The Discovery is pitched as a premium product and comes with an appropriately premium price tag. Entry to the family starts at $69,200 for the base model TDV6 diesel.
The SDV6 SE we tested is the next step up the ladder and gets a more powerful version of the familiar 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
There’s a generous if not exceptional level of equipment that includes seven leather-lined seats, electronic park brake, cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, 19-inch alloy wheels and a built-in tow hitch.
Yet at the same time there are elements of penny pinching not expected at this end of the market. A reversing camera – standard on most new SUVs, even sub-$30k ones – adds $1050, while keyless entry (so you can grab the door handle with the key in your pocket) is a hefty $2100.
They’re part of an extensive list of options that can quickly jack the price up. Metallic paint adds $1800, auto lights are $400, a tyre pressure monitoring system $1310 and front parking sensors $900.
The latest MY14 (model year 2014) updates also bring a change of branding; gone is the Discovery 4 nomenclature, with the latest variant reverting simply to Discovery. And the Land Rover badging has gone from the bonnet, replaced by prominent Discovery badging in the same font.
The cabin ambience in the Disco immediately reminds you it’s a cut above rivals with similar off-road prowess (think Toyota’s Prado as its prime mainstream opposition). A low windowline and high seating position help create the sensation you’re towering above most of the traffic.
The spacious, well thought-out body is testament to the core design that first appeared in the Discovery 3 of 2005. The asymmetrically split tailgate is another winner, allowing easy access with coverage from rain and a fold-out camp table. It’s indicative of the simple but clever – and, importantly, usable – design of the Disco.
Even the basic controls and functionality is simple but effective. Large buttons and knobs control major functions, while the colour touchscreen is logical to navigate.
The seats, too, are comfortable and supportive, with those in the middle row equally taken care of; the third row is less accommodating but works fine as an occasional seat for the little ones.
ON THE ROAD
It’s far from agile – that’s difficult in a car that tips the scales at almost 2.6 tonnes – but there’s a relaxed nature to the Discovery’s on-road manners that complements its demeanour.
Steering is well weighted and direct enough, even if the suspension sometimes take a second or two to catch up. It’s quiet and impressively refined and makes light work of suburban lumps and thumps.
The V6 engine is a ripper, loaded with torque down low, something that swells into a 600Nm peak at just 2000rpm. Smooth and quiet, the diesel ably shifts the bulk of the Disco, all the while being relatively efficient; claimed fuel use is 8.8 litres per 100km and we managed about 11L/100km in a mix of suburban, freeway and off-road motoring.
The eight-speed auto is also a gem, only occasionally displaying some laziness when called on to downshift quickly at low speeds.
Most owners won’t get close to experiencing the immense capability of a Discovery; no doubt they’re content knowing it can go further than most.
It starts with the towering ground clearance once the standard air suspension system is raised to its off-road height (raising clearance to 209mm). Throw in excellent wheel articulation and it ensures the wheels have a good chance of being in contact with Mother Nature.
But it’s the traction management systems that help distinguish the Discovery. The Terrain Response that was pioneered by the brand tailors traction control, throttle sensitivity and other parameters to a range of conditions, including snow, sand, rocks and mud. That traction control does a great job of diverting power to wheels with traction.
Then there’s the standard locking centre differential. Controlled electronically, it opens in regular driving and when the terrain isn’t too challenging, but it’ll lock almost instantaneously once it’s required.
It brings all the benefits of a locking differential but without the negatives, such as binding drivelines and wider turning radii.
Even better – you don’t feel it happening. It just gets on with business and keeps things moving.
Or, at least, it tries to. We managed to get bogged being silly and trying out the new wade sensing feature. With sensors pointing down from the exterior mirrors it can measure the depth of water, calculate how much deeper you can go before reaching the 700mm maximum wading depth and display it on the central screen with a funky graphic.
It’s all very gimmicky and is more of a trick to show your mates rather than a genuinely useful feature. And, as we discovered, it’s easy to get stuck trying to find water (or mud, as the case was) deep enough to really test it out.
The biggest issue with the Discovery’s off-road ability is its tyres. The smallest 19-inch size (forget the optional 20s) is too large for more remote and challenging areas and the rubber is better suited to the developed roads.
The Discovery is still a class act and a model of off-road ability. It’s also fantastic as a family wagon and throws in more than a degree of luxury. But it’s not cheap, and there are some key features missing that should be standard for the money.
Click here to read the review on the full Land Rover Discover range
* To get a digital copy - simply download a version here.