Charles Rangeley-Wilson puts the Land Rover Discovery 2.0 SD4 HSE Luxury through its accomplished paces on a trip to France.

Having glimpsed it disguised in cereal boxes on a Welsh hillside, I then missed the official launch of the new Land Rover Discovery. It was all very frustrating, not least because the next time I looked – about one week after it went on sale – the roads of Norfolk were log-jammed with them, making this the most irrelevant car review of all time. Almost every Country Life reader already owns the new Discovery and
I am only telling you what I think of your new car.

To find out, I drove the SD4 HSE version to France for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai. I don’t suppose I could have chosen a better motor to shrink the motorway miles, surf the gloopy tracks
at the far end or to carry the bicycle with which I planned to follow my great grandfather’s final march, the yew tree from his garden that I planned to plant where he died, my luggage and so on. Or with which to ferry around the battlefields the friends I made there, who were all doing more or less the same thing, which was following the trails of family history. Everyone was impressed with this motorised corner of England on the foreign field of France.

The new Disco is lighter, lower and maybe even a touch less imposing than its predecessor, an impression aided by the glacial white of the test car, compared to the funereal black of every Disco 4 ever built. Nevertheless, it is still a car one climbs into with a distinct step upwards. The sumptuous upholstery that greets you on arrival, coupled with the straight and tall driving position says much about the intent of this machine: it is luxurious but functional, with no sporting pretensions at all. This I like.

Land Rover has to hit a nar-row target with the Discovery. Nowadays, it must be deluxe, without treading on the toes of the presidential Range Rover. It must be a mud-plugger and a tarmac muncher, too. Shotguns and ball gowns, horse-boxes and shopping – all must fall with-in its scope. Equipment levels in the HSE version might push the car into Park Lane territory – a concert hall of a sound system, TV screens in the headrests and so on – but then there are seats that ping flat at the touch of a button, transmogrifying this luxury sedan into a functional van, reminding you what the Disco 5 is all about. Pragmatism.

On the move, the ride is pliant and cosseting, but also precise enough. Equipped with all-season tyres built for snow, rain, mud and tarmac, the Disco eases into a gentle understeer before its hot-shoed German rivals would, but it’ll cross a field more comfortably. Or a river. In addition to the wading depth of
one yard, there is a veritable smorgasbord of all-terrain technology, the choices forming such a lexicon of landscape geography that I was surprised not to find U-shaped valley or hanging spur in the settings.

Suspecting that such a large machine would be undergunned by the four-cylinder diesel, I was surprised at how unstressed and smooth this engine felt: only marginally less grunty than the V6, the four-pot will also prove less expensive to run. I filled it only once and averaged a genuine better than 40 mpg. There have to be caveats and mine is a now familiar complaint about the increasingly ubiquitous touch-screen. They are dangerous in my opinion. Land Rover doesn’t appear to be bucking the trend in this regard, even if it is in almost every other one.

On the road: Land Rover Discovery 2.0 SD4 HSE Luxury
Priced: From £73,835 (as tested)
Combined fuel consumption: 43.5mpg
Annual road tax: £800
Power: 240bhp
0–60mph: 8 seconds
Top speed: 121mph