Land Rover Discovery TD6

HSE Luxury

LAND Rover's boom shows no signs of slowing and no doubt the latest version of an old favourite has a big part to play in that ongoing success.

The original Land Rover Discovery broke cover in 1989 and was a real ground-breaker - and not just when it came to its off-roading abilities.

It represented Land Rover reaching out to the mass market as far as SUVs were concerned and though it was based on the Range Rover it was considerably more affordable.

Ironically the latest Discovery has gone far more upmarket than its predecessors. Given the car I was driving has a price tag of £64,000 and the range starts at £43,995, it would be stretching the imagination somewhat to suggest it's an SUV for all.

However, it's worth noting that part of Land Rover's strategy going forward involves the diversification of its model range - with three distinct families of vehicles - Defender, Discovery and Range Rover.

Though there's no Defender to speak of for the time being the Discovery family is a growing one.

Whereas once there was just one model there are two Discoverys - the smaller Discovery Sport sitting below the full size version.

The Discovery Sport, which broke cover before the Discovery, could certainly be seen as catering more to mass market demand - and it even offers the option of seven seats - a standard feature on the larger Discovery.

Both look similar it has to be said - there's certainly a distinct family resemblance.

Purists might not like the fact that a trademark Discovery feature for the previous four generations - its stepped roof - has gone, though a sloping element remains.

No doubt the designers thought long and hard with dispensing with a feature that was so familiar and helped make a Discovery so instantly recognisable but sometimes you need to take a risk.

The fact is the new Discovery looks good. One of its key benefits to my mind is that it doesn't look like a big car - even though it is.

It does have a stand-out distinguishing feature in the shape of its asymmetric rear number plate plinth. When I first saw it I thought it looked a tad odd but I have to confess it's growing on me.

At the front the clamshell bonnet helps give it an imposing presence while the reverse C pillars emphasize design lines that for an SUV are impressively sleek.

While the original Discovery had a more rugged interior the latest version is very swish and upmarket.

I'd imagine Land Rover are acutely aware the majority of buyers will be using their Discovery on-road rather than off it.

The Discovery's cabin is truly cavernous it has to be said and when you step inside you really do get a sense of what a big bus it is.

All three rear seat passengers are comfortably catered for and even the two pop seats that comprise the third row offer a surprising amount of both head and leg room and can seat adults in comfort.

Boot space is fairly minimal with all three rows being used (shopping only) but with just two you'll have the kind of load-lugging space you'll genuinely find hard to fill.

Instrumentation and switchgear combine rugged and luxury sublimely and you instantly get a sense that this is a vehicle with considerable go anywhere capabilities.

The off-road technology in particular is well designed and easy to use and if you do take your Discovery off-road you'll be amazed by its consummate capabilities.

The Discovery was always considered the most capable off-roader in the Land Rover stable after the Defender and although ground clearance is slightly lower on the latest model its capabilities have been enhanced overall rather then curtailed.

The new Discovery is also an improved on-road car. It's a lot lighter and stiffer than its predecessor meaning it feels surprisingly light and agile, given its size.

One is aware of pitch and roll when hurtling around sharp bends but the Discovery handles decently enough and with the sport mode engaged on the eight-speed automatic transmission its handling prowess when it comes to keen driving is significantly enhanced. Ride quality is impressively smooth too.

As mentioned the latest Discovery isn't cheap, particularly a high-spec model like this.

Standard equipment is pretty generous though and you get plenty of luxurious touches such as Windsor leather seating, a Meridian 14-speaker sound system (you need it in something this big), electric sunroof, 21-inch alloy wheels, 4-Zone climate control and adjustable ambient interior lighting.

There's a raft of safety features too, including emergency brake assist, driver condition monitor, intelligent speed limiter and lane departure warning.

Automatic transmission is standard throughout the range and this HSE comes with Hill Launch Assist, Terrain Response 2, electronic air suspension, automatic headlamps and wipers, heated front and rear seats, keyless entry and cruise control.

Other gizmos like the front and rear parking aids and the Surround Camera System come in really handy in tight spots and it even features a powered gesture tailgate - great for when you're returning laden with bags of shopping and just have to wave your foot under the bumper.

However one of the features on this car which I really loved was an added extra - the Nimbus/Espresso leather seats with massage.

It's an extra which will set you back £870 but if you're spending this sort of money on a car that's probably not too hard to justify.

FAST FACTS

Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury

Price: £64,195

Mechanical: 258bhp, 2,998cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four-wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 130mph

0-62mph: 7.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 39.2

Insurance Group: 42

C02 emissions: 189g/km

Bik rating: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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