By DAVID COVENTRY
IN the modern day that we live in, most new sports utility (SUV) vehicles are made for the urban jungle instead of the rough stuff, and who can blame the manufacturers for doing so as they are only following the demands for a softer road biased SUV.
However, there are still some classic SUV owners out there who still want to purchase an SUV that can perform in the city blocks as well as the beaten tracks, and luckily for them, and us there are still two SUV manufacturers who still make SUVs that are rough and ready for some light off-roading.
The two that we are talking about is of course Great Britain’s Land Rover and United States’ Jeep, and between these two who have decades of experience making iconic SUVs, its hard to say which one makes the better vehicle capable of soft-roading.
To help us decide, we thought we would bring together two of their latest models the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in a showdown to see whether those years of experience making SUVs have finally turned into something fruitful in the form of a modern SUV that is as comfortable on the road as well able to handle the rough if ever needed.
Off Road Gear
Don’t get us wrong, both are still road biased and not off-roading beasts which explains the lack of ground clearance in either vehicle, but surprisingly, the Trailhawk seems more off-road ready due to its off-roading toys.
The Jeep has terrain response; classical high and low gears and rear differential lock. The baby Disco on the other hand only has terrain response to help it get through obstacles in its way.
Because of low ground clearance, we believe no matter what toys you have on the vehicle, there is no point taking it off road, but with a slight upgrade to increase the ground clearance the Trailhawk can be a better vehicle that can live in both worlds. The Discovery was meant to be a road car which is why Land Rover included the most minimum basic off road gear with the SUV.
The Discovery Sport comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is mated to a nine-speed gearbox. When worked, it has punch and grunt to reach fast speeds quickly. It has slight turbo lag which can be a disadvantage in trying to clear obstacles during off road.
The Trailhawk contrarily has a 2.4-litre I-4 engine also mated to a nine-speed gearbox. The engine is not the most powerful but has sufficient grunt to get you going. However, the smooth linear dispersal of power is great for off-roading, but bad for anything else than that. It has to be kept in the higher rev range to reach faster speeds on the road.
Ride and Handling
With an all-new advanced rear suspension setup its no surprise that the Discovery Sport has a very nice ride. It is comfortable and makes badly paved roads seem very smooth. This was also the same case during its time off road, and we can’t remember the last time off-roading was this comfortable. Whether on tarmac or on the beaten tracks, the Discovery Sports excels on ride comfort and can handle it self at high speeds as well as slow rock crawls.
Although extremely refined, the Trailhawk’s ride somewhat reminded us of a more classical SUV especially at high speeds. Because we just stepped out of the Discovery, the off-roading ride also felt mundane and typical of a classical SUV.
Both vehicles come with good quality leather seats as well as solidly screwed together dashboards and interior panels. Both SUVs also carry a minimalist and simple interior design that is not worth shouting about.
The Discovery Sports however does have an advantage over the Trailhawk by having two pop out seats at the very rear to make the vehicle a seven-seater. They are cramped but can prove useful for short trips around the city or longer trips if children are placed there.
All things considered, both vehicles are excellent machines that can cope with a little bit of off-roading, but we believe that out of the factory, the Trailhawk is the one that is ready for rougher tracks with a little bit of upgrading.
Having said that, if we only intend to hit the rough stuff like construction sites and city obstacles such as unpaved roads, the Discovery Sports will excel because it has superb road handling as well as the capacity to carry more than five people in the car.
Specifications of the Land Rover Discovery Sport
Engine: 1,999cc Si4 petrol
Transmission: ZF nine-speed automatic
Max power: 237hp@5,800rpm
Max Torque: 340Nm@1,750rpm
Safety features: Seven airbags, hill descent control, gradient release control, ABS, electronic traction control, hill start assist, roll stability control and dynamic stability control.
Price: RM420,000 including GST (sans insurance)
Specifications of the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Engine: 2-4 litre I4 Tigershark MultiAir 2
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Max power: 184hp
Max Torque: 232Nm
Safety features: Seven airbags, hill start assist, ESC with trailer sway control and rain brake support
Price: RM378,889 (RM338,889 after discount)