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- On-road driving and family suitability
- Off-Road capability
- Bush-ability and touring suitability
- Technology and value for money
- What in the hell are they? And how in the hell do they work?
LandCruiser vs Patrol vs Discovery go head-to-head in an off-road comparison.
We’re currently in the golden age of the 4WD ute, and any other kind of vehicle (4WD or 2WD) seems to be languishing in the distance. Once upon a time, the Australian 4WDer’s bread-and-butter option was not a ute. It was a wagon.
On-road driving and family suitability
4WDs these days need to handle family wrangling as much as outback touring, so it’s worth touching on how these cars handle the day-to-day grind. In a nutshell, they are all pretty damned good.
Toyota’s LandCruiser 200 Series is the oldest here, and where you notice that most is on the bitumen. The big diesel and six-speed automatic gearbox gives you access to stacks of grunt, but it’s the least refined from the group. And although KDSS does rid the 200 of a lot of body roll, the big 4WD handles like a big 4WD. The interior is big, comfy and reminiscent of a Camry.
Where the LandCruiser feels big, the Patrol feel leviathan. The interior easily feels the biggest out of all three. Despite all of this, the spectacular power and fairly light steering of the Patrol makes it feel more wagon and less warship. We’re not so sure about the huge slabs of timber finishing throughout the cab, and the looks – we’ll leave that up to the reader.
Hopping into the Discovery is easily the most stark difference between these vehicles. The interior is significantly more modern, combining practicality and prettiness very nicely. It’s also the smallest feeling inside. It’s very comfortable however, and the lack of space is made up by extra storage nooks around the place. In terms of driving, the Discovery is easily the easiest of this group. A light weight and light steering make it easy to punt around, and the silent and fast-working eight-speed gearbox gets the most out of the refined little motor.
Like many other comparisons of new 4WDs we are doing these days, we’re constantly being blown away by how incredibly capable these vehicles are in stock form. We’re constantly needing to find new tracks to challenge the vehicles, and flirting with the real possibility of serious damage. In a nutshell: these things are all weapons off-road, limited only by tyre sidewall and strength, and clearance (eventually).
It’s hard to go past the Discovery as the most capable of this bunch. It’s got the most clearance, the best traction aids, and it articulates fairly well to boot. The Disco almost holds the driver in constant disdain, doing all of the hard work with throttle control to maintain a steady run of momentum. There are two things we don’t like about the Disco: the 19-inch wheels aren’t fantastic for 4WD touring, and while technologically impressive, the off-road driving experience of the Discovery isn’t overly enjoyable. You still need to pick a good line, but the incredible brains of this vehicle does the rest of the hard work.
Like the Disco, the Patrol doesn’t have a live axle in sight. It’s got stacks of clearance under the diffs, helped by the tallest tyres on the comparison. It’s impressively capable, with a pretty slick traction control system and decent wheel travel from those long suspension arms. Like the Patrols of yesteryear, the Y62 still does the Patrol name proud off-road.
Still rocking a coil-sprung live rear axle, the LandCruiser brings an older style of capability along to this comparison. The rear end is slinky off-road, and traction control is good enough to not miss a locking rear diff. Ground clearance isn’t as good as the others on test, and while the ‘Multi Terrain Select’ is great, we found Crawl Control to be too jerky and noisy for lots of real-world use (aside from descending hills).
These three big seven-seater full-time 4WDs are all similar in a lot of ways, but their drivelines are all markedly different. With 20 cylinders and four turbochargers between them, it makes for an interesting comparison.
The LandCruiser is the oldest of the gang: a 4.5-litre diesel V8 that uses two turbochargers for 200kW @ 3600rpm and 650Nm @ 1600-2600rpm. It’s a delicious combination of high-capacity low-range torque, along with a smooth and powerful mid-range afforded by the modern turbocharging and common rail injection. It’s an engine that has aged very gracefully. It’s thirsty, sounds like a sewing machine at idle and is fairly noisy, but I think it’s virtually impossible not to like a twin-turbo V8 diesel. The six-speed auto does the job okay and fairly smoothly, but it does feel noticeably dated. Speaking of thirsty, the Nissan Patrol takes a few gongs for it’s 5.6-litre V8 petrol donk. It’s the biggest, most powerful, fastest … and most thirsty.
A big petrol V8 is never going to win the economy race, and it doesn’t help when the engine is so happy above 4000rpm. It’s fairly happy to chug along at low revs for slow progress, but it quickly drops gears and gains revs when the throttle is pressed. A muted thud turns into an angry howl, and it does an incredible job of shifting 2800kg very rapidly. The engine makes 298kW @ 5800rpm and 560Nm @ 4000rpm, so getting the most out of the engine means you need to rev it. The seven-speed gearbox is nice, shifting quickly to let the engine rev hard when you’re looking to pick up the pace.
With only two litres of capacity and four cylinders, the Disco does feel like an odd duck in this company. Rather than capacity, it uses cutting-edge technology to make 177kW @ 4000rpm and 500Nm @ 1500rpm using two turbochargers. Impressive figures from such a small motor; eight ratios and around 650kg of less weight help the cause as well. It makes good and very muted progress.
The engine sounds like it has been wrapped in fifteen blankets, and the gearbox is forever shifting cogs almost unnoticeably. While it’s the smallest, slowest and least enjoyable among these vehicles, it’s the most efficient by a country light-year.
We roughly measured 0-100km/h sprint times on a disused part of the highway with a slight incline, and weren’t surprised to find the Patrol being the fastest with a roughly 8.5 second sprint. The 200 Series was in 2nd place, running a 12.5 second pass. This just beat the Discovery, which was around 13 seconds.
Bush-ability and touring suitability
This is another very interesting factor to include in testing, and naturally depends entirely on what the end user’s plans are in terms of modifications and destinations.
Without a doubt, the least suitable for touring out of this group is the Land Rover. Once upon a time, the Discovery would battle more directly with LandCruisers, Patrols, Prados and Pajeros. But these days, it’s a much different vehicle. The scope for aftermarket modifications is fairly abysmal, and the fact a bull bar or front-mounted winch isn’t currently available can only be described as a blight on an otherwise great 4WD. 19-inch wheels aren’t great either, but you can buy decent off-road rubber to suit these days.
The Patrol is a better proposition for 4WD touring. The big 140-litre tank is great, but we imagine hard and slow off-road work would get through it fairly quickly. You can fit an auxiliary long range tank, but that means moving your spare. And that means a rear bar, and all of that means many extra kilograms. While the petrol motor will use more premium than others will diesel, there is something to be said for the simpler mechanical side: no turbos, no DPF, no AdBlue.
And that leaves, finally, the LandCruiser. It’s big diesel (which can return decent figures when not being driven hard) and stacks of aftermarket support make it hard to go past in this company, but it’s worth noting it has the worst payload of all three vehicles with 610kg (Discovery is best, 775kg). It’s the oldest here, but that ain’t necessarily a bad thing for a touring vehicle. You’ll need a GVM upgrade, and will probably want to fit some fuel and crankcase filtration before you drive it anywhere.
Technology and value for money
In terms of raw value for money, the Patrol is really hard to go past. We’ve got the top-spec Ti-L, which costs $88,890. It’s loaded with leather and fancy options inside, including a cooled centre console for your lemonades. It’s not as loaded as the Sahara LandCruiser in terms of spec, but it’s not far off either. And whether you want all of that fancy stuff is another question, a cheaper option is the $71,990 Ti, which does without some of the fancier bits.
The LandCruiser we tested is the highest spec you can buy, at $120,301. It’s loaded with tech and special features at that price, but the smarter buy might slide you down the spec scale: the VX goes for $98,881, the GXL is $88,671 and the pov-pack GX is $78,261. KDSS is standard on the VX and Sahara, but a $3400 option on the GXL. There is some Toyota tax happening here, especially when compared to the Discovery and Patrol.
Our test Discovery was a mid-spec SE with the SD4 engine, which was the cheapest on test: $85,950. You’ve got an options list long enough to sink a ship on the Discovery, and you can run up to $116,800 for a HSE Luxury with the 3.0-litre V6 (190kW/600Nm). On the other end of the scale, get a poverty-pack coil-sprung unit with the least powerful motor and not much else for $72,050. As it sits, the Discovery is definitely good value. It’s a cutting-edge design, which benefits greatly from the huge reduction in weight.
KDSS – EAS – HBMC
What in the hell are they? And how in the hell do they work?
KDSS uses hydraulically-controlled links on the front and rear swaybars, which effectively make the swaybars variable in effectiveness. It stiffens up when you’re on-road, reducing body roll. It’s a slightly surreal feeling: you can punt the big 200 into corners much faster than you should, and the body will sit quite flat as the car understeers horribly. But of course, the best gains are off-road. When you’re in low range, the hydraulic joints loosen right off, which softens the swaybar immensely. End result: a much more supple suspension setup, with longer travel to boot.
EAS – Electronic Air Suspension
EAS is something Land Rover have been doing since 1992 in Range Rovers, and 2003 in the Discovery. Instead of steel coil springs, this system uses airbags. Driven by an air compressor, airbags have the ability to raise and lower the ride height of a vehicle, and uses sensors to adjust the height according to loads and conditions. The Discovery uses an additional cross-linking system, which lets the independent setup mimic a live axle for some extra travel.
HBMC – Hydraulic Body Motion Control
Unlike the Toyota KDSS system, Nissan’s HBMC uses a network of hydraulic pipes and accumulators that are plumbed up to the shock absorbers. This movement of hydraulic fluid adjusts with speed, so you can effectively get much stiffer suspension and less body roll at high speeds, and a soft suspension setup with access to the available wheel travel when you’re off-roading.
All three vehicles in this comparison are fitted with their own version 360-degree camera system, which uses camera on the front, rear and side of the vehicle to project a birds-eye-view image of the car for navigating parking spaces. It helps, but is also a handy tool for off-road. Cameras mounted under the side mirrors can be used to help with wheel placement, and tight three-point turns are also made easier with the cameras.