Jeremy Come camping in Wales… Even Jason Plato smirked yesterday as I left Silverstone, after telling him Jessica and I were off on a four day walking holiday in the Élan Valley. He had obviously seen the weather forecast.
We met a group of friends at the camp site and were midged to the edge of reason before retiring to sleep in the back of the Discovery. It was probably all that kept me sane in the crazy night of rain that followed.
I can’t tell you how much rain fell but it’s still falling now. at least last night I got to know the Land Rover intimately. Pop the back two rows of seats flat and you have enough room for an inflatable mattress. While the rest of the 30-strong party suffered in sodden tents, ours were pretty luxurious surroundings.
We walked for three hours today and soaked to the skin, I made an executive decision to book in to a hotel at Devil’s Bridge and empty the Discovery of wet clothes and one bedraggled dog. For a brief moment i felt like we had let the side down, as they are all camping on a bleak hillside somewhere. actually, maybe not…!
No picture today – wifi at this establishment must have been affected by the rain too.
Jeremy – My last job before heading off on holiday to Wales was a quick dash to Silverstone. I’m writing a driving masterclass piece for the Financial Times with Jason Plato, the former British Touring Car Champion.
Plato isn’t the sort of guy who likes to come second and still competes with the young bucks in BTCC. Despite the appalling weather this morning, I had a great drive across the Cotswold in the Discovery to meet him.
Our silver Disco is just the way I like it – without bling chrome wheels, blacked out windows and any other nonsense. When was the last time you saw one like that I wonder?!
We took an Aston Martin out on the track, fantastic fun and Plato is a true gent. Which would I prefer to drive home? Well, I don’t think my dog would like anything more than the Land Rover.
Jeremy Thunder and lightning are sweeping across Wiltshire today but after a wonderful July it’s going to be flooding next for sure. The Discovery is the perfect machine for this type of weather – as I discovered in Northern Ireland six years ago.
Driving back from the Mountains of Mourne in appalling weather, I came across a family who were stranded in flood water which was lapping up around the side of their Mondeo. I was in a V8 petrol Discovery 3, drinking fuel at 14mpg! However, I was very glad to be in the Land Rover because a guy in an Audi allroad seemed to be going under in his own rescue attempt too.
We managed to pull the Mondeo out but the car was a write-off, with water pouring out of the doors when we reached safety. The allroad survived but the owner was a bit miffed his 4×4 hadn’t lived up to expectations…
I know people who own off-road vehicles and never, ever go further than a muddy field at a party. Having driven across Mongolia twice in a Discovery, I can tell you there are few cars that will get you anywhere AND is such comfort.
Jeremy – Seven people, one large dog. The Discovery has to be one of the largest 4x4s on the road but with all seven passenger seats occupied, today I ended up in the front with a Hungarian Viszla on my lap while Jessica drove us out.
I’m not sure anybody has ever cracked the problem of how to carry seven people in an off-roader AND their luggage. Once the third row of seats are folded out of the floor in the Discovery, there isn’t even enough room for a suitcase in the luggage area.
With three children in our party, at least we know that the Land Rover would survive the test of time and the arms and legs of many little people. The seats may be covered in luxury leather but I’m sure you could put an angry calf in the back without having to worry!
Two of the children decided it would be much more fun to get into the third row of seats from the rear door, rather than via the side ones. No problem. This is a true Land Rover, built to cope with anything and very, very robust.
Jeremy As predicted, Jessica isn’t too struck on Discovery styling. Even before the Land Rover arrived, she was recounting how her previous experiences with the Discovery hadn’t been too successful.
For once, I was rather smug when she tootled off to the gym this morning because I know the current version is nothing like the last one she drove in 2002. Having rumbled around Mongolia in a Discovery 3 and owned a V8 petrol model for a mad moment (11mpg anybody?), there is no comparison with the dated original.
So by the time she had returned, the latest Disco was receiving rave reviews for it’s performance, comfort and all round good motoring experience.
The square-cut styling, however, left her cold. Because she was brought up in a world of Range Rovers, I can sort of see her point. The Discovery does look a little utility but at least we both agree that it totally does what is says on the tin.
Jeremy – The grass up the lane to Car Couture HQ is about 6ft high at present. Thick, bushy grass that is still waiting for a spot of rain so it can grow some more between the trees. It’s good camouflage for the postman in his red Citroen van but I could see the Discovery coming from about half a mile off when it was delivered this morning.
It’s big, very big. Parked next to the outgoing Peugeot 508, you start to remember why the Land Rover has such a presence on the road. You can’t bloody miss it, that’s why.
However, I fear that there is going to be a split decision when Jessica and I get around to discussing the styling. For me, it’s sharp, uncluttered lines look as good now as when the new model was launched in 2009. Jessica is probably going to compare it’s brick-like shape to, well, a brick.
Two weeks in the Discovery should give us plenty of time to form an opinion. I’m off to read a very weighty manual…
Jeremy We arrived back from London in the early hours after a quick dash up to meet some friends in Shepherd Market. Relieved of £26 for parking the RXH for three hours, earlier it had taken me almost four hours to drive up from Bath because of a minor accident on the M4.
Sat in stationary traffic, it was a good moment to try and get to grips with the DAB radio again. Sadly, I had to give up and accept I was doomed to suffer FM for the final day in the Peugeot. It’s not just me, a couple of other people had a go too and failed in frustration.
Life with the RXH has had its ups and down. Which I can only applaud Peugeot for the diesel hybrid technology, in reality this version of the 508 is an acquired taste. The sluggish gear change, heavy steering and various rattles have been a constant source of annoyance.
Fuel economy has been a respectable 44.5mpg, although this is much less than the 68mpg claimed – and I haven’t been driving the car hard either. Jessica has also found the seats very hard, to the point that she has suffered pins and needles whilst nearing the end of a 90 minute journey!
So, if you are after a lesser-spotted hybrid estate car with genuine four-wheel drive ability, the RXH couple be for you. In the real world of depreciation and marque image, I imagine most people would opt for an Audi allroad instead.
Jeremy It’s a little known fact that Jessica has an issue with car manuals. Being a fashionista, it’s not the way they look, the fabric manufacturers use on the cover or the feel of the material, it’s more about why we have car manuals in the first place.
Flicking through the RXH manual together this morning, I could feel the argument about to surface again. She believes that all instructions should simply be available online – and that we should tap in via our smartphones or laptops.
This would not only save a small forest of trees (have you seen the size of car manuals these days?) but free up space in the glovebox. It would also provide dedicated manuals for each model. For example, the RXH manual is really just the same as a standard 508 estate handbook and therefore, extra complicated. It’s the same for most cars these days. You very rarely get a manual that is specific to your car.
So, while I think part of the joy of owning a new car is sitting in the driver’s seat and digesting endless pages of dashboard trivia, her argument does have some weight, provided you own a smartphone of course.
I have to agree with her that the RXH manual isn’t the easiest to navigate. I’ve certainly struggled with the DAB radio instructions, operating the tailgate and adjustment to the head up display screen. But imagine life without car manuals – what else would a man do on a Sunday morning…?
Jessica Well done Peugeot for creating a hybrid diesel, it must be the way forward. The problems of battery weight and power storage are still areas where everyone is looking for answers but without getting these cars into the mainstream it will be slow progress.
The RXH is a lot of car. It even feels weighty and the steering adds to the mood as it requires more than the usual amount of effort to turn the wheel. Furthermore, the gears seem to be very ponderous, which again is something drivers don’t expect with modern cars.
The beautiful dashboard is laid out with many buttons and safety gadgets, all offering a range of noises and alarms. There’s certainly enough here to give Volvo a run for its money!
The 508 has a sporty and well designed speedo, while a range of clearly laid out options for the transmission allowing a sense of choice and ultimately, control.
For a family estate though which is clearly aiming to compete with the Audi estates and possibly Mercedes it is a handsome car with well designed seats, a considered external and internal aesthetic, plus a sense of presence.
And I’m not sure if it’s mothers who will potentially be driving this car but they will need to have sensible short nails! I had some awkward moments trying to open the central arm rest via a side-mounted button. In the end it became a fumbld knuckle job!
Jeremy Monday evening and it feels like the weather is about to break over the Cotswolds. In fact, I’m sure I could hear the distant rumble of thunder as I climbed out of the RXH earlier, or could it have been from the back seat…?
The 508 is proving a mixed back in terms of build quality. While the seats are wrapped in sumptuous leather, there is every type of electronic gadget – from auto-dip headlights to massaging driver’s seat – the squeaky leather rear seat has now been joined by a rattle, which seems to be originating from under the floor of the boot where the battery packs are located. This is starting to annoy me and it would definitely be back to the dealership if I had spent £35,000+ on a luxurious, 4×4 estate.
At least I have got the hang of the DAB radio now and the sat nav is behaving beautifully. The automatic rear boot door opens from the keyfob but I can’t get it to close using the same button!
So, I’m still not 100 per cent over whether I like the RXH or not. It’s all minor niggly stuff but to compete with the Audi allroad or a Volvo V70, I think it just needs to up its game a bit.