What’s the best 4×4? | New Land Rover Discovery vs Jeep, Toyota, Isuzu, Mercedes, Dacia | Autocar


You join me in a quarry to answer the following
question. Which is the best off roader? Is it the all-new aluminum Land Rover Discovery?
Is it the closest rival we have here the Toyota Land Cruiser? Is it the small, light and cheap
Dacia Duster? Is it an Isuzu D-Max? Well probably not but perhaps when it has some arctic truck
accessories. Is it the original, maybe the best, Jeep Wrangler? Or is it the Mercedes
G-Class? We’ve set up a knock out competition in the form of three challenges to find out
which is the best off roader and challenge one is a hillclimb up two steep scrabbly slopes
to test the grip, traction and low end grunt of each 4×4. First up, quite literally is
the challenger, the reason we’re here, the all-new Land Rover Discovery. This, being
a Land Rover, a modern Land Rover, it’s got all singing all dancing, may not actually
sing or dance, bells and whistles. So there’s special programmes off – that one is grass, gravel,
snow. It’s a little bit gravely, yeah it’s a little bit gravely, let’s go gravel. Then
there’s a sort of mud rut, sand, river bed type thing, and then rock crawl. The first hill
it should deal with absolutely no bother whatsoever and it does – a tiny bit of slip as we get
to the top and then there is the big hill. Let’s put it in auto, let’s just put it
in auto. Auto terrain response. First gear, steep hill, I’m going to want quite a lot
of oomph and it should go straight over the top. Bob’s your mum’s brother. This is
quite steep and that is the easiest hill I’ve ever been up in my life. I wonder if everything
else will deal with it with quite the same ease or not. The nearest rival to the Discovery
in this test is the Toyota Land Cruiser, a car that I’ve got a lot of time for. Like
the Discovery it has different terrain settings, variable height suspension and fairly ordinary
off road tyres. Also like the Discovery it mounted the two gravely ascents as if they
were not there. Right, so next, the Dacia Duster. It’s four-wheel-drive at least but
this is not the most off roady of off-road vehicles we’ve got here. There is no low
ratio, I can lock four-wheel-drive in and I’ve got traction control off because I
think a little bit of slip might help. It’s a manual which is unusual in this company
too but at least it means I can give it plenty of revs because it’s petrol. Right, I feel
slightly apprehensive about this… Just don’t damage it, that’s the key, don’t damage
it. If you think you’re going to damage it back out of it. It’s going up, it’s going
up, it’s going up… I need to check with a colleague. Does it look like it’s about
to ground out at the top? No you’re fine. In that case I’ll just attack it again. Right let’s just do it. You’re fine he says – did that sound fine to you? That didn’t sound fine to me.
But it’s up. It might be the last journey it ever makes, but it is up. Well I know it’s
still running but… And no fluids leaking out of it. Is that structural do you think
or is that just a cover? On the suspension there’s a little cover and it’s clearly
hit that, that little cover is there to protect it and it’s done it’s job. It’s just
come loose at the back but it has done what it is meant to do. The suspension is not about
to fall off, excellent. Right, so we’ll try slope part two, it’s totally done it,
it has only done it! Wow, that just leapt up there like a mountain goat. I really like
these. So Land Rover are developing the new Defender as we speak and they said: ‘Well
we don’t really know what to make it, we’ve got a Wrangler in. We don’t necessarily think
it’s the greatest car in the world but we do like it, we like it’s honesty and I really
like it’s honesty.’ It’s a cool thing, this is petrol which
is cool as well, it’s just so chunky and rugged and Jeepy. So no adjustable ride height,
very simple: two high, four high, four low. So we’re in four low, let’s go. Took it
easy near the top because I didn’t want to whack a breakover and it just breezes up.
Piece of cake. Slope part two. Oh it’s so easy for it. It’s easy for everything but
it just feels that the Jeep was made for this sort of thing, which I suppose it was. The
Gelandewagen: these things are cool aren’t they? Nearly 90, nearly 100 grand by the time
they’ve got options on them these days. They don’t sell many a year but it goes
to show you what you could still keep doing, what Land Rover could have maybe done with
a Defender had they got on the case with it earlier, keeping it relevant. Mercedes don’t
sell a lot of these but if you work out how many they sell, it’s still around a billion
and a half quids worth of business a year. Which is worth having, even for Mercedes-Benz.
Slightly disappointingly, they’re all getting up these slopes. I mean, the first one I expected
everything to get up really but I’d quite like it if something didn’t get up the second
one. Low range on, differential lock in the middle preselected. I don’t think I need
the front and rear ones on, I’ll keep the middle one on. Well let’s see, it should
do the first one no drama. Indeed it did the first one with no drama and the second too.
As did the Isuzu D-Max which has no fancy terrain response and a rather shonky, plasticy
interior. It does have a low range gearbox though and those massive balloon tyres which
scramble up the hill and get a decent bounce on over the rocky surface. Rather annoyingly
the first knockout stage didn’t actually knock any of the 4x4s out. So it is on to
challenge two, the rock crawl, which is what it says on the tin, crawling over the rocks.
It’s a test of axle articulation, grip, traction and differential locking. This doesn’t
have diff locks but it does have a rock crawl function so it will do that sort of thing
electronically. I will wind down the window because I have a tame off road guide, a sort
of rock sherpa and he’s going to tell me where I can and cannot go. What rock crawl
does is it gives me a very long throttle pedal so that I should be able to just very gently
ease the car from mound to mound. The idea is we don’t damage anything, if we look
like we’re going to damage it we call it off and it fails the test. That’s the thinking.
So this has got a very long throttle – dead easy to modulate the speed I’ve got to say.
These are big, very shiny wheels and I think we’ve nicked a bit, curbing an alloy basically,
during a rock crawl. There’s a big rock that side and it’ll hit the bottom of the body,
if it hits the bottom of the body, game over. We’ve got two gurus now, two sherpas. Why
wouldn’t you? Feels like I’ve been here for quite a long time, I might just have to
stay here until everything erodes down through rainfall. I should think it would only take
say, I don’t know, two to three million years. Think he’s alright, we think he’s
alright I hear from outside and that’s it. We are officially across and out the other
end, not entirely without some concern in a couple of places which is probably not surprising.
That’s quite a demanding course, but we’ll see how the others do the same thing. This
is the Land Cruiser over the rock crawl. Terrain select: I’m in Mogul. Moguls surely the
wotsit with the axle articulation so that’s what I’m in. My guru does not think this
has got as much ground clearance as the Discovery but we will see. I’ve got my diffs locked,
I’m in low, I mean as high as I can get it. Could be a bit louder the old sherpa,
he could shout a bit louder at me. I might left foot brake a bit I think; oh he’s good
this sherpa you know, he’s good. Straighten up, that’s it. The Land Cruiser is doing
well, nice throttle response on this, really nice. It’s really nice and easy to modulate.
I think this car is going to do it, he said it didn’t seem like it had as much ground
clearance as the Discovery. Oh, that didn’t sound encouraging and there’s an ‘erm’
and a stop. This is about where we had to stop in the Discovery. I’m okay? But it
is doing it with certainly no more drama than the Land Rover. Arguably a bit less. Would
the Duster provide any more drama given it’s much lower ground clearance? I can actually,
for the first time, I can see the rocks that I’m about to go onto, couldn’t see those
in any of the other cars. This feels rather more real. Slightly that way. See, now being
a manual this is hard. Oh that smell of clutch already. If this gets over this I will be
stunned. Oh, sorry the handbrake just wouldn’t quite hold it. I don’t know if it’s going
to manage that is what I’ve just heard. So what’s next? I have a feeling this is
causing quite a bit of an issue. Yeah because that’s going to get lower as it comes down
there isn’t it. Yeah exactly and then it’s just going to hit that. On the balance of
not breaking your car anymore I might call it a day. Shall we call it a day then? I think
so. Unless you particularly want me to carry on. No, no I think we’ll probably, we’ll
probably call it a day there so Nik can go home. It’s pretty good, when you see the
trail it has gone over, then it wouldn’t go over some of the bigger ones is no disgrace
whatsoever. I’ve seen quite a lot of Jeeps do really well on rock crawl videos on the
tinterweb but there’s no variable height suspension and like I say this is a long one but we’ll
see how it goes. It feels pretty rigid but I’m sure it’s got loads of articulation.
It feels like I should be doing this, it just feels like I ought to be doing this job in
this car. We’ve got through three quarters of this but look: I know this is on off-road
tyres, proper off-road tyres – you know serious mud, all-terrain stuff but tyres have not
been the issue in any of the other cars. Ground clearance has been the problem. There was
one bit where the Discovery slipped a bit but that wasn’t actually what was preventing
it from going on. If you want to edge forward, yeah. Steering’s very precise, totally drama
free, slight bit of slip from the tyre – nothing to worry about. That’s awesome and I think
this is as much fun as driving a supercar on a circuit. It’s just great fun, it’s
just cool. You kind of hand over responsibility to somebody else entirely with the rock crawl
stuff but what a giggle. Right so let’s take the G-Wagen on the rock crawl. Everything
is going over the same course. I will have the rear and front diffs locked for this because
there could be times when things are off the road. Right, my guide says come on. The steering’s
slow, really slow, I think it’s got recirculating ball steering. It’s going very easily, it’s
going very well and even though this is on fairly ordinary tyres, there’s no slip on
the rocks. Okay mate. There you go, that was easy for this car but it’s been around a
long time. It’s a tall car it’s a narrow car, it’s got very short over hangs and
that all plays to its advantage in these sort of conditions. It is a very good rock crawling
car. I can’t lock any of the diffs so I’m at the mercy of the traction control system
which actually seems to have turned itself off when you go into four low. So, we’ll
see it might just be that these tyres gives it no drama and it’ll breeze over. And that’s
exactly what happens, the D-Max requires hardly any steering correction and although rock
crawling isn’t really what the pick-up was designed to do, the tyres are a rather large
advantage and it breezes over with some fairly impressive axle articulation for a commercial
vehicle. Perfect, right so although five out of six have gone through the rock crawl, some
have done it better than others. This and the Jeep, absolutely no drama at all. Then
I would say the G-Wagen, then the Land Cruiser and the Land Rover about the same and unfortunately
the Dacia didn’t quite make it through. So although they’ve all done it, a sort
of leaderboard is forming. For challenge three we we’re going to simulate towing a horsebox
out of a muddy field by getting the Duster stuck in some deep sludge because it had been
knocked out during the rock crawl. Then we would drag it up a slippery slope but the
Duster was just too capable to get stuck and the other five were all too good at towing
it. So we reverted to what we know best: a stopwatch. We designed a course around the
quarry which encompases lumps, bumps, a proper water splash, some open plane and a reasonable
amount of mud. Three, two, one, go. Okay and we’re starting in the D-Max and the point
is to go as fast as I can without ruining them, that’s the short of it. So, too much
grounding, too much bashing will be no good at all. The D-Max is straight into it’s
stride, I’ll tell you what though it is not terribly comfortable. The rock crawl out
of the swamp and we’re off. Straight across the plateau and into it. Actually it rides
the smaller stuff quite… oh crikey I say that, it’s going like a blinking bucking
bronco. Apparently it’s got fox dampers on this arctic trucks edition but it feels like they don’t
actually do anything at all, oh crikey. Pretty muddy section, bit of axle articulation down
the hill, oh flipping heck! So uncomfortable and.. Across the line. That is quite tiring.
The D-Max is first up on the scoreboard then with a one minute 50 second run. Let’s find
out if that is any good. I’m in low ratio. Three, two, one, go! Oh crikey, now straight
away I’m aware that this is more likely to hit his nose. Just nearly did, so just
got to be a little bit careful, the body’s heaving a bit more but it is far more comfortable
down the slope. Across the plateau, come on, come on, come on, come on, go, go, go, go,
go. Oh it rides across the plateau pretty well, there’s a couple of bumps near the end.
Keeps its body under good control actually, I’m quite impressed with that. Not really
sure this is actually in the manual of off roading, fit a stopwatch and go as fast as you can,
certainly not with this Land Cruiser. Right, right at the end there are bits that are really
tough and you have to just back off otherwise you destroy it but that’s less hard work physically
than the Isuzu and let’s find out how it is on the time. Two minutes seven seconds.
Less hard work physically but also not as quick by quite a long way actually, 17 seconds!
Three, two, one, go! You’ve got to be easy right from the off here because straight away,
oh crikey, there’s a dip. Hill descent’s kicking in if I don’t stop it. Through the
water and I can’t see a thing and up the other side and out. Come on, come on Disco,
come on Disco, across the plateau. Really does ride nicely across there, reduce speed
for hill descent control it says, yeah I better do that, down to 8mph. It’s good, it feels
like it’s got really subtle wheel articulation. Don’t know if it would be as fast as an
Isuzu but in terms of comfort it’s way above and also superior to the Land Cruiser as well.
We are across the line, really enjoyable actually, really enjoyable. At two minutes one second,
the Discovery is faster than the Land Cruiser but slower than the Isuzu which is not that
surprising given the Isuzu has the feeling that you could do anything to it. Now I’m
intrigued about this, it’s quite tall but it’s very narrow and it’s reasonably quick
but it is built to be an off roader so it should do okay I think. Diff, low range, on
it. Three, two, one, go! Deals with the first bumps quite well, don’t forget this car
has short over hangs because it has been around a while but it does feel quite top heavy because
it’s narrow. It feels like it runs out of travel quicker than the Discovery and the
ride is a bit firmer which makes sense given it’s a less modern car. But it’s through
the sort of twisty stuff I think where the G-Class has its class and nature on its side
because it’s quite narrow. I’d be surprised if this is as quick as the Discovery is. Took
its time to get through there. Lift off quickly and across the line. The G-Class though goes round in one
minute 58 seconds, faster than all but the Isuzu which maybe isn’t that much of a surprise
given it dealt with the rock crawl and hill climb better than the other two. Last but
probably not least is the Jeep. I can’t put the suspension up, I can’t change the
diffs or anything, all I can do is put it in four low, which I have. That seems to turn
off the stability control which I want to do. Ready when you are. Three, two, one, go!
Wow, that is fast. No denying this is the fastest car in a straight line. Trying to
get the window up before I hit the water. Oh crikey, yeah and it just breezes down there. Straight
across the water. Right how’s it doing on the rocks? Come on, come on, come on, and
it is not the tyres, although it is on some proper Goodrich all-terrain tyres, that are
making the difference here. This feels like a proper, proper weapon, just feels totally
built for it which of course it is. That is a Jeep being a Jeep, no apologies because
that is something else. Right how fast is it? Everything else will do it in two minutes, that arctic truck Isuzu
did one minute 50. A minute and a half for a Jeep. So that’s one quarry, three or three
and a half challenges and six cars that are all brilliant in their own way but the Jeep
Wrangler wins because it was designed to do this sort of thing for a living. So if you
want the best off roader, buy the original off roader.

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