Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 review
by David Finlay (19 January 2012)
Land Rover did not make any major changes to the Discovery for 2012 (at least from the driver's point of view, if not the engineer's) but there are quite a lot of them, and in combination they have made what was already one of the most impressive serious off-roaders on the market even better.
The three-litre V6 turbo diesel engine is basically the same as before, except that the maximum power output has been raised to 252bhp. Despite that, combined fuel economy and CO2 emissions have improved, to 32.1mpg and 230g/km respectively (not that the latter figure makes any difference to annual VED payments, which remain at £445), and that's largely due to the introduction of a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Since gear selection is left to the car's electronics, you don't have to worry about which of the eight gears you're in now and which one you want to select next. The benefit of having so many ratios is that it's easier to keep the engine at the most suitable revs for any given circumstance, and as well as helping the economy and CO2 situations this also makes the gearchanges smoother.
That's Land Rover's claim, anyway. I'm inclined to agree with it, but since I haven't driven an eight-speed Discovery and one of the earlier six-speed ones on the same day I'm not really in a position to comment. But I can say that the shifts in the new car are indeed admirably smooth.
No changes have been made to the suspension or the four-wheel drive transmission since they were both updated in 2010, and in my view none were really needed. The Discovery was already fantastically composed on all road surfaces, to the point where you could easily forget how tall and heavy it was. The new car is exactly the same. Likewise, the wind noise is incredibly low considering what violence a vehicle of this shape must do to the air it encounters.
For this test I did a spot of off-roading on a course which consisted largely of deeply rutted mud, and with the help of the celebrated Terrain Response system I got through it easily. For clarification I should point out that the course was created by people working for Land Rover, who also supervised my attempt to drive along it. That, however, was all for the best, since I wouldn't have dared to go anywhere near it otherwise, and I think it's safe to say that the majority of owners wouldn't either.
On a more trivial note, there have been several specification updates ranging from new steering column stalks to a revised Rear Seat Entertainment system. The Time Climate feature, which pre-heats the engine and cabin in cold weather (now that's what I call luxury) is the same as before except that it now has a seven-day rather than a one-day timer, while the phonebook capacity has increased from 700 entries to several thousand, though if you need access to more than 700 contacts you must have a social life I can only dream of.