Instead, I want to know what the Discovery is like, fast, for mile after mile – because German cars are sensational at this. Wind the Discovery up and it’ll hit 121mph, and not a jot more, which might not sound like a lot, but you don’t really want to go faster, even on the autobahn. There’s less stability while rounding bends at very high speeds than there is, I suspect, in something like an Audi Q7 or BMW X5 because both are more road biased. But the 2.0 Discovery gets up to speed surprisingly easily. At lower speeds, I find myself leaving the gearbox in ‘S’, rather than ‘D’, to give a less hesitant response. If it were me and if it were a few quid extra a month, I’d tick the box marked ‘V6’, but if you don’t, you’ll make progress briskly enough.
We do, enough to arrive at the entry to Grossglockner High Alpine Road at 8.30pm. Which is just as well, because it seems the last time you’re allowed to enter through the toll booths is 8.45pm. “This is a test car, yes?” asks the fella on the toll booth. Who, I can only imagine, must have an encyclopedic knowledge of UK press office vehicles. Still, everyone needs a hobby, I think.
But it turns out he just knows a new Discovery on UK plates with the right prefix when he sees one. Because it turns out that Grossglockner is full of industry types testing new, some disguised, cars. Or, at least, it was in the hours before we arrived, ’cos they’re all leaving as we get there.
That means the road’s empty, apart from a passing lightning storm and a sunset like Mordor in high season as the sky closes in for the night.
And the next morning? Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photographer so contented. Grossglockner is, truly, fabulous. Fancy a driving holiday? Just, please, go. It gets busy, but if you’re up early, you’ll experience one of the world’s best roads. And, later, among the motorbikes and the classic tractors and the tour buses, you’ll see the engineers back, testing cooling systems and brakes, hauling heavy trailers to the top of the sort of hill that Frodo & Co would have found quite hard going.
But I haven’t had a single dose of off-roading yet. So we explore. And blow me, the photographer is still happy. We find a river. A waterfall. There’s a riverbed we can discreetly drive across, where the Discovery’s tyres present a big footprint, and its gentle power delivery and high ride option mean you’d never know we’d been there.
Look, I know, strictly speaking, it’s quite easy to drive to Slovakia without offroading, but if you wanted to wild camp, mooch, relax and drink Alpine water, the Discovery is the car to take you there. It’s photogenic enough here to stay for days. But we’ve got a building site to look at. It’s another good half-day’s drive from one of the most restful places I’ve been, to Slovakia, and it is, again, credit to the Discovery that this phase of the journey just eases by beneath its wheels. Before you know it, another hotel has lost our booking, we’ve eaten badly, the sun is up again and we’re there, at last. We’ve reached… well, there’s a certain Camp Bastion vibe to the khaki temporary buildings that’s currently the build HQ at JLR’s hot and dusty Nitra plant.