Words: Keith Adams Photography: Richard Streeton
Regular readers will be more than familiar with the Land Rover Journey of Discovery. The 10,000-plus epic journey that saw the millionth Discovery of the line (along with three others) drive from Gaydon to Beijng, and in the process, it raised £1million for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). I was incredibly privileged to be allowed to join the trip on its Chinese leg, helping with the driving between the edge of the Gobi Desert to Beijing. It was an amazing route along the Silk Road, following the route of the Great Wall – and as much as I hate to admit it, I think the geography overshadowed the drive…
A few months on, and I receive a call from Kim Palmer, Land Rover’s affable senior PR asking me if I’d like I’d like another go in the car now that it’s back in the UK. Of course, I had to say ‘yes’ – not only to remind me of a trip of a lifetime, but also to familiarise myself with the Russian-spec 5-litre petrol powered V8 Discovery. As followers of Land Rover will tell you, you can’t buy a petrol Disco in the UK anymore…
The first thing that hit me about driving the millionth Discovery is that wonderful V8. Being European, and therefore at the receiving end of disgustingly high fuel duty and taxation, this breed of car – the large capacity V8 – is heading rapidly towards extinction. While the luxury hybrid takes its time to gain sales traction (and it will, thankfully), diesel is the only mass-market game in town. And that means we’re all well used to the compromises that driving these big oil-burners imposes – smelly hands, noisy idle, narrow power bands, and (in the UK at least) more expensive fuel.
Fuel consumption is lower, of course, and consequently CO2 figures are more favourable for tax. And that means rather a lot in an era where diesel is heading rapidly towards £1.50/litre.
But let’s not turn this into a petrol vs diesel article – and celebrate the fact that this Discovery has one elastic power and torque curve, a wonderful soundtrack, and is just fabulous to drive. On the road. As you can imagine, this Discovery with its 370bhp is a quick thing to drive. Acceleration is instantaneous and doesn’t tail off at any point within the UK’s 70mph speed envelope. Given that a standard Disco weighs in at 2.7-tonnes, and this one has rather a few options fitted (including a roof-rack crammed with sand ladders, Jerry cans and a spare wheel), that’s an excellent performance. Even if we’ve averaged 15mpg while we’ve had the Disco. Ouch!
Off-road, the Disco also turned in a masterful performance. I’m the first to admit I’m a bit of an off-road virgin, so took things very steadily indeed, but once in the right traction mode, and with the ride height set on ‘max’, it tackled everything out muddy corner of Northamptonshire could throw at us. The throttle response, combined with oodles of low-down grunt, low-range gearing and Hill Descent Control meant that we were playing in some pretty serious stuff within a few minutes. And I have to say that I loved it. Next time, though, I think I’m going to try and buy myself an off-road driving course, though. Just for my own peace of mind. After all, we never got stuck. Oh no. Perish the thought. Ahem.
But after a week behind the wheel, I can honestly say I became almost irreversibly attached to the Disco. How could I not? The lofty driving position is a boon in day-to-day driving, while the actual driving experience is completely painless, other than making amends for its overall size. There’s plenty of room for everyone, and thanks to being an ex-Journey of Discovery car, there are a few gadgets, such as the in-built power inverters, that really proved rather useful.
And considering the weekend was punctuated by a long run in a Lamborghini Aventador, that’s rather impressive. The leather interior didn’t rattle or squeak after almost 13,000 hard miles, and aside from one instance where the keyless start failed to engage (an on/off reboot sorted that), it’s not missed a beat. As you’d expect (and not always get in the past with a Land Rover).
As you can imagine, I asked Kim if I could keep the car – and for some reason, he refused, citing the need for the car to head to the museum. Ah well. When the fella from Land Rover took it away, I stood and watched as they drove off into the distance. A little whimper may even have escaped my lips.
And now I keep looking at the Classifieds – again – for a Range Rover V8 Classic. I really can see all this ending in tears!