It has been one of the top choices for farm and estate transport since it was launched in 1989
Land Rover’s Discovery has completed its 25th year of production, and it has been one of the top choices for farm and estate transport since it was launched in 1989 with more than 1.1 million sold in that time. Regular updates and facelifts have kept it up to date enabling it to remain competitive against newer options from other manufacturers and David Williams borrowed one of the latest 2015 versions to see if it still deserves consideration for farm and estate use.
The Discovery is 25 years old but the latest version is more capable than ever, with state-of-the-art technology and an efficient and economical engine and gearbox combination that will maintain its appeal to farmers.
The Discovery range includes four passenger versions and one commercial, all powered by the same 3-litre power unit. Apart from the commercial, all are capable of accommodating seven adults in full-sized seats, and the Discovery is one of the few vehicles to offer comfortable on-road transport combined with extreme off-road performance, and a functional design which means it is totally at home delivering feed and water to hill livestock in the winter.
For 2015 new entry-level SE and SE Tech (replaces previous XS version), models have been added to the range along with extra colour choice and compatibility with new InControl apps which provide seamless integration with the vehicle’s comprehensive media and entertainment system.
The vehicle supplied for the Farmers Guide test was an HSE Lux version powered by the standard 3-litre V6 diesel. This has a high standard specification including plenty of technology and a very comfortable environment for the driver and passengers, both on and off-road.
Practicality and comfortThe Discovery has plenty of space for passengers and loads, and the wide opening doors provide easy access. The convenient split rear tailgate is ideal for farm use, allowing smaller items to be dropped in by just opening the top section while, with both sections open, large, heavy items can be lifted in by fork lift, or placed on the heavy duty flat lower section of the tailgate and then slid inside without having to stretch in too far.
With five people on board there is plenty of space still for a decent load at the rear, but a clever folding system means that beneath the flat boot floor are hidden two fold up seats, either of which can be used independently, optimising load space when not all the seats are needed.
The mid-row of seats can be folded down too, but this does result in a ‘step’ at the front of the load area.
StorageThere is plenty of storage space throughout. The centre console storage box is especially useful, but an option converts it to a refrigerated cool box with capacity for several full-sized drink bottles.
ControlsThe dashboard and instruments are very well laid out and, despite all the technology on board, it took little time to work out what did what. In the centre of the dashboard, the large colour touch screen displays the view from the on-board cameras and navigation system, and is also used to control the many media options.
The steering wheel had electric adjustment for angle and reach and a memory function returned it to a preset position. It was the first vehicle driven by the tester to be equipped with a heated steering wheel and, during a week of frosty mornings, it became as natural to switch on the steering wheel heater as it was to warm his back-side on the heated leather seats.
The HSE Lux version tested by Framers Guide has a very high standard specification. The dashboard is well laid out and the comfortable leather seats are practical and easy to keep clean.
The large steering wheel also houses controls for remote mobile phone operation, the media system and cruise control.
A large rotary dial on the centre console selects the main drive mode and is beside the suspension and ride-height selector switches. Controls for Land Rover’s Terrain Response system which provides computerized management of the transmission and handling modes, and allows the operator to select the terrain type from tarmac, grass, gravel or snow, mud and ruts or sand, configuring the engine, transmission, throttle and traction settings for optimal performance and economy are also along-side in a logical layout.
PerformanceOn road, the engine is superb, with plenty of power for safe overtaking when needed, or for pulling a heavy load. The V6 power unit sounds relaxed when cruising and achieves 70mph at approximately 1,700rpm in top gear, but when extra power is demanded the delivery is smooth and the engine develops an attractive ‘growl’.
The eight-speed automatic transmission with manual override and high and low ranges means there is always an ideal ratio for the task in hand and it responds quickly to changes in driving style, kicking down with minimal hesitation when needed, and settling into the highest practical gear when driving is more relaxed. Paddles behind the steering wheel allow the driver to shift up or down manually.
Off-road, the copious torque (600Nm at 2,000rpm) means a low engine speed can be maintained even when climbing steep slopes, helping to maintain control in tricky, slippery conditions. The Terrain Response system varied the interaction between engine and transmission depending on the mode selected, and ensured maximum performance and traction whether on tarmac, loose gravel, or on icy roads. The test involved typical farm driving conditions rather than the extreme off-roading for which the vehicle is designed, and it would have easily coped in standard road mode most of the time. But, when conditions on the farm do become more severe, the Discovery is equipped with systems to help optimize its performance.
EconomyAverage fuel consumption overall was just over 30mpg but on a motorway journey of just over a hundred miles the average was 33mpg. (Official combined figure 35.3mpg).
HandlingThe Discovery is a large car, but its design and driving position means it is easy to drive even on narrow country roads. The Pirelli Scorpion tyres gripped well, and the air suspension soaked up the bumps and kept the vehicle level during cornering. Disk brakes all-around provide progressive stopping ability and feel secure, even on icy roads.
Off-road, on a badly pot-holed concrete track the ride was good and on deep tractor-made muddy rutted woodland tracks the car steered in and out of the ruts well, and the impressive 310mm ground clearance meant there was no fear of getting stuck.
The air suspension allows the driver to select between three body heights, and automatically returns to standard medium position above a pre-set speed.
The raised setting (125mm over standard) helps increase maximum wading depth to 700mm and, on the test vehicle, depth sensors in the door mirrors monitor the water level and warn the driver if the safe depth is exceeded.
The descent control system helps maintain steering and braking control when descending steep gradients and, while our test didn’t provide an opportunity to test out its full capabilities, the progressive operation of the latest version was obvious during the test drive when moderate greasy slopes were approached at a higher than ideal speed. Recent system improvements include more gradual application, avoiding the initial feeling of sudden acceleration before the descent control takes over.
Headlights The test vehicle was equipped with the optional; ‘Vision Assist Pack’ which includes adaptive xenon headlamps, pivoting with the steering to improve vision around corners, extra cornering lamps in the front wings which switch on when the steering wheel is turned in either direction (very useful for low-speed off-road driving and for manoeuvring in tight spaces), and a surround camera system which provides a junction view, displaying on the screen images in both directions of the road being joined. This is a great safety feature when emerging from a field gateway onto a road when high hedges obscure the driver’s vision to the sides.
VerdictFew vehicles capable of carrying a family or a team of farm staff are as capable off and on-road as the Discovery. Features to assist drivers in tricky field or track situations mean that, for the most part, it just needs pointing in the right direction and it will deliver its passengers and load to the intended destination. The engine and gearbox make a superb combination providing comfortable cruising at motorway speeds, and the interior space and surroundings make long journeys effortless. Fuel consumption figures of multi-purpose vehicles often look good on paper but disappoint in the real world, but average consumption over the test period, which included approximately 500 miles driving in a typical week’s mix of conditions was a pleasant surprise. It is certainly worthy of consideration even after its silver anniversary.
EngineThree litre V6, turbocharged and intercooled, developing 255hp
TransmissionZF eight-speed automatic with manual override
Performance0-60mph 8.8 seconds
Max towing capacity3,500kg (braked)
Max gross train weight(vehicle and trailer combination) 6,780kg for HSE Lux tested.
PriceRRP 59,965 inc vat for HSE Lux tested.(Range starts at #41,595 for new SE model.)