Comparison: Land Rover Discovery 4 XS vs Land Rover Discovery 4 SDV6 HSE

Disco vs Disco

It’s not often that I get the chance to compare two vastly differing models in the same range, so I’m grabbing a recent opportunity with both hands to present the top and the basic specification of Land Rover’s Discovery 4 range.

We were fortunate to have both the Discovery 4 XS, Land Rover’s new entry level Discovery 4 as well as the SDV6 HSE, their top-of-the range turbo diesel on test only a few months apart and the result is this comparative study of the two. Let’s introduce the players:

The XS is a novel idea of Land Rover to get more people introduced to their Discovery range. While still exhibiting the same appearance, it represents a somewhat more economical segment of the range. This is apparent in its durable cloth seats, provision of only basic 4×4 modes (high-range, low-range and hill descent control), a host of space-saving devices such as the removal of the two folding seats in the back and no hydraulic air suspension or fancy terrain response options. It is only available as a more economical diesel option.

The SDV6 HSE on the other hand leaps towards the other end of the spectrum with fine leather upholstery, the fantastic terrain response options that are now so popular since the evolution of the system, the seriously impressive Air suspension system which allows you to raise or lower your vehicle depending on the demands of the terrain you are navigating, a superb twin turbo-diesel engine (also available in petrol) that packs plenty of oomph, an additional two folding seats in the boot (to make a 7-seater), two glass sunroofs and a comprehensive navigation and infotainment system. I was also delighted to receive our test vehicle in an unusual exterior colour – Marmaris Teal which was incredibly striking.

Both our test vehicles offered powerful 3-litre diesel engines as well as extremely practical heavy-duty rubber mats in the foot wells. The boot was rather impractically carpeted in the SDV6 but the XS had a removable rubber mat which allows for easy cleaning. Both vehicles offered Bluetooth, although I had some trouble getting phones paired in the XS initially as it offered a much more basic system. I still don’t know how I got it right as my phone mysteriously paired itself while I was rifling through the options, the owner’s manual and all other means of trying to pair my phone where the only option was to delete a paired device. Either way, Bluetooth connectivity, once made, is excellent.

Both vehicles offer hill hold assist which is an absolute pleasure to use. Whereas we mainly road-tested the SDV6 HSE (the odd graveled, pot-holed road to the stableyard doesn’t count), we took the XS off-road through some muddy mountainous vineyard trails close to Stellenbosch and were extremely impressed by its small, agile turning circle, hill holding ability on steep, clay-layered farm roads and neat agility in traversing through vineyard routes set on a tricky incline. Our XS test car even arrived with an impressive winch system on the front and I was desperate to try and find some stranded vehicle to pull out of its muddy misery, but alas, no such luck occurred during testing.

Sadly, we were let down in our off-road testing by the XS’s poor ground clearance – a mere 18cm without the option of air suspension to raise it to a standard height of 21cm or more. This severely limited our ability to navigate rutted, muddied farm roads as twice we were stymied in mud and found ourselves reversing out of trouble as the front of the car caught on the middel-mannetjie and got us stuck in the thick mud.

A few centimeters of extra clearance and the terrain would have proved a doddle for the powerful 3-litre V6 engine as it had more than enough grunt to navigate the tricky driving conditions. We still managed to lose two of the front skirts to the mud as we reversed and a couple of times over some of the hilly dongas, we found the sump scraping as we inched our way over them. The farm roads are happily traversed by tractors, Land Cruiser bakkies and more, all of which have superior ground clearance. My advice to you would be to get the suspension raised (Air Suspension doesn’t appear to be an optional extra with this model) or larger wheels than the standard 18-inch that it comes with if you’re considering this model…. Or don’t venture off good gravel roads.

The HSE on the other hand would be able to handle pretty much anything you could throw at it being equipped with air suspension to raise and lower the vehicle, a host of driver-selected terrain response buttons and an even more powerful V6 engine. My only concerns would be getting the paintwork scratched or electrical malfunctions. In which case, you’re better off with a Defender!

Realistically speaking though, most people are buying their Discovery to handle the odd holiday road trip, the daily school run or just for added height in traffic. In which case, I can assure you that both models offer an extremely comfortable, solid, yet maneuverable ride. You’ll be blown away by how smooth the ride is.  Both models offer fantastic comfort, there was no noticeable body roll through corners at speed either. Acceleration is prompt and powerful with an exceptional amount of torque from both models’ engines (the respective output for each is 183kW in SDV6HSE and 153kW in XS). Both vehicles offer an 8-speed automatic transmission and transitions through the gears were smooth and prompt.

In terms of space, the XS comes as a 5-seater model versus the HSE’s 7 seats (the extra two fold down at the back). The XS consequently offered a larger load space as a result. Front seat adjustment on the XS is manual versus the fully automatic seat adjustment of the HSE. Another cost saver on the XS was the fact that it doesn’t offer an automatic headlamp function. You have to remember to switch off your lights!

My overall impression of the XS is that of a wonderful entry-level car for aspiring Discovery or Range Rover owners. But that it is very much more suited to being a best 4×4 on tar by far than anything that I would consider taking into the bush in Botswana…. Without added height.

That of the SDV6 HSE on the other hand is of superior comfort and style. The type of vehicle offering as much as a Range Rover for a substantially lower price (depending on which model you choose). It must be noted that the HSE is also available with a 5litre petrol V8 engine.

The Discovery 4 XS is available from N$634 286 and the Discovery SDV6 HSE is available from N$892 786. Both come with a 3 year, 100 000km warranty.

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