AS the Land Rover Discovery approaches its 30th birthday it has matured into a luxury cut price alternative to the flagship Range Rover series.
That's not a bad thing as a number of rivals have moved into this sector since the Range Rover laid down the challenge to produce a true luxury off-roader and now the Discovery can offer challengers a real battle for the business based on an immense off-road knowledge and ability gained with the flagship.
Today's range runs to 17 models in four trim specifications and powered by 2.0 or 3.0-litre petrol or diesel four or six-cylinder engines, and the latter dominate sales, all with standard four-wheel-drive (4WD).
This particular model sits above the mid-point in the range and is the most commonly specified with a very good towing ability and features as standard.
The car came with just a few of a plethora of possible options and included special grey metallic paint, additional traction and terrain handling packs, heated steering wheel, detachable tow bar, privacy glass and 20-inch split spoke alloy wheels. Combined they added £3,825 to the standard price.
The 3.0 V6 engine is not a particularly high revving unit but develops strong pulling power from low to medium revs so it can move smartly if not blindingly quickly through the intermediate of the eight ratios available and then settles down to a thoroughly composed cruising ability at motorway speed.
The power can be managed by the driver or through the extensive traction assist and driving programmes selected from push-buttons on the console and the options ensure you really will always be in control.
The normal mode can be replaced with sport settings for optimise the available power but whichever you select the delivery is smooth and plentiful, just sharper in the sport setting. The changes are creamy smooth up or down the gearbox.
That's matched by extremely good brakes with a lot of feel and power developing gradually and while the steering gives a good feedback I would have welcomed a tighter turning circle in town when parking or negotiating streets.
The electric parking brake held it on our usual test slope without any problem and that's close to 2.3 tonnes to contain.
I liked the precision of the secondary controls for lights, which had an automatic headlight system, and wipers with their big blades clearing front and rear windows very effectively.
The LED headlights are extremely bright, long range and widespread but instantly dip approaching traffic.
A selectable system allows you to display a variety of information between the speedometer and tachometer and its all very simple and clear.
The central upper fascia carries a big multi-purpose coloured screen for infotainment, navigation, comfort settings, mobile phone and the mid-section carries rotary switches for heating and ventilation including cabin and seats, which can be chilled or warmed.
The air conditioning throughout wassimple to use, effective and had good output and directional control with powered windows as well and two large sunroofs with blinds.
Oddments spaces were really plentiful throughout with door bins, seat pockets, console trays and bins and the boot floor was flat from mid-thigh height. Electrically opening the tailgate caused an extension shelf to unfold and extend the floor length to ease loading and it automatically retracted as the fifth door closed.
Access for rearmost passengers was easy with big opening doors and folding down seatbacks but the legroom was not generous as for the normal middle-row seats' occupants who also enjoyed good headroom. Infront there were virtually no limits on room and the deeply shaped individual front seats located and supported very well and offered a wide range of electrical adjustment.
That was just as well because you could really hurry along the Discovery 3.0 V6 Tdi HSE with confidence thanks to its steering feedback, brakes and torque.
The four-wheel-drive system standard in all Discovery models imparts strong grip on any road surface and keeps you out of trouble, and with a 90cm wading depth you can tackle many flooded roads without an issue.
Seeing where you are going is generally ok, but up close you have to be careful as the big bonnet hides some low down items and reversing you really need the sensors and wide-angle camera to inform of obstructions.
Even so, over the shoulder vision is restricted when pulling into traffic and needs great care, such as on a sliproad or junction.
Most of the time on any road the ride quality was good but there was a definite firmness from the larger wheels and tyres and it's more noticeable at lower speed. The suspension generally coped well with any surface and roll was minimised as was pitching under braking or acceleration.
Riding high in the Discovery you felt insulated from the world around you, safe and with clear vision through screen and side windows.
The engine was muted, the wind noises were low and only a coarser surface generated tyre and wheel noises, so you could enjoy the Discovery on a motorway or main road.