Car Reviews: Land Rover Discovery 3 HSE TDV6 – The AA

25 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Reviews: Land Rover Discovery 3 HSE TDV6 – The AA

Car safety

Likes

Radical styling sets Discovery apart from competition Peerless off-road performance Genuine seven-seat capability Vastly improved on-road ride over its predecessor

Gripes

Marque reliability concerns remain, and the Discovery 3 is a complex car Petrol V8 is very thirsty and lacks low-down torque of diesel Discovery’s fascia contains too much plastic and the various electronic displays lack a cohesive design A big, heavy car, the Discovery could prove awkward on the school run

Bigger, bolder and packed with more technology than its predecessor, Land Rover’s Discovery 3 is a car that makes even the firm’s ultra-modern Range Rover look conservative. Striking styling aside, the Discovery 3 is a car that shows how it should be done off road, while banishing the demons of the company’s past and delivering an impressive on road performance.

It’s a long time since Land Rover had a monopoly over what we now call the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) market. Recent years have seen the arrival of more refined and road-orientated products from the likes of BMW, Honda, Toyota and Volvo. In the midst of this invasion was Land Rover’s Discovery, and it wasn’t long before the car’s shortcomings became obvious.

Granted, the venerable Discovery was a competent off-roader, but it’s an oft-recited observation that few people buying these vehicles actually use them as their maker intended. Getting left behind was never an option for Land Rover, which is why the firm’s third generation Discovery is being sold as a consummate all-rounder – peerless off road and equal to anything on road.

Just for good measure, and no doubt to attract young, cash-rich buyers, the Discovery 3 has been styled to look like something not from the current century but the 25th, all the while packing more technology than the Space Shuttle. All this adds up to a vehicle that remains faithful to Land Rover’s mud-plugging brand values and takes the fight to the various ‘posh-roaders’ that have been stealing valuable sales.

Throw in a flexible seating system mirroring that of a full-size MPV and the Discovery 3’s ‘all-rounder’ tag doesn’t sound so silly. Yes it’s a big car, but so is Renault’s Grand Espace. You can’t traverse muddy fields in an Espace, nor can you safely tow a heavy load in slippery conditions. Boasting this level of versatility, Land Rover’s third generation 4×4 is clearly designed to appeal to a much broader audience.

All that remains is for the company to assure buyers that the reliability woes of the past have been banished for good.

Our verdict on the Land Rover Discovery 3 HSE TDV6

An exceptional product from an exceptional company. No longer a staid, sensible and slightly clunky mid-size SUV, the Discovery is now a car to rival high-end estates and MPVs in terms of drivability, refinement, desirability and versatility. And, with the introduction of some clever technology, it makes off-roading easier and safer.

Costs

Make no mistake, a Discovery will never be a cheap car to run. Although the price of the base model makes it exceptional value for money, running costs will be more than for the average large estate. Servicing and insurance apart, fuel will be a major expense – especially if you opt for the thirsty petrol V8.

Even the diesel likes a drink, a factor made worse if you do a lot of off-roading or motorway driving. That said, for what the Discovery offers, the package is significantly cheaper than an X5. The BMW may hold more of its value for longer but it’s not as versatile.

Space and practicality

Unlike its predecessor, the Discovery 3 boasts a considerable amount of room for its occupants. Base model aside, which gets only five seats, the car’s seven seat configuration is entirely practical and easily accommodates seven adults of average build. While access to the third row requires the occupant to be reasonably agile, once sat down a long journey can be entertained with a minimum of discomfort.

When not in use, the second and third rows fold flat making for a loadspace to rival that of a full-size MPV or van. You access the space via a split-opening tailgate, which includes a bottom section strong enough to be used as a seat. Inside the cabin there’s a generous scattering of cubbyholes and cup holders, plus a particularly cavernous centre armrest.

Controls and display

Comfort

Car security

Car safety

Aside from the obvious merits of permanent four-wheel drive, the Discovery 3 comes with the usual array of electronic stability and traction aids, cleverly linked to the provide a rapid response even when driving off road. In the cabin there’s the potential for as many as eight airbags.

Driver appeal

Off-roaders were never meant to be fun to drive, but BMW changed all that with its acclaimed X5. The SUV may drive like a sports estate but it lacks the ability to plug serious mud. The Discovery does both things exceptionally well, although there is a clear bias towards being able to plug mud better than its rivals.

The compromise is noticeable, but only if you push the Discovery hard. In normal driving, its fluid ride and the ability to take corners at car-like speeds are impressive. It’s surprisingly nimble around town and also boasts a decent turning circle. Off road it obliterates its opponents – its limits are far higher than that of the average driver – and takes the slipperiest and steepest hills in its stride.

When equipped with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, you can choose from a selection of different surfaces (mud, sand, rocks etc) and fine tune suspension, gearbox and throttle actions for even better levels of performance.

Family car appeal

First car appeal

Quality and image

Land Rover has suffered in recent years with a reputation for building cars that weren’t always up to scratch – just ask owners of the previous generation Discovery. Assurances have been made by the firm though, and huge leaps in quality and reliability have been made. Certainly, visual clues such as better cabin plastics in the Discovery 3 prove that Land Rover has acted on buyer and press criticism.

Image-wise the car has always commanded a loyal following and is often held up as a ‘proper’ recreational 4×4 in the face of BMW’s X5 and Mercedes’ ML-Class ‘soft roaders’.

Accessibility

You’ll notice a distinct step up into the Discovery – any 4×4 of this size will always force occupants to make an extra effort to gain access to the cabin. Unlike most others, Discoverys with air suspension can be lowered to reduce the effort required, which will be a welcome feature for less agile passengers. Once inside, the amount of room available – both fore and aft – is impressive.

The rearmost seats will easily accommodate two adults, although egress could be more dignified as you step past the second row to get out. Access to the boot is improved over the second-generation car. In place of the side opening door is a split tailgate – the spare wheel has moved under the boot floor to accommodate this feature.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A CD audio system is standard fit on the Discovery 3, with various added value permutations on offer depending on trim level and the options list. Such options include an in-dash CD changer, home cinema-style sound set-up, touch screen sat-nav and a phone function. With the basic controls duplicated on the steering wheel, operating the various components on the move is easy.

Alas, the fascia mounted controls are less inspiring, as you’re faced with a sea of buttons and a distinctly low grade LCD display that jars with the colour screen of the sat-nav above it. It’s not all bad as passengers in the back seats have access to separate outlets via headphones.

Rivalling MPVs for space and versatility the Discovery is leagues ahead of the competition

Colours and trim

For a car, in flagship spec at least, boasting a price tag close to that of a Range Rover the trim options are a little bit of a let down. Land Rover has eschewed luxurious wood in favour of more practical, albeit high quality, plastics for the cabin – call it utilitarian chic, if you like. The effect is largely successful but not what you’d expect on a car costing what it does. At least leather is available for the seats.

Outside, the Discovery 3 looks best in light colours. Darker shades aren’t as flattering and the contrast between sheet metal and the practical, bash-proof plastic trim can be lost.

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