OK, so it’s humble pie time.
In fact, not just a slice, better just pass me the whole thing over…
I’d be the first to admit, my opinion of Land Rover’s products left a lot to be desired. In my long experience in the motor trade, I’d had nothing but trouble with them and everyone I knew had endured the same experience.
In my view, the company were masters of branding and marketing a product range that should have long ago had simple problems engineered out that were still there.
Me? Pass me over a Toyota Landcruiser every time, please. Never let me down, hard as nails, totally dependable.
So when I’m due to to a whole load of miles from Yorkshire to Birmingham to Wales, then Oxford, them London and then back to Yorkshire, all in four days, you might imagine that a Land Rover might not be top of my list. But due to the logistics of my work, it worked out that most of it was going to be driven in a Discovery 3. And then back into the same Discovery again ten days later, though this time to trek along the motorway with 2 tonnes of Lamborghini on a trailer behind us. Hmm..
Well, I’ve got to say that the experience transformed my view of the Discovery 3. I picked up the Discovery in Birmingham just as it’s getting dark, heading out onto a busy M42. The usual faffing about with heated seats, stereos and wheel position and I’m happy, especially with the tilt and rake wheel. A glance at the speedo shows getting on for 90+mph. Whoops, didn’t realise it was tanking on that much, quite refined.
Into Wales and off the motorway, driving down twisty unfamiliar roads that would probably be superb in daylight, but required full concentration in the darkness and another nice feature appears in the form of the Bi-Xenon lights that flicks on as you turn into a bend and illuminates the black hole you’re steering into. Nice.
All the time, the V6 can be kept spinning on boost using the manual shift selector and the suspension is allowing good enough control of body roll to really tank on down the straights. Next nice touch is the brilliant main beam setup that turns night into day and spears down the straights into the darkness giving confidence to use the speed. So to the hotel and bed, ready for the photo shoot next day.
Sure enough, those dark, scary roads last night are a pure joy this morning as I chase the five car convoy to the first photo location for Car Dealer Magazine, the mountain of Canon and Elinchrom kit in the back swallowed no problem.
On location, the next cool thing I find is lifting up the air suspension in moments to climb a grass bank and get the right angle to stand on the tailgate, shooting down with the Discovery perched at an angle, but secure.
First location over, I drop the ride height back down and chase the supercar convoy to the slate quarry, our next location. In the quarry, once again the ride height goes up as I need an angle I can’t get otherwise. Once again the Disco reaches up as I climb up it for the shot I need. Thanks to Richard Aucock for the behind the scenes shots.
Final shots in the bag, goodbye to the guys and pack away the kit into the huge tailgate. To Oxfordshire now and my friend Tim Andrew’s place for the night.
Next morning, into central London for a Canon event where I’d agreed to help out guys from The Flash Centre. Apart from the usual stupendously heavy traffic that once again reminds me why I’m so fortunate to live in Yorkshire, it’s a straight forward run until I get to the car park, an underground NCP. Bugger. 2.1 metres height restriction. There’s a big yellow switch in the centre console. Now, where’s the owner’s handbook….
A quick squint tells me that the car’s probably (hopefully) 1.97m high, so that’s damned tight. Flick the pages to that section on air suspension and it tells me that it’s got a really cool ‘lock down’ mode that drops the thing right down to a ‘kneeling’ position and lets me creep into the car park with a couple of inches to spare as long as I remain below 25 mph. Breathe out…
Event over, it’s back behind the wheel again and out of London and we hit the A1. More purring along, easy to cruise at motorway speeds, heated seats warming my now aching back, having been on my feet all day, but the Discovery keeps going, the six speed auto always seeming to get the right ratio based on my throttle demands.
Two weeks later, I’m back in the same Discovery 3, this time hauling a car trailer with two tonnes of Lamborghini LP640 behind. I’m fully expecting tail wagging dog moments, but nothing, even up to 75 mph and it holds a decent pace up the hills of the M42 as well. I can see why it gets voted tow car of the year.
It’s not perfect. The 2.7V6 diesel in this 2007 car has the most horrendous flat spot when setting off before boost builds, so don’t think about trying for that gap in the traffic at a junction, it’ll scare the life out of you. It won’t let you left foot brake either, which probably won’t bother most, but it stops you trying to drive around that turbo lag, which becomes annoying. And chasing a brace of Supercars across country meant that I needed that extra bit of control, so that’s just me being unfair.
Other things are – the sat nav is truly pants. I mean REALLY bad. I’m not a fan of GPS in cars anyway, but don’t believe a word it tells you. And I wish the heated seats stayed on full for longer, they’re so lovely on an aching back.
But this car is the old model. There’s a new Discovery 4 out now, plus I’ve noticed there was a 4.4 V8 petrol version around. Stick an LPG conversion on that bad boy and I reckon it would make a superb photographers car.
One final thing. The Disco 3 I used was no spring chicken. It had the wrong side of 190,000 miles on it and had never missed a beat.
Can I leave the crust, or do I need to eat it all?