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| The All-Terrain Four-Wheel Drive class in Australia's Best Cars 2007 has been won by the Land Rover Discovery 3 SE TDV6.
"Land Rover Discovery 3 diesel is clearly at the quality end of the all-terrain 4WD market. It gives buyers the best list of standard features, along with the highest levels of safety and security in the class," say the Australia's Best Cars judges.
The Discovery 3 range opens with the 4.0 V6 petrol SE, at $63,990. The 2.7 V6 turbo diesel is available in base S, SE and top spec HSE equipment levels, at $66,250, $74,990 and $83,990 respectively. The 4.4 V8 petrol HSE costs $89,990.
Three years/100,000 kilometres, which is average.
S: 4.0 V6 and 2.7 V6 turbo diesel include 5 seats, airconditioning, a single CD player, coil spring suspension, 17 inch alloy wheels, the six speed automatic, cloth trim, cruise control, ABS brakes with stability control, six airbags, remote central locking, tow ball receiver with wiring socket and an alarm.
SE: adds 18 inch alloys, electronic air suspension with Terrain Response, Xenon headlights, rear parking assistance, trip computer, automatic air and two rear seats.
HSE: also includes 19 inch alloys (V8), rear airconditioning, leather upholstery, power adjustable front seats and Harman Kardon audio with 8 speakers and an in dash six CD changer.
S: Air suspension $3450, 7 seat pack $3350
SE: rear airconditioning $1500
ALL: rear locking differential $1000; roof rails $750; sunroof and Alpine roof $3650; premium navigation system $7300; integrated phone system $2500; metallic/pearlescent paint $1500 .
Approximately 48 per cent after three years (2004 SE TD5; below average)
The Discovery 3's interior is characterised by a unique design. It's utilitarian and functional - all straight lines and 90 degree angles - yet stylish and refreshingly different.
The traditional high roof/low window sills/glasshouse effect of previous Discoveries has been retained. Here, the impression of space is real rather than contrived.
The driving position is high and mighty, there's plenty of seat travel and wheel adjustment, to cater for drivers of all sizes.
The controls are well laid out, with large buttons, clear graphics, a large rotary switch for the Terrain Response system and toggle switches for high/low range and the air suspension. There's also plenty of handy storage space near the driver, including two gloveboxes.
Vision around the car is excellent, though like all 4WDs (and many cars) a rear camera is an essential safety item.
The Discovery 3 uses separate body on frame architecture and weighs 2494-2704 kg, depending upon specification level.
Air suspension on SE/HSE features adjustable ride height, from 135 to 240 mm. It is fully independent, with cross linked air springs to maximise wheel articulation.
Terrain Response has five programmes - general driving, mud and ruts, grass/gravel/snow, sand and rock crawl. Each is selected with a rotary knob on the centre console. It then automatically co-ordinates the engine/transmission management, air suspension, stability, hill descent and traction control and centre/rear differentials for optimum performance in the context of the chosen setting.
Wheel articulation is 255 mm front/330 mm rear.
Steering is rack and pinion.
Towing weight is up to 3500 kg; ball weight is up to 350 kg.
The Discovery 3 scored four stars out of five in Euro NCAP tests for adult and child occupant protection.
The Discovery scored 83.5 out of a possible 120 in NRMA Insurance's security ratings.
The driver's seat is generously padded and quite luxurious. Backrest support is adequate, but more bolstering would be useful when cornering.
On the base model S, the head restraint is not adjustable. If you like the backrest upright, you may find that the head restraint brushes the back of your head, which is annoying.
The second row in the SE/HSE has three individual seats (the S has a 60/40 split bench), with firm, supportive padding. Leg room is adequate, though tall adults sit a bit knees up.
Three child restraint anchors are on the seat backs.
Row three has two firm, slim seats, with more space than most and a proper full length backrest. They fold flat and form the load floor when not required. They are easily accessed by tumbling a row two seat forward.
Oddment storage and cupholders are everywhere.
In five seat mode, there's plenty of boot space to fill, in contrast to previous Discoveries which had very small load areas. The lightweight, asymmetric aluminium tailgate is horizontally split.
Each of the row two seats folds forward and lowers, to form a 2.0-plus metres extended floor. Land Rover claims that the SE interior can be configured in 108 different ways.
Land Rover has a long standing, well earned reputation for below par quality and reliability. Our Discovery 3 test vehicles have been well finished inside and are very solid. They have also been driven many kilometres, some in arduous outback conditions, with no problems - but then we only have them for a week or so.
The V8 will average 20-25 litres/100km in town, and around 14-15 litres/100km on the open road. Premium is recommended. The 2.7 diesel will do 9-11 litres/100km on the highway, and 12-15 in town.
The base model's 4.0 litre petrol engine produces 160 kW of power at 4500 rpm and 360 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm.
The 2.7 litre V6 turbo diesel (140 kW at 4000/445 Nm at 1900) is shared with Jaguar, while the 4.4 litre V8 (220 kW at 5500/427 at 4000) is also derived from the 4.2 litre Jaguar engine.
Both gearboxes are from ZF. The SE's automatic has adaptive programming and a sequential shift.
We haven't yet sampled the base 4.0 V6, but its numbers suggest it might struggle with the Disco's weight.
The V8 has no such problems. It gets the heavy Disco off the line in snappy fashion, and, on flat ground at least, has the torque to pull reasonably low revs with ease. It's very smooth, as is the auto, but in hilly country the transmission is busy.
The 2.7 turbo diesel is as refined as a petrol engine, and though it doesn't jump off the line as smartly, or have the same outright acceleration as the V8 - taking 12.1 seconds for the 0-100 km/h journey - its greater torque, at lower revs, gives it equally long legs and relaxed cruising ability, with much lower fuel consumption.
Off-road, both engines will get the Disco up and over whatever is in front of it. The fuel tank holds only 86.3 litres though, which will severely limit the V8's range in the bush. The 2.7 diesel's 82.3 litre tank will be adequate, given its better economy.
The air suspension's ride is firm, though still compliant and comfortable on most surfaces. Very rough tracks can cause the occasional harsh impact to reach the body. The conventionally suspended S model is more compliant in these conditions.
The air suspension provides excellent control over body roll, and on most surfaces the Discovery is more disciplined and secure than it has a right to be, given its heavy weight.
The steering is relatively indirect, though with more road feel than most big 4WDs.
The 255/60 18 Goodyear Wrangler tyres are not the most adhesive in the world. You need all the cornering grip you can get in a 2.5-plus tonnes wagon like this.
Off-road, Terrain Response is brilliant. It takes the fear factor out of tackling difficult terrain by co-ordinating all of the vehicle's systems to precisely do what' required for smooth progress on each surface. Think of it as being akin to a sophisticated digital camera, which allows you to simply flick the switch to Auto and take pictures like a pro.
Some buyers will want their Disco old school style, without all the high tech stuff like Terrain Response and air suspension. So they will probably go for the base S model diesel. However Land Rover has failed to give this variant sufficient ground clearance to confidently tackle very rough, rocky terrain, which makes no sense at all.
No problems here, with good power, progression and pedal feel.
Excellent by 4WD standards, apart from some suspension noise in very rough conditions.
Were it not for persistent reliability issues - yet to be fully resolved - the Land Rover Discovery 3 would be impossible to go past if you're in the market for a fair dinkum 4WD. It's certainly a worthy Australia's Best Cars winner, on many grounds, but be aware that you may not have the trouble free run you're almost guaranteed from a Japanese brand vehicle.
|Warranty||Three years/100,000 kilometres|