What is it?
It's difficult not to feel a little melancholy at the impending demise of Land Rover's Discovery 4. These days, as large SUVs go, it's heavy, thirsty and comparatively dirty, but few rivals have managed to trouble its combination of off-road ability, comfort and practicality since its introduction back in 2009.
The new Land Rover Discovery has been revealed - read more and get your first look here
Of course, part of its charm is how well it suits a range of situations. It looks as fitting gliding down the Kings Road as it does covered in mud while propping up a couple of point-to-point spectators and a hamper on its tailgate. The new car will be objectively better in every way, but if its more cutting-edge approach will look as comfortable abandoned outside the Horse and Hound, only time will tell.
Until that sleeker, lighter, aluminium-clad model arrives later this year, the 4 soldiers on in a total of seven different trims, but with only one engine choice: Land Rover's venerable 253bhp turbocharged 3.0 SDV6 diesel. Here we drive what will be one of the last special-edition models, the Landmark.
It costs a shade under £56,000 but is based on range-topping £60k HSE Luxury trim, bringing a near-£4000 saving. In addition to HSE Luxury's list, full-length roof rails in bright finish and black vents, grille and wing mirror caps come as standard. There's also an extended leather pack inside, in previously unavailable Tan, as well as five possible colours, including brand new Zanzibar copper.
What's it like?
The 'doesn't feel ready to die' club is an exclusive one, occupied by some exceptional cars. The Discovery 4 probably isn't an honorary member, but it isn't far off.
The mechanical crow's-feet reveal themselves first in the form of stationary refinement - a push of the starter button (especially when cold) sends a small jolt through the cabin, and once settled to idle the six-cylinder diesel sends a continuous buzz through the controls.
Pull away, though, and the buzz turns to a silken smoothness, while at all speeds there's very little wind or roads noise to complain about. The 4's eight-speed gearbox slips up and down between ratios pretty much undetected, too.
The engine also behaves itself well under load. You're tipped back on your armchair slightly as you stamp down on the throttle, while a guttural but distant boom fills the cabin, but the V6 hauls all 2600kg up to motorway speeds with minimum fuss.
In fact, from your elevated position as the driver, and aside from the trees moving past more quickly, the only sense of gathering speed is ride quality. The Landmark's standard 20in rims and relatively stingy sidewalls offer less protection over sharp potholes and expansion joints. With more speed, however, comes less busyness to the ride and more of the Disco's trademark soft but compliant bob over undulating roads.
Bigger wheels don't mean better cornering, but then that's hardly the point. The steering is slow and not particularly precise, but once you've found your line and committed to it, you can rely of the 4's chassis to hang on to surprisingly high speeds through tight bends, albeit with plenty of lateral pitch.