The old cliché is often slung at me: “You can take the man out of the bog but you can’t take the bog out of the man.” I don’t mind at all. Sometimes we take our roots for granted; the jibes remind me how much I cherish mine. At the same time, necessity can dictate we put down parallel roots, too.
Which is what Land Rover accepts it has to do with the new Discovery – in recognising the seismic shift in demand for large family SUVs in more urban settings.
So, I could take the traditional route with my review drives: plough it across the boggy fields where our old Ferguson 135 tractor used to get stuck, scramble up slippery slopes, trundle over flinty outcrops and end up reporting on the car’s enviable ability to go where angels often fear to tread.
Or take it on test as a tarmac trooper; not as physically daunting for the Discovery, admittedly, but a more relevant test for me (and you, I hope) within the confines of heavy-traffic car lanes, penny-pinching parking slots and highways.
I chose the tarmac, not least because I’ve already driven this large SUV up, through and over some of the most demanding terrain that lunar-scape Utah could place in my path. Replicating that here would be unrealistic and merely serve to confirm/repeat that it is an awesome piece of off-road machinery.
Just to give you one tiny excerpt from Utah: I drove the Discovery up steep, rocky slopes so close to overhanging, gaping ravines that my front passenger suggested he might be better “getting out now”. But how many of us will ever need such off-road prowess? Some will require elements of it for heavy lifting, of course. And there is a growing number who mix business with pleasure and require its traction/towing ability (pony/horseboxes, boats, etc). But most of us would be pushed to get its tyres dirty. There was hardly a speck on mine after 700km.
And so I undertook to take the man and bog out of this large, seven-seater (there is a five-seater too) that Land Rover insist is its most family-oriented to date. That is most pointedly reflected in its rounder, less blocky looks. And inside there is unerring emphasis on the sort of things families do and need when aboard; myriad cubbyholes, cup-holders, connectivity, little touches that transform its huge cabin (even the third row is decent) into a living room. That is more pronounced as you move up the trim/price levels. The test car was a sumptuously laden special First Edition (digital TV – €1,465; 21ins special alloys – €4,275) but there is a long list of what you can have, or add to, other versions.
I nearly took the inside apart and put it together again, noting the famous curry hook (for takeaways), neat stowage slot behind the lower dials, a deep, cooled, larder beneath the arm rest. I remotely dropped/flattened second/third-row seats, trying to imagine a busy parent with children and luggage to be loaded.
I would have liked more ease to get into the third row, but I am a disproportionately inappropriate candidate for what is a decent slot.
With the second and third rows folded, there was a lot of room. With all up, boot space is tight but I like the idea of the little cover on the tailgate; it meant I could safely leave stuff in the ‘boot’.
The tailgate no longer splits like the old one. Now a ledge slides outwards: grand for sitting on during a fine-day picnic or ‘parking’ the shopping while you get the children seated. I even stood on it – yes, it can take mega kilos.
The Discovery is so big (4.97m long), the most important thing for me was visibility for city driving. And despite its pillars and dimensions, I couldn’t have asked for a much better outlook. Yet only when I drove it in Dublin city centre (so spatially parsimonious, Molly Malone would struggle for room with her wheelbarrow) did I fully appreciate its size and how close cars, cyclists can travel to you. Twice, I had to stop to avoid being sideswiped.
No, it wasn’t easy at all. I learned a lot: mostly that driving a car like this brings a new world of awareness, discipline and responsibility – be it Pearse Street or Ranelagh.
Things were different on the open roads. With that fine 3-litre diesel ticking over we were to sweep to Waterford, Naas, Howth, Lucan, Gorey and more.
We had so much room and ease; the 8spd auto transmission and clear skies making our Tarmac Trooper feel like we were gliding. For all that, I’m not sure it is as good on-the-road as the BMW X5. Driving it was not demanding (except for my extra focus on narrow streets/parking spaces) but the X5 is a sharper component, I felt.
Yet the depth of comfort, room, that overall ease-of-drive, cabin, 4×4 technology, make it the best all-rounder in its class. It has proven that to me from Utah to Ranelagh.
Land Rover Discovery large SUV; 8spd auto. From €57,815 (5-seater) ‘S’ 2-litre TD4 (from 180bhp, €570 road tax); 7-seater SE from €68,950.
3-litre TDV6 (258bhp) 7-seater €78,595 (€750 road tax). HSE Lux €94,680. ‘First Edition’: €107,895.
Huge spread of equipment: safety, comfort, traction, off-road technology, connectivity. Multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system works over range of settings.
Five ISOFIX seats; two on third-row; 2,500-litres luggage plus storage space; twin glovebox; up to nine USB ports, six 12-volt charging points across the three rows.
Facts & figures
- Land Rover Discovery large SUV; 8spd auto. From €57,815 (5-seater) ‘S’ 2-litre TD4 (from 180bhp, €570 road tax); 7-seater SE from €68,950.
- 3-litre TDV6 (258bhp) 7-seater €78,595 (€750 road tax). HSE Lux €94,680. ‘First Edition’: €107,895.
- Huge spread of equipment: safety, comfort, traction, off-road technology, connectivity. Multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system works over range of settings.
- Five ISOFIX seats; two on third-row; 2,500-litres luggage plus storage space; twin glovebox; up to nine USB ports, six 12-volt charging points across the three rows.