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Why does the Land Rover Discovery SVX have a rear-mounted winch?

The all-new Land Rover Discovery is even more capable off-road than the previous model, and the off-road-special SVX even features a winch…at the back.

THE USUAL PLACE for a power winch fitted to a 4×4 is at the front of the vehicle, as you mostly want to pull yourself forwards, for example up a hill, over a rock, or drag things like trees off the track.  If you’re in convoy, the vehicle behind can winch or pull you backwards if needs be, and generally you’d make sure you can back out of a situation before you drive into it. You’d also consider being able to turn around and winch forwards, for example descending a hill, turning around and winching upwards.

However, there is definitely a place for a rear-mounted winch as sometimes it’s very useful to be able to winch backwards, for example if you didn’t quite make it through that mudbog, forwards looks hopeless and there’s nobody to pull you backwards. That’s why some vehicles, mostly competition 4x4s, have two winches, one front, one rear.

If you really need to winch backwards it is possible with a handwinch, which has the major advantage over a vehicle-mounted winch of being able to pull in any direction. That said, you can also winch backwards with a front-mounted winch provided you rig a double-line pull to the rear, but while that works (and we will prove it shortly) it’s more theoretical that useful when you’re actually stuck due to the amount of rope, snatch blocks and limited force you can apply to the rear of the vehicle.

So the Discovery SVX is unusual because it has just the one winch, and it’s at the rear. We suspected that pedestrian safety might be the reason and a Land Rover spokesman confirmed, saying “The reason for not having a winch on the front is to maintain our front-end pedestrian safety standards”. That implies Land Rover wanted a front mounted winch, but couldn’t make it happen.

So, will the SVX’s winch actually be any use for real off-road work? The answer is yes; a rear mount winch is better than no winch, but not as useful as a front winch. You wouldn’t want to reverse-winch up a hill for example, and pulling a tree off a track will be more difficult. The driver can’t see the winching operation as well from the rear either.

Use of a rear winch will require a different thinking process for difficult situations to a front-mounted winch, but offroading is all about making the best use of what’s you’ve got and even if you do get your vehicle into a physical rut, your thinking shouldn’t be in a mental rut.

The bigger concern here is that safety reasons have forced use of a rear-mounted winch. This does not bode well for the future of modifying vehicles for offroad use, as safety standards and vehicle complexity are not going to get easier to deal with any time soon.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper