The Discovery 3 exemplifies the new techy, stylish and ultra-modern Land Rover brand but also manages to retain that belt-and-braces, go-anywhere, do-anything character that the firm’s 4x4s must have.
That’s a difficult balance to strike – no other car firm manages to make you feel quite as at ease piling £40,000-worth of luxury into a muddy pit.
The Discovery 3 looks like a cross between a bank vault and Action Man’s company car and it’s massive – a big metal box of a thing that’s considerably bigger than the slighter model it replaces. In fact, it’s only marginally smaller than a Range Rover.
This translates into a spacious cabin that can seat up to seven people, although the back two seats, which are perfectly comfortable once bodies are in place, aren’t the easiest to access – it’s a tight squeeze between the second row and the door pillar.
The cabin has the right feel of luxury and practicality with leather seats, satellite navigation and varying equipment packs, including Bright, Cold climate, Convenience, Hi ICE, Interior light and Leather. Suffice to say, the HSE isn’t missing any kit of note.
The Discovery 3 is no agricultural lever and spring operation. It’s fully reliant on state-of-the-art electronics to propel it across any surface, thanks to complex air suspension and the new Terrain Response system, which sets the car up for nine different conditions through five settings.
Terrain Response will automatically select the best combination of electronic aids and settings for varying conditions, from engine torque, ride height, traction control and transmission response.
As a result, it’s a big improvement on the road but it still doesn’t have the sharp feel of an SUV like the BMW X5. It’s a bit wayward on the motorway, drifting slightly and with some lean through corners, but it is nowhere near as bad as its dire predecessor.
Mindful of its heritage, Land Rover has made a big effort to ensure this is no mere vacuous showy SUV with average ability off-road. Discoverys have always been the choice of drivers who really use their SUVs, and don’t just chug around Kensington in them, so it really does have to perform.
The terrific 2.7-litre diesel engine is the same unit from the Jaguar S-type, although it has one less turbo. In such a heavy car – a gargantuan two-and-a-half tones – it has its work cut out and you could never accuse the Discovery of being swift, but it is exceedingly smooth and quiet.
The new Discovery is a premium product in every way – so much so that many might forgo buying a Range Rover and plump for this instead.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £41,792
CO2 emissions (g/km): 275
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 27.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £18,300/44%
Depreciation 36.36 pence per mile x 60,000: £21,816
Maintenance 3.54 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,124
Fuel 15.12 pence per mile x 60,000: £9,072
Wholelife cost 55.02 pence per mile x 60,000: £33,012
Typical contract hire rate: £814
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A COMPANY car driver looking for a top quality SUV with a diesel engine is rather spoilt for choice and we’ve chosen four of the best here. Although there seems to be a wide discrepancy in price, the BMW and Volkswagen don’t come with leather seats or satellite navigation, as do the very highly specced Discovery and XC90, and by the time all the cars here are adjusted for specification, there’s not much in it P11D-wise.
Land Rover £41,792
THERE is little between three of these cars when it comes to service, maintenance and repair, and the X5, Discovery and XC90 would all cost between £2,100 and £2,300. However, the Touareg, considering it is the ‘least premium’ brand here, is surprisingly the most expensive, although its 4.25ppm rate means it is only £250 more expensive than the XC90.
Land Rover 3.54ppm
THE Volvo is the best SUV when it comes to fuel economy, thanks to its 2.4-litre diesel engine being the smallest. But that also means it is the slowest – even more so than the hefty Discovery. The X5’s smooth 3.0d engine has a combined figure of 30.1mpg, putting it in second place, and is the quickest – a pretty strong combination. That proves, as is so often the case, that BMW is the master engine builder. The two-and-a-half-tonne weights of the Touareg and Discovery do not help fuel consumption.
Land Rover 15.12ppm
ALL four of these cars are excellent at holding their value but the best is the imperious X5, which is as popular with used buyers as it is with new. A 30.41ppm figure relates to a CAP figure of around 50% over three years/60,000 miles. Even the highest-depreciating XC90 manages a figure in the early to mid-40% range.
Like the Discovery, it is extremely highly-specced and that can put off some used buyers.
Land Rover 36.36ppm
THE BMW X5 is the clear winner for wholelife costs, thanks to decent fuel consumption and the fact that its is still worth more than half of its original value at disposal time. Such is the gap that the next best, the Volkswagen Touareg, is £3,000 more expensive and the Volvo £5,500 dearer.
However, the X5 would need a few thousand pounds’ worth of options to bring it up to the same specification as the Discovery and XC90, but it is still tremendous value even with that factored in.
Land Rover 55.02ppm
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE Touareg has the only engine that is Euro-IV compliant but in tax terms, that is irrelevant as all are well over the highest benefit-in-kind tax band and would rate at 35%. That means a tax bill for a 40% payer of nearly a whopping £5,900 a year for the Discovery. Adjusted to compete on specification, the Touareg would still be the best value. At the P11D here, it would be £1,000 a year less than the Land Rover
Land Rover 275g/35%
THE Discovery 3 does the business on and off-road but that comes at a cost. For a driver wanting seven seats, all the luxury you could want and ability to tackle the worst conditions, it’s nigh on unbeatable. But for the standard company car driver, the X5’s great on-road ability and excellent wholelife costs are a winning combination.
WINNER: BMW X5 3.0d Sport auto