"The Land Rover Discovery 4 is the firm's most luxurious car yet - but it remains extremely able off-road. The latest diesel engine is very quiet, and powerful too."
As the name suggests, this is the fourth version of the Land Rover Discovery – and it's improved in giant leaps since 1998. The latest car looks much like the third edition, but cabin quality is a league apart. What's more, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel is a gem: it's powerful yet quiet and smooth. Our judges named the Discovery the Best Luxury 4x4 in our 2011 CarBuyer Car of the Year awards. Of course, you’ll pay handsomely for that versatility, but few cars combine off-road prowess with practicality and luxury so well.
Few cars are as calming to drive as the Discovery 4. The 252bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel is superb. The car has a tall, upright driving position that leads to a feeling of safety, and this also helps in terms of being able to see the bonnet edges. The Discovery 4 is a massive car, and feels it. And although it does roll a little in corners, it usually stays nice and level, while cruising over potholes and road imperfections as though they don’t exist. At the same time, you’ll struggle to find a road that the Discovery can’t conquer – Land Rover's Terrain Response system is very easy to use. The eight-speed automatic gearbox changes down quickly and smoothly, so it's easy to overtake slower traffic.
A big part of the Discovery's comfort and luxury comes through how quiet it is on the move. At low speeds, its cabin offers a hushed luxury that limousine rivals like the BMW 7 Series would struggle to match. All occupants have loads of head and legroom, and the seats are soft and comfy. It's a true seven-seater: even the rearmost chairs are spacious enough for adults. The neatly laid out cabin has a feeling of luxury, and the dual-view screen on the centre console (which allows the passenger to watch a DVD while the driver looks at a map on the same screen) is a work of genius.
Aside from the feeling of safety afforded by the high-riding driving position and sheer size of the car, the Discovery has a five-star Euro NCAP rating. There's a question mark over reliability, though; despite the quality feel of the car, Land Rover often performs poorly in reliability surveys.
The seven-seat Discovery offers masses of practicality. While its 280-litre quoted boot capacity is unremarkable, with the seven seats folded flat, its total 2,558-litre area tells you how big and versatile the cabin is. Fold the rearmost seats down and the boot is huge, with a flat floor that makes loading bulky objects relatively easy work. A split tailgate ensures loading is simple, and there are lots of cabin cubbyholes in which to stash valuables out of sight.
Value for money
It's not cheap, but the Land Rover Discovery is still good value because of its sheer versatility and luxury feel. It's easy to spend lots of money on options like the 360-degree surround view cameras (right). Base level GS specification feels sparse by executive car standards, but XS and HSE cars are loaded with kit as standard, including leather seats, parking sensors, automatic lights and satellite navigation.
Running costs are quite high because of the Discovery's 2.5-tonne kerbweight. The 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel is offered with two power outputs: 252bhp or 208bhp. Go for the former and you can expect economy of 32.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 230g/km, which is high, but on a par with rival 4x4s. If anything does go wrong with your Discovery, the complicated 4x4 system and electronics aren’t likely to be cheap to repair.