Bigger and braver than most
LUXURY: Discovery fills the space very elegantly
IT used to happen much more frequently, which is, I suppose, an indication that I’m just busier these days, but that itch is back. It’s an itch that will unite my family — my wife, my mother and father, and my sister — in a transnational raising of eyebrows and clicking of tongues.
You know, I haven’t bought a car for almost two and a half years. By my own standards, that’s a really long time. It just goes to show that I’m in the perfect job. I get bored with cars very quickly and can swing wildly from one sort of thing to another, a great example being how I sold my great big lumbering V8 Land Rover Discovery II and bought a tiny Mazda MX-5, or my “rollerscate”, as the wife had it.
It’s something I regret, selling that Landy, because it was a brilliant family car as well as being capable of going to the depths of the Kalahari, but such is life. These days, seeing as we own just one car, whatever we get has to be family-proof, something I laboured over horribly when buying our current Subaru Forester. I saw a sea of family-oriented vehicles and felt the cold chill of dull, dull Daddy motoring whispering around my neck.
That’s why the Subaru was such a good choice. It’s as practical as Tupperware and has been at least as reliable. It’s also excellent to drive, something that was crucial for me.
Now though? I’m bored of the clinical brilliance of Subaru all-wheel-drive, and I can’t help but notice that there is one particular family car out there that’s perfect for me. Of course it’ll never happen. My wife drives the Subaru and she loves it, but I’m hoping to introduce her to the all-American delights of the Chrysler 300 C. Not only does it look brilliant (I think she’d look really good driving it, actually), but it also happens to come with a lovely, lazy, allAmerican 5,7-litre V8.
You can get it with a 3,5-litre V6, but that’d be like taking a photograph of Kim Kardashian from the front — completely missing the point.
Depreciation on these 300 Cs means you can get really good low-mileage examples for about R250 000, for which you get a threeyear-old family sedan the size of the USSNimitz. It has a vast boot, Xenon headlights, cruise control, rear entertainment, 20-gig entertainment storage space for your collection of P-Winkie and the Notorious RIP, or whomever, leather all round and a V8 that’s as slothful as a 16-year-old boy until you really poke it. Then, with a roar that’s pure Detroit, it goes like Usain Bolt.
It’s true, of course, that some might look down their noses at you, but don’t you worry. They’re just jealous of the sheer chutzpah it takes to drive such a car.
Seriously. This is a tip. If you need a very large, very well-equipped car for about R250 000, have a look at a used 300 C.
Another car that might well cause great sniffiness among the suburban classes of a certain breed is the current edition of the V8 Discovery, and that’s because it’s the embodiment of eveything that is evil. It’s a big 4x4 and it’s got a V8 petrol engine.
The engine is, in fact, a five-litre, the same lump you find these days in everything from a Jaguar XK to a Range Rover. This one doesn’t have the supercharger nailed to it that turns the XK-R into such a monumental drive, but, as a friend of mine noted “the pickup is pretty good”.
He was oozing sarcasm. The Discovery is jolly quick considering its size. The thing is so vast that it barely gets into my garage.
Compared with my old Disco, the marque has shot upmarket, pushing the Range Rover into that full-on, ultimate luxury space along with cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The Discovery is now a competitor in the space occupied so elegantly by cars such as the BMW5-Series and the Merc E-Class. And it shows. The interior is extremely pleasant and the materials of a wholly better quality.
But what’s so clever about the Discovery is how well it fits in all applications. If you want to trundle through the suburbs, the car flattens the speed humps, eats mini-roundabouts like they’re canapés and makes mincemeat of the kerb outside the private school. It’s big enough to intimidate taxi drivers and little people in their little cars. In town, the world seems to clear a path for a Discovery.
On the freeway, the clever suspension lowers the car, which kind of hunkers down and punches a hole in the air. It’s refined and quiet, making a long trip genuinely comfortable.
The genius of the Discovery is how it can mix that luxury-car feel with brilliant off-road skills. I don’t mind admitting that I miss the old-school 4x4s, where you engaged lowrange and differential locks by wrestling with a snake pit of levers between the two front seats. I liked that it was such a manual thing, how you could feel steel bashing into steel as you rammed the car into low-range with a crunch. Those days are long gone. In the Discovery you merely twiddle a rather elegant brushed-steel selector to inform the car’s computers what sort of terrain you’re about to subject it to, be it mud and ruts, rocks, snow and ice or sand. Then, with all the drama of leaving for work in the morning, you engage Drive and apply a little gas. Regardless of what you’re asking it to do, be it climb a steep, rock-strewn hill or drive through a rutted, boggy track, you sort of have to sit back and trust the computers to do their thing. Invariably, they do.
In capable hands, a good 4x4 like this will take you to the kind of places you will, in all honesty, never really want to go. I always think these cars are far more brave off-road than their drivers will ever be.
But that’s not a bad thing. That’s over-delivering, as they say in management speak, and over-delivering is always a good thing.
I drove the top-of-the-range HSE version, which is a R720 000 endeavour, but you can get a V6 diesel from R595 000. That’s perhaps the sensible one to buy, but, you know not to ask me for advice. Of course you should get the V8. It’s magnificent.
The genius of the Discovery is how it can mix that luxury car feel with simply brilliant offroad skills.