Land Rover Discovery 4 - iDrive

A school-run oil burner that’s hard to beat off-road

Price: from £37,995 (£51,195 as tested)
Engine capacity: 3-litre SDV6 255hp
Top speed (mph): 112
0-60 mph (seconds): 8.8
Fuel economy (mpg): 32.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 230

Land Rover is having a bit of a moment in the sun. Sales are booming, it has just hired 1,000 new workers for its Merseyside factory and it has agreed a joint venture that should pave the way for production in the lucrative Chinese market.CO2 emissions (g/km): 230 Land Rover is having a bit of a moment in the sun. Sales are booming, it has just hired 1,000 new workers for its Merseyside factory and it has agreed a joint venture that should pave the way for production in the lucrative Chinese market.

It’s the baby Evoque (loved by WAGs – there’s a Victoria Beckham special edition) that has had the lion’s share of attention in recent months, but look beyond the glamour and the dependable Discovery has been refreshed. Last month the millionth one rolled off the production line. To celebrate, the company sent one to Beijing (it knows where its bread will be buttered in the future) on a 50-day journey, raising money for the Red Cross. To rather less fanfare, it dropped a sparkling new model off with me for the weekend to put to the test.

The Discovery is a school-run favourite near me in north London for its comfort, touch of bling and roomy interior, but to really test it a journey to its spiritual homeland is in order. So with my wax jacket and walking boots in the boot I’m off down the M4 to test it in its natural habitat – the chocolate-box villages and narrow lanes of the Cotswolds.

Leaving town the new Discovery smooths out bumps and potholes with ease and settles down as a more-than comfortable city and motorway cruiser. It even has lower emissions than the model it replaces – though it still belts out 230g of carbon per kilometre and I struggle to get more than 25 mpg from it.

It also gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox (operated by the Jaguar XF’s nifty selector dial) but it occasionally picks a duff gear and the wheel-mounted paddles are slow to respond. The steering is direct but not too light and it is only under heavy braking that you become aware of just how big the Discovery is – there’s room for seven people and their luggage.

It’s a great family car, but where the Discovery really stands apart from its rivals is its ability to handle virtually any terrain you throw at it. My off-road test (more thorough than most city Discoveries will ever endure, but far less than it is capable of) confirms it still rules off-road. It will slice through mud and broken ground like a Challenger tank on exercise, which is, er, useful if you're into that sort of thing. But back in town, where Discos spend the vast majority of their time, I could find much in the way of challenges for its Terrain Response System and massive wheels to tackle. At least it was the muddiest car around, though.

The Competition

If you don’t need to go off-road the BMW X5 offers greater fuel economy. The new Mercedes M-Class is flash and sublime on tarmac but isn’t cheap.

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