Twin Test: Large 4x4s

  • We pit the legendary Land Rover Discovery against the premium M-Class
  • Both are family-friendly 4x4's with practical features
  • Find out which one comes out on top in our twin test

Think family-friendly, prestige 4x4 and you’ll invariably think Land Rover Discovery. It’s a popular choice at home cruising motorways or crossing fields, but does the allure  of owning a Mercedes make the M-Class a tempting alternative?

Land Rover Discovery (2004 on) vs Mercedes-Benz M-Class (2005-2011)

Driving

Despite its enormity, the Discovery’s sprightly, handling well and with fine performance too. It’s forte is on-road  comfort yet it retains the agility to successfully traverse extreme terrain.  Petrol V8 engine is quick but later SDV6 diesels with automatic gearbox make for relaxing drives.

The Land Rover Discovery

The M-Class will out-handle the Land Rover over a twistier ribbon of asphalt, less so off-road. Steering and brakes in particular make the big Mercedes feel agile. While the V8-engined ML550 packs a considerable punch the diesels are the better bet.

Practicality

Vast majority of Discoverys pack seven adult-sized seats while the M-Class only five, but boot space in the Discovery is a disappointing 280 litres. Fold all the seats flat though and, together with the perpendicular body work, it’s transformed into a luxurious van. Greater off-road prowess and a superior towing capacity make this the practical choice.

The Mercedes-Benz M-Class

That’s not to say the Mercedes isn’t practical. It’s more than capable of carrying five adults and their luggage  in comfort. Being slightly smaller than the Land Rover, it’s easier to park and manoeuvre around city centres. Trims tend to be more substantial and, less prone to scratches and breakages.

Costs

Both of these luxury off-roaders are going to be costly to run, so unless money’s no object stick to the most efficient diesel versions you can find. Land Rover dealers tend to be cheaper than Mercedes ones for servicing costs, but the Discovery has a reputation for more frequent eye-wateringly expensive repair bills.

Owners report fewer issues with the M-Class so you could end up shelling out less on replacement parts, despite the pricier dealer costs. The Mercedes’ swifter on-road  performance also means they use more fuel and produce more CO2. None of this type of M-Class can match the best Discovery’s £280 band K road tax cost.

 

Land Rover Discovery

Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Engines:

Power:

0-62mph:

Economy:

Fuel Capacity:

CO2 Emissions:

Road Tax:

Insurance groups:

Boot space:

 Petrol and Diesel, 2.7 to 4.4 litres

188-300 bhp

8.5-11.0 seconds

18-35 mpg

82 litres

213-354 g/km

£280-£490

33-42

280-2,558 litres

 Petrol and Diesel, 3.0 to 5.5 litres

187-382 bhp

5.6-9.5 seconds

21-32 mpg

95 litres

246-319 g/km

£475-£490

38-50

551-2,012 litres

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz M-Class - Winner

There’s no escaping that the Discovery’s popular because it’s so accomplished in many areas. Supremely comfortable on-road, baffingly- capable off it with more space inside than a studio apartment in Kensington.

The problem is the prices for used Discoverys are like Kensington properties too. Smaller, more agile on the road and significantly cheaper, we’d recommend the Mercedes.