It’s a measure of how far Land Rover has managed to raise the values and expectation of its brand over 65 years that, these days, the notion of a Land Rover with a five-figure price tag is nothing out of the ordinary.
Sure, you can still get into one for about $70,000 for the entry-level TDV6 – right up to $130k for the flagship V8 version. But most Land Rover Discovery buyers these days are happy to fork out $100,000+ for the latest combination of rugged, go-anywhere dynamics and an upmarket, leather-and-polished timber cabin.
The Discovery 4 has received a modest update in recent months – partly cosmetic and partly to incorporate some features previously found in its Jaguar and Range Rover cousins – including a new engine and transmission package plus some interior refinements.
We tested the Disco 4 in mid-range spec – the 3.0 SDV6 HSE (3-litre twin-turbo-diesel, luxury fit-out). That vehicle comes with a starting price tag of $95,900 – although ours came with another $10,000 worth of extras including the signature “Black Pack” now being offered on this model. Our test machine was thus an intimidating looking thing – black wheels, black door handles, grille and breather vents – with window surrounds and even the Land Rover lettering finished in black as well. Mr T would love this car.
The $5170 Black Pack was complemented by $3600 worth of metallic paint and an $850 digital radio tuner – although further options including a premium leather pack and a sublime Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio (with 825 watts of power) can push the price tag even further north.
A new eight-speed transmission is the major mechanical upgrade for this latest Disco 4 – and it couples beautifully with the creamy, turbine-like power of the sequential twin-turbo diesel which was introduced a year or so ago. In the entry-level TDV6 model, the previous 2.7-litre turbo-diesel has been replaced by a tuned-down, 155kW version of this new 3-litre oil-burner. Those extra kilowatts are noticeable in the SDV6, though – it will rumble to cruising speed in a smart 9.3 seconds and, when sports mode is selected on the rotary-style gearshift dial, it gives the big machine a surprisingly sprightly demeanour.
Gear-change paddles on the steering wheel are now standard. Land Rover boasts that the latest in fuel-injection technology means the bulk of this engine’s thunderous 600Nm of torque can be accessed within 500 milliseconds of idle, meaning those turbos can spool up to respond in a heartbeat. Maximum grunt comes at 2000 rpm, while its full 185 kilowatts become available at 4000rpm. That makes this a tremendously flexible engine capable of chugging through deep mud or accelerating for highway, overtaking with equal effect. It’s also surprisingly quick off the mark for such a big thing (it weighs almost 3 tonnes).
Even though our test was conducted in mostly urban-style conditions, the Discovery still produced a modest thirst of 11.1L/100km – impressive for such a big machine in a somewhat unnatural environment. Mind you, many of these machines will spend the bulk of their days chugging between the upmarket suburbs and private school drop-off zones – so it’s a good thing the Discovery can do so in relatively frugal fashion.
If you do decide to head off-road, though, the Terrain Response system has been further tweaked to ensure you get there and back without incident. The system has settings for general driving, grass, gravel, mud and ruts, sand and rock-crawling – a fairly broad range of capabilities. That is complemented by off-road assistance including Gradient Acceleration Control – which stops you accidentally prodding the accelerator too hard when on steep slopes; and even an off-road guidance function on its satellite navigation system.
Put it all together and the Discovery remains one of the most capable and versatile machines getting around. While not quite reaching the plush standards of its new Range Rover sibling, the interior of the Discovery is more cossetting than ever, with a choice of hand-stitched Windsor premium leather finishes, ebony dash fascia and door trim finishes as well as electric seats, windows and mirrors. All in all, a rather grand place to be – $100-grand, to be exact.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 4 3.0 SDV6 HSE
DETAILS: Five-door, five or seven-seat full-sized luxury 4WD with six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.
TECH STUFF: 3-litre, sequentially twin-turbocharged V6 diesel produces 185kW@4000rpm; 600Nm@2000rpm; eight-speed ZF transmission with full-time all-wheel-drive.
FEATURES: Driver and passenger front, side, head and rear passenger airbags; dynamic stability control with electronic traction control, enhanced understeer control, roll stability control and trailer stability assist; adjustable air suspension; multi-mode off-road system; premium leather trim, navigation system with off-road function, Bluetooth connectivity, electric seats, windows and mirrors; electronic park brake with hill hold assist; automatic headlights and wipers, reversing camera.
THIRST: 8.1L/100km (official combined figure).
VERDICT: Still unstoppable, more luxurious.
BOTTOM LINE: As tested $105,520 (with Black Design pack and 20-inch alloys $5170; premium metallic paint $3600; digital radio $850).