Poles Apart

Land Rover’s all-new Discovery is cutting-edge technology, but how does it compare to established 4x4 design practice?


THE ALL-NEW Land Rover Discovery is a rare thing, as it’s only the third new-from-theground- up Discovery in nearly 30 years. In effect this is only the third allnew Discovery since the original appeared in 1989, given that the first two Discoveries were built off essentially the same platform and Discoveries 3 and 4 then shared what amounts to a second-generation platform.

That evolution has seen the Discovery design transverse the full technology spectrum: from an old school separate-chassis design with live axles at both ends, to a separate chassis with fully independent suspension, and now to a monocoque with full independent suspension. It’s not just any monocoque, but a high-tech one built from 85 per cent aluminium using aerospace design and manufacturing techniques. This new Land Rover also brings the smallest ever engines to power a Discovery: a pair of two-litre four-cylinder diesels, in what is another sign of technological evolution.

To benchmark this new Discovery we have lined it up against two very traditional rivals in the form of the Land Cruiser 200 and the Land Cruiser 150, better known as the Prado. In most ways the Discovery is more a 200 than a 150 competitor; although, in other ways, it also competes against the 150, especially in its lower-priced models. Either way, having both Land Cruisers here provides two benchmarks that effectively ‘bookend’ the Discovery.

The Discovery is offered in a very complex 12-model range that spans $66K to $117K – if you leave out the expensive limited-run First Edition model that asks $132K. That 12-model range encompasses three different engines and significant mechanical differences given that, among other things, the base four-cylinder engine (Td4) can’t be had with dual-range gearing. Only the up-spec fourcylinder diesel (Sd4) and the V6 (Td6) diesel are available with dual range.

Meanwhile, the 200 diesel spans $77K to $120K and the 150 diesel spans $54K to $86K, both offered in four different grades with little mechanical differences aside from suspension details.

For this test we would have ideally liked a Discovery Sd4 S with dual range, air suspension and rear-locker options ($76K), or an Sd4 SE which comes with dual range and air suspension as standard but optioned with a rear locker (so $85K). Instead we could only get an Sd4 HSE, which starts at $94K.

Likewise, a Prado VX ($74K) would have been ideal as this is the pick of the Prado range, instead we could only get the special-edition Altitude model based on the volume-selling GXL. However, we had more luck with the 200 and received the GXL ($88,541) as requested; although, the optional KDSS brings the price to $91,971.



THE 150 Series Land Cruiser, better known as a Prado, arrived in Australia in 2009 and was heavily based on the 120 Series that dates back to 2002; so there’s no escaping the fact that, at its core, the Prado is an ageing design.

However, much of the Prado is new, with the 2.8-litre diesel engine and six-speed automatic gearbox only arriving in late 2015, replacing the previous 3.0-litre diesel and five-speed automatic. The engine change was driven by ever-tougher emissions standards, as the 3.0-litre only met the previous Euro 4 standard whereas the 2.8 meets current Euro 5 and won’t need much to meet the upcoming Euro 6 standard. The six-speed automatic was introduced to help fuel economy.

A refreshed Prado, which will primarily bring styling and equipment changes, is on the way; although, there’s a good possibility it will bring a towing capacity (and GCM) upgrade to make it more competitive against the likes of Everest, Pajero Sport, MU-X and Trailblazer. This new Prado won’t be offered with the slow-selling 4.0-litre petrol V6.


DESPITE being smaller in capacity and running a much lower compression ratio, the Prado’s 2.8-litre four betters the old 3.0-litre in both power and torque. You can put that down to improved thermal efficiency, while the lower compression ratio helps with emissions and general running refinement.

The fact that the capacity has been reduced also makes for a smoother running engine, as smaller inline fours have less inherent vibration than larger ones; although, the 2.8 still employs counter-rotating balance shafts to smooth things out further. Interestingly, the otherwise identical engine in the Hilux doesn’t employ balance shafts.

The upside of all this is that the 2.8 is smooth, quiet and generally refined. The downside is that the 2.8’s pedal-tothe metal performance isn’t noticeably improved over the 3.0-litre given the power output has only jumped 4kW (now 130kW), even if the 2.8 is more flexible thanks to a 40Nm jump in maximum torque (now 450Nm).

In this company the Prado is a very distant third in get-upand- go; its 130kW tailing behind the 177kW of the Discovery and the 200kW of the admittedly much heavier Land Cruiser 200. The Prado’s overall performance isn’t helped by its tall overall gearing and the fact that both fifth and sixth are overdrive gears.

Still, the Prado lopes along in an effortless and relaxed manner and is notably more economical than the 200; although, that’s probably more to do with the 200’s extra weight. And, while the Prado’s 2.8 isn’t especially brisk, it’s still flexible at low revs and willing to rev hard if asked. For its part, the six-speed auto offers smooth and decisive shifts, but it’s not particularly sporty or proactive in terms of its shift protocols.



What You Get

ALL Prado models from the $56,050 GX up come with seven airbags, smart-key entry and stop/start, rear camera and cruise control. The $61,190 GXL adds third-row seats (a GX option), sat-nav, side-steps, dualzone climate and rear sensors. From there the $74,901 VX adds leather, power-folding third row, 18s instead of 17s, KDSS, and auto headlights and wipers. The top-spec Kakadu ($85,611) then adds auto emergency braking, radar cruise-control, blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, memory seats, cool box, rear DVD, Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain select, and adjustable dampers and rear suspension. Our vehicle was a limited-edition Altitude, based on the GXL. For a $5000 premium it adds leather, 18s, power front seats, premium sound system, rear DVD, and sunroof. It also mounts the spare under the car, reducing fuel capacity but bringing a two-piece tailgate.

The Prado has the longest fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel capacity and thrifty engine


THE limited-edition Prado Altitude runs 18s like the VX rather than the 17s of the volume-selling GXL, but like the GXL it misses out on KDSS suspension. Unfortunately KDSS isn’t available as an option on the GXL and, therefore, the Altitude.

If you want KDSS you have to move up to the VX; although, this could be addressed with the imminent Prado refresh.

Why the fuss? Well, KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) is a brilliantly simple and robust system that provides noticeably flatter handling and sharper steering without compromising ride quality. It does so by automatically varying the tension of the anti-roll bars depending on whether the vehicle is travelling in a straight line or cornering. Without KDSS the Prado doesn’t handle badly, but at the same time it doesn’t like to be pushed hard into and through corners even if it’s far more agile than the much heavier 200.

What you’ll like about the Prado is its supple and quiet ride on all road surfaces. It’s certainly less jarring on the big bumps and potholes than the Discovery, and it’s not far short of the very plush-riding 200 for suspension comfort.


THE lack of KDSS plays its part in what the Prado can and can’t do off-road. In this company, and in situations when wheel travel and traction are at a premium, the Prado needs it to be more competitive. As it was, the Prado struggled on gnarly climbs and could have done with the extra 100mm of rear wheel travel – and the additional front travel – provided by KDSS.

Away from extreme climbs, and away from trying to match the other two here, the Prado, even without KDSS, is a superior offroad performer to most other mid-sized wagons including Pajero Sport, MU-X and Trailblazer and, out of the box, it’s still one of the most off-road capable 4x4s you can buy with or without KDSS. Of this trio it also performed best on the sand.


PRADO’S nicely finished cabin, while spacious, is notably smaller than the other two, especially the 200. The driver gets a comfortable driving position with tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, and the front passenger will be more than happy; though, three adults aren’t as comfortable across the back seat as in the 200 or the Discovery due to tight third-row seats. All Prados have five-star ANCAP safety, but only the Kakadu has advanced safety features beyond the usual multiple airbags and Electronic Stability Control, which is mandatory anyway.


IT’S HARD to go past the Prado for practicality; although, in this company, it plays second-division for towing given its 2500kg max capacity is a full 1000kg short of the other two. That’s reflected in its 5370kg GCM, which is more than 1400kg shy of the 200 and nearly 1300kg shy of the Discovery.

On the other hand, the Prado has the longest fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel capacity (not in the Altitude) and thrifty engine. Its wheel and tyre package (17s fit all variants) is also as practical as it comes, there’s a mountain of aftermarket accessories in addition to the factory range and, last but not least, there’s the back-up of Toyota’s extensive dealer network.



I T’S ALMOST 10 years to the day since the 200 Series arrived in Australia to replace the 100 Series, ending the 100’s nine-year run as Toyota’s premier 4x4. In the ensuing 10 years the 200 has changed remarkably little, save for the introduction of the work-spec GX diesel in 2011, a new-generation V8 petrol engine in 2012, and, more recently, a front-end styling refresh and emissions compliance changes for the diesel engine in 2015.

These compliance changes (to meet Euro 5) amount to a new common rail fuel-injection system complete with fastswitching piezo injectors, which replace the electromagnetic injectors used previously, and the addition of a diesel particulate filter. As well as meeting Euro 5 and lowering the ADR fuel use, maximum power edged up 5kW to 200kW; although, maximum torque remained at 650Nm.

The fact the 200 has changed so little and is now into its 11th year is testament to the soundness of the original design.

However, a new Cruiser is close – perhaps very close – but we aren’t exactly sure when it will arrive.


THE 200’s diesel V8 is a world apart from the two four-cylinder engines here in the way it sounds, the way it feels and the way it goes about its business.

Despite being quieter than it was before the 2015 compliance update, this is still a gruff, noisy and ‘truck-like’ engine compared to both fours, especially the Discovery’s. But that’s one of the few negative things – aside from its thirst – you can say about the big twin-turbo V8.

The engine never needs to rev and does the job without fuss or effort thanks in part to the fact it’s already producing a substantial 650Nm at just 1600rpm – that’s 200Nm more than the Prado and 150Nm more than the Discovery. Better still, that 650Nm remains undiminished for the next 1000rpm, which gives a low and middle rpm flexibility that the two fours simply can’t match.

The only thing that prevents the V8 having complete and utter performance dominance in this company is the extra 500kg or so that it has to deal with compared to the work asked of the two fours. Carrying all that extra weight is also the prime reason why the 200 trails the field here in fuel economy. Our test saw it use 25 per cent more fuel than the Prado and 33 per cent more than the thrifty Discovery.

The six-speed gearbox offers smooth and well-timed shifts, without being as polished or proactive as the Discovery’s ZF eight-speed.


MORE than anything else, the 200’s extra bulk defines what it does in this company in terms of its on-road dynamics – it feels bigger, bulkier and ultimately more cumbersome in the tight



stuff than the other two. Thankfully our test GXL was fitted with the optional KDSS, which tidies up the on-road handing considerably and is well worth the extra cost even if you never take your 200 off-road.

The flipside of the 200’s steady-as-she-goes dynamics is that it’s very comfortable and quiet at speed on poor roads, sealed or not. There is, like the Prado, some bump-steer from the rear live axle, but this is something probably made more obvious by driving it in the company of the Discovery with its fully independent suspension.

Of the three, the 200 offers the smoothest ride, which helps make it a very relaxed and accomplished long-distance tourer.

The 200 is the most comfortable and smoothest-riding of the three here on rough trails


THE 200’s supple long-travel suspension is also the key behind its formidable off-road performance. With its optional KDSS, the wheel travel is even better than a standard GXL, so gnarly and rutted trails present no obstacle to the 200. Also impressive is the 200’s Crawl Control, which has an uncanny ability to ‘extract’ the 200 from situations where it otherwise seems stranded.

The 200 is the most comfortable and smoothest-riding of the three here on rough trails, especially relative to the Discovery which loses much of its compliance when its suspension is jacked up.

Surprisingly for a vehicle that’s so heavy the 200 works well on sand but, like the Prado, you can only deactivate the stability control after the traction control has been cancelled.

What You Get

LAND CRUISER 200 diesel prices start at $77,461 for the GX. The GXL (as tested) is $88,541; although, the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) adds $3250 and brings the price to $91,971. All 200s come with at least eight airbags, Crawl Control, trailer-sway control and cruise control. The GXL then adds sat-nav, reversing camera, sidesteps, third-row seats, dual-zone climate, alloy instead of the GX’s steel wheels, and smart-key entry and stop/start. From there, the $98,881 VX adds leather, two additional airbags, front and rear parking sensors, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sunroof, KDSS as standard, 18s (instead of 17s), and Multi- Terrain Select. The $120,301 Sahara adds heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, four-zone climate, rear DVD, cooler box, power tailgate, Multi-Terrain Monitor (via external cameras), and high-end safety equipment including radar cruise, lane departure warning, blindspot monitoring and rear crosstraffic alert.


THE 200 has the most spacious cabin here and is the only one to seat eight. Up front it offers a very comfortable driving position complete with tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment. The cabin detailing is first class, and the most recent revision that sees all off-road controls grouped – rather than being in various places on the dash – is most welcome.

The 200’s second-row seat is best here for three adults; although, the third-row seat isn’t as spacious as the Discovery’s, even if it can legally seat three rather than two. However, the 200 has the biggest luggage space here. All 200s offer five-star ANCAP safety but, as with the Prado, only the top-spec model – in this case the Sahara – has advanced safety features.


THERE’S very little not to like about the 200 in terms of practicality, not least being the vast array of aftermarket enhancements on offer, the back-up of Australia’s biggest dealer network, the 285/65R17 wheel and tyre package, and its 3500kg towing capacity. The 200’s big and torquey V8 is also ideal for towing. Surprisingly, it has the smallest payload here (due to its considerable kerb weight eating into the GVM) and less fuel capacity than the Prado.



O FTEN in the automotive world, less-sophisticated, lowercost designs are used to create more expensive upmarket models. Far less often the opposite is the case, but that’s exactly what’s behind this all-new Discovery, as it’s been developed from Land Rover’s premium platform as used in the current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

That platform – a high-tech aluminium monocoque with fully independent suspension – debuted just five years ago and came off the back of a huge investment by India’s Tata Motors, owners of Land Rover since 2008.

The key benefit of this 85 per cent aluminium monocoque, compared to the steel separate-chassis platform used with the Discovery 3 and 4, is the shedding of 480kg, which brings stronger performance, less fuel use, sharper dynamics and superior off-road ability. Included among the non-aluminium parts are steel suspension sub-frames, used for their strength and durability. Those sub-frames carry fully independent heightadjustable suspension (via air springs); although, base models come standard with non-adjustable steel coil springs.


THE new Discovery comes – at this stage at least – with three diesels, two 2.0-litre Ingenium fours and the 3.0-litre V6. The V6, one of few carried-over parts from the Discovery 4, is slated to be replaced in a few years time by the new Ingenium in-line six.

In the meantime what we have here is the bi-turbo Sd4, which claims remarkable power and torque figures for a 2.0- litre diesel, namely 177kW and 500Nm – compare that to the 2.8-litre Prado’s 130kW and 450Nm, or even the 200’s 200kW and 650Nm. Looking at this another way, the 200’s 4.5-litre V8 cranked-up to an identical state of tune as the Discovery’s twolitre four would produce 395kW and 1116Nm.

All that sounds good on paper, but how does it play out on the road. Well, in a word: astonishing. On the road this just doesn’t feel like a four-cylinder design and it certainly doesn’t perform like a four-cylinder that’s asked to power a large 4x4 wagon. Pedal to the metal it clearly out-performs the Prado and gives nothing away to the 200 except on initial urge. The fact the Discovery – although being close to the size of the 200 – is a little lighter than the Prado and considerably lighter than the 200 is a key factor here, while the Discovery also gains a benefit from the relatively close ratios of its eight-speed automatic.

When pushed the Sd4 is quite a revvy engine, but in general driving it is low-revving, relaxed and effortless thanks to its 500Nm being on tap at just 1500rpm. The Sd4 is also the smoothest, quietest and most refined engine here and, even when revved hard, is neither noisy nor harsh. It also proved the most economical of the three engines on the road, surprisingly even better than the consistently frugal 2.8 in the Prado. In another win, the Discovery’s eight-speed automatic shifts more smoothly than the two Toyota six-speeders and is more proactive in terms of auto downshifts to assist in descent braking.



What You Get

NEW Discovery models start with the $65,960 Td4 S, but the entry-level Td4 engine can’t be had with dual-range, even as an option. To get dual-range gearing you need the Sd4 engine, which in S spec starts at $71,560 (and then dual-range is a $920 option).

The Sd4 S, like all new Discoveries, is auto-only (eight speed) and comes with six-airbags, reversing camera, parking sensors, auto braking, lanedeparture warning and trailer-sway control. From there the $83,450 Sd4 SE adds leather, power-adjusted front seats, sat-nav, auto headlights and wipers, and height-adjustable air suspension and dual-range gearing.

At $93,550 the Sd4 HSE adds 20s (instead of 19s), memory seats, threezone climate, bigger touchscreen, Meridian sound system, and smartkey entry. Options fitted to our test Sd4 HSE include third-row seats and a rear-locker.

The new Discovery’s lighter weight is a bonus on sand


THE Discovery’s trim weight, as well as its fully independent suspension, plays dividends with its on-road dynamics. On tight, winding roads it’s a far more agile and sporty drive than either of the two Toyotas, especially the 200, while the electric power steering is very light at parking speeds but has plenty of feel at highway speeds. At higher speeds on rough roads the Discovery is also more stable than the two rear live-axle Toyotas.

What the Discovery can’t do is match either Toyota for ride quality, especially on sharper bumps. The 20s fitted to the HSE wouldn’t help here and no doubt the Discovery would be more comfortable on bumpy back roads with the narrower and taller 19s fitted to the S and SE models. That’s certainly the case with the base-spec Range Rover Sport that uses the same core platform and rides on identical-spec 19s.


FULLY independent suspension usually doesn’t offer travel to be effective off-road, but that’s not the case with the Discovery. As we have found previously with the RRS, this platform offers the sort of wheel travel you’d expect of a good live-axle 4x4. In this company it did everything the 200 did and generally outpointed the Prado in the gnarly stuff; although, our test HSE was fitted with the optional rear auto-locking diff, which makes a significant difference in extreme conditions.

In this company, the Discovery’s height adjustable suspension is also significant as it provides more clearance, deeper wading and superior approach, ramp-over and departures angles than either Toyota. On the downside, the Discovery’s ride deteriorates when the suspension is jacked up, a predictable and unavoidable outcome from the reduction in droop travel on the higher suspension settings.

The new Discovery’s lighter weight is a bonus on sand, feeling far better than the Discovery 3 and 4 and a match for the 200.


THE new Discovery’s cabin has lost the notably airy and spacious feel of the Discovery 3 and 4 and feels more closed in. It’s still a big, long cabin, but it’s not as tall. In this company it still feels bigger than the Prado and close to the 200 in size.

Up front the driver is treated to the best driving position here, and the second row seat is notably more spacious than the Prado and only a bit tighter than the 200 for three adults. The Discovery has the best third row and the only one that is really comfortable for two tall adults. All Discovery models have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and advanced safety features such as autonomous braking are either standard or optional across the entire range.


AS WITH the Discovery 3 and 4, this new Discovery is let down by its meagre fuel capacity, less than half that of the Prado. The only saving grace is that it’s good on fuel. Likewise, this new Discovery carries over the legacy of the less-than-ideal wheel and tyre spec of the Discovery 4; although, it’s better than before. For any given wheel size there’s a one-size-taller tyre and a nominal 12.5mm more sidewall.

More positive is the Discovery’s carrying and towing capacities.

It has the highest payload here and is also rated to tow 3500kg, the same as the 200; although, anyone wishing to tow maximum loads would no doubt be better served by the optional 3.0-litre V6.


ENGINE MAX POWER MAX TORQUE GEARBOX 4X4 SYSTEM CRAWL RATIO CONSTRUCTION FRONT SUSPENSION REAR SUSPENSION KERB WEIGHT GVM PAYLOAD TOWING CAPACITY GCM FUEL TANK CAPACITY ADR FUEL CLAIM TEST FUEL USE TOURING RANGE 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel 130kW @ 3400rpm 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm six-speed automatic dual-range full-time 36.1:1 separate-chassis independent/coil springs live axle/coil springs 2250kg (approx) 2990kg 740kg (approx) 2500kg 5370kg 150 litres 8 litres/100km 10.1 litres/100km 1435 km* GX (AUTO) $56,050 GXL (DIESEL AUTO) $61,190 VX (DIESEL) $74,901 KAKADU (DIESEL) $85,611 TOYOTA PRADO GXL TOYOTA PRADO PRICES** TOYOTA LC200 GXL TOYOTA LC200 PRICES** LAND ROVER SD4 HSE LAND ROVER SD4 HSE PRICES** 4.5-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel 200kW @ 3600rpm 650Nm @ 1600-2600rpm six-speed automatic dual-range full-time 34.1:1 separate-chassis independent/coil springs live axle/coil springs 2740kg 3350kg 610kg 3500kg 6800kg 138 litres 9.5 litres/100km 12.6 litres/100km 1045km* GX $77,461 GXL $88,541 VX $98,881 Sahara $120,301 2.0-litre 4-cyl bi-turbo diesel 177kW @ 4000rpm 500Nm @ 1500rpm eight-speed automatic dual-range full-time 45.7:1 monocoque independent/air springs independent/air springs 2019kg (five seat) 2940kg (five seat) 921kg (five seat) 3500kg 6640kg (five seat) 77 litres 6.3 litres/100km 9.5 litres/100km 760 km* Sd4 S $71,560 Sd4 SE $83,450 Sd4 HSE $93,550 Sd4 HSE Luxury $107,350 *Prices do not include on-road costs *Based on test fuel use, claimed fuel capacity and a 50km ‘safety’ margin.

THE VERDICT Breakthrough

PICKING a winner here is nigh on impossible, if for no other reason than the disparate pricing of the three. Regardless of this, the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the three are laid bare when you drive them back-to-back and, as ever, some obvious differences come to the fore, as do a few surprises.

Most obviously the two Toyota’s fall into one camp and the Discovery is off on its own, and not just because of its name. It’s been created in a completely different technological paradigm. You just couldn’t imagine Toyota building anything like this Discovery, at least in the foreseeable future – if ever – as its whole Land Cruiser philosophy is centred on durability not technological evolution.

The two Toyotas are also very different, even if they are both Land Cruisers and share the same basic design philosophy: body-on-chassis all-steel construction; independent front and live-axle rear suspension; and coils springs all around.

Given the 200 is considerably more expensive than the 150 (a 200 GXL is a tad more costly than a Kakadu) you’d think it would be a better vehicle all ’round, but it’s not. The 150 beats the 200 for fuel economy, touring range and engine refinement, plus it’s more nimble and easier to drive.

Given its price advantage over both 200 and Discovery, and the fact that it does everything so well, it’s the sensible buy of the three. A low legal towing capacity and only modest performance are the chief reasons why a Prado may not suit; although, as mentioned, the towing capacity may be one thing Toyota addresses with the imminent Prado update.

The 200’s big, grunty, effortless and low-revving V8 is the main reason to buy it and not the Prado. Make no mistake: it’s the V8 engine that defines the essential difference between the two Land Cruisers; although, the 200 gives you more space as well.

And for heavy-duty towing – even aside from the legalities – there’s no comparison between the 200 and Prado.

This leads to the new, hightech Discovery. It has a body

nearly as big as the 200 in a package that’s a little lighter than the Prado. On the road it almost feels like a sportscar compared to the two Toyotas but can match or better them off-road. Its performance and capability spectrum from on-road to off-road is unrivalled here.

But the Discovery is complex by comparison and still not perfect. And while the key shortfalls in terms of its usefulness as a serious 4x4 are more in the details, the details in question are critical. The tyre and wheel package, although more offroad practical than that of the Discovery 4, is still far from ideal for a go-anywhere 4x4. And you can’t readily fit smaller wheels due to the size of the front brakes; although, the front brakes are no bigger than the Discovery 4’s, so bespoke 18s are theoretically possible.

Likewise, the 77-litre fuel capacity (85 litres with the Td6) is shy of what’s ideal, even if the Sd4 engine is economical. Note that some RR and RRS models have 105- litre tanks on their similar platforms and, if anything, you’d think that a 105-litre tank would better serve a Discovery than its upmarket siblings given they are less likely to venture far from civilisation.

The two Toyotas fall into one camp and the Discovery is off on its own