Land Rover Discovery – Review
Land Rover Discovery
by Liam Bird
It’s almost hard to believe that’s its 25-years since the Land Rover Discovery first went into production, complete with its pastel-coloured touchy-feely Terence Conran designed interior single piece and, as I remember, very heavy rear door, Austin Maestro van headlamps and Morris Marina door-handles (what do you mean you didn’t know?).
Since then, of course, the Discovery, has become the benchmark aspirational family 4×4, not to mention the vehicle of choice for many an Arctic expedition or round the world jaunt, has seen more than just a few changes. Plus, parent company Land Rover’s changes of ownership over the same time period are a story in their own right.
Now in its fourth generation the Discovery has matured rather nicely indeed. And despite the fact that it’s probably had a few more nips and tucks than most of us in order to keep looking fresh, it still retains that most enviable ability of not appearing out of place when either crossing the Serengeti, or pulling up outside The Savoy. Of course, not all of those changes have been merely cosmetic. Whereas the original Discovery was once either powered by Rover’s multi-talented V8, or a 4-cylinder tdi engine that hardly mustered enough power to give rice pudding skins nightmares, today there’s only one engine choice to be had.
These days that trademark square-cornered bonnet, which incidentally no longer bears the Land Rover legend but instead simply Discovery (more that just a hint that after a quarter of century and over a million worldwide sales the Discovery is to develop into a brand in its own right) hides the super smooth JLR SDV6 diesel.
They’ve tuned it for torque of course – all 442lbft of it – which enables the Discovery to not only tow 3.5-tonnes, but also accelerate its not inconsiderable kerb-weight (2570kg) to 60mph in 8.8 seconds. Make no mistakes the Disco is surprisingly sprightly – well, in a straight line at least.
It’s also more economical and cleaner than it once was: fuel consumption is up 3.5 mpg to an official claim of 35.3; whereas CO2, thanks to stop-start technology, is down from 230g/km to 213. The VED band drops a level as result, so the tax disc is now cheaper too. What hasn’t changed, of course, is how utterly invincible you feel once aboard. The driving position is nothing but imperious, and the views vast. Sat behind the dinner plate-sized heated steering wheel and ensconced in the leather clad cabin you really do feel that you could cross continents in the Discovery, regardless of whether they have roads or not.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox, together with Land Rover’s Terrain Response, adjustable ride height, Hill Descent Control and, new for 2014, Wade Assist, which uses sonar sensors mounted on the door mirrors to detect how deep any water ahead may be, really does mean that whatever Mother Nature has up her sleeve you really do feel unstoppable.
There are hints that the Discovery is beginning to show it’s age though. The body-on-chassis construction does make for a pretty high centre of gravity, so the ride, although unquestionably comfy, is very much in the genre of 4x4s of old. It rocks and it rolls, and despite its saloon-car-like acceleration, its slow-to-react steering means it’s not something that you can throw towards an apex with abandon. It’s worth remembering too that fully loaded it weighs nearly 3-tonnes so the slow in, power out approach is definitely best.
Nevertheless, the Discovery cruises effortlessly and its motorway manners are excellent. Wind noise, despite the barn door aerodynamics, is never intrusive and road imperfections are soaked up with aplomb. Whether or not you actually need a Discovery is always a difficult question to answer. But just like it always has, today’s Discovery blends seven seat practicality, near luxury car-like road manners and virtually unrivalled off-road and load-lugging abilities in a way few others can.
It’s soothing on the way home from a bad day at the office. It’s capable of carrying the whole family. And it can bludgeon its way across the tundra like no other. A quarter of a century after we first set eyes on it, Land Rover’s Discovery is still the ultimate all-rounder.
Land Rover Discovery HSE Lux
Engine: 3 litre, 6 cyl, intercooled turbo-diesel
Transmission: 8 speed. Automatic four wheel drive
Power: 252 bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 442 lbft @ 2000 rpm
0-62mph: 8.8 sec
Max Speed: 112 mph
MPG: 35.3 combined
Price: (as tested) £59,450