UK Car Road Test

Land Rover Discovery TD5 2000

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The Lovely Land Rover Discovery, the Chelsea Cart Horse, the Mayfair Mud plugger the Ultimate school run transport judging by the number out side school gates most mornings 

 

Wide

Oh so wide

At first glance it seems remarkable unchanged from the older 4 cylinder TDI models, and that is for the most part a good thing. The Disco was always big butch and handsome, so why spoil it.


The improvements are very much in the detail, and when you look at the old Disco that is where major improvement was needed.

Conceptual the Discovery was just about bob on, as can be judged by the number of buyer who flocked to it, it was just some of the details that let it down.

So really there is not much to say about the TD5s external visuals,  its just a slightly tidied version of the TDi 200/300 and none the worse for that. Can not say that this colour does a lot for me, but I have seen much worse.

Compared to some current big 4*4s  its lack of chrome and strange useless aerodynamic appendages give it a very restrained conservative look. 

The Interior though is much better despite being much the same, better thought out better built .

The biggest change comes in the rear with some very clever fold out rear seats that now face forward, with drop down head restraints. These are really well executed and a remarkable advance on Land Rovers normally stone axe engineering. 

They are even enhanced by the hydraulic rear step to ease getting aboard that slowly resets itself to maximum ground clearance height.

 Twin sun roofs not present
Shame !

 Standard roof bars  
for when loads of space still is not enough

Climbing aboard the vehicle is made easy by the side steps, which lead you into the comfortable front seats elbows rest on the  double arm rests whilst you survey the huge wheel which dominates the dash, the wheel suggests a huge strong heavy leviathan of a truck,  power steering makes sure it does not feel like one to park, so the wheel could be somewhat more dainty.

The dash whilst precise and clear is still somewhat reminiscent of a Rover SD1 with big switches around the binnacle. The buttons are not exactly stylish, especially after driving around in an Audi TT but they are big and easy to work in a sort of Junior lego fashion.    

 

Though the Disco was supposed to be to the low end of the Range Rover, it never fails to be well equipped. There are many who prefer the Disco to the Rangie and hence it come with a hefty list of options and extras that push it toward Range Rover levels.

Customers of the Disco never really seemed to dent the Defender line and the rubber matted 3 door basic van disappeared virtually immediately. Disco buyers obviously knew what they wanted and it was not an up market Defender.

Air con/Heating  simple but effective  Full electric windows

Neat rear cupholders

 Rear seats stow brilliantly 
for best rear luggage shape.

Hence the Discovery has an interior comparative to any Estate, well trimmed and equipped in the front passenger areas, tough and hardwearing in its volumous boot. 

Its stowage and storage rivals a good  MPV, as it should as that is what many Discoveries become. 

 

The chance to try out the new TD5 motor excited me the most about this car. With some extra power its a couple of MPH quicker at the top end and reputedly a couple of seconds quicker to sixty. Whilst costing a couple of  MPG all round. Not too bad a tradeoff I thought. 

98 mph might sound slow but it will get you well booked thanks very much and leaves adequate overhead for cruising around the legal limit.

In use though I did not find it to feel any quicker than I remember a TDI 300 to be i.e. slightly sluggish. Once moving it holds gear well and need few changes to maintain speed though it need a more aggressive tact to gain much. Pulling away it did not seem to have the very bottom end of the four  needing a few more revs to get it going, though once rolling it will keep on doing so without any spluttery choking from the engine.

The feeling seemed to be exacerbated by the long throttle pull which needs a good deep push to get some response. Though it probably gives more delicate response off road.

It does seem a touch smoother than the old 4 with 500cc cylinders bouncing about as opposed to the old 625cc jobs, but it was still not as smooth as many new generation Diesels. The Old Tdi 200/300 was quite and advance for Rover/Land Rover at the time of inception. 15 years later the new 5 cylinder seems distinctly average, in light of the major advances in Diesel technology. Its still quite a noisy unit too.

The gearbox change is acceptable for a 4*4. Its still not as slick as a real car, but its better than many off road efforts.

Pedals remain light and easy to use. They are very large and suitable for pushing in wellies, or boots.

Brakes are strong but have a lot of car to stop with some fairly slim rubber, hence stopping distances really are nothing to write home about despite ABS. But of course the better and wider the rubber fitted the better the stopping distance will be.

Not much to look at

but impressively large

 

Lets get it straight from the off the Discovery does not handle like a car. It handles like a well mannerd truck. The newer version here, is not as wobbly on the road as the older version but its still no Lotus. Its worst trait remains the front to back pitching kicking up the rear axel especially over speed bumps and other large obstacles. But that's what you get for having big live axles coil springs or no. Not being independently sprung means if one wheel drops in a hole the opposite reacts, that the ladder chassis keeps it under some semblance of control is to Land Rovers credit. 

Despite the big wheel or perhaps because of it, the steering is fairly direct with none of the arm twirling often associated with tightly maneuvering 4*4s. It would pass the multi storey steering test comfortably without tiring your arms. (if you can fit under the roof)

Not the Alloy wheels these may be de-riguer on cars nowadays, but why pander to fashion. They are probably no lighter than steel wheels as they have a shed load of weight to support, they hardly make any difference to the unsprung weight of the big Axles anyway, and they are expensive and easier to damage.

Alloys fashion over common sense

Two diffs, lots of locating arms

ABS,Automatic stability and traction control are fitted and given the lack of power is probably aimed more at off road control than on. Though the stabilty control may help keep the tall body steady.

Off road the Disco is well proven, competitive with any other 4 by 4 in its size range and better than many. Overhangs are short and high, and the chin spoiler comes off easily for maximum clearance. The tyres though are road biased so many Discovery drivers find their first investment to be a set of big knobblies to really dig into the soft stuff.  

Okay lets assume the lack of handling prowess lets you down and you end up off the road or in a collision, you may hit one of three things

a. Nothing  ----- you got lucky

b. immovable object heavier than Disco  ------ Tough luck lets hope the air bags work 

c. Something smaller than the Disco --------- your in luck you will squash it into a small portable crumple zone.

If it was my choice between a 5 star NCAP rated Renault and a Discovery I know what I would take my chances in the Landie thanks very much.  

Lets remember most impacts are fairly minor and most other cars will bounce off your average Disco without you ever actually noticing.

Twin front air bags help add an air of invincibility should it all go very wrong, but in the absence of  a monoque chassis I would like to see curtain bags too 

Rear centre seat belt is a three point for when all seven seats are full.

Alpine Lights Neat  
Belt Placement Original

 Very Minor styling effort
on large expanse of wheel

On the security side Alarm, Immobilisor, Vin, Locking wheel nuts and fuel cap help keep the perfect ram raider in your possession

 

Is the Discovery's crown starting to slip, or has it slipped. Well I have driven a lot of the opposition, and in its most popular form ie Diesel Manual 5 door seven seater, it still takes a lot of beating. 

It has a nice balance between true off road ability ( a Land Rover given) and acceptable road manners. Most of the competitors that beat it on road are really aimed at the Range Rover niche, those that compete directly rarely have the class of the Disco beast. Cherokee excepted.

Plain but easy to keep clean

Loads of space
Fold the seats for Massive

Its still an ultra practical 4*4 for non farmers, though the new model due this year is desperately needed to push it back to the pinnicle of 4byfourdom.

 

Well protected stamping surfaces

Rear Door opening still rather tight

If anything really needs and overhaul its down to enhancing its road manners and making the dash somewhat more flash, along with a Diesel with some serious humpy power. The 2.5 unit is starting to look rather short of capacity nowadays.

Though the interior is really quite heavy on the plastic, I can live with that as it makes the Disco so much easier to keep clean, and looking good. 

Note Stowage above visors

All in all the Disco is still a good motor though now getting somewhat old. There are lots of 4*4 choices that are probably just as good if not any better, so it just depends which you really want. 

Personally I would buy the Disco because I love Land Rovers, and because of the slow replacement cycle they do not tend to age as badly as other marques. After all a clean 1990 model looks just as good to most people as this one. The nice thing about Discos is just how well judged the size is compared to many 4*4s. The front is very roomy and fits an 18stone 6 feet 5 inch friend of mine. The rear seats are spacious and comfy, and the boot seats are now much improved to, if not as much as a laugh. The boot to unlike many small/medium 4*4s is of usefully large size.

Best of all I know five people with Discovery's of various ages, some on their 4th one and all to a man would have another one and nothing else. So Land Rover must have got something right.

 


 

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UK Car Road Test Land Rover Discovery TD5 2000

UK Car Road Test Keywords: 4*4 DieselDiscovery TD5