Monday, 7 April 2014

REVIEW - Land Rover Discovery HSE

The Land Rover Discovery is, I feel, often overlooked. The Range Rover Sport always proved more popular, and I could never work out why. I had always claimed had it been my money I’d have bought the Disco, as it offered far more value for money from what I could see. Well in more recent months I have noticed a heck of a lot of Discoverys knocking about. So perhaps people have cottoned on to what I noticed a while back. To see if I had been right all along, I booked in the newest model for a week, and before long my driveway was filled (seriously) with 2-and-a-half tonnes of Land Rover. Let the smugness begin…

Looks - 9/10

For 2014 there have been some visual changes, the most noticeable of which come at the front. The badge no longer says “Land Rover”, but “Discovery instead. There are new daytime running lights which give you retina burn if you look directly at them. But they don’t half give the Disco a road presence as you fill up people’s rear-view mirrors. And they also add that touch of ‘Range-Roveresque’ sense of class that seems to be so popular. The whole shape of the Discovery is rather large, and a bit square, but I think this adds a rugged toughness that matches what lies beneath the body. The 19” wheels somehow look rather small in comparison to the rest of the car, but are a nice design and also not too big to hamper any off-road excursions. My favourite feature on the exterior of the Discovery is albeit a minor detail, in the lights underneath the mirrors. I likened them to a ‘Bat-signal’; they display the outline of a Discovery onto the floor at night.

On the inside you’d struggle to tell you weren’t in a Range Rover. The leather is of the finest quality, as are all the plastics. There’s a whole host of buttons for the off-road system, and the new rising gear selector which is very 007. With gloss back trim here and there, the perfectly positioned touch screen media system, and the very premium speakers, you can just sense you’re in a well-made, well-equipped vehicle. It’s all very nice on the eye, and for me the real winner is the leather-trimmed dashboard. This almost created a focal point in the cabin and- considering the dashboard in the Discovery is rather large- was definitely better than any plastic alternative, regardless of how nice those plastics were.

Handling/Performance - 8/10

The engine in the Discovery is a 3.0-litre supercharged diesel V6 (SDV6) which has monumental amounts of power. There’s 256PS on tap, and an earth-moving 600Nm of torque. This helps the Discovery stake its claim as being able to climb every mountain and conquer any terrain. New for 2014 is the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. Drive is selected by way of a pop up dial, which is rather cool. The engine itself is powerful but this is delivered in a smooth, refined way; especially through the 8 ratios available. Considering the Disco weighs two-and-a-half tonnes, it’s certainly no slouch. Plant your right foot and you’ll hit 62mph in 9.3 seconds, whilst the top speed is a more expected 112mph. The engine works best in the 2,000-3,000rpm range, where the torquey diesel motor comes into its own. At 2,000rpm on the motorway- which is usually the 70mph mark- the Discovery is doing nearer to 85mph. Mind you, you wouldn’t notice the speed, because inside the cabin it’s quiet and civilised.

And ‘civilised’ is the best way to describe the handling. The ride is remarkably comfortable thanks to the air suspension. On the motorway it is simply delightful. Once you hit the bumpier A-roads at brisker speeds there is a slight wallowing effect, and all-in-all a rather strange sensation. The steering is as you would expect from such a large (and noticeably tall) vehicle. It isn’t the sharpest you’ll find, but that’s probably for the best; the body roll is such that any sharp turn would probably leave you the wrong way up. However, take a wrong turn- into a field, say- and that’s no issue at all. Because the Discovery is simply unbelievably good at everything off-road. You can raise the suspension to off road height and give better ground clearance, whilst special modes for sand, mud ruts, grass/gravel and rock climb, you shouldn’t ever find yourself stuck. All this is wasted should you never venture off the road, and it’s almost a shame that a considerable proportion of Discoverys won’t.

Economy - 5/10

And then we must move on to economy. And if you’d forgotten how heavy the Discovery is, then you’ll soon be reminded at the pumps. Because with such a large engine hauling around such a large car, the figures are not as pleasing as would be appreciated. Combined fuel economy is 35.3mpg, which isn’t great, and if you do a lot of urban driving then expect it to be in the 20-somethings. And despite the 8-speed gearbox, with stop-start technology, CO2 emissions are a hefty 213g/km. That puts the Disco in VED band K, with road tax costing you £280 a year. Not too bad you might think, until I tell you the first year rate is £620. That’s a lot to take in, but then again it’s a one off cost and will make £280 seem a bargain the year after.

Practicality - 10/10

Now one of the big advantages to a car where the front and back occupy different time zones is cabin space. There’s a lot of it. The Discovery has seven seats, all of which can be occupied by an adult; and in comfort as well. With the rear-most seats down the boot is big enough for two large dogs, and there’s enough height for them to admire the surrounding view. I love the split-folding tailgate, which makes a wonderful seat. My test car came with all the bells and whistles, which included a branch of Currys by the looks of it. This car had five cameras. Yes, FIVE. Two at the front to peer out of a junction, two under the mirror to show you how close you are to the edge of any mud ruts (or kerbs in the urban jungle) and one at the back to stop you running into a small car. Some might call this overkill, but I personally believe that overkill is underrated. Whilst the Discovery has the luxurious touches of a Range Rover in some key areas, I still never felt bad about climbing in with my muddy walking boots on, making this a car for all occasions.

Fun - 8/10

In general, everyday life the Discovery isn’t all that inspiring. Yes, it’s comfortable, and relaxing to drive long distances in. But so are a lot of cars nowadays. I feel like the Discovery is under-used by a majority of owners, and that kind of takes away from the driving sensation. Knowing it can climb a mountain, driving to the local shops seems a bit, well, boring. Luckily I get to experience a vast amount of different roads, and so my commute is rarely the same. And as if by chance, my commute in the Disco took me along a rather desolate road where I happened to notice some rather challenging-looking mud ruts at the side of the road which went off for a short while and then rejoined further on. It gave me a chance to push a few buttons, raise the car, select ‘Mud Ruts’, engage low range, and see just a glimpse of what this car can do. And for those two minutes I couldn’t stop grinning. This was some seriously tricky stuff, and the Discovery didn’t even hesitate. Anybody who has one, I urge you to go out and find something similar. It’s what the car wants.

Concluding Remarks

I shall briefly summarise my time with the Discovery, after what turned out to be a busy week. I feel it is a rather under-appreciated and consequently under-rated car. People do not give it the same respect as a Range Rover Sport or Audi Q7. And I cannot for the life of me work out why. It’s luxurious, finished to the highest quality, is refined, comfortable and even boasts seven seats. And if there’s ever a traffic jam, you can go home via the nearest moor. But what I liked most about the Discovery, is that it is understated. It’s for the man who wants this brilliant car, but doesn’t want to shout about it. It doesn’t necessarily get the approval and recognition from other motorists it deserves, but Discovery man doesn’t care, because he’s happy. And that’s remarkable considering he will have parted with £53,750 of his hard earned money. And my test car came in at £57,410. The Land Rover Discovery then; discretely going where no other cars can.

Total Score - 40/50

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