My parents once had a Land Rover Discovery. Its most redeeming features were a soft-ish ride and two-tone suede leather seats. Beyond that it blew its engine at 1,500km, chowed more fuel (and was slower) than an oil tanker, rattled like a can ‘o nails and randomly went into limp mode. So – is this newest one any better?
Of course it is, just look at the thing! Gone are the teeny-tiny rear doors and those bizarre fold-up seats which drove my Dad to the brink of insanity. Some of you may have realised by now that my folks had a Series II Discovery which, despite my sternest warnings, they bought just before Disco III arrived.
I am fairly convinced that the dealership had a party that night. “Hurray, some fools just bought the last runt!” Because the sad thing is that most of the car’s ailments I mentioned above happened within the first year of ownership. They eventually sold the poorly beast almost a decade later; for a mere fraction of its original price.
Apparently the boxy (third and fourth) generations of Discovery were better put together… I certainly think they looked fantastic and felt more substantial during my reviews of various models. There are quite a few still bombing around my neighbourhood and I always note how unique and purposeful they look.
This new one, though. Eish.
Land Rover, what’s up with that Evoque face? Y’all can’t get enough of it, hey? You okes are so besotted with that streamlined grimace that you simply have to plaster it over every single thing you make, not so? Surely the JLR headquarter’s paper shredder and toilet roll dispenser also have an Evoque nose.
Its side profile is slightly more distinctive; bar the Discovery Sport, which is actually a Freelander, which is actually what the Evoque is, right? The cabin may or may not have distinguishing features but it looks like any other LR product in here. I realise that other brands do the same (Audi, etc.) but I find it most noticeable in a Land Rover.
To finally sprinkle some chocolate onto this review, the Discovery Mark Five is very impressive to drive.
Once you get used to its large dimensions, the car feels surprisingly responsive and agile. More so than its hefty forebears. There are clever driver aids to curb or disarm any misplaced gusto, which is easy to extract from the brawny 3L turbo-diesel V6 engine. This sends up to 190kW (258hp) or a colossal 600Nm to an eight-shot automatic gearbox.
This quick and smooth device distributes power to all four wheels through an unbelievably clever all-wheel drive system which also uses the state-of-the-art electronic driver aids and adaptive air suspension for maximum traction in most conditions. The few dirty ditches and muddy puddles I found were complete child’s play for this car.
Next on the Disco’s list of strengths were a few outings with infant and senior family members where, thanks to seven seats and/or a massive 1,230L boot, the ‘Rover transported everyone in supreme comfort. With all seven seats up, it still offers 258L of cargo space while flattening everything aft the front seats grants you up to 2,500L of room.
That word was also uttered by a few passengers who stroked the fine leather, marvelled at the bright LED headlights or got all dreamy-eyed about the many extravagant features inside this vehicle. Auto everything, powered this and keyless that, multi-zone climate control, thumping audio and lots of parking assistants.
Our best 0-100km/h time was 8.23 seconds (LR claims 8.1) while reversing the procedure took 3.28 seconds and 42.83 metres; OK for an SUV but testament to the car’s 2,230kg kerb weight. Which took me down a rather cynical thought spiral… this car is too big, too heavy and too expensive to just be a kerb hopper.
Threading this tank through tight village lanes is nerve-wrecking. Negotiating narrow parking areas is soul-destroying while depositing or retrieving this behemoth from a single garage requires ridiculous amounts of precision; not helped by the yelling park peepers. Also, what’s up with those teeny-tiny rear brake lights?
And another thing or four…
While I’d love to take it to the Kaokoveld I wouldn’t like to source a 255/55R20 tyre out there. And what happens when a locking module ECU packs up 800km from the nearest dealership? Thanks to its modern systems, this car is incredibly capable off-road but I couldn’t stomach taking its sparkly paint job through thick bush.
Screeeeeeeeach, can you feel that?
And what happens when the warranty expires? When those three years or 100,000km have passed, I’m sure many an owner will consider insurance fraud. “No, no, really. I parked it near a mineshaft and that blasted locking module failed again. The dealership installed the wrong one so the handbrake failed and, well…”
The new Discovery is not a Land Rover anymore. I’m sure it’s exactly what the company was aiming for and I’m equally convinced that they’re hitting a very pleased luxury SUV market but to African bush children like me, this is just some perverse blend between a Jaguar and a Range Rover.
The next sentence will hurt me way more than anyone (especially at Land Rover) will ever know.