THE Discovery 3 could turn out to be as much of a landmark vehicle for Land Rover as the 1948 original and the original Range Rover.
While the current Range Rover was largely developed under BMW ownership, a project which continued after the company changed hands and was taken over by Ford, Discovery 3 is the first Land Rover to have been entirely developed under the blue oval.
It is the most advanced four-wheel drive car in production.
The car was developed over four million test miles on five continents and included the Australian Outback and Dubai as well as northern Canada, Scandinavia, Las Vegas, Tokyo, New York, Denver and, perhaps unusually for a proper off-roader, the Nurburgring.
Ford’s stewardship of the Land Rover brand meant that the old Td5 engine and lethargic V8 could be ditched in favour of an all-new V6 common rail diesel engine from the Ford-PSA partnership which had already impressed in twin-turbo form in the Jaguar S-type.
The new V8 engine is Jaguar derived, a larger capacity version of the 4.2-litre found in the S-type, XJ and XK models.
The car does away with solid axles and has all independent double wishbone suspension for improved road manners, while all but the five-seat entry-level model have highly complex air suspension and Terrain Response.
Terrain Response is activated by a dial on the centre console and delivers the optimum driving set-up for nine different conditions through five settings.
There is a general driving mode for on-road and non-specific off-road use. Twist the dial to the right and the mode for grass, gravel and snow is selected which can also be used in general slippery conditions. The first of the heavy-duty settings is another twist to the right, this time for mud and ruts. Selecting this setting automatically raises the ride height of the vehicle.
Switching to the cactus icon on the dial delivers the best possible response for soft sand, while the final setting is rock crawl for those tricky stones and boulders.
As always, there is a low-ratio setting for off-road and now this is offered in conjunction with a six-speed gearbox, manual as standard on the diesel and auto standard on the V8 or optional on the TDV6. There are three height settings for the suspension and the wading depth of the Discovery 3 is 700mm – 200mm more than the outgoing model.
Off-road activity can be monitored on a colour-screen display, which shows the mode selected, whether the centre or rear differential (or both) are being locked automatically, when hill descent control is selected, and the wheel articulation status.
The parking brake is electronic and activated via a switch. It releases itself when drive or reverse is selected on automatic models.
Other clever touches include a folding key that recharges while it is in the ignition so it never needs replacement batteries. This is waterproof to 10 metres.
The adaptive lighting system on high-spec models, which allows one beam to turn in the same direction as the steering, follows Vauxhall’s lead and includes a small 90-degree cornering lamp which shines in the same direction that the wheels are turning.
The Discovery 3 has three levels of in-car entertainment with the top Harmon/Kardon LOGIC7 system offering 14 speakers and a subwoofer in the lower tailgate (which you can actually sit on if you are that way inclined).
Land Rover has worked to reduce servicing costs on the new vehicle with a three-year bill of £771 over three years compared with £1,329 for the Discovery Series II.
Behind the wheel
ACCORDING to design director Geoff Upex, Discovery 3 was designed from the inside out. It goes some way to explaining why the interior really does seem to straddle the lines between luxury car, MPV and robust workhorse while the exterior is more or less box-shaped with some current Land Rover design cues.
The interior has an upmarket feel, with the exception of the hard plastic around the centre of the dashboard, but according to Land Rover, the Discovery 3 also had to feel tough inside. The Discovery really can seat seven adults.
I spent several miles in the third row alongside an equally tall colleague and the seating position was comfortable.
There was a couple of inches between my knees and the seat in front. Head room was also generous.
A wider track and longer wheelbase, as well as improving interior space, also has the added benefit of improving the car’s on-road behaviour.
There is little body roll bearing in mind this is a proper off-road vehicle. The rack-and-pinion steering and double wishbone suspension mean you can place the car accurately on the road and it settles reasonably well after sudden direction changes. The brakes stop the car well despite its 2.5-tonne unladen weight.
The challenge for Land Rover was minimising the space between the wheels and the cabin while retaining the off-road ability you would expect from a Land Rover.
With the front wheels pushed out to the corners, the Discovery 3 has an approach angle of up to 37.2 degrees and a departure angle of up to 29.6 degrees with the spare tyre removed.
Using the Terrain Response has been likened to having an off-road instructor sitting alongside you in the car.
As long as you tell the car which type of terrain you are on, it adjusts the ride height, throttle response and (in autos) the gear-change points.
In return, the centre screen tells you which gear is selected, the Terrain Response mode selected, the ride height, the status of hill descent control, whether the centre and rear differentials are being locked, the steering angle of the front wheels, the position of the wheels in relation to the ground, how much traction control is being used and on which wheels. We repeatedly tried the cars on all types of terrain, including waist-deep water and soft sand.
It felt virtually unstoppable in all conditions.
THE Discovery 3 is Land Rover’s most advanced car yet and performs the dual role of luxury seven seater and off-roader better than any other.
|TDV6 auto||V8 auto|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||190/4,000||295/5,500|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||325/1,900||315/4,000|
|Max speed (mph):||112||121|
|0-60mph (sec):||11.7 (man: 11.2)||8.0|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||27.2 (30.0)||18.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||275 (249)||354|
|Fuel tank capacity (l/gal):||82.3/18.1||86.3/19|
|Transmission: 6-sp man; 6-sp auto||Service interval (miles): 12,000|
|On sale: November||Prices (OTR): £26,995-£46,995|
A tale of two cars
THE new Discovery is probably the most capable off-road vehicle in production, and its ability to keep moving in the most treacherous conditions is beyond question.
However, just 20 miles into our drive our test car began giving us trouble, with various warnings relating to the failure of the parking brake, air suspension, hill descent control, engine emissions control and at one stage flashed the hazard warning lights unprompted as well as operating the central locking.
Most of the time the warning lights could be extinguished by switching off, ‘resting’ the car for a few minutes and then switching back on again, but that was no guarantee against it all happening again, as it often did.
Our Land Rover chase driver suggested this was the first time it had happened – on a global press launch that has been running since July – and we duly swapped cars for one that was working.
Land Rover told us the following day that our problem car was suffering from a dodgy seal and water mixing with electrics over several weeks. This was all very well, but wasn’t this something the four million test miles were meant to iron out?
And our vehicle on day two also encountered problems with the parking brake and hill descent control, while colleagues also reported faults involving warning lights.
These test vehicles were the first full production vehicles off the line and Land Rover has another six weeks or so before Discovery 3s arrive with British owners. We can only hope Land Rover makes fixing these flaws a number one priority.