The Land Rover Discovery has an unbeatable combination of practicality, off-road ability and on-road manners
First DriveWith an all-new, fifth-generation discovery around the corner, we revisit the current car in special-edition Landmark form
First DriveThe Discovery is an exceptionally versatile vehicle: a grade-one off-roader, proper seven-seater and rapid and luxurious way to cover distances
Loyal Land Rover fans have been flocking to dealers to snap up the last remaining ‘old’ Discoverys, terrified that its replacement won’t be as good. But that’s not the case.
The new Disco is everything it should be and, crucially, it’s a true Land Rover, as we discovered when we group-tested the diesel version last month. But with the legendary Rover V8 buried with the old car, how will the new petrol-powered range-topper fare?
Like the diesel, Land Rover’s petrol powerplant comes from Ford PAG partner Jaguar. The 295bhp 4.4-litre V8 is a bored-out version of the XJ’s 4.2. It’s tuned to boost torque, yet at 315lb ft it’s 13lb ft down on the Discovery’s 2.7-litre V6 diesel, and it arrives at 4000rpm, 2100rpm higher.
However, the V8 is lighter and packs an extra 107bhp. From rest to 60mph it feels significantly faster, though not quite the 4.5sec quicker that Land Rover claims. Both engines have impressive mid-range shove but it’s at motorway speeds that the V8’s extra top-end power makes a difference. To overtake with conviction you need to kickdown, but when you do it’s a hot hatch to the diesel’s shopping trolley.
But this is a unit that majors on refinement. There’s no undignified vibration, power delivery is smoother than a James Bond one-liner and it’s wonderfully resonant up to the 6000rpm change-up point. The V8 comes with a six-speed ZF automatic only, but that’s no hindrance because it’s a great ’box. A sport function gives quicker changes and there’s also a manual mode, which combines with fine body control and accurate steering to make the car feel more wieldy than a Volvo XC90, if not as agile as a BMW X5.
The ride is generally good, but can be caught out by sharp intrusions such as potholes or expansion gaps. Around town the Discovery is a relatively easy companion – although it’s long, it’s not impossibly wide so city streets can be tackled with confidence and the high seats offer superb visibility.
And you really can fit three rows of six-foot adults inside, making it the roomiest SUV around. Only the hard and hollow plastics around the centre console mar the impression of quality and solidity.
Prices haven’t been fixed, but the HSE will cost around £48,000 – only £3k shy of a Range Rover 4.4 SE and £4k more than a Porsche Cayenne S. But it compares well with the Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon 4.7 V8 and BMW X5 4.4 SE.
Pick up a calculator and the V8’s case collapses. An HSE diesel would set you back around £5000 less. It sits two insurance groups lower, should depreciate less and is likely to command a lower company car tax group than the V8’s 35 per cent. Land Rover claims the V8 will cover 18.8 miles for every gallon of fuel, while the diesel should do 27.2 miles (30 for the manual). At least the vast 86-litre fuel tank should get you around 360 miles between fills.
In the USA the Discovery V8’s performance and refinement should make it a hit. But in a land where diesel is easier to find, and petrol costs rather more, it’s hard to make a case for the eight-cylinder Discovery. Land Rover expects 90 per cent of Discos sold in Europe to be diesels, and we’re not surprised. The torque and refinement of the V6 guarantees that unless you really need the extra performance, the petrol V8 is all but redundant.