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Wood awakening. Image by Alisdair Suttie.

Wood awakening
We take to the woods, forests, motorways and cities of Scotland to find out if the Land Rover Discovery is the ultimate SUV.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Land Rover Discovery TDV6 |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

There's no mistaking the Land Rover Discovery from any distance. The bluff front has a rugged charm that works just as well down on the farm as it does up at the big house. The distinctive stepped roof, which is mirrored in the way the rear-most side windows are lifted up from the shoulder line, not only gives the Discovery a historical link to its predecessors, it also helps create plenty of space inside the car. The split tailgate is a good idea, but we found it can make reaching into the boot too much of a stretch. This was especially true with the lower section dropped down, though it does make a very handy seat for removing mucky wellies.

Moving inside the Discovery, Land Rover shows the way to every other rival. The quality of materials, the finish and the space are simply first rate. An elevated driving position gives panoramic vision and lets you peak over hedges and walls that are out of bounds to drivers of other cars. It also gives a great sense of safety, as well as a hint of superiority over lesser machinery. Space is not a problem in the front seats, and nor is it in the second or third rows. The Disco easily doubles as a seven-seat MPV, offering more space and comfort than any car from the large MPV class. Fold any or all of the rear seats down and you're left with a massive, flat load floor. For other storage needs, Land Rover provides its usual vast array of cubbies, trays, pockets, bins and boxes.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Despite its near three-tonne weight, the Discovery has reasonable acceleration off the mark and across the spread of demands normal driving brings. Be under no illusions: you will not win many straight line dices. However, 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds is respectable for this class of car and means the Discovery never feels cumbersome or sluggish in the way many of its rivals can. Even more importantly, the Land Rover's engine is hushed and refined at all times. Yes, you can hear a faint burr of turbodiesel noise, but it's never more than that and turns the Discovery into a splendidly adept executive machine capable of dispatching long motorway hauls with ease. Driven in a reasonable fashion, the combined average of 27.7mpg is achievable, though our lead-filled loafers led to an average of 26.9mpg during our time. Carbon dioxide emissions of 270g/km mean a big hit when it comes to paying for road tax, but it's no worse than any of the Disco's rivals in financial or environmental costs.

Backing up the velvet refinement of the V6 turbodiesel is an equally polished six-speed automatic gearbox that comes as standard in the HSE model. You can choose a six-speed manual gearbox as a no-cost option, but why anyone would bother is beyond us. The automatic slides between gears with good grace or the driver can use the manual override when driving off-road to pick the right gear for the situation. In auto mode it responds quickly and positively to the driver pressing harder on the throttle for added momentum. It also avoids the gargantuan pause between the driver pushing the pedal and consequent forward motion that the old Discovery TD5 auto suffered from.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

You may think a five-star rating for handling is a bit much for a large SUV, but the Discovery warrants every single one. For starters, in its class it's easily one of the most nimble and sure-footed cars, even when compared to the BMW X5. The Discovery is poised and stable through corners, even when pushed hard, and it resists body lean thanks in part to our test car's air suspension. It also mollifies bump-strewn roads with calm efficiency to again underline the Discovery's talents as an alternative to executive class saloons and estates.

What is even more impressive is the way the Discovery switches from king of the road to master of all it surveys when you head off-road. Try the same in an X5 and you'll soon find the BMW floundering. Land Rover has a genius for making cars that can traverse the worst terrain and make it look simple. In the Discovery, its ample ground clearance and acute entry and departure angles help, but there are also a couple of other helping hands at work. First off, the air suspension of the HSE model allows the driver to increase the ground clearance even further to allow a wading depth of 700mm at the touch of a small lever mounted just behind the gear stick. Then there's Land Rover's excellent Terrain Response system that tailors the four-wheel drive and Dynamic Stability Control to suit the conditions. It's very simple to use thanks to the rotary dial just behind the gear lever and there's a display on the dash to tell you which mode is selected. In practice, it makes the Discovery all but unstoppable off-road, while Hill Descent Control keeps everything on course coming down the other side.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

The Discovery has to be good to justify its price tag and it does with the less expensive models. However, the HSE comes in at a price point where it's up against not just the best from the large SUV class, but also from the executive sector. It's a very tempting prospect and if you need seven seats, a genuinely brilliant off-roader or just fancy something with the broad base of talents that the Discovery offers. However, there's a long way to fall when it comes to used values, which is why we'd look slightly lower down the Discovery range for all the driving ability with just a few less luxuries inside. That said, the Discovery is one of the better performing cars in the large SUV segment when it comes to residual values.

HSE spec provides an automatic gearbox as standard, along with seven leather covered seats, climate and cruise controls, CD stereo, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, heated windscreen and front seats, satellite navigation... You get the point: this is a fully equipped luxury car.

The Discovery is also up against several cars from the executive sector that provide far better fuel economy and significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. This is a big factor for company car drivers who will be hit hard in the pocket when it comes to paying their Benefit in Kind to the nice tax man. At 270g/km, the CO2 emissions are high, but no more so than with most of the Discovery's rivals, while 27.7mpg combined economy is acceptable, if not great.

Overall: star star star star star

Only the considerable price of the HSE version and the substantial depreciation of large SUVs holds this particular Discovery model back from a full five-star rating. It truly is one of the most talented all-rounders to pass through our hands and if this were one of the less pricey models, we'd be doling out the full five-star treatment. Considering this much ability is now available for a quarter of the price in used Discoverys and suddenly a large SUV looks very tempting regardless of the current economic climate. Be in no doubt, the Land Rover Discovery remains a brilliant car on- and off-road.

Alisdair Suttie - 16 Feb 2009



  www.landrover.co.uk    - Land Rover road tests
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2009 Land Rover Discovery specifications: (TDV6 HSE)
Price: 44,404.57 on-the road.
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Emissions: 270g/km
Kerb weight: 2708kg

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.



2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Land Rover.
 

2009 Land Rover Discovery. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 






 

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