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Infallibility is a dangerous feeling and often results in disappointment, I am told.
Often drivers of 4x4s seem to possess this quality in spades tackling most situations on the road with an unattractive bolshy attitude.
When behind the wheel of the hugely capable Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 HSE you can see why as the commanding driving position, the superb build quality and the luxurious interior give the driver that king of the road feeling.
Clambering onto the leather-clad driver’s seat it is clear that my surroundings are positively luxurious; on a par with the pricier Range Rover (I tested the old model Autobiography last year). A straight grained walnut finish contributes to the elegance of the interior. An array of technology assists: from the seven inch full colour centre console Touch-screen for controlling key vehicle functions, to front and rear parking aids and phone integration. In Discovery 4 HSE Luxury, every journey is a pleasure. At a quick glance I spy all the off-roading controls I might need, a television and even that much sought after DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio.
It’s a responsive luxurious brute of a vehicle.
During the test it snows heavily, so much so that all major airports cancel flights and it takes all night for some office workers to travel home. On one occasion there is over six inches of snow covering the whole vehicle and so I clear as much of it off as possible and then get driving. However, a quantity falls off the roof on the windscreen wipers, as I manoeuvre and they handle it as if it were just light rain, brushing it off the screen with ease. It’s minus one degrees and I am cold so it is gratifying to discover the heated steering wheel and heated seats front and rear.
Outside the picturesque winter wonderland provides the perfect environment to put the Disco through its paces. For the duration of the test I drive in ice mode. Only the foolhardy would venture off road in these treacherous conditions but this is a test and Land Rover would not look favourably upon me if their vehicle remained on the tarmac.
My wife and daughter insisted on accompanying me just in case I got into difficulties. They just don’t trust me or the Disco. Selecting the low switch and remaining in ice mode we drive through a thickly snow covered and hilly woodland and it handles the snow and the ice underneath well, only losing grip a couple of times. It is on exiting that it comes unstuck. I try reversing back the way I came but it doesn’t like this one bit, the wheels spinning as I apply the accelerator as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz. So I drive forward, starting to inwardly panic, not for me but for my wife (who is expecting our second child shortly) and little Harriett, who is happily saying “Oh dear” in the back. As we point north I move forward and then back kicking the accelerator down and thankfully the Land Rover climbs the hill and gets us back on to the road. Think of its weight and the challenging winter conditions and this is impressive. In fact this is the stickiest situation I have been in in a Land Rover.
During this period when Britain is covered in snow competent Land Rover owners make themselves available as a sort of fourth emergency service to rescue stranded motorists.
The news reports alert me to two accidents along my motorway route so I choose an alternative road deciding to join the motorway at a later junction. But the traffic is still snarled up. Roads are icy and inexperienced motorists are seemingly incompetent. The height of the 255bhp Landy provides an excellent view of the road ahead and when the roads allow, it easily overtakes the most frustrating of dawdlers. Sports mode is a useful addition in these situations. Despite its size it is a joy to drive and easy to manoeuvre. The eight-speed auto box is operated by a simple dial that rises when the engine starts. But the driver does have to remember to push the dial down slightly in order to engage the desired mode. Also, care must be taken when using sports mode because on re-selecting drive it can slip into neutral if the dial is turned too vigorously. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifts allow it to be driven like a responsive manual thanks to a ‘sequential mode boosting system to increase the air density entering the engine’s cylinders’. This enables a correspondingly greater amount of fuel to be injected for increased power output.
The traditional handbrake has been replaced by a simple switch. Now usually I can’t get on with these but it seems easy enough for me to use so no complaints here either. The 45-minute journey threatens to take double that time and so it is a joy to eventually hit the outside lane of the motorway and for a clear path to emerge ahead.
Parkers, the car experts, say: “This Land Rover Discovery marks a real step forward. Huge improvements were made to quality and durability and it’s packed with off-road technology designed to make it as good off-road as you’d expect of any Land Rover. Sophisticated electronics help with hill descent and can you alter the four-wheel drive for different terrains, while air suspension means that the ride height can be raised and lowered at the push of a button. A 2009 facelift brought a new engine in the shape of the twin-turbo 3.0-litre TDV6, as well as softer styling, a vastly improved interior and a larger selection of options, including a nifty camera system that gives a 360 degree view of the car. It remains one of the best 4x4s around.”
As Land Rover’s marketing states: “Smart and sophisticated, it’s elegant in the city and capable in the country.” I can vouch for that statement.