Beyond the glitz and glamour, what kind of off-road chops does the latest Rover have?
Is the new Land Rover Discovery still a capable 4WD off the beaten path?
Can it go toe-to-toe with other serious 4WDs out there, like its forefathers have so proudly done over the years? We get the new Disco out of the city and deep in the bush… to see what it’s really made of.
LAND OR RANGE?
The most striking thing about the new Discovery is the fact that it has moved noticeably upmarket, when compared to the old Disco. Once upon a time, the Discovery was all about affordable size and off-road capability, with a no-nonsense cloth-based interior and ruggedness that made it take to the bush like a duck to water.
Look at the new Disco, and you might well have landed on the moon. The gap between Discovery and Range Rover is now very small; you could argue there is overlap when comparing a high-spec Disco with a low-rent Range Rover Sport.
How flash do you want it? With the new Discovery, the world is your oyster. There are four specifications to choose from (SE, HSE, HSE Luxury and First Edition), with a dizzying array of options available along the way.
For me, all of this flashness begs a question. Has the new Discovery forsaken the humble 4WDer in its quest to steal sales from the likes of Porsche, Volvo and Audi? The answer isn’t yes or no – it’s somewhere in between.
Let’s look at the bad bits: AdBlue isn’t great for off-roading, but it’s a fact of life the diesel-dedicated are going to have to live with. Complexity is another one you’re going to have come to terms with as well. But look closely, and you’ll see a lot of the technology isn’t debuting on the Discovery, and is really no different to high-specced LandCruisers and Patrols. If you want a 4X4 that isn’t modern and complex, get onto Gumtree and find yourself an old banger.
Wheels and tyres, a bane of high-spec Land Rovers for some time now, will be a similar story. 19” and 20” wheels can be lived with off-road, but they’re a compromise in the name of urban fop and on-road performance. You might be able to squeeze some small-batch 18” wheels over those big brakes and calipers, but we can’t confirm or deny it at this stage.
The biggest hurdle a 4WDer will have to come to terms with is the Disco’s new aluminium framework: Bullbars haven’t been a simple bolt-on affair for some years, but now it’s even more complex. Land Rover probably won’t be offering anything as yet, and the aftermarket can’t lock in anything either. So the way it looks now, a Discovery with a bullbar (or a front-mounted winch) is a thing of fantasy.
What about positives? That new aluminium-heavy setup, which saves up to 480kg over a similarly specced and performing Discovery 4, means the Discovery is more capable than ever – on-road and off-road. Adding lightness brings no end of benefits. Engines are small and incredibly frugal; and you could kit out the interior to have a camping setup, with some lateral thinking.
OLD MEETS NEW
Where the Discovery does excel is still in low-range off-road performance. Those basic tenets that make a good 4WD a good 4WD are still there in the Discovery, and we found this out when scaling some hard local tracks only recently. Ground clearance is much bigger than most modified 4WDs; as are approach, departure and rampover angles. Cross-linked suspension mimics live axle articulation, and gives you genuine stability and tractive capability on-road. Add in with that locking diffs, as well as a wickedly good traction control system, and you’ve got a 4WD that will be very hard to stop off-road.
Can you go 4WD touring in it? Yes, of course you can. It won’t be as simple an affair as other 4WDs out there; modifications won’t be as easy at the end of the day. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’d do it!