Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Land Rover Discovery is a suprisingly likeable removals van

MUCH like making a mountain goat do an elephant’s work, I felt a tad cruel entrusting the job of moving house to an ancient off-roader.

The unenviable task of hauling beds, armchairs and about 300 old copies of Autocar really ought to be given to something specially designed for the task, not unlike the Ford Transit Luton van I used the last time I moved any furniture about. Yet last week, with every van hire firm within a 40-mile radius fully booked, the gargantuan load-lugging challenge fell instead to a Land Rover Discovery.

A family off-roader which celebrates its 25th anniversary later this year.

Fittingly, the one I’d been lent for the morning by a mate was one of the early cars – the original three-door version, with a 2.5 litre diesel lump to drag its considerable weight along school runs up and down the land in the early Nineties. It also came in exactly the sort of condition you expect any early Disco to arrive in these days – caked, inside and out, with a thin sheet of muck from an off-road excursion several weeks earlier.

While borrowing a 160,000 mile Land Rover to help you with moving house might seem a bit like entering Sir Chris Bonington into World’s Strongest Man, it performed more than admirably, heaving shelves and chairs of all kinds of clutter about without so much a whimper of complaint. It even happily sat at precisely 69.9mph on a dual carriageway – even though it took an eternity to get there!

Admittedly, the poor Landie lurched its way through roundabouts, chomped up £30’s worth of diesel in no time and had the acceleration and stopping capabilities of the Mersey Ferry, but I couldn’t help but warm to it. It’s got a rugged charm to it, it feels far more car-like to drive than the Defenders I’ve tried and it’s enormously practical, and that’s before I get to the best bit.

A lot like the Audi TTs I mentioned in these pages a few weeks ago, the Land Rover Discovery is astonishing value for money these days.

Yes, I know they’ve got a crummy reputation for build quality and a penchant for Shell’s finest but think about it – where else can you can get seven seats and unstoppable ability on the rough stuff for the same sort of money? The only thing I can think of is its great Oriental arch-nemesis, the Mitsubishi Shogun, but it doesn’t come with the wax-jacketed, Countryfile image the Disco does.

The Land Rover Discovery, especially in mud-caked, worn-out spec, is far from perfect. Yet you can’t help liking it.

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