Land Rover's 'Disco' brings power, comfort

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It's funny how, if they're around for long enough, cars eventually get their very own nickname.

Subaru's potent little WRX has been known as "Rex" for decades.

Italy's iconic Lamborghini models answer to Lambo, in much the same way BMWs get called Beemers and a Rolls-Royce is a Roller.

Some are more suitable than others.

One of the best-known, but least accurate, is the Land Rover Discovery's alter-ego as the Disco.

Few cars have ever been less likely to turn up at a disco than this one, with the possible exception of the preceding four Discovery models.

The first Discovery was released more than 30 years ago, creating a midway point between Land Rover's famously rugged Defender and the luxurious, groundbreaking Range Rover which remains a class leader to this day.

Land Rover has just released a modestly-upgraded version of this fifth generation Disco which feels more like a Range Rover than ever before.

Enthusiasts are, of course, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new hi-tech, super plush Range Rover in coming weeks.

While its rivals will include the Lamborghini Urus, Mercedes GLS, BMW 7-Series and Audi's glorious Q8, the Discovery was designed with the goal of taking down the Japanese trio that had once dominated this segment - Toyota's LandCruiser; Nissan's Patrol and Mitsubishi's Pajero.

With its arrival in 1989, the Disco brought superior performance, ride and handling with the marque's legendary off-road capabilities.

A second generation, which was completely redesigned but looked almost identical to the first, arrived a decade later, and three more iterations have arrived since then.

The current Discovery 5 arrived Down Under in 2017.

Prices are up by as much as $4000, and by $2745 on the model tested here, the diesel-engined D300 S which is the most affordable of the range.

A new mild-hybrid system has been added, delivering improved performance and lower thirst and emissions than ever before.

The D300 is also enhanced by the inclusion of a sunroof, some well-thought-out exterior cosmetic tweaks and a few interior changes, including a new kind of leather.

Offsetting that is an $820 premium on diesel models, which make up half the variants on sale.

Six of the eight trim choices involve the classy R-Dynamic design cues, the exceptions being the S and SE (from $109,350 and $115,850 respectively).

Tested here is the basic S where standard kit includes an 11.4 inch Pivi Pro infotainment system, a 12.3 inch instrument cluster, wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights with self-levelling, adaptive air suspension, 14-way electric leather-look seats, electric tailgate and keyless start.

There's also a 360-degree parking camera, lane-keep and adaptive cruise, and wade-depth sensing.

Step up to the flagship model and owners can factor in Matrix LED headlights with auto-high beam, scrolling OED indicators, a 14-speaker 700 Watt Meridian sound system and premium cabin lighting.

Prices peak at $130,550 for the punchy and powerful turbocharged petrol variant in R-Dynamic HSE trim.

A couple of features have been removed for this model, most notably the activity key which allowed drivers to lock their keys safely inside the cabin and unlock it with a waterproof and shockproof wristband and sensor.

This is the first Disco model to offer three rows of seating. Every passenger gets a decent view, thanks to a "stadium seating" tiered design.

Our test vehicle's $103,350 price tag ensures that every Discovery now exceeds the $100,000 mark.

That's fair enough considering its impressive luxury finishes and the strong dynamic package it offers.

The Ingenium diesel engine, in particular, is a beauty. With twin turbochargers and the benefit of the 48-volt mild hybrid system, it moves effortlessly and quietly and delivers more than ample performance (220kW, 650Nm).

All models enjoy an impressively smooth eight-speed transmission, and it combines beautifully with the grunty diesel.

While the turbocharged, six-cylinder petrol engine is also tempting, the diesel is the equal of just about anything on the market.

As well as hoisting this big machine along at a very decent clip (6.8 seconds to 100km/h), it still manages 7.5L/100km - a set of numbers that would rarely, if ever, be found on the same spec sheet.

Buyers are also tempted by a long list of options and several available extension packs for towing, off-road driving and climate control.

The cold climate pack includes a heated steering wheel and windscreen, while four-zone climate control, cabin air purification and a solar attenuating windscreen are part of the hot climate pack.

No electric models? Well, not yet - although they can be expected to follow when the new Range Rover models arrive in Australia in the next few weeks.

But if that car is Batman in this soft-roader world, then the Discovery plays a pretty fair Robin.

With five doors, seven seats and a long stretch ahead, it is one of the truly iconic SUV models.

Those big 20-inch rims look the part, especially when matched to the nicely smoothed and trimmed lines of this update model.

But there's also low profile rubber, giving the car's excellent ride and chassis a bigger task to mask road imperfections or, heaven forbid, dusty or stony surfaces.


* HOW BIG? A full-sized SUV with seven seats and masses of interior space. A dream for families

* HOW FAST: Whether it's the diesel or petrol engines, it reaches the speed limit in well under seven seconds

* HOW THIRSTY: The mild-hybrid support and frugal diesel deliver a stunning 7.5L/100km

* HOW MUCH: Prices start from $105,975, however with extras fitted the car tested here would cost $119,285.


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