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Click for pictures“Land Rover’s
  Discovery 3 TDV6:
  the right product,
  in the right place,
  at the right time!”


LAND ROVER, who specialise only in making 4x4 vehicles, are now the star performers in the Ford 'collective' of car brands. Although now owned by Ford, Land Rover is 'built in Britain' — it has been since 1948 — and today the brand is an acknowledged British icon. In 2005 they set their new global record for annual sales, scoring an increase of 14 per cent for a total of 185,120 vehicles sold. Here in the UK, Land Rover also set their fifth consecutive year of record sales — up by 3 per cent, to 48,777 sales.

The introduction of the Range Rover Sport and the on-going demand for the premium Range Rover has much to do with this success but, with 60,000 global sales last year, it is the Discovery 3 that remains the mainstay of Land Rover's worldwide popularity.

It is not just the public who like Land Rover products. The media, too, are pretty impressed by the latest models.

At the end of any year there are a whole host of awards given out by the motoring media. But the most important of these automotive 'Oscars' are awarded by the influential What Car? Magazine and it is these that are the most treasured by a manufacturer in the UK.

In 2005 What Car? raised a few eyebrows in the industry by making the new Land Rover Discovery 3 their outright 'Car of the Year' at a time when 4x4s were having a 'bad press' from the environmental and road-users groups. In their recently announced 2006 awards, the Land Rover Discovery 3 is still a winner — not of the overall title, but as the 'Best Large 4x4'. It also won the same category in 2005 on its way to the overall title.

This latest award is the 67th achieved by Discovery 3! The quote from What Car? sums up Land Rover and its products pretty well: "Making 4x4s isn't a fashionable new departure for Land Rover — it's what they do. None of the Discovery's key rivals can match its no-nonsense image or ability in the rough, yet it's also as classy and refined as an executive saloon and as practical as an MPV."

Discovery 3 has two engine options for Europe. A fuel-guzzling 4.4 V8 petrol unit and — not surprisingly the most popular — a 2.7 V6 turbo-diesel unit from the Ford PSA (Peugeot/Citroen) engine development partnership. All Discovery models, other than the base TDV6 variant which has five seats, are seven-seaters with the rear row folding
down into the floor to give a large flat load area while still affording comfortable seating for five adults.

Prices range from 26,995 up to 48,495. The most cost-effective model is the TDV6 turbodiesel SE auto, priced at 38,490 — What Car?'s favoured model. My test car was the top-of-the-range diesel version, the HSE with the standard fit 6-speed adaptive automatic transmission and priced at a hefty 43,495.

I say 'hefty' — but when you consider the technology this vehicle has, the luxury and all-wheel drive technology it encompasses and the image it presents, it is no more expensive than an executive car —
and it does a heck of a lot more.

The Discovery 3 is no longer a bodyshell bolted on top of a Land Rover chassis. It now has Land Rover's new Integrated Body-Frame, a system that combines the torsional rigidity and on-road refinement of
a car's monocoque bodyshell with the strength of an in-built chassis frame.

It is still 'boxy' in shape but that's a real bonus so far as interior space goes. Not only does it allow for a relatively high-up command seating position, but the stepped roof gives more headroom for second and third row passengers. Access to all three rows of seats is through wide opening side doors. An upper and lower two-piece tailgate allows easy access to the large load area. Both the middle and rearmost rows of seats fold neatly into the load area floor.

The folding armrest for the front two seats keep the driver and front seat passenger well supported in their seats, handily off-setting the bodyroll. Needless to say for this price, the upholstery and door trims are full leather and the heated front seats were a great comfort for
my wintry test period. The interior equipment levels are very compre-hensive: everything from automatic front and rear heating and air conditioning through to a navigation and vehicle information system — including a 'real-time' visual display of what off-road mode is operating.

Another piece of pioneering Land Rover technology is the Terrain Response system that optimises driveability and comfort as well as maximising traction from the permanent four-wheel drive system.
It also incorporates all manner of on- and off-road electronic driving aids, such as hill descent control, four-wheel traction control, two-speed high and low ratio transfer box, front and rear split differentials, lockable centre differential, independent front and rear air suspension and a stability control and body-roll limiter.

Operated via a rotary switch and a couple of other switches on the centre consol, it's a technical masterpiece. The driver can use any one of five automated terrain settings which include a general driving programme plus one for ice, gravel and snow and three special off-road modes for mud and ruts, sand and rock crawling. Ride height, engine torque response and all the traction control facilities are used automatically as appropriate. Brilliant.

Developing 190bhp and 324lb ft of torque, the Discovery 3's 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel engine is a real gem. It's also to be found powering all sorts of models from Jaguar, Ford, Peugeot and Citroen. However, because of the Discovery's weight and four-wheel drive hardware, it's never going to be astoundingly frugal. Official average fuel consumption is quoted as 30mpg, but nobody I know who has one gets anywhere near that. My test car returned just 23.5mpg, so the Discovery is not an especially cheap vehicle to run.

With all that weight to carry, you have to be forceful to get it under-way — although once 'in the cruise' it is smooth and quiet. With high torque at low engine speeds and an automatic transmission, it copes well with heavy traffic conditions and is very flexible and docile around town. Engine noise levels, except when pushed hard, are very quiet inside the cabin and road noise is virtually non-existent.

Owning this particular 4x4 brings big benefits if you live in the country or tow heavy loads (the maximum towing weight is 3,500kg). A great number of Discoverys live and work in urban habitats, but due to
their size and running costs I'm not sure they're really the most suitable vehicle for the city or town-based school runs. Still, that's
the customer's choice and they should be left to decide — not have the choice imposed on them by Government 'nanny state' legislation
or other organisations who think that they know best.

Buy one and you'll have to accept the high running costs, a lack of driver feedback and 'floating' performance on-road from the air suspension. What you'll get in return are classy good looks, executive refinement with the best off-road workhorse capabilities, permanent four-wheel drive and a flexible interior arrangement. Oh, and don't forget that well-earned 'Great British Icon' status. Sounds like a good deal! — David Miles

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Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 HSE | 43,495
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 11 seconds
Test MPG: 23.5mpg | Power: 190bhp | Torque: 324lb ft

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------------------------------------------------------- Land Rover Discovery 3