Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

PRESS the start but­ton and as the en­gine fires up, a ro­tary knob arises from the cen­tral con­sole, like a scene from Dr Who.

It left no doubt there was a lot to dis­cover in the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery.

For starters, there are quite a few of the classy com­pact to choose from: two with 2.2litre diesel mo­tors, one of them a high per­former, and one with 2.0litre tur­bopetrol power.

The diesels have man­ual or auto shift and the petrol with no choice. You have to make do with the au­to­matic, but it's a rather spe­cial one: a ZF nine-speeder, (yes!) with pad­dle shift.

Then there are the spec lev­els. One diesel can be had in SE, HSE or HSE Lux­ury trim, the other in just the first-men­tioned two, and the petrol is in SE form only.

That's the one we got, the cheap­est, and quick­est, of the lot.

Its full ti­tle is Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport SE Si4 and it's priced at $59,000.

Ours came with some op­tional gear that lifted the num­bers to $65,000.

Very few of these cars leave the show­room in stan­dard form, and if buy­ers want, they can spend a vast amount more to 'indi- vid­u­alise' their steeds.

But it's a pretty com­plete pack­age as is and in­cludes sen­si­ble items as di­verse as an ac­ci­dent-avoid­ing au­ton­o­mous brak­ing fea­ture, seven airbags, sat­nav, an 8-inch colour touch­screen with app func­tion­al­ity, 10-speaker au­dio sys­tem, pow­ered front seats, leather trim, re­vers­ing cam­era, loads of USB ports, Ter­rain Re­sponse with five drive modes, and the list goes on.

The auto brak­ing fea­ture is es­pe­cially im­pres­sive. It senses im­pend­ing im­pacts and au­to­mat­i­cally ap­plies the brakes at speeds be­tween 5 and 80km/h.

The lat­est Dis­cov­ery is a well-fin­ished, good look­ing ma­chine, a very far cry from the Freelander, which it re­placed a while ago.

It has space for five adults, plus rails on the floor to squeeze in an­other two seats, if needed.

The in­te­rior is very im­pres­sive, cleanly pre­sented, with ex­cel­lent com­fort and vis­i­bil­ity, su­perb in­stru­men­ta­tion, and legroom in the back – in five-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion – to more than cater for the tallest of the Wild­cats.

Un­der the bon­net is a ver­i­ta­ble pow­er­house 2.0litre en­gine that whacks out 177kW and 340Nm, and it can run the 1775kg ve­hi­cle to 100km/h in 8.8 sec­onds. That's very quick for a com­pact SUV. It's a de­light to drive, with in­stant driv­e­train re­sponse and the (op­tional) heads-up speed dis­play keeps the driver con­stantly in­formed of the rate of ve­loc­ity.

We didn't go off-road, cer­tainly not with the $1500 metal­lic paint op­tion and those lovely heated Pow­er­fold ex­te­rior mir­rors with built-in in­di­ca­tors and ap­proach lamps. But less sen­si­tive col­leagues who did were rap­tur­ous over the Dis­cov­ery's prow­ess.

It runs on 18-inch al­loys, has a 212mm ground clear­ance and all those elec­tronic doofies that make it ad­just to any sur­face put it in a class of its own.

Fuel econ­omy is pretty good too. It claims 8.3litres/100km, but we were happy with the 10.5 we recorded in the real world.

Ver­dict: Over­all, prob­a­bly the best ve­hi­cle in its class.

Top of its class: Land Rover's Dis­cov­ery Sport.

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