The Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Vehicle has pulled up in the farmyard. Charlie Flindt gives his verdict on the case. Will it please or disappoint?
It’s easy to forget the fuss that the Discovery caused when it was introduced. Mind you, that was a quarter of a century ago. Back in the late Eighties, Land Rover made Land Rovers, Range Rover made Range Rovers and never the twain did meet. Then along came this remarkable machine, with its Range Rover underpinnings, its icky light-blue interior (thanks, Sir Terence Conran) and its comedy raiding of the Rover parts bin (Maestro door handles, Freight Rover headlights).
Twenty-five years on and the Discovery is still very much with us. It’s curious that the Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury that arrived with such a stir, is now the conservative member of the family. Look at its appearance: it’s sleek and smooth but still has the square bread-van-with-a-kink-in-the-roof style. It’s actually quite refreshing at a time when many in the Land/Range Rover range have been afflicted horribly with the cartoon “go faster” styling.
Underneath, however, things have got a bit more complicated, which can provoke an intake of breath from those of us who have owned Land Rovers/Range Rovers in the past. A friend once drove home from Hampshire to South Wales in “crawl” mode because the air suspension had broken; it turned out to be a blown fuse. The Discovery is laden with driving and traction aids, numerous acronyms and electronics to replace the simple stubby stick that once did high/low and differential lock.
But there’s something about a Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury. You get in it and it is just right. It’s the feel of the fabrics, the layout of the dials and the whole ambience – it’s something that the vast majority of Land Rover’s competitors just haven’t got. They use too much chrome or too much unconvincing wood. The Discovery has just the right amount of opulence. Interior room is vast and the seating position is high and mighty, just as we’ve come to expect. Perhaps the only cabin gripe is at the back, where the traditional split tailgate continues to upset aged dogs and put shopping out of reach.
Off road is as good as ever, too, once you’ve recovered from the shock of finding no two-range gearbox. The ZF 8-speed auto, in conjunction with the 10,000 electronic widgets buzzing away down in the chassis, has everything covered. On road in the Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury, is where the air suspension really shows its class, negating the post-winter potholes. I’ve never known an off-roader slip so effortlessly into the family/farm routine, making itself equally at home in the mud and at the bus stop. It’s almost (and I hope Land Rover will forgive such a phrase) Golf-like in its setting of a benchmark for all the others to aspire to. Unlike its ancestor 25 years ago, it’s quietly unobtrusive – not a sky-blue panel or parts-bin headlight to be seen anywhere. What you do with the Discovery is cover it in mud and take its many skills for granted. Use it, abuse it and I promise you it will soon be a quiet cornerstone of your rural life.
Land rover discovery HSE Luxury
Engine 2,993cc diesel
Max speed 112mph
Performance 0 to 60: 8.8 seconds
Combined fuel economy 35.3mpg
Insurance group 31
Would suit farmer with a family