Land Rover Discovery 4 2009 Review
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Land Rover has spent up big on the newest generation of the Discovery unveiled in Scotland this week.
While the exterior changes have been all about easing the visual impact of the car — more horizontal lines rather than vertical, less contrast in colour tonings, a bit more bling and jewellery to suggest form rather than function — it is in the platform engineering and the interior styling where the big effort has gone.
A long day spent bashing through a variety of conditions — ranging from motorway cruising through negotiating twisting highland back roads to deep river fording and clawing through some of the slickest stickiest mud in creation — gave the Discovery 4 every opportunity to fall short of the target, but it didn't.
At the heart of the engineering revisions are a pair of new in-house designed engines, a spanking 5-litre direct injection V8 with 276kW and 510Nm and a sublime sequential twin turbo 3.0-litre diesel V6 with 180kW and a monstrous 600Nm of torque delivered with lag-free efficiency.
Both engines will make it to Australia, the V8 replacing the current 4.4-litre at the top of the model range while the new diesel will be offered in both SE and HSE trim while the current 2.7-litre diesel will be retained in the model line-up as the entry-level offering.
The new V8 was not available to drive at the launch event but after a day spent in the company of the diesel it became increasingly difficult to mount an argument as to why you would favour the big petrol engine.
Getting the new engines' performance to the road was a priority during development with the result that a raft of refinements to the suspension architecture — a new knuckle design to improve roll rates and cornering stability, stiffer anti-roll bars, new bushes and dampers to improve ride quality — a redesign of the steering rack to give a more direct and car-like feel at highway speeds and more precision for low-speed off-road applications, and a much more effective and linear brake package upgraded to a size that matches the outgoing Range Rover stoppers.
The brilliant Terrain Response system — first introduced on the outgoing model as off-roading for dummies — has also come in for refinements. There are still the five settings for on-road, grass and snow, mud and ruts, sand and rock crawling but there have been a couple of key improvements.
A launch function has been built into the sand settings to eliminate the need to feather the throttle when driving away and lower the risk of digging in while a gentle background braking application has been incorporated into rock crawling below 5km/h in first gear or reverse to increase stability.
On the open road the Discovery 4 is more settled, composed and a great deal quieter in the cabin than the outgoing model. There is less nervousness abolut the steering and subsequently greater confidence to allow the car to flow through sections where previously the body roll and steering vagueness would have given cause for pause.
Off the made surfaces the Discovery still displays the no-nonsense abilties that have built the legend of the badge but without some of the rougher edges. The dial and drive capability of the terrain response system is nothing short of magic. The vehicle's dynamic response to varying conditions are effectively built-in and all the driver need do is use a degree of commonsense to look like a life-long off-road expert.
Inside the revised instrument and dash layout is functional and easy to take in. All the key control points come easily to hand, the terrain response control dial has been shifted forward, the gear-shift placement adjusted and the dash console inclined more towards the driver.
There is a new seat design with an extended front cushion and height adjustable head restraints. That change is going to disappoint some traditionalists as it comes at the cost the seat-mounted grab-handles.
For the first time the Discovery comes with keyless start and it also wins a larger touch-screen navigation system, some extra storage bins and full i-Pod connectivity with full control through the centre console or steering wheel-mounted buttons. That is all very nice — and friendly — but Land Rover's core value is its ability to go almost anywhere and get back again. The Discovery 4 has lost none of that.
Pricing and local specifications will be confirmed closer to the car's local release later this year.
Range and Specs
|2.7 TDV6||2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$21,000 – 28,490||2009 Land Rover Discovery 4 2009 2.7 TDV6 Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 SDV6 HSE||3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$27,500 – 36,410||2009 Land Rover Discovery 4 2009 3.0 SDV6 HSE Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 SDV6 SE||3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$25,700 – 34,100||2009 Land Rover Discovery 4 2009 3.0 SDV6 SE Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 TDV6 SE||3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||No recent listings||2009 Land Rover Discovery 4 2009 3.0 TDV6 SE Pricing and Specs|
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