WE like to do things scientifically here at Examiner Motoring, especially when it comes to the likely popularity of a car which has in previous incarnations enjoyed wildly iconic status among a welter of loyal and dedicated fans.
The car of which we speak is the new Land Rover Discovery and for the many dedicated followers of the model, the arrival of a new one is as significant an occasion as the arrival of their first-born.
The squared-off tank-trap buster which was the last ‘Disco’ was a massively popular SUV and the motor of choice for those denizens of the upper middle class who demanded genuine mountaineering and horse-box towing abilities along with near impossible practicality.
And, although it should not have been a looker — designed as it was full of right angles and sharpness — the Land Rover was, curiously, decreed to be just that by the legions of fans that made it such a massive success for the company.
Any new one, therefore, has much to live up to, not least in terms of the look of it. So, given that the new car has taken some new and interesting design twists, some of which are not hitting the right note with punters, we decided to take the scientific approach.
To test the appeal or otherwise of the design, we took the car to that well-equipped laboratory which is known here in Ireland as “the pub”.
Parking the car carefully outside so it could be viewed out of the picture windows so as not to unduly disrupt the hoard inside from their primary function, we quietly awaited their reaction.
Now, given that several of the ‘lab. technicians’ actually own various Discovery models, their comments were awaited with greatest interest. I’m afraid, however, that some of their comments might not sit easily with the Land Rover top brass.
“My God, what have they done,” hissed one senior hand. “The back of it looks like an old Toyota Previa — remember the Japanese imported ones with the mirror on the rear three-quarters.”
“Dear oh dear,” commented another. “Have they signed on the guy who designed that awful old Ssangyong — what was it called?”.
“Er, Rodius, perhaps?”
“Ah yes, the Rodius. Appalling looking thing.”
And so it went on. The lab rats dissected and reviewed and pored over technical drawings (and pints) as they emerged with a cogent verdict which could best be summed up thus: “Looks great from the front and sides, but the back of it is an abomination.”
Well, who could dispute such methodical and systematic analysis? Interestingly not one of our experts even ventured to question that the Land Rover is a technological tour de force or whether it was still the legendary hod-carrier it always was and they were right on that front because it emphatically ticks both boxes.
The only aspect of the new car’s demeanour which was of concern was the look — and they didn’t like it. But then, as I pointed out to them when you’re in the driving seat, you won’t have to look at the rear end.
Sure there were concerns that the two litre turbodiesel that now powers the entry models would not be up to the job of hefting this not inconsiderable machine around the place — I assured them this was not the case and that the 240 bhp twin turbo Ingenium engine was well up to the job.
OK, it might struggle when pulling two valuable hunter chasers up the side of Aconcagua, but you can be damn sure it would give it a shot. In the less rarefied atmosphere of the cultured streets where it will pick (as many as six) kids up from school and shop aimlessly, it will not be found wanting.
The engine, allied to an eight speed ’box and land Rover’s legendary 4x4 system, seemed to me to be remarkably strong in the areas where most people will want it — decent in a traffic lights drag race and quick to pick up when overtaking.
All the regular figures are impressive enough — 8.3 seconds 0-100 kph; 207km top speed; 6.3 l/100km (44.8 mpg), and 171 g/km — but the enormous 500 Nm of torque available at just 1,500 rpm should be enough of a signpost for the serious load-luggers among us. The engine does truly shrug off the car’s 2.2 tonne weight.
In HSE (surely a dodgy model designation in an Irish context) trim the Disco was no less plush than some of its more vaunted Range Rover siblings — a notion which the manufacturer is actively encouraging — and thus there is absolutely nothing to quibble about there, while the vast amount of tech on offer is mind-blowing.
So too is the car’s on road behaviour which, thanks to the new largely aluminium chassis, makes it feel even more solid and poised on the road than any previous version. And that’s saying something because the last one especially was the essence of sturdiness and deportment.
One thing that is going to cause problems for the Range Rover-isation of the Disco is the massive increase in price and I feel this may well sway loyal punters to look elsewhere. It will also be interesting to see if the trenchant ‘no commercial version’ policy from Land Rover is watered down in the event of moderate sales.
But the bottom line here is that the manufacturer has maintained its admirable ability to replace a great older model with one which is every bit as good as the one it replaces — only much better. It pulled off the trick with the Range Rover Sport and it has done so again here.
All the driving ability, all the practicality (two electrically operated rear seats in this guise) and all the gloss are still there and the Disco’s legendary go-anywhere ability has not been diluted in the face of the demanding yummy mummy and daddy set.
It is still a paragon of virtuosity and while its looks — particularly what might be described as the ‘Belgian Blue’ rear end — might divide opinion, I don’t believe it will impact greatly on the legend that is the Land Rover Discovery.
The Cost: €85,365 — €87,200 as tested.
The Engine: The two-litre turbodiesel is not at all overwhelmed by the Disco.
The Specification: Wondrous.
The Overall Verdict: A classic redefined — and a lot more expensive.
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