Land Rover Discovery 4 review
Luxurious Land Rover Discovery 4 is fantastic all-rounder that's big, bold and brilliant to drive on and off-road
The fourth-generation Land Rover Discovery may well be the ultimate all-rounder. It mixes a relaxing driving experience with a pair of punchy diesel engines and a cabin that boasts luxury car quality with lots of space and seven seats. Oh, and it's also one of the most capable off-roaders on the planet. It isn't cheap and not sporty to drive like a BMW X5, plus there are doubts over reliability, but this is the Swiss Army knife of cars.
Our choice: Discovery 4 3.0 SDV6 XS
Like an action hero, the Land Rover Discovery 4 is rugged and square-jawed. But with jewel-like Xenon headlights, a smart Range Rover-style grille and huge alloy wheels, it's also a sophisticated machine, capable of looking good in a muddy field as well as in a five-star hotel car park. All the panels have tight gaps, and with its chunky, angular proportions has the feeling of a very expensive Tonka toy that makes it more appealing than an Audi Q7.
The Land Rover Discovery is brilliant at easing away the stresses of daily life - it has a soothing ride and precise steering which allows you to place the car accurately on the road. It's not as involving or as sporty as the BMW X5 - the body rolls quite a bit under heavy cornering and it can't disguise its enormous weight – but it does manage to glide over bumps in the manner of a luxury saloon. There's a single 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbodiesel on offer, with a healthy 252bhp on tap. This makes the Discovery good for 0-60mph in just 8.8 seconds. A top speed of 112mph tells you everything about the Discovery's house brick aerodynamics, and when you're up to motorway speeds, that square shape makes for plenty of wind noise. An eight-speed auto makes the most of the engine's mid-range torque, and it kicks down quickly and effectively when overtaking.
Like all Land Rover models, there is a feeling of safety simply from sitting in a car that's so big. But the Discovery backs this up with concrete evidence – namely a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and a host of airbags as standard, along with electronic brakeforce distribution. The only potential blot on the car's copybook is reliability. That said, the Discovery 4 managed a respectable 52nd in the 2012 Driver Power survey. However, should any of its complex systems go wrong, you will face big repair bills.
You get a fantastic raised seating position and a first-class cabin. The dashboard has a luxurious mix of leather, wood and soft-touch plastics, plus big chunky air vents. There's lots of room for driver and passengers while hi-tech gizmos like the dual-view centre console screen are desirable. Other options include a set of five cameras that can help you negotiate tight spaces, whether you're in the middle of nowhere or a multi-storey car park. We would skip basic GS models and head for the XS and HSE, which get leather seats, a CD changer, parking sensors, automatic lights and sat-nav. The seven seater layout is easy to operate, and the rearmost seats are big enough for two adults. Fold them all down and you've got an enormous 2,558-litre load area with a flat floor, while the split tailgate makes loading heavy items much easier. Permanent four-wheel-drive and Terrain Response are standard - it features a number of different modes to allow you to tackle snow, deep mud and even sand – making sporty alternatives like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 look totally inadequate when the going gets tough.
With a kerbweight of around 2,500kg and permanent four-wheel drive, there is only so much a diesel engine can do. Land Rover claims 32.1mpg, but even with gentle motorway runs we reckon most drivers will struggle to top 25mpg. It posts emissions of 230g/km, which when compared with the likes of the BMW X5 3.0d, is quite disappointing. The BMW manages much better figures - 38mpg and just 195g/km of CO2. Tyres will be expensive to replace and servicing will also be pricey.