What is it?
The humble Discovery has changed a lot over the years, pushed further upmarket it’s now way out of the price range of a lot of people, but even with this in mind it remains as popular as ever. With 62 international awards under its belt since 2009, the latest incarnation Land Rover’s favourite tow vehicle can’t seem to do much wrong.
On the road
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have covered many thousands of miles in in a variety of cars fitted with the 3ltr TD V6, and it’s no slouch. However, the fortnight previous, I had the joy of testing a 5ltr supercharged V8, Full fat Range Rover, and I was concerned that the Disco would feel, well, like a bit of a barge. I needn’t have worried, yes it’s slower, but most things are, but the Discovery is more than adequate in the power stakes, and not to mention a lot more practical.
No matter what the road surface or what speed, the Discovery 4 is quiet and comfortable, it seems to fit all purposes, and after a week I was quickly forgetting about the joys of driving anything else, including the Supercharged Range Rover. Driving along the B4407 towards Ffestiniog, the big Discovery held the road perfectly with hardly any roll or lean, and loaded up for a 300+ mile round trip to Burghley felt more like a trip to the local shop.
Off the road
Purposely driving as slow as I possibly could up a long, steep and rocky green lane, I’m sure it was secretly taunting me whispering, "Is that all you’ve got? Seriously, is that it?’" With its tyres often flailing in mid air whilst climbing huge vertical steps, the Disco simply carried on regardless and crawled up without any hesitation.
I know driving that slow in my 300Tdi Discovery would induce wheel spin and then loss of forward motion, so let’s hear it for traction aids? Yes and no. As good as they are, I can’t help thinking that I’m being cheated out of the whole off road driving experience. The Discovery 4 eases you over and through most things that you point it at. Driving my 300Tdi on the other hand means I’m much more involved in the A to B process, I have to know when to give it a bit more oomph and when not to. I think the experienced off roader will understand and appreciate the Discovery 4 more that the beginner, as the newby will be lulled into a false sense of security.
As I continued I kept the Disco at tickover and again drove as slowly as possible, I really wanted it to lose grip, but it didn’t, and we arrived at the summit with ease.
This gave me a new respect for electronics. Yes, they take away the fun aspect and a degree of skill, but opting for a bit more momentum when faced with a tricky bit can cause damage to your 4x4, to yourself and the environment. Modern traction aids on the overhand will ensure that your are in total control and therefore minimizing damage to the vehicle and the environment. Ok, it may not have been exciting or as spectacular, but at least I’d arrive at my destination in one piece.
As you would expect from a premium vehicle costing £30 under £60 grand, its interior is plush, posh and by ‘eck it’s comfy!
Of course there’s no gear lever in a Discovery 4, you get the standard dial, which I’m still in two minds about. Just forward of the dial are the buttons for the suspension height and 4 wheel drive settings, which are neat and straightforward. The steering wheel is the same as the rest of the range (except the Defender of course), and is home for most of the controls.
The view and seating positions are just how they should be, and the seats are without question, awesome. Long enough in the seat base to satisfy KL’s needs and comfy enough that you don’t mind spending all day on them.
Like many models in the range, when opening the centre console you're confronted the optional fridge, well coolbox really. The coolbox was great for keeping homemade burgers and the odd bar of chocolate nicely chilled during a 3 hour trek to Wales during that spectacularly hot day we had in summer.
The rear seats are comfy and the entertainment system is a blessing for keeping rear passengers quiet! Oddly, I discovered that there was more legroom sat in the back of the Disco than in the Full fat Range Rover!
The third row seats are also quite accessible, even for me. I honestly thought I would struggle to get in and out, but due to the height of the Discovery and its huge doors, it was easy. My only problem with them was that the bases are flat, this in turn made my bum slide forward and inevitably cause me back ache. Perhaps those amongst us with an, ermm, smaller frame might not have this issue!
With all seven seats upright there’s little room for luggage, however, drop them down and you have a vast expanse at you disposal that you’re unlikely to fill. I packed an overnight bag, Weber BBQ, my huge camera bag, recovery tools and waffle boards which all seemed to be lost within the cavernous boot.
On the subject of its 7 seats, with them in the upright position your rear visibility is limited. But of course it will be, that’s obvious. In fact I apologise for even bringing it up.
Buying and owning - years to come
As I’ve written about other vehicles from the Land Rover stable, their heavy use of electrics can give quite a few headaches years down the line, join any enthusiast group on Facebook for details of their most common foibles. The EPB (Electric Park Brake), or handbrake to you and me for instance appears to offer quite a few issues. EGR’s can stick too, and at £100 a side costs can mount up. Having said that, replacing EGR’s (exhaust gas recirculation valve), isn’t just a Discovery thing, all diesels these days are fitted with ‘em.
Services are always going to be expensive, and the Discovery is a big, heavy car so tyres and suspension bushes are going to require replacing more often too, and they can be niggly and time consuming jobs. Although the 3 litre SDV6 drinks less and emits less CO2 than previous Discoverys, it still attracts big road tax bills. On the subject of bills, I didn’t find its combined mpg of 33 that bad, considering its size!
That all sounds doom and gloom-ish, and yes, buy the wrong Discovery and it'll be a headache from start to finish, but many owners swear by them. Keep up to date on all services and replace items when required and the Discovery will serve you proud.
Its a van, it’s a people carrier, it’s an off roader and it’s a motorway cruiser, all in all the Discovery 4 is probably the most practical vehicle that Land Rover produce. On the road it was sprightly and confident and off the road it was surefooted and capable. If I wanted a vehicle that was going to take me to South Africa via Iceland and Russia, this would be it.
I usually like to end these test reports with the odd criticism, but all I can think of is that I wasn’t keen on the sunroof and the two rear seats weren’t that comfy for my 18 stone frame! Sure, type Discovery 4 problems in Google and you’ll see plenty of disgruntled owners, type Discovery 4 into any 4x4 forum and you’ll find owners with much more positive experiences. Yes they have their electric gremlins, but so do other marques.
To quote a butcher friend of mine, ‘Name another vehicle that is able with ease to tow a cattle trailer, horse box, go for tens of thousands road miles and be smart enough to take my large family of 7 for days out or meals. The Discovery 4 really is the perfect all round vehicle.’
They used to say that the Discovery was the thinking mans Defender, well it still is, if you can afford it! I can honestly say that I didn’t think I’d enjoy the Discovery 4 experience, but I did, and then some! Would I have one? You bet I would!