Dis­cos game for fun in two hemi­spheres

DRIV­ING IM­PRES­SION/ Mark Smyth took two dif­fer­ent Land Rover Dis­cov­erys on sa­fari in two weeks on two con­ti­nents

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

As most of you know, I’ve handed the ed­i­tor­ship of Mo­tor News over to a new editor, packed the fam­ily up and moved to the UK.

But be­fore we left I had to make sure our two young daugh­ters got to see the in­cred­i­ble Kruger Na­tional Park and its wildlife, in its proper en­vi­ron­ment. So we or­gan­ised a Dis­cov­ery from Land Rover SA, packed ev­ery­one in and headed down to Pil­grim’s Rest in Mpumalanga for the first part of what was to be­come a Dis­cov­ery fam­ily sa­fari in more ways than one.

The idea was to do Kruger Park in the Dis­cov­ery then head to OR Tambo to fly to the UK where we would pick up a Dis­cov­ery Sport from Land Rover UK and ex­pe­ri­ence what the Brits think is a sa­fari at the Lon­gleat Sa­fari Park.

First the Disco proper, al­though for many it is not as proper as pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. It re­tains all the tra­di­tional off-road abil­ity, but the new Disco is a bit more life­style than be­fore. Yes, many peo­ple who own a Disco use it for pave­ment hop­ping and Land Rover has prob­a­bly ac­knowl­edged this in the new ver­sion but it has lost some­thing in its re­gen­er­a­tion. And then there’s that rear num­ber plate is­sue, but I’ve made my feel­ings on that clear be­fore.

The Disco we had was the Si6, boast­ing a su­per­charged V6 pro­duc­ing 250kW and 450Nm torque. I’m a big fan of the V6 be­cause it pro­vides am­ple power when you want it but driven prop­erly a good V6 can be sur­pris­ingly eco­nom­i­cal.

Not so much this one though. We cov­ered more than 1,000km and it drank more than R2,000 in fuel. That’s R2/km and with cau­tious use of the right foot and plenty of use of the sur­pris­ingly ba­sic cruise con­trol. Go for the diesel un­less you have a very healthy bank ac­count.

CRUISER

It did the cruise to Mpumalanga well and we fit­ted an iPad holder to the head­rest so the kids could watch a Dis­ney movie while we took in our last views of SA.

The Disco showed its softer side on the twistier Mpumalanga roads, at least as far as the steel sprung sus­pen­sion was con­cerned. For a more dy­namic ride, move to a higher-spec ver­sion with air sus­pen­sion and a dy­namic set­ting on the ter­rain re­sponse sys­tem.

The Disco had proved a com­fort­able long-dis­tance cruiser, and soon we were ex­plor­ing.

It is sad to see Pil­grim’s Rest has be­come some­thing of a ghost town. It is a shadow of what I once knew it to be. It is a pity be­cause it is steeped in his­tory and has the po­ten­tial to be a sig­nif­i­cant tourist spot.

The town was one of many stops in the area, from Har­rie’s Pan­cakes in Graskop, to the stun­ning God’s Win­dow and Mac-Mac Falls as well dis­cov­er­ing the phe­nom­e­nally elec­tric Smokey res­tau­rant in an old train car­riage in Sa­bie. Af­ter years cov­er­ing the Sa­bie Rally, I am baf­fled how I had never even seen this awe­some spot.

We also did much gravel road driv­ing, where the Dis­cov­ery ex­celled in terms of ride com­fort. What was odd though, al­though in a good way if you want to ex­plore, was that the sat­nav seemed in­sis­tent that the best route was al­ways some nar­row, bumpy gravel track, whether to Ohrigstad or through a for­est track in dark­ness and with thick mist to Crys­tal Springs. We prob­a­bly missed a set­ting but it added to the sense of that fi­nal big ad­ven­ture.

The ad­ven­ture cul­mi­nated in a trip into Kruger, head­ing in through Numbi Gate. As much as my wife tried to keep us to the main roads, I kept tak­ing to tracks but we saw many of the Big Five. While the lions eluded us that day, the kids were in awe of the amaz­ing range of wildlife they saw up close. The Dis­cov­ery was fault­less as a gameview­ing ve­hi­cle. No sooner had we said good­bye to the hip­pos than we were head­ing back to Jozi and on to the air­port.

The Disco swal­lowed up all the fam­ily’s lug­gage and para­pher­na­lia for the big trip to the UK, enough to re­quire three trol­leys at OR Tambo.

It had done a great if rather thirsty job but it was time to dis­cover a new chap­ter.

We ar­rived at Heathrow to be greeted by a driver with the Dis­cov­ery Sport, this time, a diesel in Namib Or­ange. The diesel part was even more im­por­tant be­cause at what was then al­ready about R26 a litre, we were in no hurry to have to fill it up again.

In spite of having seven seats, it took some se­ri­ous Tetris work to pack in the lug­gage. The Sport has a stan­dard 981l com­pared to the 1,231l of the Dis­cov­ery. We man­aged it and headed west to our new home in a vil­lage near Bris­tol. De­spite new views for the kids, they were oc­cu­pied by Cbee­bies shown live on the op­tional rear seat en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem but all were com­fort­able af­ter a long jour­ney.

Over the next few days the Sport worked hard, car­ry­ing ev­ery­thing from the es­sen­tial Ikea flat-pack fur­ni­ture to a sec­ond­hand din­ing suite and an enor­mous shop at the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket. But we wanted to take it on the sec­ond part of our Dis­cov­ery fam­ily sa­fari and headed to Lon­gleat in Wilt­shire.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Lon­gleat with its mul­ti­tude of fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties, a grand stately home and the sa­fari park was sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive than Kruger. Think nearly R2,500 for the fam­ily com­pared to a few hun­dred rand to get into Kruger. For that we got to sit al­most in a con­voy and see Africa’s finest an­i­mals in a not so nat­u­ral set­ting. It’s way bet­ter than a zoo of course and the an­i­mals have a fair amount of space on the huge es­tate, but it was no Kruger Park, not by a long shot.

We did see lions though and the fam­ily loved watch­ing the gi­raffes chas­ing a small ze­bra stripes-em­bla­zoned Suzuki Jimny around at feed­ing time.

Two very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, in two weeks, on two con­ti­nents and in two dif­fer­ent Land Rover Dis­cov­erys.

It was quite the ad­ven­ture but one that led me to a num­ber of im­por­tant con­clu­sions: you can­not beat Kruger Park, not any­where; and the Dis­cov­ery faces stiffer com­pe­ti­tion than ever be­fore and it comes partly from its own younger brother.

The Dis­cov­ery Sport at Lon­gleat House, the im­pres­sive home of the Mar­quis of Bath. Left: The Dis­cov­ery dis­cov­er­ing the Kruger Na­tional Park. Far left: A pit­stop at Pil­grim’s Rest.

The qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als in the Dis­cov­ery Sport is su­perb.

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