When someone throws you the keys to a Land Rover, your initial thoughts are ‘where shall I take it’?
In the case of the Land Rover Discovery, the answer is anywhere you like really.
The fourth-generation vehicle we’re driving, which features the brand’s familiar boxy shape, is a much awarded and capable 4WD and tourer. The incoming fifth generation has a new shape, looking more Range Rover than Landy and will hit the ground in 2017.
With that in mind, there has never been a better time to make the switch to European SUV luxury, and we’ll likely see prices drop on the fourth-gen models as dealers make way for the new variant.
The 2016 Land Rover Discovery SDV6 HSE features a swag of standard equipment including an eight speed automatic, leather steering wheel trim, Xenon headlights with DRLs, 19-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare, grained leather trim, seven seats, third row accessory socket, electric seats, rear-view camera, Meridian audio system (11 speakers/subwoofer) and USB input for iPod or audio interface.
Priced at $96,290 plus on-road costs, our tester came with a bunch of options that bumped the price up to $113,560.
These included electric glass sunroof and rear alpine window ($3860), premium metallic paint ($3600), heated/cold climate windscreen pack ($2700), wood/leather steering wheel ($1700), 20-inch aero viper alloy wheels ($1500), privacy glass ($1100), active locking rear differential ($1060), cooled cubby box ($900) and digital radio ($850).
Under the bonnet is Land Rover’s workhorse 3.0-litre turbo diesel, pumping out 180kW of power (at 4000rpm) and with oodles of torque on tap (600Nm at 2000rpm), plenty enough for our fishing trip that would see us combine plenty of highway kms with a decent dose of off-roading.
Our trip had us picking up the car and heading down to Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa just outside of Jindabyne to catch up with local fly fishing guide Matt Tripet.
The streams down in the Snowies at this time of year are flowing steadily as the ice melts plus there are some great tracks that lead you to some untouched waters.
We had arranged to meet and stay at the majestic Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa and make use of the local streams for a spot of fly fishing. They even have kilometres of mountain biking tracks and hiking opportunities for the adventurous among us.
The resort itself is an oasis with some stunning scenery. Despite our best efforts, we also managed to time our arrival with a very late season dusting of snow which made for an extremely cold trip.
I experienced a first on this trip as we managed to time one session with a snow fall. It made for an interesting, if cold, experience. I’ve never been so thankful for heated seats and steering wheel.
Lake Jindabyne is located about five hours south-west of Sydney and is a good test of the long haul comforts of the Discovery. It didn’t take long to acquaint myself with the driving position and find a very comfortable spot for the seat using the electronic controls.
A quick arrangement of the mirrors and I was more than happy with the commanding view of the front of the vehicle and rear via the mirrors.
I felt immediately at ease. The high position allows you to see all corners of the car, which is essential for off-roading and general tight space manoeuvring such as that required in shopping centre carparks which no doubt these vehicles will often find themselves in.
In the rear we were able to find more than enough space for all our fishing gear.
Any true angler knows, you can never have too much of the stuff and I like to be prepared for even those occasions that never seem to materialise.
The split tailgate design offers several benefits. Not only can it be used as a handy bench top for preparing your gear, or even a seat, the top half also doubles as an umbrella in the case of a light drizzle, or dusting of snow, as we discovered to our benefit.
Side opening rear doors may allow you to get closer to the vehicle, but in my experience are heavy and while certainly usable, definitely not as convenient as the split door.
If you’re doing a lot of trips that involve picking up mates and other equipment, the automatic locking feature in these European cars can however be a little frustrating. It’s a safety feature which comes standard but is less than necessary here unless you’re extremely safety conscious.
In essence, the car doors lock when you get over 15-20 km/h. This includes the boot, so when you stop to pick up someone while you wait in the drivers’ seat with the car in drive and your foot on the brake, you will find you still have to put it in park to unlock the doors.
That aside, the 900 litres of space is more than enough with the seats folded down. The last row of seats flip up out of the floor, so they fold flat when not used.
Even with all the remaining 5 seats in their upright position you’ll find more than enough space for all your fishing gear.
Under an early morning sunrise we hit the road south with both driver and passenger in complete comfort. Our trip was going to see us skirt around Canberra, head through the picturesque town of Cooma and up into the Snowies.
It’s worth a stop in Cooma as there are some great little stores to poke about in and after leaving Sydney early in the morning, it’s a perfectly-timed lunch spot.
The ergonomics of the driving position are exemplary with no fatigue so I was able to drive the whole way without a driver swap. I left the car feeling fresh and I can’t say that about even my own car. I should have bought a Landy!
The driver’s armrest is adjustable, making it easy to find a comfortable position. And with another armrest built into the door at the perfect angle to have two hands on the wheel, it’s almost like sitting in a lounge chair.
As we bundled down the Hume Highway and then onto the Federal Highway skirting Lake George, the scenery is spectacular as fields interspersed with large rock piles become more present.
Old trees stand like grey ghosts guarding the fields, make for an almost eerie feeling. On the freeway, the ride is comfortable and can be adjusted using the internal controls. We had the vehicle in lowest suspension setting when on the tarmac – the suspension is excellent, with little body roll for such a large car.
Steering is light and responsive and there is plenty of overtaking power from the six-cylinder diesel engine. The cruise controls are easy to use and located in a handy position.
Heading off the bitumen and hustling down dirt tracks alongside the Thredbo River was equally delightful.
We raised the height of the Land Rover using the push button air suspension and set the 4WD mode on the console to mud and snow. It controlled the car perfectly and the ride settings were excellent.
The height of the Landy offered a stunning view of the river alongside. The power steering is direct and coupled with the full view offered by the driving position, we were able to easily manoeuvre around rocks and other obstacles without any damage to the vehicle or underbelly.
While the SUV appears to be large, you can get through some pretty tight spaces in it due to the visibility the driving position offers.
Most owners of these vehicles are not going to be hardcore rock climbers, but they will be surprised how far you can actually push this car.
We had everything from snow, to mud to dirt and rough tracks to conquer and we did it with ease and in luxurious comfort.
I enjoyed having the ability to get to some of the more untouched areas of the Thredbo River and get in some fly fishing. The stream flows down into Lake Jindabyne, itself a popular fishing hotspot. The fishing at this time of year requires a well-presented fly close to the bottom where the fish hold.
As the life-cycle of the insects moves on and they hatch from the water into small flying insects, the fish come to the surface more often.
Look for areas where the current is blocked by larger rocks or boulders. This is where fish will sit, out of the current, waiting for food to come past them.
The area around Jindabyne is delightful at this time of year. There are certainly less people around and you really get the feel for the land by taking some interesting tracks into the brush. We saw brumbies, emus, wombats and kangaroos almost everywhere.
The Land Rover Discovery is truly a formidable tourer and 4WD vehicle and after driving this one I can honestly say I can’t recall anything else being this comfortable.
Click on the photos tab for more images by Glen Sully.