FINAL REPORT We say a fitting farewell to Car of the Year by getting it filthy off road
Latest on our Land Rover Discovery and Hyundai Ioniq
AS time drew to a close with our Land Rover Discovery it seemed appropriate to get it dirty. So I enlisted the help of colleague Patrick Cruywagen (far right), editor of our sister title Land Rover Monthly, and Richard Arrowsmith, who let us loose on his fabulous Billing off-road track in Northamptonshire.
What Patrick doesn’t know about Land Rovers and off-roading hasn’t been written, so his view was worth getting. “The new Discovery is without a doubt the most capable Land Rover currently on sale,” he told me. “You could drive it off the dealership floor and then carry on to Cape Town. Offroading has never been simpler.”
High praise indeed, and another reason why the Discovery is our reigning Car of the Year.
I put my car up against Patrick’s 1998 Defender 110 with its straight-six BMW petrol engine, but while he was having to manually select low range or lock the centre diff, all I had to do was choose the right setting in the Terrain Response system and let the car do the work.
Even through Billing’s swollen lake, the wade sensors showed me how close to the maximum wading depth my car was, and automatically upped the air suspension just a little bit more to be safe. And the ease with which it tackled steep, wet and slippery slopes on the standard Pirelli Scorpion tyres made me pinch myself when I looked around and remembered I was in one of the plushest interiors on the market.
It’s an interior I spent plenty of time in, covering around 15,000 miles in just eight months. The Discovery is an incredible motorway cruiser – quiet and comfortable – while it’s just as relaxing on my sometimes tiresome commute.
Its ability to shrug off some of the worst potholes and deepest puddles I’ve ever seen near my Buckinghamshire home also came in handy during the horrible winter. But when it’s cleaned up and the sun is shining, it looks great and, yes, I’ve even managed to grow to quite
like that offset rear plate – although I’m definitely in the minority in the office.
As for the rest of the Fowler family, they loved the car. With loads of space for the five of us plus Leia the Labrador (who appreciated the ability to lower the suspension to make it easier for her to jump in and out), it was great for long journeys and running errands.
Even seats six and seven got regular outings without the usual moaning from my six-foot-two-inch sons about sitting in the back. I think they liked the excuse to see the rear seats being raised and lowered from the dash or from the Land Rover app on my phone.
In its time with us, 32.6mpg wasn’t too bad, and mechanically, the car didn’t miss a beat. The only cost I incurred other than fuel was a £29 Adblue top-up.
But for all the brilliance that netted the Discovery our ultimate Award in 2017, there is one area that proved so frustrating it lost the car half a star – the infotainment.
When the system works, it’s outdated and slow to respond. But mine was riddled with issues that Land Rover just couldn’t fix – whether it’s the inability to connect to my iphone through the USB to make the most of the excellent Meridian sound system, or the screen taking the best part of a minute to boot up in the morning (meaning I had to do without a reversing camera when backing out of my driveway).
Thankfully, spending some time in a newer Discovery showed that the system can work properly, but it still lags behind rival cars’ set-ups. It wouldn’t prevent us from recommending the Discovery, though. The breadth of the car’s talents are so great in all other respects that I love it anyway.
RECALLS RE are nothing new in the car industry and even new mod models are sometimes called back by manufacturers. That’s what’s going to happen to consumer editor Martin Saarinen’s SEAT Arona after Tekniikan Maailma – a motoring magazine from our man’s home country, Finland – found a flaw in the left rear seatbelt system in the Arona, Ibiza and VW Polo models.
If all the back seats are occupied, including the middle seat, and the car is cornering, there is a risk of the left rear seatbelt unbuckling. The recall will add a redesigned belt lock.
Both SEAT and Volkswagen are contacting owners directly, but because our loan car is owned by the Spanish brand we have yet to receive the usual recall letter. Instead, we’ve been advised not to travel with three passengers in the back and to take the Arona in to have the repair carried out soon.
Although Martin has many trips planned for the small SUV, he rarely uses the rear seats, so this shouldn’t prove a problem.
Clever Terrain Response can adjust level of the air suspension itself
Belt blow Our Arona is being called back due to risk of the left rear belt unbuckling in corners