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The joy of discovery

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| winter 2014


m oto ring

Winter is exploration season in southern Africa. It is also the perfect time to enjoy one of the granddaddies of road trip culture, Land Rover, which this year celebrates 25 years of the Discovery. WO R DS

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The author meets the ‘Greybeard of African Adventure’, Kingsley Holgate, in Botswana. Above

School children play football on a dusty playground in Botswana.

een to see how the new face-lifted 2014 Land Rover Discovery cuts the mustard, I took a shiny new 3.0 TDV6 XS through a rain-blessed Zambia and Botswana with keen intent on returning it very dirty, bowed and possibly even defeated. Prior to spending time with the “Disco” in soggy Botswana, I had often wondered why 4X4 drivers insist on travelling twice as quickly as necessary through standing water, creating gleeful bow waves. The answer, as it turns out, is that it’s an enormous joy and should be attempted every time the opportunity presents itself – which I dutifully did. So what’s new about this seven-seater Discovery? Subtle tweaks are the order of the day, and you’d need to be obsessed with Land Rover to notice that the badge now proclaims “Discovery”, rather than “Land Rover”. But this is still a ruggedly attractive vehicle, and it has received a number of useful upgrades – enough to keep it contemporary and competitive.

Over the horizon Land Rover is rolling out a major shake-up of its range structure, creating a multitude of variants defined within three distinct families: The luxury Range Rover series, the leisure Discovery series and the utilitarian Defender series. Next year we say goodbye to the Land Rover Freelander and say hello to the baby Discovery. Currently internally designated as the L550, it will become the Discovery Sport. Cheaper than the Evoque from which it takes its styling cues, a standard five-seat and a stretched seven-seater will be available.

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Need to know 2014 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 HSE Price: 3.0 TDV6 XS from R653 500 to 3.0 V6 S/C HSE at R919 200 Power/torque: 183 kW/600Nm Top speed: 180 km/h Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 9.3sec Fuel economy: 8.8 litres/100 km combined CO2 emissions: 230 g/km

I loved the very cool “wade-sensor”, which uses the display screen to indicate just how deep I’m getting into that tempting, watery primordial gloop. No more “should I, shouldn’t I?” as the wade sensor takes the guesswork out of it, informing me of my depth up to the impressive 700mm wading limit. Although the Discovery weighs a hefty 2 570 kg, it drives beautifully, thanks in part to the air suspension and seriously clever Terrain Response system – an electronic widget that selects the best ride height setting, using a combination of stability control,

throttle response and gearbox shift pattern, all according to the terrain. This all adds to a computer-controlled centre differential, electronically controlled transfer box, and a locking rear diff, which maintains Land Rover’s tradition of providing capabilities that are in excess of what most owners will ever need. In short, this car is virtually unstoppable off road. At idle, only the faintest noise was perceptible and I could just occasionally hear it when on the move. Ride comfort is phenomenal. The huge potholes encountered in Botswana were dismissed with quiet disdain.

above

Botswana experienced the heaviest rainfall for two decades. Perfect for testing the newly refreshed Discovery.

The most travelled man in Africa An endorsement for an all-terrain vehicle could be no more coveted than one coming from the Greybeard of African Adventure, Kingsley Holgate. One of Africa’s most colourful modern-day explorers, his weapon of choice is none other than the new Discovery. He’s pioneered a 448-day, 33-country geographic and humanitarian expedition to track the outline of Africa, earning the accolade of the most successful expedition ever undertaken in support of Malaria prevention. I spoke to Kingsley in Botswana and asked him what occupies his thoughts these days. “I feel blessed to be born under African skies, and with my family and team of fellow adventurers privileged to live the life of a modern-day adventurer. It’s all about the shared energy of people who care for Mama Africa,” he says.

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Getting down and dirty

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Louvain old Voortrekker Pass 4X4 Trail  tarting from the working farm Louvain, S between George and Uniondale, this 30km historic ox wagon route dates back to 1776, and takes about two and a half undemanding hours to complete, rewarding you with superb vistas over the Indian Ocean.

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Burchell’s Track 4x4 trail From the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay the R339 road towards Diepwalle gives way to De Vlugt and the Burchill Camp. Here you can follow the trail of early pioneers on this 1814 trail burnished by British botanist W.J. Burchell. Set within the Middle Keurbooms Conservancy, this 20km track rewards you with at least four distinct biomes, from indigenous forest to renosterveld. From the Pietersrivier farm, over Skuurbeknek near De Vlugt this eco-route is a delight for those keen on nature conservation. There are some great water crossings, steep side slopes and several hill climbs and worthy descents. Pack an epicurious picnic and stop at a forest stream at the halfway mark to savour a true “bucket list” moment.

Everyday-use is enhanced for pottering around between George and Plett, with the addition of automatic stop-start for the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine, which brings CO2 emissions down. This isn’t a quick car but it does offer unparalleled refinement through its eight-speed gearbox as it chooses ratios intelligently, making what performance is available feel more zestful. Best of all, on the inside it’s business as usual with its very high driving position, cavernous room and well-made interior. Don’t race any BMW X5s or Porsche Cayennes into twisty ribbons of tarmac though. Its sheer mass induces a fair degree of body roll. The Discovery is not about point-topoint bursts of speed. It’s about charging towards the next obstacle with a broad smile planted on your face as muddy water cascades up over the Discovery’s bluff nose. Simply put, this car is everything you’d ever need; it has such an exceptional range of abilities that in almost every area there is the potential to create the kind of adventures you’d never considered possible in a passenger vehicle.

above

Kingsley distributed mosquito nets as part of the One Net One Life anti-malaria campaign, as well as spectacles and educational aids. below

There are few places the Discovery cannot go, and it offers supreme confidence everywhere it goes.

photographs supplied

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Swartberg Pass Thomas Bains had a head for heights, and his winding gravel roads reward you with outrageously beautiful scenery over the inland peaks of the Swartberg Mountain between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn. Opened to horse and carts in 1886, I think it’s one of the world’s most astonishing mountain roads. Explore the hidden valley of Die Hel or take a pleasant day drive from Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert, returning via Meiringspoort and De Rust.

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The Joy of Discovery  

Land Rover Discovery MY is brilliant. Read about it in the Garden Route magazine, South.

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