Review: Land Rover Discovery 4 2015
Around town, the Land Rover is a match for any of its German rivals, but if you need a 4x4 that’s comfortable in the Sahara and the Strand, the Disco is peerless.
Luxury SUVs are big business, and that presents quite a problem for Land Rover. Traditionally the king of all it surveys in the 4x4 industry, the Solihull-based firm has had to mix capability with opulence.
Perhaps the greatest compromise of the two is the Discovery, which was originally built to bridge the gap between Defender and Range Rover. On the one hand, it’s a tough, rugged off-roader, yet it’s also sumptuous family bus with the ability to mix it with the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL.
We grabbed the keys to the 2015 model to find out whether it’s still among the best in the business.
On the outside, this fourth-generation Discovery has changed quite a bit since the original came to market in 1989, but there’s still a modern interpretation stepped roof and the infamously leaky ‘alpine lights’ of the original have been alluded to by the high rear windows.
It’s much, much bigger though, measuring in at 4.83m – more than a foot longer than the original – and it’s somehow managed to become even boxier.
Inside, though, there’s almost nothing to remind you of the old car, with a luxurious cabin worthy of an executive saloon. The huge armchair seats cosset you, while there’s classy veneer everywhere and a handful of smart-but-rugged touches like the chunky clock.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the clock isn’t the only chunky thing on the dash, but that is just evidence that the Discovery hasn’t forgotten its mud-plugging roots – Land Rover has had the foresight to design most of the buttons to be used while wearing thick winter gloves.
Using the touchscreen might be quite tricky in gloves, though, but then it isn’t that user-friendly when your hands are bare. That said, the new software has improved it slightly over previous years’ efforts and the sheer number of gadgets and gizmos on offer make up for any shortfall in ergonomics.
The plethora of cameras is useful for everything from edging out of blind junctions to squeezing through width restrictions and rock crawling, while the wade sensing is a great tool for anyone attempting to drive through water.
Further back, there’s a big boot, a third row of seating that’s commodious enough for adults and a split tailgate that provides a useful canopy for changing muddy boots, as well as allowing you to open the boot to transport larger items without smaller things falling out.
Performance and economy
The engine is effectively the same 3.0-litre V6 diesel ‘SDV6’ engine that powers the Jaguar XF-S and XJ, but instead of 296bhp, this one produces a mere 253bhp.
Power isn’t what Land Rover is looking for though, because torque – the force you feel as low-down pulling power – is of far more interest to a big 4x4. With a mountainous 600Nm of grunt under the bonnet, the Discovery certainly has plenty of go.
The sprint from 0-62mph takes this 2.5-tonne leviathan just 8.8 seconds, but more importantly, it offers an impressive 3.5-tonne maximum towing weight. The only catch is that if you actually try to tow something that heavy and you could need a HGV licence.
That isn’t the end of this car’s capability though. When the air suspension is pumped up to its maximum height, you can push through 70cm of water and clear obstacles of up to 31cm. Ask an Audi Q7 to do that and it’ll be left floundering.
Of course, some will say that all that is unused capacity – ability few will ever use – but even if there’s some truth in that it’s nice to know that it has plenty in reserve. Knowing no obstacle is insurmountable gives you a warm sense of imperviousness.
You do pay for that imperviousness when you get to the pumps though. The official combined fuel economy figure is 36.7mpg and CO2 emissions stand at 203g/km, which means road tax will amount to £290 a year and company car drivers will pay the 37% maximum in company car tax.
To add insult to serious financial injury, you’re more likely to get about 25mpg around town and if you put your foot down, you’ll probably see about 6mpg on the instant readout. Oh, and the cost of filling the fuel tank? About £90, even at today’s low rates.
At least you’ll be comfortable as you burn through both diesel and money. Few cars in any class are as silky smooth as the Discovery, which wafts you about effortlessly. The eight-speed automatic transmission’s shifts are almost imperceptible, the suspension soaks up the undulations beautifully and despite its size, the finely balanced V6 up front is one of the best diesel engines we’ve come across. God only knows why Jaguar removed the 237bhp version from the XF line-up.
The bottom line
If you thought the Discovery was expensive to run, you clearly haven’t seen the price tag. Our high-spec HSE Luxury test car came in at £60,000 before the £3,000’s worth of optional extras were added.
Lease rates start at about £355 a month for entry-spec cars on business deals, but the average rates for three-year deals are more like £530 for businesses and £630 for private customers.
Yes, that’s a lot of money, but compared to a Mercedes GL, which currently averages £1,090 a month on three-year personal leases, it looks like astonishingly good value.
It’s especially competitive when you consider that even base-spec SE models get 19in alloys, rear parking sensors, an electrically heated windscreen, cruise control, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic headlights.
HSE Luxury models like our test car, however, get full leather upholstery, 20in alloys, electrically adjustable seats, keyless entry and a sunroof, as well as toys like rear-seat entertainment screens and a reversing camera.
Land Rover has done well to ensure the Discovery still boasts unrivalled off-road capability, yet this hasn’t come at the cost of luxury. Around town, the Land Rover is a match for any of its German rivals, but if you need a 4x4 that’s comfortable in the Sahara and the Strand, the Disco is peerless.
Land Rover Discovery 4 at a glance
Width: 2,200mm (2,053mm with mirrors folded)
Boot space: 172-2,558 litres
Ground clearance: up to 310mm (with air suspension)
Approach/departure angle: 37.2 / 29.6 degrees (with air suspension)
Wading depth: 700mm (with air suspension)
Max. towing weight: 3,500kg
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel (253bhp, 600Nm)
Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Fuel economy: 36.7mpg (official)
CO2 emissions: 203g/km