Calvin Fisher spends two days in the latest Discovery. It’s the fifth instalment but don’t call it a Disco 5.
The new Discovery arrives at a time when Land Rover is set on resolving its array of nomenclatures once and for all. Range Rovers are luxury vehicles whereas SUVs sporting the Discovery moniker are the practical ones; mind you they don’t fall short on creamy premiumness either. As for the Defender, we’ll get to that on another occasion, but it’s safe to say it will continue to be the rough and tumble rock-grappler we’ve come to know over the decades. But that doesn’t mean its comfy siblings are any less capable, meet again the new Land Rover Discovery.
The plan was simple enough. Navigate 600km or so from Johannesburg to the Limpopo town of Thabazimbi in the new Discovery, most of it on asphalt, at least 100km on dirt and gravel, and a not insignificant amount over craggy 4×4 trails. That would include riverbeds, meandering crawls along rock faces and sheer drops, amid rhino and elephant plus an assortment of buck. And a pair of zebra. And all of their droppings.
We were given a duo of Discoverys to pilot, a 3.0 Si6 petrol and 3.0 Td6 diesel model, each powerplant a veritable gem. There’s no shortage of shunt here, but then this is a model range that straddles the million rand mark and, if you’re a liberal option ticker it’s easy to take it as far north as one of our test cars at R1.6mil. A base model is available at just around R980,000… allegedly, but we won’t be slumming it in S models on this occasion, rather full-fat HSEs. That’s 190kW and 600Nm from the diesel and 250kW and 450Nm from the petrol, or enough to tow 3.5 tonnes all-day, every day with no fuss whatsoever. The gap between it and the Range Rover is blurrier than ever, now even sharing identical double wishbone suspensions at the front. A wading depth of 900mm would be observed on this jaunt, as well as a wealth of stowaway options, hidey-hole heaven, a gangland boss’s dream come true. Back to the Range Rover – much like how when the little Discovery was revealed, dare I say the Evoque started to lose its sheen somewhat, so too does the Range Rover’s lustre diminish in comparison to this new Discovery. There’s still differences in the metal, in the price range, but as an ownership experience they’re nigh on par.
The launch of the Discovery was littered with experiences – for example we met brand ambassador (pardon the understatement) and intrepid explorer Kingsley Holgate and got to share his flavourful campfire-side stories which only come about when you’ve lived a life as colourful as Kingsley’s, mostly at the wheel of a Landy naturally. We were given the opportunity to traverse a 4×4 route with a trailer hitched to our Discovery, we were fed too well, filled with drink and overly indulged with picturesque vistas. Yet the drive of the latest Discovery still shone through. It’s a lump of coal subjected to great pressures in an effort to glean from it a gleaming jewel. It’s poetry in motion, albeit still styled like a brick. A curvier brick than ever before, however. It’s not all good news. Many miss the old car’s proportions, its styling. I’m admittedly one of them. I miss the little stadium seating windows, but at least they’ve retained the asymmetrical hatch lid. It’s a machine that rolls over tar and dirt indiscriminately, is lined in supple leathers and teems with mod-cons – every single one of them, if your budget allows. But if you’re fussed about your budget, it’s probably no longer the car for you. Nor would I recommend the dearer HSE Luxury or First Edition models. If the cost of entry isn’t a barrier however, then you’ll find here the ultimate one-car-garage, vehicular top-trumps well and truly executed.
VERDICT: Land Rover’s latest Discovery is an expensive thing that’s worth the money
Land Rover Discovery HSE 3.0 TD6 diesel / SI6 petrol
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel / 3.0-litre petrol
Performance: 0-100kph in 8.1sec / 0-100kph in 7.1sec
Top speed: 209 kph / 215kph
Fuel economy: 7.8 litres/100 km / 11.5 litres/100km
Price: R1,223 000 / R1,240 500