During the week that we had the new Land Rover Discovery on test, I managed to chat to a number of owners of the previous generation Discovery 4.
One owner in particular was very vocal, saying he is about to replace his vehicle and would rather replace it with another Disco 4 than buy a model that “looks like a Fortuner”.
Maybe he was being harsh, but his point is valid in that the Discovery has lost its identity slightly, ditching its traditional go-anywhere looks in favour of pandering to the urban dwellers. And then there is that rear. It is impossible not to bring it up.
What was Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern thinking? It’s terrible. If a facelift comes sooner than expected, we won’t be surprised, but the sales numbers will dictate whether any damage has been done or maybe we are just resisting the major change.
The design is not the only issue because as good as the interior tech is, Land Rover stopped well short of including the tech that was promised in the concept. That tech went into the Range Rover Velar, which has a far better interior even if the dual touchscreens can be a little confusing and distracting.
The Velar also wears a Range Rover badge which is a problem in a status-driven country like SA, especially because the pricing of the Velar is so close to that of the Disco.
Issues aside though, is the Discovery a worthy successor? Well it’s definitely moved more upmarket, particularly in the TDV6 HSE version we had on test. It has seven electrically operated seats as well as a bench that folds out of the boot at the touch of a button.
The seats are luxurious in a way that will make older Range Rovers jealous and there is plenty of space, although as with any seven-seater, if you have the third row of seats up then the boot space is compromised. They do fold flat though, as does the middle row, making larger items easy to accommodate.
On the road the diesel motor has a great sound to it and there is little lag, with the nose lifting under acceleration and hardly any noise intrusion. It makes for a fantastic on-road cruiser, powerful with its 190kW and in spite of a fair amount of off-road work, it still averaged a respectable 10.5l/100km.
What we did find odd was the HSE model did not have adaptive cruise control. It is available as an option but at this level, it should have it. Our long-term Ford Kuga costing less than half the price has it and it also has lane departure warning which, like the adaptive cruise, is an option on the Disco.
But while most Discovery models will spend their lives on-road, it is still a vehicle designed to get off the beaten track and here it was superb. You can leave the latest generation Terrain Response system in auto or switch it through various modes. In gravel mode it handled itself extremely well and when things got a little rockier it was simply a case of raising the ride height to ensure there were no bangs from beneath the car.
Approach and departure angles are good, but I couldn’t help but feel scared of scratching the paintwork on that curved front bumper. Again it begs the question — is this really a go-anywhere Land Rover?
I think an adventure test might be in order before we can answer that, but Kingsley Holgate is still doing his thing to beat malaria to travel Africa in one.
Regular readers will know I am a huge Land Rover fan so some of the issues with the latest Discovery have left me disappointed. But it is extremely comfortable, very capable and still a great vehicle whether it spends all its time in the city or gets down and dirty in the great outdoors. But I have to agree with the Disco 4 owners I spoke to that it has just gone a little too city boy.
Maybe we just have to get used to the change — after all, the move from Discovery 2 to 3 created its fair share of controversy. But that rear still has to go. – Mark Smyth