subwoofer and WiFi.
Up to six 12V charging points ensured the Discovery was equipped to cope with the demands of the most connected families, while as many as nine USB sockets
allowed passengers in each row to power their smartphones or tablets simultaneously.
Another technology feature for active families was Land Rover’s state-of-the-art Activity Key wristband, which allowed customers to secure the vehicle without carrying the standard key fob. Holding the waterproof Activity Key up to the ‘D’ in the Discovery badge on the tailgate simultaneously locked the vehicle and disabled the ordinary key, which could be left inside
There were also convenient interior storage solutions, including: hidden stowage in the central console capable of holding four iPads or a pair of two-litre drink bottles; a central armrest with a lid that hinged through 180 degrees to function as an armrest, even when open, hid a cubby large enough to house five iPads; small-item stowage behind the fold-down Climate Control panel and an optional flush-fitting push-operated ‘take away food
hook’ in the front passenger foot well capable of securing carry bags.
A new dual-purpose Powered Inner Tailgate operated as a practical load restraint and, when lowered, the 285mm overhanging section doubled as a bench.
Ground clearance was 283mm (up 43mm) and maximum wading depth was 900mm (an increase of 200mm).
Land Rover’s multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system optimised a range of settings, from throttle sensitivity to gear change characteristics, to suit the driving conditions at the turn of a rotary controller – and could even select the optimum setting automatically if drivers were unsure of the best choice.
When tackling particularly challenging terrain, All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) can be programmed to maintain a suitable crawl speed chosen by the driver.
Advanced Tow Assist allowed drivers to complete difficult reversing manoeuvres when towing. The system took care of the tricky counter-steering required to position trailers accurately and the driver could simply guide the trailer into the desired space using the rotary controller for the Terrain Response 2 system.
The Discovery 5 was powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s range of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, all paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The award-winning 132kW 2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder Td4 diesel engine was the most efficient in the range and had claimed combined fuel economy
of 6.3l/100km. However, our testing in real-world conditions showed no better than 8L/100km.
The more powerful twin-turbo Sd4 Ingenium four-cylinder diesel produced 177kW and 500Nm of torque, with claimed fuel economy of 6.5l/100km.
Six-cylinder diesel power came from the 190kW Td6, which delivered 600Nm of torque.
There was a choice of 14 alloy wheel designs, including 21- and 22-inch rims for the first time. A 20-inch Aero wheel design was created to help reduce drag.
All models had a full-sized spare wheel mounted under the body at the rear.
A 19-inch wheel option was the only wheel to which moderately-bush-capable tyres could be fitted.
A comprehensive range of accessories integrated with the Discovery, including roof bars and roof rack attachments.
Discovery 5 measured 4970mm long, 2220mm wide (mirrors out) and 1846mm tall, making it 141mm longer but narrower and lower than before. Its 2923mm
wheelbase increased by 38mm.
At launch the range comprised SE, HSE and HSE Luxury derivatives, with an optional Black Design Pack available on all variants.
All seven-seat SE models featured 19-inch alloy wheels, four-corner air suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded audio, satellite navigation, 12×12-way Grained Leather electric seats, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, towing armature and electrics and LED headlamps.
HSE highlights included memory seats and electric steering column adjustment, bright treadplates, in fascia storage, shopping bag hook Three-Zone Climate Control, Keyless Entry, Powered External and Internal Tailgate, Meridian 380W sound system, professional satellite navigation system with 245mm touchscreen, 20-inch aluminium wheels and LED signature tail lamps.
Top of the range HSE Luxury key inclusions were 16×16 -way memory Windsor Leather upholstery with winged headrests and climate front seats, extended leather throughout the interior, five colour configurable interior mood lighting, a panoramic sunroof, chrome finish door handles, front centre cooler compartment, surround camera system, Meridian Surround Sound System and Digital TV.
The new Dynamic Design Pack provided scope for greater personalisation on HSE and HSE Luxury models and included design enhancements.
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) was enhanced to ensure the Discovery cornered with greater security, by monitoring all four wheels to detect and counteract understeer and oversteer.
The intelligent system applied a braking force to the inside wheels to help tighten the cornering trajectory of the vehicle and reduced engine torque to help the driver maintain the desired path.
This latest-generation system had enhanced understeer control, which applied braking to all four wheels to reduce vehicle speed and regain control more effectively.
The new Discovery also featured the latest version of Land Rover’s Electric Power-Assisted Steering (EPAS) technology. The variable ratio system provided a more natural and responsive steering feel, remaining easy to manoeuvre at low speeds and offering more ‘feel’ at higher cruising speeds.
The latest EPAS system also supported the Discovery’s Terrain Response 2 function by varying the steering feedback depending on the friction level of the road surface.
Discovery 5 was available with a two-speed transfer box, providing a standard 50/50 torque split between front and rear wheels, but input from a range of sensors could distribute torque between the wheels, depending on conditions.
The two-speed, fully synchronised ‘shift on the move’
system allowed the driver to swap between high and low ratios without having to stop the vehicle, at speeds of up to 60km/h.
Customers who didn’t require low-range transmission could opt for the full-time four-wheel drive system with single-speed transfer box. This provided a torque split of 42/58 between the front and rear axles, but could redistribute torque to the axle with the most grip, up to 62/38 and 22/78, respectively.
The Discovery 5 was fitted with Land Rover’s next-generation Terrain Response 2 technology, which automatically monitored driving conditions to ensure the vehicle coped optimally with a range of surfaces: General driving; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl.
The intuitive system optimised a range of vehicle settings to suit the conditions, from throttle mapping and steering responses to the suspension set-up and traction control settings.
Land Rover’s four-corner air suspension had a two-stage off-road mode with ride heights of +40mm and +75mm.
At speeds below 50km/h the +75mm setting was available and for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 50-80km/h, the vehicle could operate at +40mm. In addition, the new Speed Lowering function cut drag and enhanced fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height by 13mm at cruising speeds above 105km/h.
The comprehensive range of on- and off-road technologies included: Hill Descent Control (HDC) that maintained a set speed while tackling steep descents
off-road; Gradient Release Control (GRC) slowly released the brake when moving from a standing start on an incline; Electronic Traction Control (ETC) applied a braking force or reduced torque to individual wheels to stop wheelspin; Roll Stability Control (RSC) detected the beginning of a rollover and applied the brakes to the outer wheels to bring the vehicle under control; Wade Sensing provided real-time wading depth information in relation to the maximum wading depth, using the 4x4i infotainment screen.
The industry-first Trailer Light Test feature allowed customers to test their trailer lights without outside assistance, pulsing them while the driver stood outside the vehicle.
Rear Height Adjust allowed the driver to lower and raise the height of the rear of the vehicle, using the key fob or switches in the luggage compartment, to make hitching a trailer simpler.
Trailer Stability Assist enhanced safety on the move by detecting trailer sway and gradually reducing the speed of the vehicle, by cutting the engine and gently applying the brakes, in order to restore control to the driver.
The Discovery 5 featured Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system, as debuted on Discovery Sport, but included a new pedestrian detection system that detected adult or child pedestrians, as well as other vehicles and applied the brakes to stop the vehicle quickly and safely.
Vehicles fitted with Adaptive Cruise Control also came with Advanced Emergency Brake Assist and Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB). Using the vehicle’s forward facing radar, AEB detected and monitored any vehicles that are moving in the same direction. If the vehicle ahead suddenly braked, the driver was alerted to a possible collision. When the system detected that the driver hadn’t slowed it gently and automatically applied the brakes. If a collision was imminent, the system applied the same pressure as in an emergency braking situation.
Blind Spot Monitor used rear-facing side-mounted radar sensors to check for vehicles within the vehicle’s blind spots. The advanced set-up alerted the driver with a warning light in the corresponding wing mirror. In the Discovery 5, Blind Spot Monitor also included Closing Vehicle Sensing, which scanned for fast approaching vehicles.
Traffic Sign Recognition used a forward-facing camera and satellite navigation information to inform the driver of speed limits.
Driver Condition Monitor was able to monitor driver behaviour through inputs of steering, brake and accelerator, to detect fatigue.
For 2021 Land Rover upgraded the Discovery range and incorporated a claimed $30,000 in equipment improvements to the bottom model in the range. This is a creative way of saying that the entire Discovery lineup – S, SE and HSE models – has moved up-market. The RRPs now sit between $99,950 and $118,600.
Given that the latest Defender is also a very expensive vehicle it seems that LandRover has well and truly departed from its 1950s DNA, and is now a full-on luxury-vehicle brand.
As a result, the demand for cardigans with leather-trimmed sleeves, flat-hats and briar pipes is likely to plummet.
The 2021 Disco builds on its predecessor and has simplified powertrains, with a choice of petrol or diesel Ingenium in-line sixes. All 2021 Discoverys have 48-volt Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology that is more about improving stop-start function, reducing accelerator lag and lowering emissions than it is about pure electrification.
Both mild hybrid Discos can’t travel under electric power at all.
The straight-six engine family was designed and developed in-house and the advanced diesel has 221kW (300hp)/650Nm output and the petrol delivers 265kW (360hp)/500Nm. Hopefully, the hybrid petrol engine is smoother than the supercharged and turbocharged non-hybrid we tested in the latest Defender.
The D300 six-cylinder Ingenium diesel has lightweight aluminium construction and replace the previous SD4 and SDV6 diesels.
The carryover automatic main transmission drives through an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, with updated Terrain Response 2 off-road traction.
Adaptive Dynamics dampers are fitted to all models and are said to monitor vehicle movements up to 500 times a second, reacting to driver or road inputs for greater body control.
A new Wade Mode optimises the vehicle for deep water fording and even applyies the brakes automatically when the driver disengages Wade Mode, to restore full braking performance from the first application of the brakes.
The availability of Configurable Terrain Response allows drivers to fine-tune the Discovery’s throttle mapping, gearbox shift points, steering and suspension settings to suit their preferences and requirements.
The 2021 facelift incorporates signature LED headlights, revised front bumper and new taillights.
Inside, a redesigned centre console houses a larger 290mm (11.4-inch), HD touchscreen. Two LTE modems enable multiple functions at the same time – such as streaming media and downloading Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) updates.
A 312mm (12.3-inch) interactive driver display is standard on all models, providing high-definition 3D mapping within the instrumentation, leaving the central touchscreen free for other applications. The high-resolution digital instruments can be customised to suit driver preference.
Smartphone integration includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and advanced Bluetooth technology can connect two smartphones simultaneously.
Cabin Air Ionisation, with PM2.5 air filtration technology, measures incoming air quality and reduces the level of allergens, toxins and harmful particulates in the cabin.
Click and Go tablet holders are incorporated into the front seat-backs, along with charging sockets.
Optional hands-free Gesture Tailgate can detect the wave of a foot beneath the rear bumper and a powered inner tailgate helps restrain loose items in the cargo area.
Intelligent Seat Fold technology can configure the seating layout via the central touchscreen.
The second-row seats have longer, thicker cushions and air-vents have been moved from the B-pillars to the centre console.
A second-generation Activity Key features touchscreen controls, a digital watch and can lock, unlock and start the vehicle.
The 2021 is available in Discovery, S, SE and HSE trim levels (D300), or in R-Dynamic guise (D300 and P360)
On and off road in the Disco 5
Our first press test vehicle was an HSE with low-range gearing and powered by the Ingenium four-cylinder diesel. Being a top-spec’ model, it came with all the electronic gadgetry, but was quite user-friendly to set up. The new interactive display screen was one of the easiest we’ve operated and gave a brilliant camera view aft when reverse was engaged.
Price as tested was a heady $112 grand, but without somewhat unnecessary options, including a sunroof, black headlining, black metallic paint, a DAB radio, dimming side mirrors and premium carpet it would have been only $97,000!
Incidentally, the adult-comfy third-row seats used to be standard, but are now a $3400 option.
As with the Discovery 4 the Disco 5 set the standards by which its contemporary competitors were judged. The ergonomics, electronics system, functions and chassis dynamics were best-in-class. It rode, handled and stopped more like a sports car than a seven-seat 4WD wagon. Shift quality in the eight-speed box was seamless.
However, we’re not sure about the driveability of the diesel four: it suffered from turbo lag when pressed at low revolutions and then surged as the blowers cut in. When manoeuvering at low speeds we found it best to use the ‘grass, gravel snow’ setting, or low range, to take the ‘snap’ out of engine response.
Another problem with the four-cylinder when towing was its almost total lack of engine braking, even at 4000rpm in the lower gear ratios. The three-litre V6 diesel would be a better towing engine, we reckon.
On the subject of towing, the 3500kg-trailer-rated, air-suspended Discovery 5 wasn’t designed for weight distribution bar use, so it’s best coupled to a van or trailer with modest ball weight. All European-designed vehicles are intended mainly for use with Euro-type trailers that have a maximum 110kg nose weight and anything more than around 150kg may overwork the Disco’s rear suspension.
As with the Discovery 4 the 5 can accept only 19-22-inch wheel diameters: anything smaller won’t fit over the big brake discs and callipers. That means there’s really no bush-compatible rubber available for the Discovery 5.
Also, the low-profile tyres don’t deflate effectively for use
on sand, so beaches remain the Discovery and Range Rover nemesis.
Yet another problem for bush-goers is the complete lack of dealer support in the scrub: leave the major population centres and you’re, literally, on your own.
We tried to test a later-year-model Disco 5 in early 2020, but it suffered from an issue with the steering wheel lock electrics that wouldn’t let the engine start! The dashboard warning said the steering was locked, even when it wasn’t.
LandRover’s 24-hour service, via the NSW NRMA, was quickly on the job and effected a temporary unblocking that allowed the engine to start. NRMA patrolmen are familiar with this problem, because they’ve attended many roadside issues with Discoverys refusing to start. However, when we tried to start it one hour later it wouldn’t.
Because we couldn’t rely on it to start without NRMA assistance we didn’t do any testing on it all and sent it back to Land Rover on a tilt tray.
Previous Discovery models
The Discovery 4, or version 3.2 if you will, was a successor to the most awarded large 4WD wagon in the world.
Land Rover’s Discovery 4 sported powerful and efficient engines, fresh exterior identity and an upgraded cabin.
New lights included LED technology front and rear, with optional bi-xenon lamps and cornering lights.
The interior was completely restyled, with a transformed dash and centre console, new seats and an array of new kit.
User-friendly features available for the Discovery 4 included a portable audio interface, gradient release, tow assist and high beam assist.
In addition, an optional five-camera ‘surround’ system allowed for easier parking, towing and off-road manoeuvring.
Other Discovery 4 changes included new suspension components, revised steering, larger brakes, improved traction control and enhancements to the award-winning Terrain Response system.
The two new engines were LR-TDV6 3.0 twin turbo diesel and LR-V8 direct injection petrol, but we reckoned most OTA site visitors would focus interest on the diesel, which is why we borrowed two such Disco 4s and gave them a workout.
The three-litre, twin-turbo diesel had 600Nm of torque and 180kW of power, yet fuel consumption was claimed to be improved by nine percent.
Our Disco 3’s 2.7-litre, single-turbo diesel averaged 10.4L/100km in a combined, town, country and off-road duty cycle over three years, with around half its accumulated 180,000km being bush and off-road travel.
On the same duty cycle the Disco 4 three-litre achieved 9.5L/100km, despite having much more performance than the 2.7 – itself no slouch. That’s an 8.6 percent consumption improvement.
Significantly, the existing LR-TDV6 2.7 diesel, with 140kW and 440Nm, was retained for two years. That was important for buyers who wanted to go seriously ‘bush’, because the three-litre came with big brakes that dictated wheels of at least 19-inch diameter and there are very few bush-capable tyres available in that size and none with a ‘light-truck (LT)’ rating. The 2.7-litre model could be fitted with 17-inch wheels that can mount LT tyres.
For those who tow, a useful inclusion in the new Disco 4 was a program that monitored engine coolant temperature when the ambient exceededs 40°C, gradually decreasing air conditioner efficiency, rather than have the coolant temperature rise excessively.
The Disco 4 continued with the Disco 3’s removable, lockable towing tongue housing and also came with two pre-wired 12N and 12S trailer plugs as standard equipment. The Discovery 4 tongue housing was a new shape that didn’t obstruct spare wheel removal and fitment, and couldn be retro-fitted to the Disco 3.
The electronic stability control system in the Disco 4 ‘knew’ when a trailer was connected, via a sensor in the trailer plugs, and modified stability control actions to take account of it.
A standard mis-fuelling device was fitted into the diesel filler neck and triggereds when an unleaded petrol nozzle was inserted, blocking the filler neck. A plastic tool was provided, to reset the blocking device. As with the Disco 3 a snorkel could be fitted and removed without body surgery.
What you Got
For the Australian market launch, diesel-powered Discovery 4s were available in three different specification levels, but the 2.7-litre engine has been dropped.
Discovery 4 2.7 TDV6
The now defunct 2.7 TDV6 standard specification included cruise control; Terrain Response; electric park brake; cross-linked air suspension with automatic load levelling and multiple modes – access, normal, off-road and extended height; speed-proportional steering; rain sensing wipers; automatic headlamps; power adjustable, heated mirrors; ‘puddle’ lamps and foot well lamps; auto headlamps with power wash; rain sensors; front fog lamps; rear park distance control; tow pack; 18 inch, five-spoke aluminium wheels with 255/60 AT V-rated tyres (after-market 17-inch wheels and tyres will fit); automatic dimming interior mirror; dual climate control; five seats with cloth trim; leather trimmed steering wheel; Harman/Kardon audio system – nine speakers, subwoofer, radio, single slot CD player, auxiliary input; driver information centre; Bluetooth telephone connectivity ; power sockets – front, second row and rear; EBD, ABS, ETC, ESC, electronic differential control, roll stability control, trailer stability assist and HDC with gradient release control. Airbags were full-size driver and front passenger, driver and front passenger side and head, and rear outboard passenger head airbags.
Discovery 4 3.0 TDV6 SE
The next model in the line-up was the 3.0 TDV6 SE, featuring the all new diesel engine with advanced sequential twin turbochargers. In addition to the features found on the 2.7 TDV6, the 3.0 TDV6 SE came with the following as standard specification: seven seats with leather trim; bi-xenon headlights with cornering lamps; 19-inch seven-spoke wheels with 255/55 AT V-rated tyres; power-fold mirrors; third-row head curtain airbags and map lamps.
Discovery 4 3.0 TDV6 HSE
The 3.0 TDV6 HSE came with the following as standard specification: navigation system (hard disc drive) with voice control and off-road mapping; portable audio interface; rear view camera; front park distance control; 19-inch split-spoke wheels; rear air conditioning; illuminated front vanity mirrors; rear luggage net; interior mood lighting; electric seat driver’s and passenger’s adjustment; driver and passenger front armrests; and a leather gear knob. As comprehensive as these spec’ levels were, there was more in the Land Rover goody tin that hadn’t been chosen for Australia, including tyre pressure monitoring – that’s nuts, because tyre pressure monitoring is the first thing you need when going bush.
Living with the Discovery 4
Our test vehicles were SE models, with some options: electronically-lockable rear diff; metallic paint and an expensive navigation system ($4430). The Discovery 3’s original nav system was useless in the bush until we upgraded the mapping and that brought it up to Disco 4 level, which was very good. Most bush tracks we’ve come across around Australia were shown, making the factory unit a useful option.
The lockable rear diff was a must-have for serious off-road work and we found that the locked back end gives the traction control system a useful leg-up.
Metallic paint was an expensive choice, but there was no doubt about its quality. Our Disco 3 paint remained in good nick, despite years of bush work.
In stepping from the Disco 3 into the Discovery 4 we noticed firstly the switch from a proper ignition key to a keyless start and stop system. We hate the thought of accidentally leaving home without the key fob, even though there’s a key-proximity warning message inbuilt. Worse is the possibility that my beloved could take it shopping after being dropped off, leaving me in the Disco miles away, with the engine running.
In a changed control and dashboard layout graphics replaced analogue coolant temperature and fuel gauges. The Terrain Response dial and Hill Descent Control button were easier to see and operate, and when selections were made they were repeated momentarily in graphic display on the dashboard screen.
Given the instrument panel LED graphics we expected a digital clock as well, but the Disco 4 had an ‘old fashioned’ analogue clock that you could actually read at a glance – much better than the illegible digital clock in the Disco 3.
Not so good was the loss of shelf space in front of the navigation screen, where we were used to popping ‘sunnies’. Also changed was the ash-tray design that used to be ideal for CB radio location, but the new one was too small.
The Disco 4 Harman/Kardon sound system should have been the same as the Disco 3’s, but our optionally upgraded Disco 3 systems sounded much better than the current Disco 4 SE’s nine-speaker standard kit. The better quality system is now an HSE exclusive. The Discovery 4 had iPod connectivity and charging, but the plug wouldn’t charge an iPhone.
The manual-adjustment front seats looked similar to the Disco 3 chairs, but they had more support. We swapped our seats for Recaros and, while we’d still move them into a Disco 4, there’s no desperate need for improved seating. The power-adjustment seats in the HSE were even better.
The steering wheel switch shapes were changed, to make them feel more recognisable by the fingertips and it worked.
Also, the rather confusing front and rear fog lamp switching in the Disco 3 – pull the headlight dial out one notch for front fogs and two notches for rears – was swapped for more logical separate push buttons.
Our Disco 3 SE came with optional bi-xenon lights, but they were standard with the three-litre engine and they incorporated cornering beams.
The new beams were noticeably broader than the Disco 3’s, even when driving straight ahead. Auto-dimming interior and power-fold exterior mirrors were standard. When you turned off the engine the mirrors tucked-in neatly and that’s handy in tight car park spaces. The mirrors dipped when reverse was selected in the HSE version.
The second and third-row seating was as before and was still far and away the best back-seat/cargo arrangement in the market. No other large wagon came within cooee of the Land Rover design.
Engine noise was remarkably lower than in the 2.7-litre Discovery 3, which was already very quiet when compared with four-cylinder Japanese diesels. Twin turbos chopped the intake noise pulses into little puffs and no-one picked the Disco 4 as a diesel, even at idle.
The six-speed auto’s slick shifting felt the same, but the three-litre did everything using fewer engine revs – hence the economy improvement. The performance difference between the 2.7 and the three-litre was shattering – to the point where I didn’t dare to do a stopwatch comparison. The three-litre V6 Discovery 4 wais almost a performance match for the Range Rover Sport V8 diesel and blew the LandCruiser 200’s 4.5-litre V8 into the weeds.
Servicing intervals for the three-litre were flexible, with a guide being an annual oil drop or at 26,000km, but the engine management system measured engine load factors and advised the driver of a hard-driven, heavily loaded or towing Disco 4 of the need for more frequent oil changes.
On and Off-road
The Disco 3 was the best-handling large wagon in the market, but it was supplanted by the Discovery 4, which was sharper and flatter and could be power-steered through the twisty bits. The considerable increase in grunt was achieved with very little engine weight penalty, so the Disco 3’s balance was retained. ‘Nough said.
Off road, the Discovery 4 retained the original’s dynamics and the Terrain Response system was enhanced somewhat. We noticed a difference in Hill Descent Control behaviour when in ‘Rock Crawl’ mode, because the system pre-loaded the wheel brakes. There was much less noise from the brakes during steep descents and less jerking than happened in the Disco 3.
The ‘Sand’ program was altered to reduce initial wheelspin when lifting off in soft sand – important with the three-litre – but sand remained the nemesis of the Discovery, because it was a heavy mother and its low-profile rubber didn’t deform as readily at low pressures as tyres with taller sidewalls.
We checked out the new Gradient Release Control feature that temporarily held brake pressure on steep slopes when descending a slippery waterfall.
GRC made manoeuvring the vehicle in this difficult situation relatively simple, because there was no roll-back or roll-forward during transition from brake to accelerator. Sure, left-foot braking is always possible in these situations, but GRC made that unnecessary.
With off-road height selected – a 55mm ground clearance increase – the air suspension system worked well in off-road situations and on two occasions we grounded the vehicle and had the automatic ‘extended mode’ suspension setting come into operation. This 35mm-higher suspension setting couln’t be driver selected, but it boosted clearance when sensors detected that the vehicle was stuck. Once triggered, the extended height could be increased another 35mm by driver action if there was still not enough lift – making a total possible suspension lift of 125mm over road height.
Our Disco 3 suffered from front end ‘play’ that was traced to prematurely worn ball joints and steering rack ends that were replaced under warranty with much more robust Discovery 4 front end bits. Ditto the front and rear anti-sway bar rubbers.
The standard shock absorbers did more than 100,000 mainly bush kilometres before being replaced, so they’re bush-tough.
The single most common problem with any 4WD on long bush trips is…tyres. And what’s the Discovery 4’s greatest bushability weakness? Yep, its 19-inch tyres. There are very few 19-inch light truck (LT) tyres available for the Discovery 4. LT tyres typically have load ratings around 120, but the available 19-inchers are no tougher than around 112. We’ve had good bush-travel success with Goodyear’s MTR 19-incher that it developed for Land Rover’s G4 Challenge vehicles, but that tyre is rare and expensive.
So, without a wide choice of bush rubber, is a Discovery 4 viable? Yes, but only the discontinued five-seat 2.7 model, with its smaller brake package and available 17-inch wheels, for which there’s a wide range of LT rubber available. You’d lose out on performance and braking power, but the 2.7 proved to be a great kilometre-eater, even with our two-tonne boat and trailer behind.
You should look for one with the lockable rear diff, nav system, rear view camera and bi-xenon lights, that was originally a 75-grand purchase. That was by far the best value for money large wagon in the marketplace.
The Disco 3 can be great used buying, because most have never been off road. However, beware of the expense and difficulty of fixing electronic dramas.
Coil-sprung ‘S’ model Disco 3s benefit from taller coils and longer shock absorbers. All Discos need increased fuel capacity and a swing-away spare carrier makes fitting a second tank easy. Snorkels are available from Land Rover and the after-market.
Most Disco 3 after-market bits will fit the Discovery 4, although rear chassis changes during the Discovery 3’s development mean you need your VIN when ordering items such as LongRanger tanks and Kaymar swing-away spare wheel carrier.