Why Range Rover when you can Disco?

The Dis­cov­ery might be a func­tional ma­chine, but it’s also a stag­ger­ingly smooth op­er­a­tor, says

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring -

I love the way a Range Rover goes around a cor­ner. The new Dis­cov­ery han­dles in the same fash­ion. There’s a lot of body roll, but the ve­hi­cle sim­ply gets to a (some­times alarm­ing) an­gle and then stays there, tena­cious and com­pli­ant no mat­ter what oc­curs on the road sur­face be­neath. Just 2.3 tonnes on a steady course.

Granted, the cabin doesn’t feel quite as spe­cial as the Range Rover, but Dis­cov­ery’s fit/fin­ish is now much more of lux­ury-car qual­ity. None­the­less, you can give your Dis­cov­ery a pretty de­cent sta­tus up­grade. Our test ve­hi­cle is the HSE model, but we’ve also spent a few days in the HSE Lux­ury, which costs an­other $10k and brings a suite of ex­tra fea­tures. Some are purely func­tional, like a sur­round-view cam­era sys­tem and ges­ture­op­er­ated tail­gate, but oth­ers aim to take the ve­hi­cle way up­mar­ket.

The Lux­ury gets a no­tice­ably more touchy-feely leather up­hol­stery called Wind­sor, 16-way power-op­er­a­tion/mem­ory for the seats plus heat­ing and cool­ing, am­bi­ent light­ing and an up­graded 14-speaker sound sys­tem. Se­condrow pas­sen­gers get a pair of tele­vi­sion screens. A rear-seat en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem does seem a lit­tle quaint in this age of the iPad, but you couldn’t ac­cuse Land Rover of lag­ging be­hind in its dig­i­tal aware­ness: the Dis­cov­ery boasts nine USB ports.

Hav­ing said that, the big­gest com­plaint about the live­abil­ity of this hi-tech new SUV con­cerns the InCon­trol Touch Pro sys­tem. The Disco is loaded with clever stuff, in­clud­ing an em­bed­ded SIM and a smart­phone app whose tal­ents in­clude fold­ing down the rear seats re­motely. The look and func­tion­al­ity of the Pro (widescreen) setup is also decades ahead of the clunky sys­tem in pre­vi­ous Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) prod­uct.

None­the­less, it all seems a bit too clever for its own good. The screen is quick to re­spond to the touch, but the OS is still slow to com­plete many tasks, like set­ting a sat-nav des­ti­na­tion or chang­ing a mu­sic track. In fact, nei­ther of the Dis­cov­er­ies I drove could re­li­ably han­dle play­ing mu­sic from my phone, at least not if I wanted to change tracks or se­lect playlists on-the-go. I tried both Blue­tooth and ca­ble-at­tached iPod-style op­er­a­tion, but it froze so much I ul­ti­mately gave up and lis­tened to the ra­dio. Yes, the ra­dio.

I loved the Dis­cov­ery so much that this is­sue wouldn’t be a deal­breaker. And of course my com­plaints are JLR-re­lated, not Dis­cov­ery-spe­cific.

Which brings us back to that Dis­cov­ery-ver­sus-Rangie thing.

There are still rea­sons to buy a Range Rover. There’s snob­bery, or the de­sire to have a mon­ster en­gine un­der the bon­net. The TD6 is the en­try level for the full-size Rangie; you can also have a TDV8 (start price $190k) or the won­der­fully ex­treme su­per­charged-petrol V8 (from $236k).

Land Rover has said there will def­i­nitely not be a V8 ver­sion of the new Dis­cov­ery, so that’s one way of keep­ing the sta­tus-quo.

But this is the dan­ger of plat­form-shar­ing: the less ex­pen­sive and/or more func­tional mod­els in a range be­come too close to the high-end stuff. Good news for con­sumers, tricky for a car­maker want­ing to main­tain the hi­er­achy.

The an­swer is to take high-end prod­ucts into dar­ing places, make them even more niche, en­hance the im­age.

Land Rover is al­ready on it: ‘‘Range Rover’’ is of course now a fam­ily rather than a sin­gle model: we have the Evoque, Range Rover Sport and of course the less­badg­ing-means-more-SUV full­size Range Rover. There’s an­other, rather avant-garde Range Rover on the way called Ve­lar. It’s a lot smaller than the big fella (in be­tween Evoque and Sport, in fact), but a lot more in­ter­est­ing. And po­ten­tially not a mil­lion miles away from Land Rover Dis­cov­ery money. Bring it on.

If it looks like a Range Rover, maybe it kind of is. New Disco has re­ally stepped up in terms of on-road dy­nam­ics and lux­ury.

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