Land Rover Discovery: The latest age of Discovery
Land Rover's family-friendly Discovery has the technology to go 4x4xfar, says William Scholes
A couple of drizzly days in the English West Midlands might hold quite the same glamorous appeal as somewhere like the Côte d'Azur, the Balearic Islands or Larne, but it can still be a good place to put a new car through its paces, writes William Scholes.
That is especially the case if it is a 4x4. This is Land Rover country - though it has plants elsewhere, its spiritual home is Solihull, just outside Birmingham - which perhaps helps to explain why there is such a great selection of off-road tracks in the vicinity.
The cars I was testing in the mud and slime were not Land Rovers but the 'best 4x4xfar' casts a long shadow - the same venue was preparing to host a jamboree called 'The Great British Land Rover Show'.
People who go to shows like that tend to have firm views about Land Rovers in much the same way that Sammy Wilson has firm views about Brexit.
For some of them, the much-loved Defender is the only 'proper' Land Rover. But they don't build it any longer - and look at how prices have rocketed since it went off-sale - which leaves the question of what is today's 'true' Land Rover.
A new Defender is, we are told, imminent but in the meantime the Discovery has carved its own legend.
The 'Disco' has been around since 1989 and is now into its fifth generation, with each new model growing in size, shifting ever-more upmarket and becoming even more capable off-road.
Today, the Discovery might not be quite as easy on the eye as it once was but it remains one of the most formidably complete 'it can do it all' cars, with an exceptionally broad repertoire.
Its skill set includes effortless motorway cruising, enough space to carry seven passengers - and all their gear - in comfort, the ability to tow 3,500kg and, of course, the reassurance that 70 years of 4x4 know-how brings.
Land Rover reckons it has built "the best family SUV in the world"; Volvo's excellent XC90 is arguably its only credible rival, though it isn't as rugged in the rough stuff. It doesn't have a 90cm wading depth, for example.
The Land Rover Discovery is one of the most formidably complete 'it can do it all' cars, with an exceptionally broad repertoire
As well as those seven full-sized seats, arranged in three-rows, the Discovery's family-friendly credentials include up to nine USB sockets - ideal for keeping smartphones and tablets juiced - and four 12-volt charging points.
An in-car wifi hotspot allows up to eight devices to be connected - something the Defender never had... - and the centre console even has a compartment designed to hold four Apple iPads. Indeed, storage is abundant throughout the cabin.
One neat feature is the 'powered inner tailgate' which folds to extend the boot floor and can act as a sort of bench on which to perch while changing your willies or simply as a shelter beneath the open tailgate.
Onboard tech includes the option of configuring the seats from your smartphone; use the app to lower all the seats, and you can turn your Discovery into a load-hauler with a van-esque volume of 2,406 litres.
Engines include a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesels in 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder flavours. Eight-speed automatic gearboxes and - of course - four-wheel-drive are standard.
Prices start at £47,405 for a Discovery 'S' model, with SE trim from £54,085, HSE from £62,385 and the has-it-all HSE Luxury from £67,585.
Land Rover also offers a Discovery 'Commercial' model with no back seats, though with a starting price of £49,475 this should not be confused with any regular 'van'.
AT A GLANCE
Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE
Price: £62,505. As tested £69,775, with metallic paint £850, black exterior pack £400, 21-inch alloy wheel upgrade £2,120, adaptive LED headlamps £400, privacy glass £400, heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats £535, 'capability plus' pack with active rear locking differential, terrain response 2 and all terrain progress control £1,125, 21-inch spare wheel £100, towbar £715, heated steering wheel £200, intelligent seat fold £425
Engine and transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive; 237bhp, 317lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 121mph, 0-60mph in 8.3 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 37.2mpg (combined), 201g/km
Car tax: £1,760 in first year, then £450 annually
Benefit in kind: 37 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (90/80/75/73), 2017