Safaris to what’s left of our malls can require serious transport these days.
As you know, sometimes you must traverse piles of rubble to find a parking space as Regular-Joe department stores “evolve” into common work-spaces and peach-tea bistros.
Sounds great, Lance MarsBar.
So, for my semi-annual trip to the mall, I chose the 2019 Land Rover Discovery, an elegant rock-buster that’s comfortable in dusty deserts, urban war-zones and modern mall parking lots.
I never had any trouble spotting it from a distance.
Although the current, much-revised Discovery SUV got new styling two years ago, it still looks highly traditional in a tall, polished two-box way.
Every time I passed by it, matter of fact, I halfway expected to see Queen Elizabeth in a pale-blue pillbox hat sitting impassively in the back.
Like all modern Land Rovers, my dark-blue Disco wore a horizontal chain-style plastic grille that looked strong, not stylishly sleek.
Clean headlamps – neither too big nor too small – stood on either side, overseen by a broad hood with a rounded leading edge.
The sides, of course, were flat as a BBC newscast but carved nicely by a prominent character line through the door-handles.
While vastly more modern-looking than some of the laughably square old Discos, the new model still shouts “utility” louder than “sport.”
However, my burly 7-passenger Disco did show a little Malibu flash with good-looking 21-inch alloy wheels fitted with substantial 275/45 tires.
A couple of years ago, before VW’s diesel-emissions scandal, the 3-liter turbocharged diesel in my Discovery would have earned me more points. Now, I’m not so sure.
While rich in low-end torque (443 lb.-ft.) and more efficient than the standard supercharged 3-liter gas V-6, the diesel often felt sleepy and soft around town and can’t tow as much as the gas engine.
If you need decent torque for off-road uses, the 254-horsepower diesel was quiet and relatively smooth, and gets overall fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon – defying its 5,400 pounds of weight. (The 380-horsepower gas engine has an average of 18 miles per gallon.)
But I sometimes found its performance around town to be pretty tiresome. The British oil-burner lacked the low-end snap of big American diesel-powered pickups, lumbering to 60 miles per hour in a lackluster 8 seconds. (The gas engine gets there in about 6.3 seconds.)
A well-calibrated eight-speed automatic did a fine job of trying to keep the small diesel in its power curve, but that was not always easy down low.
Likewise, the regal Rover offered numb steering and some lean in corners, adding to its occasional truck-like feel.
That impression, though, was largely dispelled by the four-wheel-drive Land Rover’s excellent ride, which absorbed bumps large and small with firm long-legged ease.
In fact, few four-wheel-drive vehicles are as capable as the $81,000 Disco of effortlessly inhaling hundreds of highway miles – one of the main attractions with Land Rover/Range Rovers.
You’ll ride in comfort, too.
A gently rolling dashboard in pliable, leather-like material, for example, dropped down to a band of gray “wood” between the upper and slightly protruding mid-dash.
Meanwhile, a large center stack dominated by a display screen curved down to a broad console in piano black.
The screen, though, was another one of those aggravating units in which the radio had to be tuned through the computer, a real snap when surrounded by hostile 75-mph traffic.
All of the typical safety nannies resided somewhere in there as well, including stability control, active cruise-control, emergency braking, blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist and – my favorite – driver-condition monitor.
(I don’t think I want to know how that one works, Hal.)
The door-panels, however, restored some of the Disco’s quiet elegance, with door-tops in the smooth leather-like material on the dashboard and a band of gray wood above the armrest.
And as you would expect in a high-dollar ride, the black leather seats had supportive bolsters, perforated centers and white piping on the bolsters.
Also, leg- and head-room in the second row of upright seats was good and could be slid forward to provide more space for third-row passengers, where leg-room was a bit limited.
My Disco weighed in with plenty of options, naturally, including a driver-assist package ($2,900); a seven-seat luxury climate-comfort package ($1,985); the capability-plus package with locking rear differential ($1,275); and those slick 21-inch wheels ($1,735).
Five years ago, an $80,000 SUV would have seemed like some sort of high-riding lap of luxury. Now, it’s a well-equipped Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition.
But if you want cachet with your capability, few vehicles can top the tweedy off-road appeal of a Land Rover.
2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE
- What I liked most: The Discovery’s well-documented abilities to plow through backwoods bogs or up rocky goat-trails while barely jostling its occupants.
- What I would change: If you’re going to offer diesel power, give me a reason to pay the premium over a gas engine.
- MSRP: Base price, $68,800; $80,915 as equipped.
- Official color: Loire Blue.
- Fuel economy: 21 miles per gallon in town, 26 on the highway and 23 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Odometer reading when tested: 6,072 miles.
- Spare tire: Full-size.
- Weight: About 5,400 pounds
- Length-width-height: 195.7 inches long/81.6 inches wide/73.5 inches tall
- Fuel-tank capacity: 22.5 gallons
- Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
- 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE in a few words: Still a special, slightly quirky SUV rich in tradition and leather.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty
- Final assembly location: Solihull, United Kingdom
- Manufacturer’s website: www.landroverusa.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: Land Rover