Land Rover

It's a big car with a big reputation, but has the Land Rover Discovery made a big impression with us over the last year?

  • Smooth road manners, massive cabin, refinement, looks and image
  • Irritating sat-nav, thirsty diesel engine driving in town, high running costs, costly servicing

It might be one of the most advanced off-roaders money can buy, but after spending the best part of a year behind the wheel of the new Land Rover Discovery, we can't help feeling the big 4x4 is more at home around town than on muddy country tracks.

The boxy bodywork is discreetly ostentatious, while the car's fluent ride and great forward visibility make it as comfortable and relaxing to steer through heavy traffic as any luxury saloon.

The smooth automatic gearbox and surprisingly responsive controls - don't forget the seven-seat Landie weighs close to three tonnes - mean it's excellent on motorways, too. With all that in mind, you would be forgiven for thinking that there's a long queue of Auto Express staff constantly clamouring for the keys. However, the reality is somewhat different.

The fact is that the Land Rover is a pretty intimidating sight - it is absolutely enormous and, because of the size, it's unfairly perceived. People automatically assume it as slow and inefficient, and I am constantly being asked if the fuel economy ever climbs into double figures or whether it's difficult to drive on fast flowing motorways.

Over the past 10 months, our TDV6 has bettered 24mpg, and the news that it will cruise as briskly as anything else on a clear road is greeted with some disbelief. But with running costs of more than £1 per mile and a standard 12,000-mile service coming in at £330, it's clear that buying a Discovery is not for the economy-minded.

Even so, it's hard not to be impressed by the level of luxury on offer. The leather seats are very comfortable and the cockpit is methodically laid out. But the complex sat-nav is slightly irritating, as it can't be programmed while on the move.

Our 4x4 has also been pleasingly reliable - so far. Despite horror stories we have heard from some readers about patchy build quality and engine problems, our Discovery has proven its worth and not been forced off the road once for repairs.

The only slight hiccup occurred at around 10,000 miles, when the software controlling the air-suspension crashed, filling the dash full of warning signs and sending the electronically controlled system into limp-home mode. However, simply switching the ignition off and on cleared the problem immediately, and it hasn't happened since. Let's hope it manages to keep a clean copybook - we've got a lot planned for BKO5 LLM before it goes back to Land Rover next month.

Second opinion

I borrowed the Disco for a weekend to transport a couple of three-metre long kitchen worktops. It seemed ideal, until I found out the front passenger seat doesn't fold flat. With such clever rear chairs, this seems like an over-sight. I still got the units in, but only by leaving them poking through the open lower section of the split tailgate.Ross Pinnock, motoring writer

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