Words Dean Mellor
For those after a comfortable on-road 4x4 with a touch of luxury and a solid dose of bush capability, these two five-seat wagons from either side of the Atlantic have a lot to offer.
What Are We Testing And Why?
Not everyone wants a 4x4 ute, some don’t need a seven-seat wagon, and others aren’t keen on the usual stuff out of Japan, so we’ve put the Land Rover Discovery SE SD4 up against the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is undoubtedly the strongest off-road performer in the Grand Cherokee line-up and considering the long list of standard equipment, its $73,500 price tag makes it look like excellent value for money.
At $72,250, the Discovery S SD4 is just under a grand less than the Trailhawk, but that’s without the optional two-speed transfer case and height-adjustable Electronic Air Suspension (EAS) that add another $3000 or so. These two features are standard equipment on the $87,450 Discovery SE, which also scores plenty of other extras over the Discovery S. Nevertheless, off-roaders will still want to tick a couple of options boxes on the SE model, including the $1110 Active Rear Locking Differential and the excellent $2110 Terrain Response 2 system, both of which are not offered on the Discovery S at all.
That brings the price of an optioned-up Discovery SE SD4 to $90,670, which is significantly more than the $73,500 Trailhawk, but still less than the more powerful $98,778 Discovery SE TD6.
The current-generation Grand Cherokee has been around since 2011 and the off-road oriented Trailhawk first landed in Australia in 2017. First developed when Jeep had corporate ties to Mercedes-Benz, the vehicle’s underpinnings are essentially that of an earlier-generation M-Class, while the 3.0-litre TDV6 engine is sourced from Italian company VM Motori thanks to Jeep’s current Fiat ties.
The Trailhawk’s 3.0-litre TDV6 makes a handy 184kW at 4000rpm and 570Nm at 2000rpm, and it’s mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which in turn is coupled to Jeep’s two-speed Quadra-Drive II full-time 4X4 system with automatically locking centre and rear differentials. Aiding off-road capability is height-adjustable Quadra-Lift air suspension, which offers an impressive 260mm when the highest mode is selected.
The Discovery SE SD4 was launched in 2017 and while labelled ‘Discovery 5’ it’s really the third generation of the nameplate that first saw the light of day in 1989 (the Discovery 2 was a heavily revised version of the original Discovery, and the Discovery 4 was an update of the Discovery 3). Initially offered with a choice of three diesel engines, the TD4 has been dropped from the line-up for 2019 making the SD4 the most affordable engine in the range.
Despite its modest 2.0-litre capacity, the bi-turbo-diesel SD4 powerplant makes a handy 177kW of power at 4000rpm and 500Nm of torque at 1500rpm, which is not too shy of the Trailhawk’s claimed peak outputs, especially when you consider the Disco is a substantial 227kg lighter. It might be bigger overall than the Trailhawk, but the Disco’s lighter weight comes courtesy of its aluminium monocoque structure.
Like the Jeep driveline, the Discovery features an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, two-speed full-time 4x4 system, auto-locking centre and (optional) rear differentials, and ride-height adjustable air suspension, in this case offering a raised ground clearance of 283mm.
What equipment do they get?
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is loaded with standard equipment including dual-zone climate control air conditioning; black Nappa leather seats with perforated suede inserts and red accent stitching; satnav; keyless start and entry; eight-way powered front seats with ventilation; heated front and rear seats; reversing camera with trailer-hitch view; 8.4-inch colour touchscreen; nine-speaker Alpine audio system with subwoofer; digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; Active Noise Cancelling; 18-inch alloy wheels; bi-xenon headlamps; fog lamps; daytime running lamps; rain-sensing wipers; automatic high-beam; roof rails; power tailgate. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is an optional extra.
Despite the premium price, the Discovery SE is not quite as well equipped as the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, but it’s still loaded with a selection of luxury and convenience features. Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control air conditioning; grained-leather seats with eight-way power adjustment up front; satnav; keyless start and entry; interior mood lighting; reversing camera; 10-inch colour touchscreen; 10-speaker sound system rain-sensing wipers; power-fold heated door mirrors; acoustic windscreen; automatic LED headlights with auto levelling; and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Discovery is available with optional third-row seating.
What are they like on the inside?
Slip behind the respective steering wheels of these two 4x4 wagons and they couldn’t feel more different. The Grand Cherokee almost feels like a compact sports car compared to the big Discovery thanks to the heavily bolstered seats and the low seating position. The black interior (seats, carpet, window pillars, headliner and dashboard) doesn’t help either, and nor does the deeply raked windscreen with thick A-pillars that curve in towards the top.
Despite the compact feel, there’s reasonable space up front and the Trailhawk driver’s seat has plenty of fore/aft adjustment, although the footwell is a bit cramped. The Trailhawk’s dashboard is dominated by its big colour touchscreen and all the controls and switchgear are clearly labelled, logically positioned and easy to use. There are two USB ports, one auxiliary port and a 12V power outlet up front.
Rear-seat occupants have reasonable legroom and there’s enough width across the seat for three adults, at least for shorter journeys. The 60/40 split/fold seat has a pull-down centre armrest and there are two USB outlets in the back of the centre console, as well as rear air conditioning vents and outer seat-heater controls.
The Trailhawk offers a decent cargo area but the low roof height can be a limiting factor when trying to pack big boxes, or when you want to lift the lid of a portable fridge to access drinks. There are decent luggage tie-down hooks and a 12V power outlet in the cargo area and, when the rear seats are folded, there’s a long and flat load floor.
The interior of the Discovery SE feels decidedly big compared to the Trailhawk but, like the Jeep, the driver’s position is quite low (unlike Discoverys of old). The dash design is clean and well laid out, with the colour touchscreen up nice and high, and there are big dials and switches that are clearly marked.
There’s a rotary dial gear selector that pops out of the centre console when the engine is started. The console is also home to controls for the Terrain Response system, which are clearly marked. There’s a big storage area under the armrest along with 12V and USB connectors.
The second-row seat is offers plenty of space for three adults, and there’s good access to air conditioning controls and vents. Even the centre position is reasonably comfortable.
The cargo area is huge, offering a generous 2500L of space with the back seats folded, as well as a flat cargo floor and decent luggage tie-down hooks. Access to the cargo area is via a one-piece lift-up tailgate and when opened with the key fob an internal panel drops down that you can sit on. When opened using the push button on tailgate itself, this panel stays in its upright position and acts as a load retainer. There’s also a 12V power outlet in the cargo area.
What Are They Like To Drive?
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s 3.0-litre VTDV6 delivers performance in spades. It has a strong bottom-end, a meaty midrange and it revs freely to the 4500rpm redline.
The Jeep’s eight-speed automatic transmission offers smooth shifts and a good spread of ratios enabling a combination of brisk acceleration and relaxed open-road touring. Noise suppression is excellent thanks to active noise cancelling and an acoustic windscreen and front door glass, although a few rattles can be heard around the cabin when driving on particularly rough roads.
Like many vehicles equipped with air springs, the Trailhawk feels firm on bumpy roads but not uncomfortable, and the suspension does a good job at soaking up bigger bumps. The electrically-assisted steering is well weighted, responsive and offers good feel and feedback, and body roll is well controlled when cornering.
The Trailhawk’s modest overall dimensions and its reasonable turning circle aid manoeuvrability around town. While the Discovery is significantly bigger than the Trailhawk, it doesn’t feel overly bulky, and it too is relatively easy to manoeuvre in tight spots.
Despite the Discovery’s significantly smaller engine, on-road performance is surprisingly good with impressive bottom-end response and a free-revving nature that sees the tacho needle race towards the redline on full throttle. Sure, it won’t keep up with the Jeep in a drag race, but like the Trailhawk, the Discovery’s eight-speed auto shifts smoothly and seems to offer a gear for every occasion, and tall touring ratios and excellent noise suppression (engine, road and wind noise) aid comfort and refinement on the open road.
The Discovery’s ride is also on the firm side, but it seems to deal with bumpy roads and corrugations slightly better than the Trailhawk. It is also very responsive to steering inputs and the Discovery offers superb handling for a vehicle of its size.
You can expect average fuel consumption of a tad under 10L/100km for both vehicles, which gives the Trailhawk a safe touring range in excess of 880km, and the Discovery around 720km.
What Are They Like Off Road?
Both of these vehicles are extremely capable in tough off-road terrain. Of course, the Trailhawk comes equipped with a full-suite of off-road armoury as standard, but in the case of the Discovery SE both the Active Rear Locking Differential and the excellent Terrain Response 2 system are optional extras that can be added as part of a Capability Plus Pack, which also includes All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC).
Put the Trailhawk in low range and its Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system offers modes for Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock, or you can just leave it in Auto and let the system figure it out for itself, which it does very well. Hit the button for Selec-Speed with Hill Ascent Control, which is like an off-road cruise control, and you can set speed as low as 1km/h and adjust it in 1km/h increments using the paddles on the steering wheel; whether driving up hill or down, the system ensures the vehicle maintains the set target speed, so all you have to concentrate on is steering.
The Discovery SE has similar technology; low-range can be selected on the fly (at up to 60km/h) and the optional Terrain Response 2 system offers modes for General driving; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl, as well as an Auto setting that lets the vehicle figure it all out for itself. And with the ATPC system engaged, the Discovery will maintain a set target speed over any terrain that can be adjusted via the steering-wheel mounted cruise control buttons.
Likewise, both vehicles have height-adjustable air suspension that, when raised, provides ample ground clearance for most off-road situations, as well as improved approach, ramp-over and departure angles. It must be said, however, that the Discovery’s suspension offers more wheel travel than that of the Trailhawk, which has very limited droop travel when the suspension is raised resulting in a sometimes-bumpy ride over harsh terrain. This also sees the Trailhawk lift its wheels in the air over uneven ground, but the clever electronic traction control system and the auto-locking diffs overcome the lack of contact with terra firma.
In the Discovery’s favour off-road is its impressive 900mm wading depth, whereas Jeep claims a modest 508mm for the Trailhawk, but on the flipside the Jeep has a better off-road wheel and tyre package consisting 18-inch alloys with 265/60R18 all-terrains as opposed to the Discovery SE’s 19-inch alloys shod with 235/55R19 tyres.
What Safety Features Do They Get?
Both vehicles have been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety equipment on the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk includes Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist, All-speed Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Selec-Speed Control, Trailer-Sway Control (TSC), Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection, reverse camera, front-row active head restraints, full-length side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side thorax air bags.
Standard safety equipment on the Discovery SE includes ABS, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control, Electronic Traction Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Lane Departure Warning, HDC with off-road ABS, Hill Launch Assist, Roll Stability Control, reverse camera, front side air bags, side curtain airbags and roll-over deployment of restraints. A Drive Pro Pack is optional and includes Driver Condition Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, and Blind Spot Assist and Reverse Traffic Detection.
Which one and why?
There’s no doubt than when compared back-to-back the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk looks to have it all over the Discovery SE SD4. It’s around $15k cheaper than an optioned-up Discovery SE and yet it has a more extensive standard-equipment list. It also has a more potent TDV6 engine and its compact size will no doubt appeal to many urban-based buyers. But the Jeep is starting to show its age…
The Discovery SE, on the other hand, is a thoroughly modern vehicle and its high-tech four-cylinder bi-turbo-diesel engine proves you don’t need cubic capacity to deliver strong performance, both on the road and off it. Sure, it’s not as fast as the Jeep, but it’s certainly fast enough, and it has superior payload and more cargo space.
If money were no object, there’s no doubt the Discovery SE would be the pick, but $15k is a lot moolah, and so the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk certainly presents a damn good argument.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Price $73,500+ORC Warranty 5 years/100,000km Safety Five star ANCAP (2013) Servicing 20,000km/12 months Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel Power 184kW at 4000rpm Torque 570Nm at 2000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive Full-time 4WD Kerb weight 2411kg GVM 2949kg Payload 649kg GCM 6099kg Towing capacity 750/3500kg Dimensions 4828mm (L); 1943mm (W); 1792mm (H); 2915mm (WB) Track NA Turning Circle 12.2m Ground Clearance 260mm Wading Depth 508mm Boot Space NA/1934L Spare space-saver Fuel Tank 93L Thirst 7.5L/100km (combined)
Land Rover Discovery SE SD4
Pricing $87,450 Warranty three-years100,000km Service 26,000km/12 months Safety Five star ANCAP (2017) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo-diesel Power 177kW at 4000rpm Torque 500Nm at 1500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive Full-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 2184kg GVM 2940kg Payload 756kg GCM 6640kg Towing capacity 750/3500kg Dimensions 4970mm (L); 2073mm (W); 1888mm (H); 2923mm (WB) Track 1692/1687mm Turning Circle 12.4m Ground Clearance 283mm Wading depth 900mm Boot Space 1231L/2500L Spare Full size Fuel Tank 77L Thirst 6.3L/100km (combined)