Talking to one of the soon-to-be-driving the swanky SUV, it looks like members of cabinet have a good excuse for wanting the Disco 4. This is a number of cars integrated into one. It has the comfort and all the bells and whistles to match most Mercs and BMW saloons.
It is a true off-roader which a minister can drive to a rally in Musambakaruma where he will tell hungry villagers — tongue in cheek — that the government is broke due to British sanctions. And finally it has the head-turning looks, which makes it a status symbol. It is a powerful (wo) man’s vehicle whichever way you look at it.
I had a brief flirtation with power recently when Premier Auto Services made available a TDV6 HSE demo unit to test drive in Harare and its environs. What do you do at a robot stop when motorists around you miss the robot change because they are marveling at the big 4X4? I attempted to wear a different “political” face at different intersections but all this was unnecessary. At the wheel of the Disco 4, you still command respect even when you are wearing Levis and a baseball cap!
I did not have the time to tweak with all the dials on the cream leather clad cockpit, content to leave all the high-tech wizardry in its standard default setting and soak in on the Land Rover’s sheer power and great handling ability.
The nicely-weighted steering was direct enough to give me the luxury to press-on confidently through corners, bends and along fast stretches where unfortunately police armed with speed radars lurked. I proceeded uninhibited.
Remember the power thing. I had occasion to step savagely on the brakes and the twin-piston sliding callipers system did not disappoint. They did a sterling job preventing the deployment of airbags which are everywhere in the interior.
Land Rover engineers have also been busy on the suspension. The ride was seriously comfy as the bump-smothering air suspension cured all imperfections on poor suburban roads.
The soundproofing is also much better than its adversaries which tend to roar on our poorly laid tarmac surfaces. Tyre roar, mechanical noises and even wind howls when cruising have been eliminated from the cabin.
Despite all this finesse, the Discovery 4 is no lightweight. It is a big vehicle; all two and half tonnes of it. And the motor under the hood has been crafted to take care of all this weight beyond imagination.
Press hard on the accelerator and the Disco 4 is quick off the blocks with the speedo needle hitting 100km/h in 9,6 seconds. This is a lively unit with enormous torque of 510Nm/at 3500rpm and maximum power of 276KW/6500rpm that comes in handy not just for towing and off-roading but on-road where it punches safely past traffic.
The groundbreaking power plant is aspirated by a parallel sequential turbo charging system that ensures throttle response is ultra-sharp. All this power is transmitted to the 19-inch alloy wheel through a six-speed automatic gearbox with intelligent low and high range selection.
So as far as driveability goes, there is no need to be worried by the Discovery’s imposing looks. In spite of its 4,9-metre length and 2,2-metre width, driving this 4X4 is a walk in the park. There are not many vehicles in its class that provides the driver with a better view of the road.
Any review of a Land Rover is incomplete without taking it into the bush. I have been promised another dance with this beauty to see how all the electronics and gadgets cope on our poorly maintained gravel surfaces where politicians will need to visit to campaign.
THE DISCOVERY AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2 993 cc, V6 diesel, twin turbo
Power: 180 kW @ 4 000 rpm
Torque: 600 Nm @ 2 000 rpm
Top speed: 180 km/h
0-100 km/h: 9,6 sec
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, permanent four-wheel drive, high- and low range, automatic electronic centre and rear diff locks
Suspension: Independent double wishbone springs front and rear
Brakes: Ventilated disk brakes
Tyres: 255/55 R19
Ground clearance: 31 cm (highest setting)
Approach angle: 37.2º
Departure angle: 29.6º
Immersion depth: 70 cm
Vehicle mass: 2 580 kg
Fuel tank: 86 litre
Fuel consumption: 9,3 litre/100 km (combined cycle)
Carbon emissions: 293g/km
Toyota Prado VX D4-D
BMW X5 3.0d
Porsche Cayenne diesel
PRICE: around US$127 000
By Vincent Kahiya