$68,900 – $129,900
Good: Stylish design; Luxurious yet practical interior; High levels of features; Comfortable ride; The excellent SDV6 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel engine is our pick; Comfortable airbag suspension and easy-to-use Terrain Response system.
Not so Good: Hefty body weight; Petrol V8’s pricing is heading into Range Rover territory; Tarmac handling and cornering at speed.
Design and Engineering
Good : Land Rover’s big 4×4 took a huge leap forward with the introduction of the Discovery 3 generation (arriving in Australia in May 2005). Its part monoque / part traditional ladder-frame construction was a big shift under the skin, but even more radical was the bold exterior styling.
Following in October 2009, the Discovery 4 is a major facelift of the 3 rather than an all-new model, and hence carries over almost all of the bodywork. Apparently consumer research found the appearance of the superseded model too aggressive – so the front and rear bumpers have been softened and given smoother and simpler surfaces, with the aim of making it more appealing to female buyers.
We like the new jewel-like headlights (with LED elements) and the now colour-coded wheel arches contribute to the more premium look and feel. Luckily, for those who will also head off the bitumen, underneath the skin is a thoroughly upgraded chassis. Underbody protection and a full-size spare tyre remains – the Discovery 4 hasn’t left behind its serious 4×4 ability.
Not so good : A couple of our testers find the Discovery 4’s new horizontal grille a little too ‘bling’ in appearance, however the black pack help by giving the Discovery a stealth look. As with the 3, this is a seriously heavy 4×4. Don’t be surprised if Land Rover manages to cut 400kg out of the kerb weight when the next generation arrives (probably towards the middle of the decade) through the further use of aluminium body technology.
Interior and Styling
Good : The updated interior of the Discovery 4 provides a far more luxurious and premium feel than the 3. An all new dashboard and centre console design is finished in significantly higher quality materials and the major controls are now easier to use including the revised Terrain Response controller (Land Rover’s easy-to-use 4WD selector). In range topping HSE trim, Range Rover levels of luxury are on hand thanks to a leather trimmed dash.
The 5-inch information display located between the instrument cluster is very clear and the gauges look classy, keyless start/stop is also a nice inclusion and the climate control air-conditioning works a treat. New technologies also include the five-camera surround system and automatic high beam assist.
The driving position remains superb and the all new seats are very comfortable. All controls are within easy reach either from steering wheel-mounted buttons, the usual column stalks or on the sloping centre-console (thankfully the signature upright Land Rover dash design still lives on). Forward vision on offer for the driver is excellent (due to the higher driving position), especially for such a big vehicle. The relatively low waistline also aids side visibility.
The cabin is very practical and the extra storage bins and the dash has a couple of useful storage cubbies too. The second row bench is comfortable for three and the cinema style tiered seating arrangement combined with the low window line ensures all three rows of passengers have a clear view of the surrounds.
The third row seats (standard on all grades bar the TDV6) fold flat into the floor to create a massive amount of rear cargo space. Thanks to a cleverly designed split-folding rear tailgate it’s also easy to pop in a couple of smaller items quickly, plus the lower section can also be used as a seat (perfect for taking off the kiddies muddy footy boots after the Sunday game).
Not so good : Second row legroom is only average for such a big vehicle and of course the third row seats are more child than adult friendly (so it can’t compete with the biggest People Movers for seven seat space). It’s also not that easy to get in and out of the third row (a problem shared with competing luxury SUVs). With all seven seats in use luggage space is significantly reduced and serious 4×4 fans might not like that the spare wheel is located under the rear of the vehicle.
Good : Three engines on offer – two turbo-diesel V6’s and one petrol V8. The detuned 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel produces 155kW of power and 520Nm of torque, is available only in entry-level TDV6 trim.
Next up is the 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel again but this time offering a much healthier 183kW and a huge 600Nm of torque. This engine powers the SDV6 SE and SDV6 HSE models.
Rounding things out is the 5.0-litre V8 petrol, only available in the range topping HSE trim, produces 276kW of power and 510Nm of torque. All engines are matched to a smooth and decisive six-speed automatic transmission.
The twin-turbo SDV6 3.0-litre diesel is by far the superior choice and easily worth the extra outlay over the TDV6 3.0-litre diesel. It’s quite a smooth engine that is significantly more powerful than the TDV6 and even with seven aboard (and luggage) it provides more than adequate acceleration (well for a 2.5 tonne 4×4 vehicle anyway). The huge reserves of torque ensures hills are negotiated with ease. This engine is one of the best diesels currently available on the market! It’s also frugal too.
The 5.0-litre petrol V8 is also a great engine, so no surprise it’s light years better than its predecessor (the old 4.4-litre V8). Acceleration is strong right across the rev range, but it’s the instant low down speed that’s most noticeable.
Not so good : Considering how impressive the twin-turbo 3.0-litre diesel is, we struggle to see why you’d opt for the far more expensive and thirsty 5.0-litre V8 petrol grade (yes even though it’s way faster and more frugal than the previous petrol V8 and sounds fantastic).
Ride and Handling
Good : Whilst the Discovery 4 may look almost the same as the 3, rest assured it drives even better than before thanks to a host of suspension and software changes. As a result, it remains a hugely refined highway tourer, yet is even more composed and refined than before (it’s noticeably quieter too). The adjustable air suspension contributes to the soft and floaty ride, we’d rather travel big miles in this over a couple of the big luxury Euro sedans.
For such a big and hefty vehicle the body control is impressively good. Compared to the competing Toyota LandCruiser, the Discovery 4 is the better choice for on-road driving. The steering is sufficiently weighty and nice & direct at speed, yet is light enough to negotiate the multi-level inner city carpark without breaking a sweat (the benefit of a good speed dependent steering system). It helps to make the Discovery shrink a little around you, rather than being constantly reminded of the big exterior dimensions. Off-road the Disco is excellent. The simple-to-use but high tech Terrain Response system retains its five settings – on-road, grass and snow, mud and ruts, sand and rock crawling – but has been upgraded in a couple of ways. The Discovery’s balance between on-road and off-road ability is class leading.
Not so good : Unlike the growing number of luxury SUV’s which sacrifice off-road ability for on-road prowess, the Discovery 4 isn’t trying to be a sports car. Thus, if you try to push too hard through twisted back roads, you may be left a little disappointed as the suspension is a little floaty.
Mid spec grades come standard with relatively low profile 19-inch tyres (the petrol V8 wears even lower profile 20 inch tyres). If you plan on regular off-road driving.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with dual front, front side and two-row side curtain airbags as well as a host of standard safety control systems.
There’s also a whole bunch of other technology standard across the Discovery 4 range including Terrain Response, permanent four-wheel drive, a centre electronic differential with low range transfer box, electronic cross-linked air suspension with automatic load-levelling and multiple modes, cruise control, power-assisted speed-dependent steering and an electric parking brake.
Also standard across the range are rain-sensing wipers, one-touch windows and mirrors, door puddle lamps and footwell lamps, an automatic dimming interior mirror, dual climate-control system, a eight-speaker 240-Watt Harman/Kardon CD sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic central locking with alarm, front fog lamps, rear parking sensors, a tow pack and a full-size alloy spare wheel.
Not so good : Our favourite engine in the Discovery, the SDV6 SE 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, kicks-off at $15k over the entry level TDV6 grade but you do get seven grained leather seats, eight way adjustable electric seats, automatic halogen headlamps, heated mirrors and 19-inch alloy wheels. The V8 petrol grade at well over $100k is approaching Range Rover pricing territory.