Big­ger and braver than most

LUX­URY: Dis­cov­ery fills the space very el­e­gantly

Weekend Witness - - Weekend Motoring - ALEXAN­DER PARKER

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.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

The ge­nius of the Dis­cov­ery is how it can mix that lux­ury car feel with sim­ply bril­liant off­road skills.

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