Michigan Winter and the Holidays in Our 2017 Land Rover Discovery

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Are the roof rails just for show?

Tip for 2017 Land Rover Discovery owners: Don’t try to install your own roof rack crossbars. Let your dealership’s service department do it, whether or not they charge you. Of course, if you’re a typical Disco driver, you’re probably not calling upon the utility component of the sport/utility vehicle as much as we are.

Your humble servant spent late fall after the run to Tire Rack’s Street Survival School for young drivers, and the first half of winter, piling on the miles. This included a couple of quick weekend runs up to a cottage in the mid-north woods. Last November, I drove the 180 miles north-by-northwest with one of my dogs, Django, along for company so I could empty the water heater and close the place up. Though there was light, slippery snow, and though there are some deep-dirt roads in the neighborhood, this was no off-road expedition of the sort that established this brand’s reputation in the mid-20th Century.

By now, I was lowering the air suspension without thinking about it every time I parked the Disco. At 73.5-inches normal ride height, this makes getting out and getting back in again as easy as climbing aboard a more car-like crossover vehicle.

I’ve grown used to (though I’m still not happy about it) the radio sometimes needing 10 or 20 seconds or more to start up, as if it was a pre-transistor AM tube radio. I haven’t grown used to touchscreen audio, HVAC, and seat-heater controls that require too much diversion of my eyes from the road. I had become used to the turbo lag at tip-in. No more trying to beat cross-traffic if it’s traveling at 40 mph or more.

The air suspension’s generous travel makes the Disco a supremely comfortable ride even on long trips, though of course this comes at the expense of cornering prowess, and while squat and dive are nicely controlled, physics inevitably rules when you’re forced to brake hard. A bit of high center-of-gravity tippiness is part of Land Rover’s DNA, even though engineers have reduced this to a minimum for the modern age.

Fuel economy ranged from as low as 18.6 mpg in early January to 23.4 mpg of mostly freeway driving. There was much idling in cold December and January Michigan weather.

In short, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 Luxury, especially with that Ford-built and developed turbodiesel V-6 has just about all the luxury and comfort of one of its near-perfect Mercedes-Benz or Lexus rivals, but still with its own character. One doesn’t need to leak oil or dim the headlamps to betray one’s British quirkiness.

Snow came early to Metro Detroit, before the Thanksgiving weekend, and again afterward, into early December. About time for Thanksgiving weekend, the Discovery topped 14,000 miles and the dashboard message center indicated it was time to replace the diesel emissions aftertreatment. It wasn’t yet time for an oil change though, our local dealership service department said.

Meanwhile, “The Disco needs winter tires,” Eric Schwab, AUTOMOBILE’s chief commercial officer declared. He’d been driving the Land Rover as most owners would, with the second-row and sometimes the third-row raised, for local trips with his family or sometimes for a night out with another couple. (With collies for our kids, we usually keep the second and third rows folded.) Four-wheel-drive, Eric knows, will help you get going in deep snow or slippery snow and ice, but it will not help you turn or stop. Eric offered to have Tire Rack’s boffins change out the LR’s Goodyear Eagle F1s for a set of Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires while he visited company HQ in South Bend, Indiana. Total cost for the four Scorpions, size 225/55R-20 on the Discovery’s stock wheels is $918.92 plus tax, mounting and balancing, and includes Tire Rack’s free road hazard protection. With a large fuel tank full of diesel, Eric made the round-trip to South Bend, which is 215 miles each way, without having to refuel until his return.

Meanwhile, the Discovery’s message board continued its countdown to “limp” mode, with 494 miles to go after the Tire Rack trip. Cost to refresh the diesel exhaust fluid would make all but the owners of $80,000 SUVs flinch. It’s was a cool $263.44 plus tax. If you’re the type of armchair economist who compares the fuel economy savings per mile to the higher cost of a diesel option, don’t forget to figure in this aftertreatment, once every 15k.

It may be costlier for buyers of the new 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel Ford F-150. Based on the same architecture as the 3.0 in our LR Disco, but beefed up to meet the demands of pickup truck owners, the new F-150 turbodiesel needs aftertreatment refills every 10,000 miles, Ford told auto journalists in a December briefing.

You’d maybe have to be the owner/lessee of an $80,000 SUV to not order the accessory crossbars ($389.67), but my wife and I take our dogs along to Wisconsin for the Christmas holidays, and no, we don’t charter a private jet for this purpose. Gifts and luggage go in a Thule rooftop carrier and the collies ride in the back (cue the photo of our annual December 27 visit to Leon’s Frozen Custard). Land Rover kindly shipped me the requisite roof rack crossbars well ahead of the holidays, but because of all its miles on the road, driven by executive editor Mac Morrison over Thanksgiving as well as by Eric Schwab and myself, I didn’t get the Land Rover into our handy Detroit Bureau garage until December 21st. By now, our 4Seasons 2017 Land Rover Discovery had a healthy 15,000 miles on the clock, after six-and-a-half months in service.

Long story short, I spent most of the night in the garage attaching the “clamp on” crossbars—and even then, they weren’t on quite right, though they were on solidly. But then, the next night, after work, I found–cue the wah wah trombones–that I had spaced the two crossbars too far apart for the Thule carrier. Unclamping the rear crossbar and sliding it forward should have been a 20-minute job, but again, it took all night. I was able to clamp them down, but not if I wanted the mechanism to click into place so that I could lock the covers on with the keys. I left them in the clamped/uncovered position, and the next morning hurried over to the local dealer to see if anyone in the service department was working the day before Christmas Eve.

There was, but the service manager said he had never seen a set of crossbars applied to the latest Land Rover Discovery. I drove the Disco to Milwaukee that afternoon, with my wife and our three collies inside, and the rooftop carrier securely on the half-locked crossbars—I checked them constantly—with no issues.

We returned to Metro Detroit on the 28th, and the next day my sister-in-law and her 14-year-old son, Landon, visited for New Years’ weekend. This led to a self-inflicted wound on the Disco. On New Year’s Eve, we prepared to leave for a 10-minute drive to a restaurant for 8 p.m. dinner. Because of our visitors, the second row was, uncharacteristically, up. I began to back out of the driveway, thinking all the doors were closed, but Landon still had the right-rear door open, and I hit a tree stump in our front yard next to the curb. I needed to close the door from outside – it was misaligned.

The day after New Year’s, I Disco’d over to Suburban Jaguar Land Rover, which sent me directly to its contractor body shop nearby, and where I had the best body shop experience, ever. The shop realigned the door for me, no charge, and it opens and closes just like new. I returned to the Suburban JLR service department to have a slow leak in the right rear Pirelli Scorpion patched (nail, $39.99), and the service department finished properly installing the rear roof rack crossbar, for free.

Said service department told me they had a new guy in from California, who is more accustomed to working with these things. I guess it’s true—Californians are more active. Or, they don’t rely on private jets to take their dogs along on vacation. But the service manager admitted the crossbars were hard to install, and even the California expert worked on the rear bar for 40 minutes.

Having thoroughly bonded with the luxurious British off-roader, I reluctantly handed its keys over to Nelson Ireson, who drove it back from the 2018 North American International Auto Show with the all-season tires taking up space in the back. As compensation, I flew out to L.A. in early February to drive back the Four Seasons Mazda CX-5. It’s a nice, actually fun-to-drive two-row SUV, but this one doesn’t even have a roof rack.

OUR 2017 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY HSE Td6 LUXURY

MILES TO DATE 17,011
GALLONS OF FUEL 672
OBSERVED MPG 23.2
FUEL COST TO DATE $1,902.53
AVERAGE COST/GALLON $2.83

MAINTENANCE

DEF refill $269.65

RECALLS and TSBs

Exterior A-pillar molding N042
Deployable luggage compartment floor operating arm N060
Air suspension and adaptive dynamics warning N135

OUT OF POCKET

Winter tires $918.92
Tire patch $39.99

SPECIFICATIONS

AS-TESTED PRICE $79,950
ENGINE 3.0L DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel V-6, 254 hp @ 3,750 rpm/443 lb-ft @ 1,750-2,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine 4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 21/26/23 mpg (city/highway/combined)
L x W x H 195.6 x 87.4 x 73.5 in
WHEELBASE 115 in
WEIGHT 4,916 lb
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec
TOP SPEED 133 mph

OUR OPTIONS

360-degree parking aid $275
Activity key $400
Autonomous emergency braking $125
Capability Plus package $1,250
Drive Pro package $2,350
Front center console cooler compartment $350
Full-length black roof rails $400
Full-size spare wheel and tire $440
Head-up display $950
Loadspace cover $150
Loadspace partiton net $100
Namib Orange paint $1,495
Park Assist $800
Rear-seat entertainment $2,270
Rover Tow package $650
Vision Assist package $1,000

OUR 2017 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY HSE Td6 LUXURY

SPECIFICATIONS

 

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