The Land Rover Discovery is the Lady Dowager of the automotive world; a bit long in the tooth, but still a formidable opponent when things get tough. Only a fool would dismiss the Disco as a serious contender, but then only a fool would rush into buying one without considering its newer, younger, and (whisper it) cheaper rivals.
We borrowed one for a week and put it through a punishing regime of motorway cruising, playing in mud and water, commuting through town, and family days out. How did it cope? Read on to find out
Close your eyes and youll be able to picture the Disco perfectly, even if you arent a car buff. The slabby sides, imperious stance, and hewn-from-granite shell are imprinted on the publics consciousness, leaving us all in no doubt that this is a very serious motorcar.
Huge wheels fill the arches while the massive front bumper vies with the complex headlights for your attention; everything on the Land Rover is supersized, over-engineered, and a wee bit in-your-face, something that isnt helped by the corporate grille, which makes it look a bit too much like a Freelander
. Or perhaps thats the idea?
The interior is equally huge, but thank goodness, less ostentatious. Its beautifully designed using some fantastic materials, and is, quite simply, a lovely place to be. And its a place that you can share with six friends too, and they wont need to be children; the Disco excels at moving large numbers of people and stuff long distances; its quiet, civilised, and supremely relaxing to drive or be driven in.
Nice flourishes – like the rubber-coated rotary knobs on the centre console – abound; durable and functional yet strangely luxurious. Whoever is in charge of interior design is a genius: Bauhaus-cool meets Volvo-practical.
And practical is, above all else, the DNA that surges deep within the Discovery. Fold the rearmost seats down and five people can travel in immense comfort with all the luggage theyll ever need. Fold them all down and youve got the fastest, and most comfortable two-seater van you can imagine. Or shuffle your luggage and passengers in a myriad of combinations; family cars dont get much better than this.
You will never hustle the Discovery along a winding country lane in the same way that you can a Mazda MX5
– but you could probably keep up with a badly driven one because its handling is astonishingly good for such a big, tall car. The height-adjustable suspension helps, of course, as do the wide tyres but there is some clever engineering in here too.
Roll is there, as is understeer, but neither intrude to an uncomfortable degree and the pay-off is very good ride quality. Its quiet too, with just a whisper of wind noise and a hard edge of diesel engine intruding. You can talk at normal volumes at 70mph and enjoy the fantastic stereo system without having to turn it up to 11. Or even turn it up at all.
Its the same story when you hit the mud and dirt; the Discovery is capable of getting you just about anywhere you could conceivably want to be – and youll discover very quickly that its limits are far higher than yours. Spend five minutes understanding what the various off-road settings do and you will be able to conquer the world. Literally. And it does it all so easily, with little apparent effort. Remember; five minutes ago you were wafting along at mildly illegal speeds on a motorway in complete comfort, now youre King of all you survey.
The optional 1,500 front, rear, and side camera system gives you fantastic vision at road level, and coupled with the Tow Assist youll never find an easier vehicle with which to reverse a trailer or horsebox. It could be a big one too, as the Land Rover has a 3,500kgs weight limit for braked trailers.
The SDV6 turbo-charged diesel engine is a bruiser of a motor, not desperately powerful with just 255bhp but hugely torquey. Performance is brisk, but not fast, but itll cruise at 90mph+ all day and gets there faster than you imagine. Overtaking is possible with a modicum of planning and average speeds are high, thanks to great visibility and massive road presence; other drivers are happy to let you past and youll elicit no jealousy or resentment. (This is something that seems to be a theme with British premium vehicles these days, as I was treated in exactly the same way when I was driving a Jaguar XF
a few weeks ago.)
Fuel consumption is likely to be around 30mpg; I got 28.8 in a mixed week of about 600 miles, and that included a fair bit of motorway work, some commuting, and a dab of off-roading.
Value for Money
The Discovery might be good value, but it isnt cheap. My HSE cost 51,220 without any options, and it would cost you just over 56,000.
Having said that, I think the Discovery represents good value, given the breadth and depth of its abilities. Just dont go mad with the optional extras, will you? After all, no one actually needs a 235 cooled cubby box to keep four cans of pop cool, do they?
The Land Rover Discovery is big, old, and can be expensive if you arent prudent. Its also magnificent, versatile, capable, and utterly, completely, head-over-heels addictive; it really is every car youll ever need.
Its only serious rival is, perhaps, the Audi A6 all-road if you prefer something a bit more sporting and road-oriented, or the Volvo XC90
if you like Swedish minimalism. In reality, if you have an SUV-shaped hole in your life then only the original and the best will do.