Saturday, August 13, 2011

Land Rover Discovery - King of the Road

FROM once dominating the premium off-road market and moving into the on-road sector, Land Rover has come under intense pressure from rivals who have gone the other way.

Abilities and expectations have changed over the years and the whole market has become muddied with models of varying capabilities, but Land Rover has always dug into its roots and every model carrying the distinctive green and gold badge has to have very good off-road ability and capability to forge a metre of water.

Those engineering requirements have defined the basic design which has created a high floor and long travel suspension package and a powertrain which must perform in any terrain. Any other attributes and they are definitely plus points.

After the 110-inch predecessor to the utilitarian Defender we saw Land Rover launch the first luxury 4x4 in the Range Rover. But that left a lot of middle ground untouched and the Discovery was created in 1989 and then the Freelander arrived.

The Evoque will open up yet another sector from autumn. But the Discovery is for many the standard heavy duty Land Rover and the main competitor to other executive soft-roaders.
Land Rover has kept the Discovery up to date and it boasts many features available on its Range Rover stablemate, but the range is comparatively small, running to just three models, sharing a 3.0-litre V6 engine with 6sp automatic transmission and three trim levels, priced from £36,785 to £50,785.

The top of the range HSE comes with leather trim, electric sunroof, metallic paint, cruise control and MP3 connectivity. It is well equipped because the powertrain includes the sophisticated terrain response, which means you simply “dial-in” the road surface and the power train management system does the rest to give maximum traction and responses.

The six-speed automatic is very smooth, quick to respond and ratios give the Discovery strong pull from rest when overtaking, and yet can keep everything composed on main roads. It will also pull 3.5 tonnes, which is exceptional and useful.

I liked the beautifully balanced brakesbut was less impressed by the dead feel to the big steering wheel, although the turning circle was good.

Access is excellent with big, wide opening doors and the rear loadbed has a split tailgate which doubles as a useful bench for off-road picnics.

Load space rises from to a maximum 2,558 litres and the interior seats five in comfort, but floor-stowed twin rear seats add more, so long as the occupants have very short legs.

Ride comfort is very soft, there is a little body roll, but it does not wallow or pitch and its road-holding is very good. The front seats have good adjustment and even those in the back have good support.

The secondary controls are conveniently set out for the driver while the instruments are big and clear. The HSE model I tried had a reversing camera, which is essential as the high tail hides a considerable blind-spot, but the side and front vision is very good.

Driving with one eye on the fuel gauge, I managed only 26.5mpg, not particularly good for a diesel. But t he Discovery imparts a feeling of safety and capability in any conditions and it is little wonder it is still the benchmark for premium serious off-roaders.

Land Rover Discovery HSE

Price: £50,785
Mechanical: 245bhp, 2,998cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Combined mpg: 26.5mpg
Insurance group: 41
CO² emissions: : 244g/km
BIK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited mileage.

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