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Land Rover Discovery SE 2005 review

Metres of water ran across and down the dirt, the track's dips filled with truckloads of brown slosh. The storm across the mountain tops arrived with a suddenness and ferocity that quietened radio chatter between the seven four-wheel drives.

Drivers are busy and adrenalin levels are up; there is little better to quicken the blood than a downhill slip and slide in two-and-a-half tonnes of metal with a hard rain falling and nasty, hard-to-see drops off the track's edges.

The day started fine: some touring, a little rock crawling and hill climbing to glorious scenes across Victoria's High Country.

Explore the 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 range

Now the thunder of the gods rolled in and the pleasantness was gone. But everyone and every vehicle made it to the bottom on to a hard-packed gravel road, and, like all good bush folk, headed for the nearest pub for beers and a dry camp.

It was a small adventure best appreciated in one of Land Rover's all-singing, all-dancing Discovery machines for these latest wagons take away a deal of sweat and tears in rough country.

At $73,650 for a V6 diesel SE wagon, there is much to admire and a deal to appreciate on good roads and wet tracks.

Coming down this steep and sloppy track the machine takes over, the driver only needs to steer, maybe add some throttle: into low range, suspension raised and dial up the Mud and Ruts mode on Land Rover's All Terrain system. It works. Engine and transmission responses are tailored for the slip and slide, hill descent control braking the machine with surprising gentleness.

Centre and rear differentials lock and unlock as required (watch all the traction action and the angles of the dangles on the dashboard display screen) and windscreen wipers switch on automatically when the rain first hits the screen. This is one autodidactic machine.

There may remain questions as to how this sophisticated British vehicle's smart stuff will cope with the rigours of long days in the scrub, there may remain questions about reliability.

But it is to be considered that this is the first Land Rover designed and produced under Ford's stewardship, there is much at stake (in particular the giant North American market) and the bosses reckon Ford has helped straighten out Land Rover's production line.

This all-new Discovery is claimed to be easier, simpler to build than the previous model so build quality should be better.

All this palaver is best left to the pub; for now all that's needed is to understand the cleverness of these machines in wombat-infested forests.

The V8 Discovery, this one too in SE trim and arriving with a $81,650 price tag (about the asking price for a V8 Sahara LandCruiser) is also along for this mountain top trundle.

It pumps out more power but less torque than the diesel. The beauty of the V8 is on the open tracks, exhaust tones bouncing off snow-bent gums and hillside tracks carved across the mountains. As a touring machine on a steady cruise it is also relatively economical.

And some may appreciate the V8's extra willingness to get off the line.

The diesel is quick enough, especially worked through the sequential-style, six-speed automatic, but the petrol engine does have the edge from the lights.

Yet it is not just these Discoverys' smart drivetrains and electronics for tackling go-anywhere tracks with confidence that bolster the wagons' appeal. It is not just the excellent ride in the rough and the nimbleness of the chassis – here the Discovery's 11.45m turning circle and 3.3 turns lock-to-lock are much appreciated.

The British wagon also looks right in most eyes.

This bluff style says this is a serious four-wheel drive for serious business. There are few curves, few kowtows to the soft turns of passenger car style.

It is a practical look for a practical seven-seater (entry models have five seats). There is just the one engine air intake grille on the right flank and an asymmetrical tailgate which allows for a standing platform on one side of the dropped tailgate and easier access to the cargo area on the other.

Body overhangs are minimal and the headlights are round with less glass to be damaged. The underbody is clean and strong and with the air-suspended Discoverys there is up to 240mm of ground clearance.

Inside, the Discovery has a good driving position, helped by a tilt and telescopic steering column, good visibility and ergonomics. The instruments are clear and legible but the centre dash console and the dials, knobs and buttons for air-conditioning and stuff is a bit cluttered.

And with the cabins of the two SEs being tested finished in greys and blacks they can be a tad sombre. Some may want to consider a lighter interior trim.

The interior, with each row of seats a little higher than those in front, offers decent accommodation for six average adults (leaving the middle of the middle row free) over a distance or seven (with shorter ones in the back) over shorter hauls. The rear seat offers decent accommodation for most. There also are 101 cubby holes and storage spots. In short, this is a cabin that's easily accessed with room to store bits and pieces.

This is a wagon that shrinks around the driver, a product of cabin design and the Discovery's on and off-road dynamics.

Down the highway or through the hills, the V8 and diesel Land Rover remain comfortable and secure

The wagons' bulk sometimes comes to the fore on tight and twisting stuff yet, in the main, these are highly competent machines for many reasons and all seasons.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

HSE 4.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,850 – 19,470 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 2005 HSE Pricing and Specs
S 2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $9,750 – 13,790 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 2005 S Pricing and Specs
SE 2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,333 – 11,600 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 2005 SE Pricing and Specs
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