Land Rover Discovery Review: Awesome Talent
by Sue Baker
The soaring peak on the motoring landscape this week has been the launch of Land Rover’s new fifth generation Discovery. It’s awesome.
Like many other car makers, Land Rover has ambassadors for the brand. Unlike others, Land Rover’s are not just red carpet celebrities and notable sportsmen, but also hero adventurers. So the UK launch of the home-grown new Discovery in wildest Herefordshire was graced with the presence of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Antarctic conquerer Ben Saunders.
Their achievements in reaching and mastering some of the remotest and most challenging places on earth are awesome, and there are very few cars worthy of a similar description. It’s apt for the Discovery.
Driving it to the top of the Brecon Beacons was more about the spectacular view than the car’s exceptional ability. Exploring some extreme off-roading on the 5,200 acres of the Eastnor Castle estate, where – shh! – the SAS are known to do some of their training, was a demonstration of just how awesomely capable the new Discovery is.
Driving up a steep stone staircase? A doddle. Traversing a steep bank at a tilted angle of 35 degrees? Easy peasy, the Discovery is safe at up to 45 deg. Nighttime off-roading through a sodden forest, on very deeply rutted tracks and water gulleys in inky darkness? We did it. Negotiating a rock-crawl that would destroy a normal car? Problem-free.
Upmarket and upper-crust
Will Discovery buyers ever subject their cars to such punishment? Unlikely, although a session at a Land Rover Experience Centre, like the one at Eastnor, could be a revelation. Meanwhile the car’s any-terrain capability will be very reassuring on a suburban school run.
It’s very clear from the moment you encounter the new ‘Disco’ that it has been given a distinct nudge upmarket. Land Rover has been steadily gentrifying its range for years, and in this latest generation of a model that now has a 28-year history, it is much more upper-crust than its immensely capable but rather rugged-looking predecessor.
Land Rover has significantly upped the calibre of the cabin’s furnishings, nudging it up towards Range Rover quality. It even extends to the calibre of the roof lining, that feels as soft as a baby’s blanket.
There are some smooth new features too, such as the ability to fold down in unison all the rear five of the car’s seven seats, or raise them again, simply by pressing a tab on the dashboard touch-screen. You can do the same via a iPad or iPhone app.
Facts and figures
Before we discuss the car’s on-road driving prowess, here are a few facts about its capability and equipment. You can drive it through deeper water than any rival, with a wading depth of up to 90 cm. Its towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes: actually it’s more than that, but that’s the most any manufacturer is allowed to claim. There are seven full-size adult seats, with the option of having seat heaters on all of them. Large families can strap in five kids, with Isofix safety mountings for all.
There are nine USB ports on board, six 12-volt charging points, and wifi with the capacity to connect up to eight devices to it. There’s a 10-inch touchscreen for the satnav and infotainment. The front cupholders slide forward to reveal a deep binnacle beneath, where four Mini-iPads can be stored. The centre section of the dashboard pivots down to reveal a handy hidden compartment behind it.
Fancy a picnic? The Discovery has a tailgate that you can shelter under while perched on a seat-rack that pivots down when you open the back. It is capable of talking the weight of three adults, and it’s an elegant improvement on the last Disco’s horizontal split-opening assymetric tailgate.
Less of a heavyweight
Quite a bit of weight has been stripped out of the Discovery, making it 480 kg lighter than the old model. Not that you notice it though, in a car that still weighs 2.2 tonnes and is almost five metres long. It’s still very tall, but contrives to feel a bit more nimble behind the wheel.
Our test car was the three-litre V6 diesel, which has plenty of oomph with its 254 bhp power output and 442 lb ft of torque. There’s also a gutsy two-litre Ingenium diesel which is only marginally slower, a bit more frugal (43.5 mpg) and lops the CO2 by 18 g/km.
One of the first things you notice on the move is how good the ride feels for the type of car this is, cushioning the bumps and with a creamy feel on a motorway-standard surface. The handling feels better resolved than in the previous generation car. It still leans a bit on the bends, but it feels clingier and more composed.
The car’s electronic brain is its Terrain Response system, with a dial-a-surface simplicity that enables does the difficult work for you, by setting up the car to deal with whatever kind of surface, obstacle or difficulty it encounters, regardless of driver skill. It also has some new tricks in its armoury, such as off-road cruise management and auto-steering Trailer Assist.
All this electronic sophistication and on/off road capability doesn’t come cheap, especially in a car that has moved further up-market. The price list starts at £43,495 and tops out at over £70k, which makes me a bit nostalgic for the first generation Discovery back at the tail end of the 1980s that had hose-able rubber flooring and a price tag comfortably below £19,000. What a very long way in quality and capability it has come since then.
Land Rover Discovery Stats Review
Model tested: TD6 HSE Luxury auto
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62 mph: 8.1 secs
Economy: 39.2 mpg
CO2: 189 g/km
Images: Sue Baker
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