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The only thing more dangerous than standing in front of a 2.5-tonne Land Rover Discovery 4WD while it's moving is standing in the way of a woman who wants to buy one.
I know this because there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop my former boss of five years from buying a Land Rover Discovery, even though I warned her about their reputation for iffy reliability. (I also couldn't stop my cousin from buying an old Daewoo, so anyone complaining about the power of the media ought not to worry.)
Radio and TV presenter Steve Price can instill fear in the most hard-nosed politicians across the nation, but he too knows better than to argue with his wife about the family's preferred mode of transport. On her say so, they're up to their third Land Rover Discovery.
Then there is the current boss of one of Australia's best known car companies whose wife insisted they buy a Land Rover Discovery -- instead of getting a car for free from the brand her husband works for.
Clearly the power of the Land Rover Discovery is profound, and I'm not talking about what's under the bonnet. Its ability to appeal to women is even more astounding given it is the exact opposite of Land Rover's original plan.
The macho-looking, box-shaped Land Rover Discovery was designed to appeal to men in suits with visions of becoming their neighbourhood's Bear Grylls on weekends.
But women are the driving force behind its success. Although men have their names on most Discovery registration papers, Land Rover research has found twice as many women are in fact behind the wheel.
Driving the 25th anniversary model this week (the pony tails got to it, though, and called it the XXV edition) I wanted to find out why the fairer sex loved the Discovery so much -- and why they didn't care about the tales of holidays ruined and families left stranded by a conked out car.
"Joshua," she said in italics, as if I had asked a really dumb question, "it's a seven-seater than can actually fit adults in the back, you can fit three kid seats across the middle row, the windows are massive so you can see out of the bloody thing and it has a tight turning circle."
Did she buy it for the image? "Not at all, that's a consequence of its practical design," she huffed. The only thing missing was a "so there".
And she certainly didn't care about the unusually high number of complaints I've received from Land Rover owners.
To be fair nor did I when, against my better judgment, I bought four Holden V8 utes one after the other, even though I knew full well it was unlikely I'd get a perfect example (each one had numerous problems, but I lined up again and again because Toyota, known for its monotonous reliability, doesn't make a sporty V8 ute).
The reliability issue was so apparent Land Rover Australia introduced a factory-backed extended warranty program about five years ago which, ingeniously, required the customer to pay upwards of $3000 for extra protection. The prices go up this month (to between $3200 and $4600, depending on how much coverage you want and when you sign on the dotted line), perhaps because Land Rover warranty claims are higher than normal. The brand issued two recall notices this week alone.
Yet every one of my Discovery-owning friends happily declared they have not had one fault with their vehicles. Tellingly, all models in question were made since 2012 which, according to wholesalers and mechanics who specialise in the brand, is when Land Rover reliability made a turn for the better.
So with newfound confidence I slipped, no, climbed behind the wheel of the latest Discovery limited edition, and the last of the current generation introduced in 2005.
It has had three makeovers in that time, the latest includes new headlights and grille, a baked-bean-can-shaped automatic gear selector, and giant "Discovery" letters across the bonnet.
This edition is the top of a range that starts at $69,200 and previously maxed out at $96,200. The XXV's price: an eye-watering $109,900 plus on-road costs.
For that, you get a rear view camera standard (incredibly, a $670 option on the regular Discovery even though it comes free on a $14,990 Honda hatchback), forward-view cameras (to make it easier to see cross-traffic when exiting driveways), an 11-speaker high-end sound system, light grey leather seats, glossy piano-black highlights in the cabin, and "puddle lamps" that shine an outline of the Discovery's silhouette on the ground when you approach the car at night. The three sunroofs (one for each row of seats) are a $2000 option.
Even with the extra equipment the price is steep. But a minute behind the wheel demonstrates why. It is like driving a lounge room. Actually, it's like driving a car with six pillow-topped mattresses between you and the wheels.
Anything that can take the bump out of the daily bump-and-grind like this is magical. And yet it doesn't lean in corners, as if someone has sat on the edge of an old bed. It feels perfectly composed as its computer-controlled suspension figures out how to flatten speed bumps -- no doubt another bonus.
The diesel engine has the type of urge you might expect from a sports car. The only bad thing is the nasty diesel fumes it (and every other diesel, no matter how "clean" their makers claim they are) belches out.
Which is why my only complaint is that you have to hold the "recycle" button on the air-conditioning for three seconds every time you get in the car (if you press it quickly, it reverts to "fresh" air after a short time).
I'm happy to contribute to air pollution, but I don't want to breathe it, thanks very much. Please, Land Rover, can you make this button memorise your preference as other cars do?
|5.0 V8||5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$49,000 – 61,930||2014 Land Rover Discovery 4 2014 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 TDV6||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$32,000 – 41,910||2014 Land Rover Discovery 4 2014 3.0 TDV6 Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 SDV6 SE||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$37,700 – 48,730||2014 Land Rover Discovery 4 2014 3.0 SDV6 SE Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 SDV6 HSE||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$43,700 – 55,220||2014 Land Rover Discovery 4 2014 3.0 SDV6 HSE Pricing and Specs|
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