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Review

First Drive: Land Rover Discovery 4 car review

10/11/11

IT’S not been long since the last Discovery update, and it’s interesting to note that the frequency of revisions to Land Rover’s fleet has increased in recent years. For all the talk of recession, premium SUV sales are doing very well thank you very much. Furthermore, Land Rover’s desire to stay competitive has clearly paid off.

And staying competitive means more than a new set of door handles or flashy new lights. With the continual pressure on makers of large SUVs to clean up their acts, the Discovery 4 should silence the critics with its cleaner diesel engine. Contributing to this is a new eight-speed auto gearbox, plus on the ownership experience front there’s been a comprehensive upgrade to the in-car entertainment options and overall cabin ambience.

As has been the case for some time now, the level of innovation in the Discovery is high. Recent changes have seen the implementation of an all electronic main display offering the driver more information, while the sat-nav screen’s ability to display both navigation data and entertainment content for driver and passenger respectively. Now the car’s gearlever has been replaced by a Jaguar-like rotary control and the car’s Terrain Response dial has been distilled down to a handful of buttons.

Such a move signals an important shift for the Discovery. This openly bold use of higher tech does much to enhance the car’s more rounded dynamic proposition.

On the looks front the purists can breathe easy – the basic shape remains the same. Clever touches such as the car’s grille and lights serve a dual role of modernising the car’s appearance in the face of tough competition and softening its bold, bluff exterior - it’s still a fully functional 4x4, after all.

The Discovery’s fascia and front cabin continue to be styled and restyled in the image of its maker’s flagship Range Rover. More so than ever, the Discovery is being positioned as a luxury vehicle and, in a positive way, it’s a far cry from the boxy, utilitarian car that kickstarted the sub-Range Rover market sector.

Elsewhere the Discovery’s cabin is as before; the seven seat layout is as accommodating and flexible as you want it to be. For all the car’s off-roading abilities it’s easy to forget that it’s also a capable alternative to a conventional people carrier. At the rear the car’s boot and split level tailgate make loading and unloading bulky items a simple exercise, further highlighting the car’s versatility.

Unlike your average people carrier the Discovery can transport you and your family to places that would be out of reach to the likes of Ford’s S-Max and Volkswagen’s Sharan.

And thanks to the cumulative effect of the recent engine upgrade, tweaks to suspension and steering plus the new eight-speed auto gearbox, the Discovery’s on and off-road performance is now better than ever.

Leading the changes is the car’s recently introduced 3.0-litre V6 diesel unit. First seen in sister company Jaguar’s new XF, this motor has been specially tuned by Land Rover to deliver plenty of low down power and torque for effortless off-roading and stop-start city driving.

Its hushed cruising abilities and eagerness to respond to enthusiastic throttle inputs makes it an impressive all-rounder. The new eight-speed gearbox is another reason for the Discovery’s class leading abilities. Clearly the top few ratios are more beneficial to high speed running on the road, and do much to boost the car’s fuel-sipping qualities.

The complete package does offer meaningful benefits off-road, too. Thanks to the smarter transmission there’s less need to switch to manual operation of the gearbox, leaving you to concentrate on the potentially rocky path ahead. Everything chugs along nicely at walking pace when required, and there’s now more ratios to choose from when you need to delicately balance grip and motion to keep you moving in sticky situations.

Complimenting the engine’s performance is the Discovery’s ride and handling characteristics. During normal driving situations pitch and roll have been almost entirely eradicated. The result means no ungainly lurches when navigating a sequence of bends, giving the driver a greater sense of security and confidence when traveling at speed on the road.

Equipped on the inside to make life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, while making light work of the ground underneath you, Land Rover’s Discovery 4 raises the bar even higher for its long suffering rivals. The option of a fancy multimedia entertainment system for all occupants to enjoy plus the car’s longstanding towing capabilities round off what has become an impressive package. In the real world it really doesn’t get much better than this.

FACTS AT A GLANCE?Model: Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 SDV6 HSE priced from £51,195.?Engine: 3.0-litre diesel V6 unit developing 252bhp.?Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels.?Performance: Maximum speed 112mph, 0-60mph 9.3 seconds.?Economy: 32.1mpg.?CO2 Rating: 230g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats7

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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