What's the story?
Remember the days when six-wheelers were a major part of the Land Rover scene? In the 1970s, Carmichael developed the three-axle Range Rover, and it wasn’t long before others looked at three-axle Series IIIs and One Tens. Then, in the mid-1980s, it all went quiet… until now.
It all started at the beginning of 2013. Supacat, still probably best known for its versatile military vehicles, had been looking at expanding into the emergency services vehicle market. It produced some fire tenders on Toyota chassis, but the extensive alterations put the cost up unacceptably – and the weight of it all really needed a six-wheel solution.
There was clearly a gap in the market for a vehicle of between 3.5 and 7 tonnes GVW (gross vehicle weight), and Supacat reckoned it could plug it.
Central to the concept was increasing the payload of the standard Discovery 3, which is rated at 1.7 tonnes. The Supacat team wanted much more – and boy did they get it. They ended up with a huge 2.5-tonne payload.
To broaden the vehicle’s appeal, Supacat devised a multi-purpose platform onto which different back bodies could be fitted. What would be constant would be the extended chassis and crew-cab body. This would essentially be the front part of the standard Discovery cabin, giving up to five seats.
Land Rover has been in on the project from an early stage: the company sold Supacat the base vehicle for the prototype. The 2007 left-hand-drive Discovery 3 TDV6 had done a stint with Land Rover Experience.
Unlike a conventional chassis, the Discovery 3’s frame doesn’t bear all the loads; it shares them with the ultra-stiff bodyshell in a structure called the Integrated Body-Frame. To retain the structural integrity of the original vehicle, Supacat developed appropriate reinforcements for the longer rear end.
The first prototype is a fire tender, but future possibilities are exciting.
Our favourite bit?
On tarmac, the SUV600 drives like an ordinary Discovery 3. The extra weight isn’t an issue, and nor is there any extra road noise. You need to rely on your door mirror, though; the rear-view mirror is redundant.
Off-road, it feels remarkably rigid, feeling its way confidently through a succession of humps and axle-twisters at Supacat’s proving ground.
And the verdict from LRO writer James Taylor?
It’s a very well-sorted machine – looks like Supacat could be in business with its first-ever Land Rover-based offering.
Model: Discovery 3 TDV6 (production models to be Discovery 4)
Engine: 2.7-litre V6 diesel (production to be 3.0-litre SDV6)
Main modifications: Chassis: one-metre wheelbase extension. Transmission 6x4 with underdriven third ‘axle’; 6x6 drivetrain under development. Body: polymer back body designed for fire service use; alternatives for different uses under development.