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Land Rover Discovery 4 Road Test - Disco Fever

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Those who find the entire Land/Range Rover range confusing, raise your hands. Now all of you can pick up your newspapers again.

Land Rovers are the functional ones, while Range Rovers are the posh ones. What’s common between the two is their ability to climb the side of the Burj Al Arab on their own power. The confusion is obviously caused by their appearance — they all look the same. What’s the point then, if you pay over a crore of rupees for a Range Rover and people think it’s the Rs 34-lakh Freelander 2? How do you distinguish between all these Range Rovers and Land Rovers? Simple, look at their behinds — the Freelander 2 hatch slopes slightly, it slopes gently on the Range Rover Sport and it does not slope that much in the Range Rover. Okay, I’m kidding. But you get the drift.

Because when the Discovery 3 was launched in 2004, its design was considered radical. At the time of Tony Blair’s Cool Britannia, the new Discovery’s dramatically straight lines exemplified all that was, er, hot in the UK. It took the functional concept of Land Rovers a notch above, using those severe, straight lines to increase its coolness and thus get into Range Rover territory. Now you know what I mean when I say that the Discovery 4 is where the Land Rover meets the Range Rover.

Of course, it’s more than the Discovery’s appearance that gets it into this zone. In it, you’ll find a marriage of the Range Rover’s luxuriousness and the go-anywhere ability of the Land Rover. Now, how the hell does it do that? Sitting inside the cocooned comfort of the Discovery, the rest of the traffic noise is completely blanked out. It is superbly insulated from external conditions, and to me, that’s true luxury. Of course, there is leather all round and wooden bits that actually look faux to me. And you wouldn’t even know that there is a big diesel motor beneath that iconic clam shell bonnet when you are inside. Then there are two sunroofs, a Harman Kardon audio system, cornering headlamps (in the HSE version), a reversing camera and mood-lighting that makes itself apparent at night. And that stepped roof and ramrod-straight hatch allows seating for seven people — it gets two foldable seats at the back which can just about accommodate two adults.

Powering the Discovery 4 is a 3000cc, 24-valve V6 diesel motor that features parallel sequential turbochargers, developing 241 bhp at 4000 rpm (revolutions per minute) and a staggering 61 kgm of torque at 2000 rpm. The same engine performs delightfully in the Jaguars. The reason for fitting in two turbos (which Jaguar Land Rover claims is the first time in a ‘V’ engine) is very clever, and I would say pretty effective too. Conventionally, an engine with a single turbocharger would take time to spool up, leading to a pause in performance — better known as turbo lag. This can be very irritating, especially when confronted with two situations — one, when you are going off-road and need precise response from the engine, and two, while enduring the stop-go of our city traffic. By fitting in two turbos that act one after the other, the lag is minimised when you get a lot of torque at low revs, and the second one kicks in to sustain performance at higher revs.

Power is transferred from the engine via a six-speed automatic transmission that also comes with command shift — essentially Land Rover-speak for shifting gears yourself. The difference, however, is made by engaging the sport mode — it shifts quicker and makes the Discovery faster. For instance, in normal mode, it took 0.4 seconds more to attain 100 kph and 0.6 seconds extra for the 80-120 kph run. And I preferred driving in Sports mode all the time, because it made the engine responsive and the driving experience more exhilarating. On the road, the Discovery suspension is tuned more for comfort than handling. It has a tendency to roll around corners, which means I would decelerate well in advance before tackling one. Competitors for this SUV, like the Volvo XC90 and cheaper variants of the BMW X5, are simply brilliant on road, but they cannot demolish mountains the way this one can. Understand its capabilities on-road and the Disco will serve you well.

In India, the Discovery 4 comes in two variants, the HSE and the SE, priced at Rs 60.83 lakh and Rs 56.44 lakh, respectively (ex-showroom Mumbai, without octroi). The newly introduced SE has virtually everything the HSE has, except the H — so that’s the one to go for. Still, the Discovery is not cheap. Its avant-garde appearance may not be to everyone’s liking, competition in this segment is intense and there are better on-road SUVs available — unless of course, you are planning an expedition to Marsimik-La very soon. A price correction should make it more desirable — and perhaps more identifiable.