Living with Lucille: Four months with a Land Rover Discovery

So it's coming up to four months since I bought Lucille, my series one LRD V8i. How's the ride been so far?

Mechanically, aside from the initial clutch lunching and some minor leakage of power steering fluid, she's been good. Front tires are going to go (for which see 'drivability') fairly soon, I think. Maintenance of most things is not too bad, though headlight bulbs were a complete bastard to change and additionally the switching mechanism has on one occasion not worked, leaving me blacked out and confused for a good 20 minutes until I figured it out. There's also a thanfully rare issue whereby she won't turn over in the mornings if she's been parked in gear, though that's bypassable by rocking the car while in reverse - seems to free things up.

I overheated it twice early on in my ownership - carelessness with the aircon was to blame both times, running the aircon on a hot day in traffic results in a very warm engine. The coming summer could be interesting. No overheats since then, but it's been cooler...

The stereo, while not strictly 'mechanical' has also been playing up, but this just means I can upgrade it to a bluetooth-capable one. Woohoo!

In terms of drivability, she's quite similar to my old Range Rover, so no surprises there: She has a distressing tendency to go straight on in wet corners, and steadfastly refuses to let go with the rear end. This was a bit of an adjustment from Esther's Daihatsu Rocky, the 4WD I was driving previously, which would go tail-out at the drop of a hat with a little power on in the wet (yes, you heard right, a taily 4WD). On dry roads, she feels poised and balanced, but in long fast corners such as the Great Western Highway in the blueys, she can have alarming dive in the front suspension, which throws you into a sharper radius and feels modertely scary. To counter this, stay smooth, don't snatch or overreact. I've also found left-foot braking helps to keep balance. It's also possible to dry understeer in hard, sharp cornering, hence tire wear issues.

Yes, I admit it, I corner fast in my 4WD.

There's a fair bit of power on tap in petrol mode, so overtaking is a breeze. Power is down in LPG, though not as much as I expected. Still, the engine note is noticeably different - LPG having a more hollow note.

Off-road is a similar profile - goes straight on in slippery conditions at speed, but on rocky climbs and more technical stuff, I'm surprised how capable it really is. I guess I've always through of LRDs as one step back from proper off-roaders, which is clearly wrong - they're very agile indeed. And they can climb stairs

Practicality-wise, the LRD is, as expected, not a practical city car. Cargo space is good-ish, but the large LPG tank means that Esther's tiny Daewoo Matiz is a better choice for hauling bulky stuff (with less of a lift into the boot too). Parking isn't particularly easy, it's a big car. It has good front visibility but rear end is a concern. I haven't yet managed to reverse it into anything, luckily. It's aso just under the usual 2m height for inner-city car parks. I'm used to that now but initially it was frightening seeng ceilings so close. The turning circle is also a but much for inner-city use, and I've needed two goes at some corners, again in car parks.

Passengers all comment on how high up it feels. the rear seats are indeed even higher than the front. They also tend to tel me to slow down, can't imagine why.

The killer features? LPG/dual fuel conversion means that running the car is not as devastatingly expensive as the default V8 would be - and believe me, in the city it drinks fuel. Long freeway runs are surprisingly economical, getting close to the magical $10/100km from LPG on my recent run to Byron Bay. I'm certain to run straight through my annual petrol allowance this year, however. Dual batteries have also turned out to be good, though they're really a feature that stays in the background and quietly keeps one out of trouble.

I also bought a 5-in-1 power station (compressor, jump start, 240v inverter, worklight, emergency power), which is a great thing to have for about any car owner, but especially good for 4WD, and it means I can power things like laptop chargers, phone chargers, a small TV or even a guitar amp straight from the car.

Overal conclusion: Damn good car, would buy another.

posted @ Thursday, August 23, 2007 4:25 PM

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