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Discovery, still a great all-rounder

Few vehicles compare to the Land Rover Discovery when it comes to combining load and passenger-carrying ability with exceptional off- and on-road performance. Five years after the Discovery 5 series was launched, Farmers Guide assessed the latest version. David Williams reports.

Land Rover in a field with tractor and machinery

The model provided for the week-long test was the Discovery SE R-Dynamic D250, costing from £61,675 on the road. Also available with the base D250 engine are the Discovery S – at £55,100, and the S R-Dynamic at £58,005.

R-Dynamic adds a number of practical, styling and comfort upgrades over standard models. Upgrading to the D300 power unit, which will probably be the more popular option for most farmers and contractors, adds approximately £2,700. With the D300 engine also comes a wider choice of specifications including HSE and flagship Metropolitan versions. Two petrol engine variants producing 300 and 360hp are also available in a wide choice of trim levels.

Comfort and convenience

The R-Dynamic specification includes a distinctive black and cream leather seat finish. The front and second row seats are comfortable and both front seats come with 18-way electric adjustment, heaters and armrests. Panoramic glass roofs at the front and rear are also part of the R-Dynamic upgrade and make the car feel even larger.

The driving position is excellent and all the controls are within easy reach. The dashboard is clear and well laid out, and the large 11.4in touch-screen can be divided into three sections, allowing navigation, telephone functions and media all to be displayed and controlled simultaneously. The climate controls are below the display, and allow separate temperatures to be set for the driver and passenger.

Controls on the steering wheel select trip computer functions, operate the phone and are used to set the cruise control, but these can be fiddly and took a while to get used to.

There is plenty of storage space including large door pockets, a central covered box between the front seats and a large glovebox as well as smaller trays for loose articles.

Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlight main beam control are standard on the SE version, as well as a heated windscreen.

Terrain Response is standard, allowing the driver to select pre-programmed set-up modes to suit various driving conditions. Modes which adjust the 4wd torque split, manage the suspension, adjust the throttle response and braking, and control traction include – grass, gravel, snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl, while there is also an Auto setting through which on-board systems monitor driving conditions and react accordingly. An Eco mode can also be selected which was used throughout the test week when driving on-road, while none of the muddy or rutted conditions on the test farm managed to out-wit Auto mode.

Visibility all around is very good. Large side mirrors make it easy to monitor clearance through narrow gaps and to watch trailers, and there is also a handy 360-degree camera image on the main display.

Land Rover interior

Practicality

The Discovery has space for seven adults. The two rear seats can be folded out when needed, but can be conveniently stowed beneath the boot floor leaving the load area clear. The rear seats are full-size and comfortable, and although the legroom isn’t as generous as the middle seats and access requires users to squeeze through a small gap, they remain suitable for adults during moderate length journeys. With the third-row seats stowed away, the boot area is huge and the one-piece rear tailgate provides good access. The wide opening makes it easy for two people to work together lifting heavy items in and out of the vehicle, especially when the suspension is lowered for reduced loading height. Disadvantages of the top-hinged tailgate include restricted headroom for taller people working beneath the open door, and difficult access for masted forklifts as they can’t reach into the boot.

For even more boot space the centre row seats can also be folded down, and as well as loading through the rear tailgate items such as boxes or sacks can be easily loaded through the two rear side doors.

Towing capacity is 3,500kg and the maximum gross train weight is 6,760kg.

Performance and handling

The D250 V-6 3.0-litre power unit generates 249hp and a massive 570Nm of torque. It is exceptionally quiet and smooth, and driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission there is plenty of acceleration for over-taking, and it never feels as if it is working hard even when climbing steep hills. Off-road, the high levels of torque allow the driver to negotiate deep rutted farm tracks and cross uneven ground with the engine at just over an idle – travelling at very low speeds for maximum control and minimising the risk of damage. On the road, the engine revs remain low while cruising, but respond quickly when needed to provide additional power. We were very impressed by the fuel economy achieved during the week-long test. Overall, the average was approximately 33mpg, but on a long motorway journey with four people and luggage on board this climbed to 38mpg.

The air suspension is also impressive, and resists roll during fast cornering so that the Discovery always feels stable. Although bumps and potholes are soaked up well, there is just the right amount of ‘feel’ through the controls and on rutted tracks and when negotiating tree stumps and other obstructions, the driver is always aware of what is happening on the ground and can react accordingly. Raising the suspension for maximum body clearance increases the ride height by almost 8cm, and maximum fording depth is 900mm.

Land Rover boot space

Verdict

The Discovery is an excellent multi-purpose farm vehicle which will withstand the most challenging off-road conditions and provide a high level of comfort on-road. For pulling heavy livestock or machinery trailers there is nothing better, and during the Farmers Guide test-drive the fuel consumption proved reasonable.

There is a large choice of models and specifications but either the SE R-Dynamic D250 as tested, or the HSE R-Dynamic D300 would be our pick of the bunch.

There is very little not to like about the Discovery 5, in terms of its practicality and comfort. The styling remains like Marmite and many in the agricultural industry still prefer the more practical styling of the previous Discovery 4, but there is no doubt that the latest version is better to drive and more economical.

Land Rover’s website warns of component shortages leading to longer than normal lead times currently, so those keen to order a new Discovery for early next year should get their orders in now.

What do you think about the Land Rover Discovery? Share your views with Farmers Guide on this or any other farming-related topics with views@farmersguide.co.uk

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