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    Something Nice, or a Tank?

    By Philip Ruth–

    “Wow, this is nice!” “This thing is a tank!” I got those two very different assessments over two weeks of similarly-priced luxury SUVs from a buddy who rode along. 

    Similarly-priced means as-tested prices of $73,055 for the Land Rover Discovery R Dynamic S (the “nice” one) and $82,757 for the Dodge Durango SRT 392 (the “tank”). These are not direct competitors in terms of their missions, but they are interesting counterpoints to each other, with their own sets of strengths. 

    Strength is the Durango SRT 392’s domain, with its 6.4-liter V8 Hemi flexing out 475 horsepower. The Discovery R Dynamic S also had the most powerful engine available, a 355-horsepower straight-six. The Durango’s muscle-car acceleration was thrilling, and its eight-speed automatic generally kept the responses tight. The “high performance exhaust” had a mighty tone and was part of the “tank” allusion. 

    The Discovery’s six-cylinder is turbocharged and sports a mild hybrid system, and it was peppy after getting underway. However, acceleration from rest was complicated by a start-stop function that wasn’t quick enough in restarting the engine; I’d step into the pedal during reactivation, resulting in a balky beginning. 

    The simple solution is just to turn it off, right? Yes, although usually there’s a physical defeat button you can quickly press. Land Rover decided to program it into the center screen, so it’s two taps after waiting for the screen to boot up, and the stop-start is turned back on every time you fire up the ignition. 

    Part of the benefit of stop-start is to increase urban gas mileage. Maybe it did, but this Discovery consistently showed below 11 mpg in San Francisco driving. The Durango’s Hemi V8 had me averting my eyes from the trip computer, which pegged mileage at about 7 mpg, even with restraint from really using its power. 

    Handling is a relative term when discussing 5,000-pound SUVs, though the Durango SRT 392 rewards its driver with communicative steering and a beefy suspension while still maintaining a smooth ride. The Discovery R Dynamic S is more of a cruiser, with less feel through the wheel and more drawn-out motions from its air suspension. There’s not much that’s car-like about the Land Rover, and that’s part of its appeal. 

    Inside, the tested Durango was dark and dramatic with a red-stitched instrument panel and deeply bolstered sport seats; very sporty and purposeful. The Discovery’s Light Oyster leather and large windows made it feel open and airy, though the trim was problematic. The flat and shiny steering wheel spokes collected hotspots of reflected sunlight, and in my example, the inside passenger door handle’s metallic-look covering ripped open and carved a gash into my pal’s finger. 

    Dodge is placing high on reliability scores, just landing at number-eight in the latest JD Power survey. The very last brand on the list is Land Rover, which is true to its heritage as being quirky and maintenance-intensive. So, there’s plenty to think about when choosing something nice, or a tank. 

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on March 24, 2022