JUST 70 years ago, the first Land Rover was created. It seems like the brand has always been here yet it’s definitely a post-World War II event.
The abilities of the early Landy, launched in April, 1948, barely a year after it was first thought of, brought about a cult following intensified by the Range Rover in 1970 and the Discovery in 1989 before the Defender badge was attached to the original in 1990 despite its waning appeal to the world’s armed forces.
Books about Land Rover have probably consumed enough trees to leave an empty patch visible from outer space. Many have been good, some mediocre, and some, like Land Rover by Ben Fogle, best navigated around rather than through because of their awfulness (Fogle’s would actually be good if it wasn’t for dreadful inaccuracies).
These days, Land Rover has little more presence than as a green oval badge. The vehicles within its range are branded by their model names of Discovery or Range Rover. There is no Defender since it ended production in early 2015 with a rush from “investors” (dreamers) to buy ridiculously specced run out models which they hoped will one day will earn them a fortune.
Discovery has changed radically from a comfortable sub-Range Rover workhorse to a superbly luxurious seven seater that can easily relieve you of almost £74,000 even when, like our test car, it only has a two litre diesel engine that sounds too low rent.
That doesn’t mean it can’t do its job, of course, because since the arrival of Tata as brand owners Land Rover has lifted its game. Its vehicles are now reliable as well as desirable and embarrassed owners no longer need to laugh off the breakdowns because they don’t tend to have them. They are too complicated to fix with a spanner, hammer, and string but then so is everything these days. At least the electrics are no longer fragile.
Sophistication is something the Discovery has in spades. Our test car, an Sd4 HSE Luxury, would have cost £62,695 if it were not for the £11,140 of options understandably necessary to demonstrate what the car could do. Some, such as the electrically deployable towbar at £985, many owners would consider essential – equally the £880 television with twin rear screens might be viewed as the same by the school run drivers who love the Discovery experience even though they would never challenge themselves by using it to discover anything. As an MPV, the car is perfect.
Electric operation for all five rear seats makes life easy and stowage has even been designed into the rear trim for the luggage cover when it’s not in use, a detail most makers neglect.
The car has come to mean many things to different owner types and its standard kit reflects its working background.
It may no longer look massive, although it still is, because the lines of Discovery 5 are far softer than those of Discovery 1 to 4. But visual clues are still there; the suggestion of Alpine light windows that connected the first Discovery with Defender hardtops, the kick up in the rear roofline that came with the original, and the offset rear number plate that’s now a mere affectation, a nod to the times when Discovery spare wheels lived on the rear door.
On road, the two litre diesel’s 240 bhp is sufficient while the 369 lb/ft of torque at just 1,500 rpm should drag the car out of any amount of trouble as well as ensuring a 3.5 tonne load hanging off that towbar remains largely unnoticed. It will now wade through almost a metre of water (but don’t try or you’ll soon be out of your depth) and has undergone a severe weight loss programme thanks to more aluminium in its construction.
It’s unlikely most owners will get near its 43.5 mpg combined fuel figure, particularly if they frequently take advantage of the 8.0 second 0-60 mph time or the 121mph top speed. But when you have a car with such consummate off-road ability at the touch of a switch or twirl of a dial, it matters not. The 77 litre tank will allow around 500 miles before it needs replenishing.
When it’s time to load up, flipping the seats into the floor reveals 2,406 litres of volume, more than equivalent to the load capacity of a small van. Yes, fancy it may be but the Discovery can still earn its keep when it must.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Discovery Sd4 HSE Luxury Automatic
Does it fit your ego…
0-60 mph: 8.0 secs
Top speed: 121 mph
Bhp: 240 @ rpm
Torque: 369 lb ft @ 1,500 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 43.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 189 g/km
Best bits: back at the top of its game