Drive Versus: Land Rover Discovery vs Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The right Tool for the job!

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Diesel

We have all done it before, used pliers to undo bolts or used the back end of a screw driver to hammer in a nail. Almost everyone has used a butter knife to change a plug and used prestik where glue was clearly needed. The point I’m trying to make is that if we just had the right tool for the job, the job would have been done in half the time with significantly less frustration.

This brings me to the business of off-road vehicles. The two cars here are both designed to take you off the beaten track and into the magnificent wild bush that we are so blessed with here in South Africa but which is the better tool for the job, is it the iconic Land Rover Discovery or the impressive Jeep Grand Cherokee?

Ever since I can remember the words Land; Rover; Bush; Mud; Rough and word Tough where always mentioned in the same sentence, It was thee vehicle for off-road exploration but has the Land Rover Discovery lost some of that off-road capability thanks to the modern technology implemented to make it better?

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The new Discovery 4 TDV6 HSE is typical Discovery with its boxy shape that never ceases to age for some reason, I guess it’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. It works and it sets the Discovery apart, it still remains rugged and utilitarian looking. However, Land Rover has done some cosmetic changes to the Disco 4. Subtle changes to the front bumper and grill which resemble that of the bigger and ‘gangst-ier’ Range Rover model. The lights of the Disco 4 have been given the ‘gangSTAR’ treatment by the added LED day-time running lights and an overall ‘bling’ effect.  The side air vents have also been given the going over and I must say, despite the fact that it’s extra flashy, I quite like it, its fresh and modern.

Inside, the Discos interior, with all its plushness is a very nice place to be. The almond coloured, leather trim and soft-touch dashboard of our test vehicle was contrast against ‘Grained Rose Wood’ inserts on the door panels and centre console. In addition, virtually every set of functions is bordered by brushed aluminium, including the air vents, radio controls, climate controls, gear selector, headlight switch and more. The seats are very comfy and space is ample, the two seats – that make up the 7th row – are stowed neatly beneath the floor of the cargo area. Each row of seats has a sun roof overhead, as well as individual stereo jacks and volume controls for audio. The build quality is of the highest standard, with all controls having a solid feel to them.

The Disco that we have here is kitted out with some hi-tech features, it has cameras all around it which display images on the central LCD screen. This is to help navigate some tricky off-road situations, or so that you don’t scratch the 19-inch wheels or stunning ‘Nara Bronze’ metallic paint work. The Disco also had things like SAT NAV and a brilliant Harman Kardon round system.

Another fancy feature is the Terrain Response controller, located at the base of the centre console; it allows the driver to adjust the Discos 4×4 modes. It includes  the diff-lock setting, Hill Descent control and height adjustable air suspension. Five pre-set off-road setups are available; General driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand, Mud and Ruts, Rock crawl, which serve to make light work of almost any off-road terrain

On the road the Disco is smooth thanks to the air-suspension and offers a comfortable driving experience. Power is ample thanks to a 180kW, 600Nm 3.0-litre diesel unit that will drink about 9.3l per 100km and will get you to 100km/h in around 9seconds.

All in all the Discovery offers premium luxury but yet still remains rugged and ready for the bush….or is it?

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No, it’s not ready for the bush. Here’s why; like I mentioned earlier the Disco is loaded with hi-tech equipment, most of which to improve the off-road experience however I couldn’t help but worry that something was going to break. I found myself avoiding most rough off-road tracks as to decrease the possibility of something going wrong. The Disco does handle most off-road situations like a good and true Landy should but while plodding through the mud I activated the cameras, and loath and behold, two of them where not working! Just then a warning light came on telling me that one of the tyre pressure monitors had failed. I knew at that point, it was time to head back to civilisation and a Land Rover dealer.

On the way I stopped at a filling station to see if the tyre needed air, when I put the car off and on again, all was well, even the cameras were working. It was probably a small glitch but I don’t want small glitches to interfere with my rough and tough off-road experience and the problem is that the Disco has so much added to it to improve that experience but at the same time has so much that can go wrong. The Discovery has proven itself time and time again when it comes to its off-road characteristics but if I was paying R750 995 I will sure be very cautious as to where I take it, and that defeats the point…..

What you want is something that offers reasonable comfort levels with enough technology to make life easy but not hamper your off-roading enjoyment. Entre the new Jeep grand Cherokee…

2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The new Jeep, despite its size and US origins, is one of the most understated large 4×4s on the market. Sure the 7 slot chrome grill is in your face but the rest of the design is very basic and subtle. The Jeep looks like something a Mafia boss would drive. It’s big and aggressive yet handsome at the same time, do I like the styling? Yes. Driving around in the Jeep you get a sense that people fear you, they move out of your way, just in case they end up in the back…

The interior is more ‘car’ like than that of the Discovery. The driving position is not as upright as in the Disco and you feel more involved sitting in the driver’s seat of the Jeep to that of the Disco. The dashboard and level of quality is not quite up to standard as the German rivals but the gap between them is closing very quickly. You have to look very hard to find slight offsets in the design. From a visual aspect the dashboard is a vast improvement to the older model. It’s when you actually rub your fingers over the materials and plastics that you can most definitely feel the difference between this and the softer touch German offerings.

The Jeep is still very comfortable and offers great space and features, although not as top quality as the rest, a reverse camera is a reverse camera and air-suspension is air-suspension and at under R600 000 it’s actually a bargain taking into account the fantastic image that comes with the Jeep.

2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

On the road the 3.6l V6 motor is far from perfect, attach to it a gearbox that can’t make up its mind and you have a very ‘American’ car. Sure, it’s all fine when you doing 100km/h – which is about 60mph which is the speed limit in the US thus this is the optimal power and economy zone – but try go faster and your fuel consumption increases quite a bit and the gearbox will change down two gears for the slightest incline you come across, this inevitably, increases fuel consumption even more.

When it comes to the off-road abilities of the Jeep, things get better, well, sort of. As with the Discovery, the Jeep also has electronic gizmos to help with its off-roading capabilities. There are different terrain settings for the diff and hi and low range options. It’s all very easy and in some cases very boring. All you have to do is push a button or two and you can go anywhere you like. There is one problem though, the air-suspension, put it on its highest setting and it all gets very hard and uncomfortable. The Jeep bounces around and the slightest corrugated road becomes unbearable. Sure, the ground clearance is improved but at a cost.

The Jeep is a worthy contender to the Germans and to the Discovery, and, is in my opinion, great value for money with ample off-road capabilities and a decent level of on road comfort.

So, which one would it be then, the Discovery or the Grand Cherokee?

To be honest, I wouldn’t want either, well, not this Land Rover or this Jeep. If I was to go ahead and get a proper off-road vehicle, one that will take me where there are no roads, to places untouched and majestic then I would settle for a land Rover Defender or a Jeep Wrangler, but which is better?

-Justin Jacobs

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