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FI­NAL RE­PORT We say a fit­ting farewell to Car of the Year by get­ting it filthy off road

Auto Express - - CONTENTS - Steve Fowler Steve_­fowler@den­nis.co.uk @steve­fowler

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

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