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Words by Grant Spolander. Words by Grant Spolander. Pictures by Grant Spolander and Jess Fogarty.

Off-road test: Land Rover Discovery 4 XS
Our Technical Editor, Grant Spolander, conducts SA’s first off-road test of the Discovery 4 XS; a vehicle that hopes to eliminate what is commonly regarded as the D4’s weaknesses. The question is: can it do so without exposing its own imperfections?

 We don’t care that the Discovery 4 has won countless awards and accolades, as we’re happy to proclaim the Disco 4 as Land Rover’s best 4x4xfar from our own experience. The D4’s unrivalled strength lies in its ability to combine on-road performance with extreme off-road ability, without compromising either. Remarkably, this vehicle has very few weaknesses; but ever since its launch in ’09, contention has surrounded the Disco 4’s low-profile tyres, hefty tare weight and automatic lowering suspension.

Of course, the average Joe couldn’t care less about these things; it was the overlander market (you and me) that had so much to say. So much, in fact, that Land Rover decided to launch a new stripped-down version of the Discovery 4: a budget model with less bling-bling and more... umm, simplicity. Enter: the Discovery 4 XS.

Ironically, the pronunciation of the name sounds a lot like the word “excess”, which is exactly what the Discovery XS is trying to avoid. Perhaps it’s a play on words, but the point is, unlike its top-of-the-range HSE sibling, the XS doesn’t feature leather seats or a fancy infotainment system with reversing camera, satellite navigation or luxury what-have-you.

Honestly, you’re not missing much. Like most OE-fitted navigation systems, the Discovery 4’s satnav is ineffective and overly complicated. Most of us favour our own GPS units anyway, or a smartphone loaded with Google Maps. With regard to the above-mentioned leather seats: you can still spec cowhide as an optional extra, but in my opinion, there’s no need, as the XS’s seat fabric is bloody brilliant! The material feels hard-wearing, comfortable, and of very high quality. It also grips you in your seat, so that you don’t slide around as you do on leather.

Then there’s the rear ventilation system, which, in the XS’s case, is restricted to air vents and no ability to control individual temperatures. However, at a saving of R250k when compared to the HSE model, who gives a hoot what passengers want?

A more important, and the most distinguishable, difference between the XS and other Disco 4 models is the absence of a third row. In other words, rather than being a 7-seater, the Disco XS can seat only five. It’s an interesting move, and one that follows, chronologically anyway, Nissan’s recent decision to launch a 5-seater Pathfinder. According to Nissan’s market research, it seems that most people don’t want, or need, a 7-seater SUV.

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