A supercharged petrol V6 is the new performance leader in a revised Discovery line-up.
For the first time in the Land Rover Discovery’s 25-year history, there’s no V8 in the model range. In its place Land Rover is now offering a supercharged petrol V6, in addition to the two existing bi-turbo V6 diesel engine options.
In 1989, when the original Discovery first appeared in the UK, a petrol V8 was the only engine on offer. It was the old 3.5-litre Buick-derived pushrod V8 that had been used for many years in the Range Rover. That engine soldiered on in the Discovery until it was replaced by a bigger 3.9-litre version. The Discovery 3 then brought a modern 4.4-litre Ford V8 and the Discovery 4 a 5.0-litre V8, also from Ford. But for now, at least, there’s no more V8.
In another significant change, the ‘4’ has been dropped from the Discovery name, so the MY14 model is now simply called ‘Discovery’.
Land Rover’s new supercharged 3.0-litre V6 is a state-of-the-art engine. Aside from the supercharger, the engine’s key technologies include variable valve timing on both the inlet and the exhaust side and high-pressure (150 bar) direct fuel injection, which delivers a spray of fuel directly to the centre of the combustion chamber. This all-aluminium V6 also features front and rear counter-rotating balance shafts to help overcome the less-than-perfect dynamic balance of any V6 design.
The supercharger is the latest-generation Roots-type twin-vortex design that is mounted in the centre of the ‘V’ and feeds air to the engine via a water-cooled intercooler. Also significant is that the boost pressure is ‘supervised’ electronically via Bosch engine management software that helps optimise the supercharger’s efficiency.
Land Rovers claims a maximum of 250kW (at 6500rpm), with the maximum torque of 450Nm being delivered from 3500-5000rpm. It’s obvious Land Rover has concentrated on engineering the supercharger to add more torque than power, given a modern naturally aspirated 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine would be good for something approaching 200kW but would only produce around 300Nm.
Lots of torque with a linear power delivery, rather than high-rpm power, is of course what you want in a road-going vehicle, especially a 4x4. This new Discovery engine delivers exactly that.
The engine is always effortless regardless of the situation and can be forceful and fast when needed. It gives little away in performance to the 5.0-litre V8 it replaces, with an 8.1sec 0-100km/h time – the V8 records 7.9sec for the same sprint. By way of comparison, the TDV6 diesel does 0-100km/h in 10.7sec while the more powerful SDV6 diesel takes 9.3sec.
The gentle running of the engine also impresses. V6 engines aren’t generally known to be smooth but the counter-rotating balance shafts do an admirable job. The end result is an engine that feels more like a V8 than a V6. If you didn’t know better, you would think you were driving a V8, given the V6’s silky nature.
You couldn’t however mistake the fact that you’re driving a supercharged engine. The distinctive supercharger ‘whine’ is very noticeable at wider throttle openings – although it’s quieter at small to moderate openings. And, thankfully, its these smaller openings that are needed most of the time.
The accompanying eight-speed ZF gearbox is a miracle of sophistication, smoothness and refinement and it enhances the overall appeal of the powertrain. The gearbox provides fast, near undetectable shifts and a broad spread of ratios, with top gear giving around 60km/h at 1000rpm. That means at 100km/h, in top gear, the engine is ticking over just shy of 1700rpm.
On test, the SCV6 used 14.9L/100km, which is okay but nothing special. Under the same conditions, either of the bi-turbo diesels would use (from experience) around 11.5 to 12.0L/100km. Still, the SCV6 is more economical than the 5.0-litre V8 it replaces. Unfortunately the SCV6 does ask for premium 95RON or 98RON fuel and, as ever, the Discovery’s relatively modest 86.3-litre fuel capacity is a sore point. Like all Discovery engine options, the braked tow rating for the SCV6 is an impressive 3500kg.
On- and off-road
Regardless of what engine is fitted, the secret of the Discovery’s appeal is its broad-spectrum ability – on and off the road. On-road it’s an engaging drive with handling, stability and road holding that belie its size and weight. Ride comfort is also generally excellent, although the low-speed comfort on twisty roads could be better.
Off-road, the Discovery benefits from height-adjustable suspension, excellent wheel travel for a fully independent system, deep low-range gearing and an excellent driving position. ‘Terrain Response’ is a bonus but you feel the Discovery is capable even without this enhancement. The SCV6 engine, with its strong off-idle response and linear power delivery, also makes it ideal for off-road driving.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional rear locker – the first option any Discovery buyer should get if off-roading is going to be part of the vehicle’s driving regime.
The 255/55R19 wheel and tyre spec isn’t the most functional for off-roading. Thankfully better off-road rubber is available in this size, but there’s no doubt the Discovery would be better off with more sidewall height.
Cabin and equipment
The Discovery’s big ‘boxy’ cabin is another reason why this design, which varies little from the Discovery 3 in shape, is so timeless. The space efficiency and practicality (thanks in part to individually folding seats) of the cabin is the standard all 4x4 wagons should be judged against.
Comfort, especially up front, is a Discovery highlight thanks to well-sculpted seats and armrests for both driver and front passenger.
Despite being noticeably down on claimed peak power and torque compared to the 5.0-litre V8 it replaces, the new supercharged V6 gives little away thanks to the wide torque-spread the supercharged engine offers. The SCV6 also betters the V8 for fuel economy – although it falls a fair way behind the economy of the Discovery’s two diesel engines.
The best news for buyers now wanting a petrol-powered Discovery is that the two SCV6 models, SE and HSE, are priced the same as the SE and HSE SDV6 diesels, at $84,900 and $96,200 respectively. Previously the V8 was only available in one lavishly equipped model that started at a heady $129,545.
What that all means is that Discovery buyers have a simple choice: if opting for the SCV6 instead of the SDV6, you pay no more money but trade off economy for extra performance. Given this simple and straightforward choice, it will be interesting to see how the SCV6 sells.
Click here to read the review on the full Land Rover Discover range