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Voyage of DiscoveryBy: Tim Gibson

Land Rover Discovery 4Let’s get one thing straight from the start: my road test of the Disco 4 was never going to be impartial. I’ve been a Land Rover enthusiast all my life, and love everything about this quintessentially British vehicle manufacturer.      

Lest you think my lack of objectivity would lead me to give the Discovery 4 an easy ride, however, allow me to say that it’s quite the reverse. You see, my passion is for Land Rovers as they were when I was a kid – simple, rustic machines that you could fix with a home toolkit and wash out with a bucket of soapy water.

The result is that I’ve always been a bit dubious about the idea of a Land Rover being a premium vehicle. Yet that’s exactly what the Disco 4 is. It’s a luxury car for wealthy people who intend to spend the bulk of their time on the asphalt. And that’s a very long way from those surrogate tractors that first inspired my love of the famous green oval.

So although it wears the right badge on its grille, I didn’t by any means approach the Disco 4 with a friendly disposition. On the contrary, I found myself indignant that Land Rover’s heritage could be betrayed by such an ostentatious vehicle. This wouldn’t be at home in a muddy farmyard, I thought to myself. This car is meant for the road.

On first impressions, my assumption looked to be correct. The Disco 4 is a consummate performer on the tarmac. It’s assured, relaxed and very pliant, meaning that it soaks up the miles on more or less any surface you journey on, with just a bit of surplus body roll to remind you of its 4x4 origins.

Interior of Land Rover Discovery 4The pleasurable on-road performance is compounded by a luxurious interior. The car I had on test was an HSE derivative, meaning it had leather trim and more equipment than I knew what to do with. The ride was cosseting, and the 3.0-litre TDV6 engine threw up a reassuring burble that barely intruded on my peace and quiet.

My test car was equipped with an automatic gearbox, and it was a thing of beauty. Its partnership with the turbo diesel power plant is a match made in heaven, delivering seamless performance with none of the gear-hunting that other cars of this ilk suffer from.

If I was prepared, grudgingly, to admit that the Disco 4 is a nice place to be on the road, I was convinced my innate dislike of it would be vindicated when I ventured away from the black stuff. Alas, I was to be frustrated, because the Discovery is every inch a bona fide off-roader. It’s not quite up to the mud-bashing standards of its more utilitarian antecedents, but it’s certainly no slouch.

It’s fair to say that the average owner won’t come anywhere near to realising the Disco 4’s limitations as an off-road performer, let alone exceeding them. I took it down a green lane that regularly causes other 4x4s to lift wheels off the ground or struggle for grip. Thanks to Land Rover’s impressive Terrain Response system, the Discovery automatically sets itself up to cope with the prevailing conditions – leaving the driver with nothing more to do than point it in the right direction.

        Vital Statistics

  • On test: Land Rover Discovery 4
  • 3.0-litre TDV6 HSE 5d auto
  • Power output: 241bhp
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • 0-60mph: 9.0 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 30mpg
  • Price: £51,220 on the road

And here’s the rub. Because, for all that I was impressed by the Disco 4’s poise and composure; for all that I would happily abandon my house and take up permanent residence in its sumptuous interior; and for all that I would never tire of finding ways to fill its cavernous boot – this vehicle made me feel too passive. There was none of the immediacy that I want from a 4x4 truck, none of the feeling that I could, if I wanted, take off for an overland adventure at any moment.

As an everyday car that is as at home on the road as it is in a soggy field, the Disco 4 takes a lot of beating. But the question you have to ask yourself is this: if that’s what you want from a vehicle, is it really worth bearing the running costs of a full-size 4x4? For me, the only thing that would justify the extra expense is a distinctive driving and ownership experience. And the Disco 4 is far too grown up to offer anything like that.

Tim GibsonTim Gibson is a freelance journalist who writes for publications including The Daily Telegraph, Civil Service World and Total 4x4. He is a founding Director of The Writing Hut Ltd, a copywriting agency based in South Somerset. For more information, visit


Features May 2012

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