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Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 TDV6 HSE 7-seat

Click to view picture galleryThe new Discovery 4: Smarter,
  better equipped and with much
  improved on-road manners,
its still the best large SUV for off-
  roading and workhorse towing

THE ORIGINAL 'DISCO' was launched as a seven-seat SUV in 1989, initially as a rugged, 'wash-out' workhorse with supreme off-road performance equal to a utilitarian Land Rover. Today it remains a supreme off-roader but the 'wash-out' function has long gone as the vehicle has moved further and further up-market.

Prices for the new 2010 model year Discovery 4s have crept up by around 5% and now range from 31,995 to 47,695. There are GS, XS and HSE levels of specification — and 85% of UK sales will be taken up by models using the new 3.0-litre TDV6 turbodiesel engine.

This twin-turbo 242bhp unit with 443lb ft of torque has been developed from the old 2.7-litre diesel unit, although the latter remains on offer in GS specification as the price entry model. The new engine has significant increases in both power and torque (respectively 29 and 36 per cent); fuel economy is improved by 9.7% (to 30.4mpg in the combined cycle) with 9% less CO2 emissions at 244g/km. Top speed is 112mph and 0-60mph takes 9 seconds.

Land Rover's designers say the key objectives for the 2010 models were to improve the on-road handling and refinement without losing any of the off-road ability. Consequently the Disco 4 now has variable-rate steering for more precise on-road control with better feedback to the driver; the suspension has been stiffened to reduce body roll during cornering; a new centre differential favours more power to the rear wheels during acceleration; and the general control and refinement is much more composed. Additionally, a new easy-to-use six-speed automatic transmission is standard on TDV6 models.

The new engine offers more mid-range punch and it is quicker away from a standstill. The old 2.7-litre unit ran out of puff at higher motorway speeds due to its near-three tonne weight but the new 3.0-litre engine improves this performance. Overall it is a much better unit.

Real-life fuel economy is relatively good as well — 25.5mpg for on-road country road driving with around 15mpg recorded on average during a severe off-roading exercise in the Scottish Borders where the latest Disco performed without hesitation as it faultlessly forded rivers, climbed rocky tracks and managed controlled descents of muddy, wet and near vertical undergrowth.

But, however competent, these days all vehicles need to appeal visually. Discovery 4 inherits the clean lines of the previous generation but the '4' has been given a more premium, more contemporary, look and it is now very close — perhaps too close in luxury fixtures and fittings — to the Range Rover.

In response to existing customer requests, smoother, simpler surfaces are employed at the front, giving the vehicle its new character — emphasised by sportier looking front lights with new LED position lamps configured in a unique, signature 'stepped' profile around the main light units. New lights are also introduced at the rear of the vehicle, incorporating LED stop, tail and indicator technology.

The new front bumper has a larger cooling aperture to accommodate the 3.0-litre TDV6's greater power outputs. Cleverly, the larger bumper actually improves vehicle aerodynamics by reducing drag, thanks to its innovative anti-drag 'lips' that help smooth the airflow from the front bumper around the front wheels.

While it is now expensive to buy and expensive to run, owners will be sure to enjoy its fine blend of workhorse and supreme off-road ability, improved on-road driving manners complemented by executive refinement and the improved performance from the new twin-turbo diesel. Add in seven-seat accommodation and a great image and it's easy to appreciate why Land Rover is claiming that the new Discovery 4 will be a revelation to existing owners. — David Miles

Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 TDV6 HSE 7-seat
| 47,695
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-60mph: 9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 25.5mpg
Power: 242bhp | Torque: 443lb ft | CO2 244g/km | Insurance group 13