There’s many a new sport utility vehicle buyer whose passion for the Range Rover brand hasn’t evolved into a purchase.
That’s simply because a Range Rover proper will set you back close to a couple of hundred thousand dollars and upward from there.
However, all is not lost, Land-Rover still make an upmarket sports utility vehicle that will give you many of the benefits engineered into Range Rover but will save you much money. That vehicle is the Discovery.
Land-Rover’s Discovery isn’t new, it’s been around since 1989 and has just morphed into what will be effectively known as the fifth-generation variant.
While its new design will tempt with a shape that is far removed from the square, boxy look of its predecessors, the mechanicals which make Discovery the off-road champion amongst four-wheel-drive vehicles hasn’t changed.
It still gets the Terrain Response, two-speed transfer system which is widely-regarded as the world’s best 4WD system. And while its prowess off-road is hard to challenge, the Discovery is also all about the fine side of motoring, it is plush, refined and downright civilised in all environments.
Discovery also provides some surprises, gone is the old petrol-fueled V8 engine. New Zealand buyers get the choice of just two powerplants, petrol and diesel, both in the form of V6 configuration, and landing in three specifications at the same price from $114,900. The evaluation car was the range-topping HSE Luxury which sits at $136,900 and was the 3-litre diesel variant.
With turbocharged boost the engine is rated at 190kW and 600Nm. If you take into account the areas where peak power is realised – 3750rpm and maximum torque from 1750rpm to 2250rpm – there is an immense flow of power from the point of instant acceleration.
In this form the Discovery has speed not often associated with vehicles which carry so much bulk. The Discovery tips the scales hefty at almost 2300kg, yet it will storm to 100km/h from a standstill in 8.1sec and will make 120km/h from 80km/h in 4.2sec.
Not only is it a strong performer in terms of acceleration, it offers amazing fuel usage returns. During my testing time the average consumption readout was constantly listing around 8.8-litre per 100km (32mpg), along with an instantaneous highway usage rate of just 7.8l/100km (36mpg) at 100km/h, the engine turning over slowly at just 1500rpm.
Those figures sit well with Land-Rover’s combined cycle average claim of 7.5l/100km (37mpg).
Power is directed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It is a stunner in terms of shift quality, the changes are seamless and there is fluid interaction between the engine and transmission.
The entire driveline is refined, but beneath the sophistication is rugged engineering for life off-road. There is a complex mechanical structure, but its application is sublime.
One of the Discovery’s major engineering benefits is that of its air suspension. Not only does it link well with the Terrain Response system, it also provides an uncompromised ride. Rough road surfaces are absorbed with little in-cabin shock, it travels smoothly providing the occupants with high levels of comfort. Body balance when presented with a corner or two is also controlled; there is little lean in comparison to its height, gravitational forces are kept in check.
The air suspension system also lends itself to an adjustable ride height system, all dictated by the driver through a centre console-mounted dial. The Terrain Response operation is also located in the same area, all the driver has to do is determine the type of off-road surface ahead and dial in the appropriate setting.
On-road, too, the Discovery is a delightful vehicle in which to travel. It whisks through the air quietly and tackles a tricky corner with confidence. There’s a lot of vehicle, but it steers with precision and reasonable accuracy thanks to huge Good Year tyres (255/55 x 20in).
On board comfort is seldom jeopardised. It is a competent seven-seater and has all the ingredients in place which make it functional and practical, along with ease of use.
It’s fair to say the Discovery includes a mammoth amount of technology, much of it is unseen until safety elements come into play, there are various active driver assistance systems which keep the vehicle out of trouble in the first instance.
I travelled almost 300km in the evaluation car, each journey was pleasurable and there was never a time when I thought its size weighed against its concept.
While it doesn’t seem logical that a vehicle with so much bulk and sophistication could be such a worthy off-road machine, it certainly is. It is more than one vehicle, it lends itself to many applications and excels at all of them.
Price – Land-Rover Discovery, $136,900
Dimensions – Length, 4970mm; width, 2073mm; height, 1888mm
Configuration – V6, four-wheel-drive, 2993cc, 190kW, 600Nm, eight-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 7.5l/100km