UPPER CLASS

TEST EVEREST V DISCOVERY V PRADO

L A N D R O V E R D I S C O V E R Y S D V 6

Th e Discovery SDV6 is unique here thanks to V6 bi-turbo-diesel, eight-speed automatic and fully independent suspension.

WHAT you see here is a Discovery SDV6. More specifically, a Discovery SDV6 SE, the lower of the SDV6 specifications, which starts at $84,880. Thatís an $8K jump on the Everest Titanium, but on par with the Prado Kakadu.

The current Discovery is heavily based on the Discovery 3, so is in effect the end-product of 13 years of continual evolution and is now close to the end of its product life.

An all-new, considerably lighter Discovery built on an aluminium monocoque, as per the current Range Rover and RR Sport, should be here midto- late 2017 to replace the current (and heavy) steel separate-chassis model.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

THE SDV6 designation means this Discovery has the more powerful of the two bi-turbo V6 diesel engines, which claims 183kW and 600Nm. The less expensive TDV6 develops 155kW and 520Nm, but is mechanically identical to the SDV6 Ė the difference being in the tuning software.

Despite the SDV6 being the heaviest vehicle here Ė 150kg more than the already heavy Titanium Ė its power and torque figures easily outmuscle the Titaniumís 143kW/470Nm and the Kakaduís modest 130kW/450Nm.

The SDV6 does this off the back of having two turbos rather than the singleturbo arrangements of the Titanium and the Kakadu. The SDV6ís two turbos are of a different size and type, with a larger variable-vane unit and a smaller fixedvane unit working together to optimise performance. The larger turbo cleverly takes care of most of the driving duties, while the smaller turbo only joins to assist the main turbo on wider throttle openings when top-end power is required.

The SDV6 backs up the strongest performance here with the best refinement, something enhanced by its smooth and very smart eight-speed ZF gearbox. Itís clearly the best gearbox of the three by a noticeable margin.

The only downside is that the SDV6 is also the thirstiest of the three, something

thatís inevitable given it is the biggest, heaviest and most powerful vehicle here.

Mind you, itís not far behind the Titanium; although, like the Ford, it has a too-small fuel tank for remote-area driving.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

THE Discovery may be the heaviest vehicle in this company, but itís also the only one with fully independent suspension. On tight winding roads the Discoveryís hefty weight makes its presence felt most noticeably, while the fully independent suspension does its best work through bumpy corners.

On a smooth road the Discovery canít match the sportier feel of the Titanium, but otherwise itís the best all-roundhandling vehicle of this three. Part of its advantage is due to its lower on-road ride, something it can get away with as its air-spring suspension can be significantly jacked up for off-road use Ė unlike the Titanium (fixed-height suspension) and the Kakadu (which only has a small height adjustment at the rear).

The SDV6ís relatively low-profile 255/55R19 tyres no doubt help to sharpen its precise steering, but they also add a somewhat harsh edge to the ride quality at lower speeds on rough roads.

This is the only blot on the Discoveryís ride, which is generally better than the Titaniumís but not quite up to the plushness of the Kakaduís.

OFF-ROAD

THE height-adjustable suspension is one of the SDV6ís major off-road advantages here. Jacked up for off-road use, it sits a good deal higher than the other two. The negative side of this is that ride quality isnít as compliant as it is on the lower settings, given the increased tendency for the suspension to top out.

The Discovery has the smartest and most effective 4x4 system, at least

when itís fitted with the $1060 optional rear locker, which isnít standard on any Discovery Ė top-spec HSE models included. The locker works wonders for the SDV6 off-road, especially on rutted and broken ground where wheel travel becomes an issue. Best of all, the locker doesnít require driver switching and is fully integrated with the other chassis control systems, and once engaged it keeps the electronic traction active on the front axle.

The Discoveryís other off-road trump card is the vision from the driverís seat, which is way better than the Titanium and noticeably better than the Kakadu.

CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION

THE Discoveryís cabin is the biggest and most versatile here thanks to the fact that it has the only third row seats suitable for larger adults, and that all the seats fold individually and dead-flat for multiple cargo/seating configurations.

The SDV6 has a supportive driverís seat, adjustable armrests, and the previously mentioned good vision.

While it feels luxurious, thanks in part to its leather seats, the standard equipment is poor compared to the Titanium and the Kakadu. Not even satnav is standard in the SE, although it is available as an option.

PRACTICALITIES

AS EVER, the weakness of the Discovery is in the wheel and tyre spec. The standard high-speed-rated 255/55R19s are too vulnerable to offroad damage, while aftermarket tyre choice is still limited.

The 82.3-litre fuel capacity is also too small, but relatively easily attended to via aftermarket enhancement, which is good across the board for the Discovery.

At 3500kg the Discoveryís maximum tow rating is the best here, while its 600kg payload is similar to the Titaniumís and well ahead of the Kakaduís.

When fi tted with the optional rear locker, the Disco has the smartest and most eff ective 4x4 system