My Land Rover Discovery 200Tdi perfectly summed up how the 1980s/1990s was a peak time for the motor car. They had become very good at many things, but weren’t burdened by over-complexity. How different the current Discovery is! Packed with computers, with an engine that’s barely accessible for some jobs with the body still fitted to the chassis. Dare I say it, but the fun of off-roading has gone too.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the current Discovery isn’t any good off road – far from it. It’s amazing what it can drag its heavy, shiny body through with barely any driver input. And there’s the crux of the problem. Where’s the fun if the vehicle is doing all of the work for you?
I absolutely loved testing my Discovery in off-road conditions. The long-travel suspension and lockable centre differential certainly helped when things got really difficult, but there was never any doubt that you still needed driver skill to cope with obstacles. I had to choose my line very carefully, and control the throttle input with hairline precision to avoid wheelspin and a loss of traction. I had to anticipate the terrain and take into account many variables, ensuring I was in the right gear at the right time. All challenging but great fun. I don’t really want a car where all I do is steer and let the computers sort it all out. I might as well play at driving on a computer game.
Mind you, it must be said that some off-roaders don’t seem to have much faith in their own skills. They bolt ever more kit to their 4x4s until they look like something out of Mad Max, then get annoyed when they get stuck. Especially if someone in say, a completely bog standard Land Rover Discovery (or even a Ford Maverick) gets through a section with no bother at all.
If all that gear is so necessary, why is that you can still see people having lots of fun in a near-standard Series One Land Rover at trials events?
No, you can keep your computers, snorkels, huge tyres and suspension lifts. When it comes to off-roading, I find you can have just as much fun in something older, simple and bog-standard – and stand a chance of fixing it if something breaks!