This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here possibly applies to the models you can get at home.
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* Please note that prices quoted are those in effect at the time the vehicle was tested
Possibly the nicest SUV of all.
Almost a Range Rover but for somewhat less money, the Discovery 3 has most of the toys fitted to its upmarket sisters, yet without skimping on the good stuff.
The only major omissions are the DVD gaming and movie kit, the television set and the camera that lets you see where you are reversing. Its diesel engine option is also smaller, but I think I could adjust if I really had to. What I really could get used to though, is the two additional seats that fold away into the rear floor – sometimes one just needs room for a couple more, doesn’t one?
The Brits apparently agree: during the latter part of August it walked off with two major industry awards, namely the Auto Express “Best Premium SUV” trophy and the evecars.com prize for “Best Family 4x4.”
Both praised its ability to be equally at home in the mountains, cruising the freeways, roaming the Serengeti or attending West End functions.
The one we spent time with, was the top-spec’ed VSE with the 2,7 litre turbo diesel borrowed from the Jaguar parts bin and modified for off road use. This 2720 cc V6 24-valve motor uses variable geometry turbo charging to put out 140 kW at 4 000 rpm and maximum torque of 440 Nm at 1 900 rpm.
While you can hear a gentle “tucka-tucka” from outside, efficient sound deadening renders it practically inaudible from the driver’s seat. You could almost believe it was a petrol engine, unless the reduced rev range on the tachometer clued you in to the truth.
The engine is mated to a six-speed ‘intelligent shift’ electronically controlled ZF automatic transmission. It offers a ‘sport’ mode that delivers more performance-oriented throttle response and gear shifts and features Land Rover’s Command Shift operation – giving full manual control of gear changing if desired.
Drive goes to all four wheels. Electronic Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control modulate power supply and braking, ensuring maximum grip in all conditions. Throttle response, gear change patterns and suspension settings are also computer controlled, determined by speed and road (or off-road) conditions. Low range is also available for tough terrain. This can be selected, electronically, on the move. The central differential locks up fully if conditions require greater traction.
The Discovery 3 also has Land Rover’s patented Terrain Response system that optimises driveability and comfort, as well as maximising traction. The driver simply chooses one of five terrain settings via a rotary dial on the centre console. There is a general driving program, one for slippery conditions (known as grass/gravel/snow) and three special off-road modes, namely mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl.
Vehicle functions controlled by Terrain Response include ride height, engine torque response, Hill Descent Control (which limits downhill speed), Electronic Traction Control, transmission and differential settings.
The ride height function comes courtesy of the car’s air suspension system and includes a “loading” position slightly lower than normal travelling height. Short-legged passengers really appreciate having less of a climb up into the cabin. Should you forget to reset before pulling away, it self-cancels as soon as 30 km/h is reached.
The tailgate is a two-piece design, as on the Range Rover, rather than a large outward-opening door. There are practical benefits to its new asymmetric shape. First, when the upper part of the tailgate is raised, the asymmetrically shaped lower lid reduces load height into the boot. When both upper and lower halves are opened, the asymmetric shape reduces ‘reach in’ distance. Unlike earlier Discos, the spare wheel is mounted under the body, rather than on the rear door.
A nice spin off of the tailgate design is that the upper half can be closed to maintain privacy of your belongings, while the lower half can be used as a picnic table or even as a viewing platform (at the polo, Fortesque).
Another nice touch is the electronic parking brake, operated by a square plastic lever on the centre console. This self-releases on pull off, so there’s no need to juggle accelerator and handbrake when taking off on hills. Terribly civilised.
The HSE spec includes a combination alpine roof and sun roof, so even if you prefer to keep everything closed, the UV-filtering glass top floods the interior with additional light, making for a feeling of open roominess.
Decidedly upmarket in its presentation and equipment, this Discovery is a viable alternative to its more expensive sisters and possibly the nicest of them all.
2720 cc 24-valve V6 diesel
Power: 140 kW at 4 000 rpm
Torque: 440 Nm at 1 900 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11,6 seconds
Maximum speed: 176 km/h
Fuel Index: 12,2 l/100 km
CO2 gm/km: 320
Fuel tank: 82 litres
Price: R 628 000
Land Rover Care Plan: 3 years/100 000 km (whichever occurs first)
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to in order to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and visit to kick back and relax. So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously.
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