● Engine: 2993cc SDV6, Turbocharged and intercooled
● Power/torque: 256bhp/443lb ft
● Transmission: Eight-speed auto
● Width (inc wing mirrors): 2200mm
● Wheelbase: 2885mm (114in)
● Wading depth: 700mm
● Ramp breakover: 150.4°
● Speed: 112mph/0-60mph: 8.8sec
● Factory combined mpg: 36.7
● LRO RWT mpg: 29.6
● Price as tested: £62,525
It may look fresh enough, but the Discovery 4’s chassis and body design date back to the first Discovery 3 in 2004. That makes it structurally old-school, but it’s been progressively modernised and loaded with toys to stay competitive, so the latest Discovery has a lot more to offer than the early Disco 3s.
But is it still a dinosaur at heart? Has the old stager exceeded its best before date?
An entry model Disco will cost you £41,600. Go for the top-spec HSE Luxury model – which includes an extra-plush leather interior, reversing cameras and adaptive headlights – then tick a few options, and you’ll end up with this £62,525 version.
Plenty of stuff to play with, then. Let’s get testing…
There’s a reassuring chunkiness about the dials and buttons, and you get a simple dash that’s easy to memorise. The ‘command’ driving position from the excellent armchair-style thrones (rather than the snugger-fitting seats of some other Land Rovers) offers something of the loftiness of previous Range Rovers.
There’s decent seating for seven, with the second row
treated to most of the mod cons found in the front (sunroofs, heated seats, media screens, big storage bins, cup holders and charging points). Third-row seating is also roomier than any other seven-seat Land Rover. There probably isn’t another vehicle in the world that could take seven people around the Real World Test in such comfort. That’s the versatility box ticked.
Some reviewers have criticised wind noise around the A-pillars when driving at motorway speeds, but the gentle waffle of air certainly didn’t bother me. The morning run up the A1 proved the Disco to be a comfy cruiser, with a great stereo to boot!
Smooth grunt is this car’s trump card, even though this SDV6 is less powerful than the tweaked version in the Range Rover Sport. Boot it and 443lb ft of torque will accelerate the 2.5-tonne Disco up Yorkshire’s steepest hills with minimal effort – no need to manually hold a low gear or switch to Sport mode.
Trickling through town traffic is a surprisingly relaxing affair thanks to a willing flow of low-down torque that, coupled with the silky, eight-speed ZF autobox, makes low-speed throttle control spot-on. On greenlanes it’s dead easy to gently pick your way through potholes or around sharp rocks. Land Rover’s engineers have also nailed the ride comfort, which is miraculous no matter how rough the terrain.
On greenlanes you’ll want to engage Hill Descent Control (HDC) to keep your speed under control, or manually over-ride the gearbox. Otherwise the box appears to disconnect automatically from the engine when you lift off the throttle, meaning you’ll coast down a slope on tickover when you’d rather have some engine braking.
Room for improvement?
Inevitably, what the Discovery gains in capacity, it loses in sheer unwieldiness. Width can be an issue, and I had to concentate like crazy to protect the paintwork from brambles on tight roads.
The weight of all that steel also exacerbates body roll, a lot by modern standards, so chuck it about and your six passengers will be acquainting themselves with each others’ breakfasts.
The brakes could also be stronger. The discs on the Range Rover Sport, which is lighter, are noticeably bigger with much more punch. The Disco’s are adequate, but not impressive.
One feature I’d like to have seen is a retractable headrest for the second row’s centre seat, like in a Disco 2. Rear-view mirror visibility is hampered unless you fold down the entire centre seat.
Once again there’s a massive difference between Land Rover’s stated combined fuel consumption figure of 36.7mpg and the RWT result of 29.6mpg. But considering the power and weight of the vehicle, I’ll happily forgive it. The Discovery 5 will presumably make use of JLR’s more modern, lighter aluminium monocoques, and feel sharper as a result. But in the meantime, you can’t beat the current Discovery for capacity, comfort, strength and all-terrain capability.
What's the point?
LRO’s Real World Test gives an independent, ‘real world’ fuel economy figure based on a varied and enjoyable 380-mile route, rather than sitting on a dyno.
It’s a big drive to do in one day, so we get up early and start by brimming the fuel tank at a garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
By doing the same at the end, it’s easy to get a precise ‘combined mpg’ figure – meaning a blend of motorways, fast A-roads, country roads, a couple of long greenlanes and a rush-hour city crawl. And, we find out more along the way!
Our test route
Bloody Oaks services, Stamford > A1 north Knaresborough > Arncliffe > Kettlewell > Middleham > Bainbridge > Stalling Busk (byway) > Hubberholme > Cam High Road (byway) > Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes > Settle > Silsden > Bradford > M62 east > Ferrybridge > A1 south > Bloody Oaks services, Stamford