Power & Style
Looking for a nice car to tow your boat? The Land Rover Discovery 3 more than fits the bill. By Jim Harnwell.
TOWING big boats long distances requires vehicles with serious load capacity. When planning a recent trip to Coffs Harbour I thought long and hard about the towing performance offered by my Holden Adventra SX V6. An AWD wagon powered by a 3.8 litre Alloytec V6 petrol engine, the Adventra is fine for towing the Fishing World Stabicraft 659 to local ramps and for short trips and down the coast. But the 2000kg Stabi is right at the upper level of the Adventra’s towing capacity – this is reflected by the fact that it chews up to 25 litres per 100kms with the boat on the back.
A diesel-powered 4WD is my preferred towing vehicle, both in terms of fuel economy and for delivering the torque needed for long-distance towing. With that in mind I organised a test vehicle from Land Rover, a Discovery 3 HSE. This is the top-of-the-line Disco and is fitted with all manner of creature comforts and electronic whizz-bangery including electric seats, a harman/kardon 13-speaker system, 18” wheels, full leather, amazingly bright Bi-xenon headlights and seven seats, plus the “Terrain Response” and “Electronic Cross-Linked Air Suspension” features common to all three Discovery 3 models. You can find out the full list of HSE features at www.landrover.com.au.
Far more important to me was the fact the top shelf Disco was powered by a state-of-the-art 2.7 litre V6 turbo charged diesel engine with a 3500kg braked towing capacity and six speed auto transmission.
Although only a modest displacement, the high-tech engine produces a whopping 440Nm of torque at 1900RPM, perfect for long distance highway towing.
Having owned and driven various turbo-diesel powered vehicles, both 4WD and conventional, there’s no doubt in my mind that the low-down grunt – aka torque – integral to these engines is a major advantage when it comes to towing big boats long distances.
The Disco’s TDV6 proved to be a particularly impressive example of just how far diesel powerplants have come. I towed the fully loaded Stabi more than 700kms each way from Jervis Bay to Coffs Harbour and recorded an average of 13 litres per 100kms. That is stunning fuel economy, especially when you consider the Discovery pulled the bulky, wind resistant Stabi like it wasn’t there. I would go as far to say that the Discovery was the most efficient tow vehicle I’ve ever driven. Much bigger vehicles such as Land Cruisers, F100s and Patrols would no doubt tow large boats just as effectively, but I’d reckon they’d struggle to match the fuel economy and driver comfort offered by the Disco.
On that matter, the car itself was extremely easy to drive, as you’d expect from a prestige vehicle costing more than 80 grand. Personally, I’d opt for a lower specc’d model – probably the five-seater S which features the same powertrain and driving features as the SE and HSE but is about $13,000 cheaper – as a lot of the features offered by the HSE are pure luxury and, as such, are unnecessary in regards to the vehicle’s prime purpose as a capable offroader/tow machine. Still, it was nice to see how the other half lives!
The diesel was as smooth and powerful as any modern engine I’ve come across. The well-insulated cabin blocked all but the slightest diesel rattle and the responsiveness was up to par with any decent high performance V6 petrol engine. We’re only just beginning to see the true performance capabilities offered by modern turbo diesels. Over in Europe, where Land Rovers emanate from, the diesel engine is a far more popular option in cars and luxury 4WDs than they are over here. Along with Land Rover, a variety of prestige car makers including BMW, Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Alfa and even Porsche offer extremely refined and powerful turbo diesels. You will start to see more Aussie car companies get on the diesel band wagon. Ford, for example, is soon releasing its popular Territory with a diesel powerplant as an option instead of its thirsty four litre straight six.
For those retrogrades who like petrol donks, the Land Rover Defender is also available in a 4 litre V6 and a 4.4 litre V8.
Well known as very capable offroaders, the Discovery 3 series features is constant 4WD with a fully electronic “Terrain Response” system. This means you turn a dial on the console to select the most appropriate format for the conditions. It’s basically 4WDing for idiots. “A turn of the dial reconfigures the engine, transmission, suspension and traction settings for optimum driveability in all conditions: tarmac, deep ruts, grass, snow, mud, and sand,” Land Rover says.
We did a bit of beach driving just north of Coffs to test the system out. Setting the dial to “sand” saw the car easily hold its traction in fairly soft sand, even when pushed reasonably hard. Turning it back to “Tarmac” saw the back wheels slide out when making moderate turns in the soft stuff.
We didn’t have the opportunity to get seriously offroad with the test Disco, as we spent most days out fishing, so I can’t comment, for example, on how the vehicle performed in mud or rocky trails. This sort of “push botton” technology, which most upmarket 4WDs feature these days, can, I reckon, give inexperienced drivers the feeling they can tackle anything the offroad environment can throw at them. As a result, they occasionally come to grief, often in an extreme situation. That said, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system seems well designed and should handle most offroad situations. You’d have to question how extreme someone is going to get in an $80,000 car, anyway.
The other unique aspect of the Discovery 3 series is the air suspension. This provides for an extremely comfortable ride – you’re basically riding on a cushion of air – and also enables the driver to raise and lower the car, depending on the terrain. I heard of one Disco owner who uses the air suspension to raise his tow bar so he doesn’t have to wind his boat trailer’s hitch down!
All Discovery 3 series vehicles feature an array of safety features including ABS brakes, stability control and various airbag options, depending on model. There’s also a nifty electronic hand brake that proved very handy when towing, especially when stopped on an incline; just pull the handbrake lever in to prevent rollback and to drive away just press the accelerator and the brake disengages.
All up, I’m really glad the boys at Land Rover lent me a Discovery 3 HSE for the Fisho Coffs Harbour expedition. It made the long tow far more comfortable and cost effective than attempting it with a “standard” vehicle. I’d feel comfortable making virtually unlimited tow trips with a TDV6 powered Disco – the smooth, powerful and incredibly frugal engine combined with the comfort and offroad capability of the car itself make it a serious choice for any fisho looking for a luxury tow vehicle.
For more details, visit www.landrover.com.au or contact your local Land Rover dealer. Check out a video test of the land Rover Discover 3 HSE at www.fishingworld.com.au.