► CAR lives with a big Landie
► Plush Discovery HSE Lux
► Ben Oliver is at the wheel
I've been lucky enough to have used various versions of the Land Rover Discovery in some remote and difficult parts of the world, from southern Africa to the Arctic. But I haven't spent much time in a Discovery in the UK, and it wasn't until I got this one that I noticed how many there are on British roads. I mean, they're EVERYWHERE, and particularly outside Waitrose.
This is the Discovery's 30th anniversary, and it hit one million sales as long ago as 2012. The Discovery is the Land Rover that makes most sense for most buyers: it has more off-road ability than the Defender but infinitely better road manners, and 80 per cent of the image and luxury of the Range Rover at 60 per cent of the entry price. In an increasingly crowded range, Land Rover defines the Disco and Disco Sport as the 'versatile' ones, and for once it's not marketing bullshit. With seven proper seats and a hangar of a boot it replaces both my Mercedes E-Class All Terrain and a Renault Grand Scenic that performed van/bus duties.
Mine is the new 302bhp 3.0-litre Sd6 diesel; four-pot petrol and diesels are also available. While it was being readied, Land Rover loaned me a Disco with the 254bhp Td6 engine that mine replaces. A bunch of detailed revisions give the twin-turbo V6 the extra power, another 74lb ft of torque and palpably greater refinement and urge. Fuel efficiency stands at an official 36.2mpg, with CO2 emissions of 206g/km.
The loaner Td6 was in HSE trim, which brings the desirable panoramic roof, powered third-row seats (all grades get three rows) and adaptive cruise. This might well be the specification sweet spot. With the second-smallest rims, murdered-out black finishing kit, plain black cabin, fixed tow-hook and a permanent layer of filth I thought it looked great, and the very opposite of school-run specification.
But my Sd6 has arrived in top HSE Luxury trim, costing an extra £5200 over an HSE with the same engine. I don't think I'd have ordered my own this way. The Luxury adds the Terrain Response 2 system, which is worth having, but I'll be examining the value of the other Luxury additions: chiefly the opening sunroof, rear-seat entertainment and Intelligent Seat Fold, which lets you configure the seats via the front touchscreen or an app. I'm sold on the standard heated steering wheel, though, which did not feel like a bourgeois affectation at -4ºC this morning.
Another £5660 of options brings the total cost up to £76,065, which nudges up towards the entry price of the Range Rover that my Disco, with its many screens and fancy tan interior, now resembles. Asking for another £850 for metallic paint (Corris Grey in this case) seems a bit cheeky. The optional (£2120) 22-inch rims aren't shown: Land Rover offers a 'tyre hotel' scheme for owners who want to swap between summers and winters, so I had the car delivered on proper Pirelli Scorpion 3PMSF winter tyres on 21-inch rims.
The summer 22s may not be a good idea. This car lives on a farm, not a Fulham side street, and having destroyed two of the Mercedes' wheels in potholes on West Sussex roads I was looking forward to the protection afforded by the higher aspect ratio of typical SUV tyres. The 20s on the Td6 I borrowed offered deep sidewalls and produced a fine ride, but the standard Pirelli mud-and-snow rubber understeered and got the ABS firing early. In cold but not icy conditions the Scorpions seem to generate more grip but less feel: I'll give them a proper test in the Alps soon.
The promised versatility is already apparent, though. On day two the Disco swallowed a fridge and a large sack truck with its middle-row seats still upright. And while powered folding seats might seem less than macho, it's incredibly convenient to drop them all at once with a switch in the boot, and open up that vast 2406-litre loadbay. The spec may be fancy, but I already suspect that this Discovery won't need the distant or perilous locations where I used its forebears to prove its worth.
Our Land Rover Discovery: some choice options
The Driver Assistance package is a £950 option even on the top spec, but can spot risks before they've even exited the McDonald's car park. Rear Traffic Monitor has already proved useful.
Panoramic roof on HSE trim is a very good thing: adding opening function with Luxury trim seems unnecessary, unless you're planning to use Disco to bag big game. Privacy glass a £400 option and now mandatory in London.
HSE Lux gets rear screens as standard. Worried about their eventual obsolescence: wouldn't tablet holders make more sense? Kids totally sold on them already though, and I'm sold on ability to listen to 6 Music undisturbed in the front.
Tan my hide
Tan leather is a no-cost option, and charcoal oak veneer is £370. They look good but feel more Range Rover than Discovery. Pale leather interior versus farm life, dirty bicycles and nauseous children seems an unfair fight.
The Disco's a long car, so the retractable tow-hook that unfurls electrically from under the rear valance may be £1005 well spent – only £290 more than the fixed version that extends this car to Queen Mary length.
By Ben Oliver
Logbook: Land Rover Discovery Sd6 HSE Luxury
As tested £76,065
Engine 2993cc turbodiesel V6, 302bhp
Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.5sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 206g/km CO2
Miles this month 396
Our mpg 26.5
Official mpg 36.2mpg
Energy cost 22.4p per mile
Check out our Land Rover reviews