Land Rover: Making of an urban legend
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Land Rover has been through hard times, and not just in New Zealand. Sales plummeted here when stock ran out; the new models delayed by recession-mandated factory closures. But those closures were temporary while backlogs sold, and Discovery 4 has joined the newest Range Rovers in the line-up.
There's a 3.0-litre TDV6 PSA engine shared with the 3.0 XF Jaguar, joining the old 2.7 TDV6. A 5.0-litre V8 replaces the 4.4, and power and torque are up while thirst is down. The 3.0's 600Nm of torque is a staggering 36 per cent better than the outgoing engine, while fuel use falls by nine per cent. Meanwhile, the brakes are more powerful, the suspension's been tweaked, there's a new roll stability system and variable ratio steering, and new grille and bumpers, head and tail lights.
Off-road, the Terrain Response rock crawl and sand launch control programmes have been further tuned, and gradient release control added to the hill descent system to avoid that momentary "free fall" feel. However, we had to take Land Rover's word for the effect as the launch never left the road.
The cabin's had a rethink too; it's still undoubtedly a Land Rover, but the ergonomics have improved.
Most clever is the surround-camera system for the HSE spec - ironically not available on the Range Rovers, with their sloping backs. Five side, front and rear cameras assist with tricky off-road manoeuvres - and even work underwater, says Land Rover.
The company line
Is the distributor's executive chairman, Russell Reynolds, afraid the Indian ownership factor may prevent a resurgence of sales? Nope. He'd rather focus on the future. New Zealand will get the LRX next year but may not see stop-start tech unless the price is right.
What we say
Land Rover's Disco was already an impressive vehicle, with its easy-to-use 4WD system. Even an idiot can select "sand" or "rock" - Land Rover says the car's clever electronics will take it from there. Meanwhile it's managed to improve on-road handling without compromising off-road ability, and usefully upgraded the cabin.
On the road
The launch may not have taken us off the seal, but past experience tells us these are still impressive cars in the rough. That they're now also impressive on road, given their size and focus, is quite an achievement.
Why you'll buy one
The Discovery 4 is very good at what it does off-road and on, with plentiful character no longer compromising everyday usability.
Why you won't
The price may start at $89,990, but to get the V8 with the cameras, 20-inch wheels and premium leather, you'll pay $149,990 - that's Range Rover pricing without the Rangie's cachet.