The outer London boroughs are full of dramatic contrasts – take Enfield where I have spent the majority of my life so far; situated at the northern most edge of London you can find properties ranging from multi-million pound sprawling mansions right down to near-derelict towering blocks of flats, plus everything in between. As you might expect my humble abode falls into the latter category but my running routes often take me over the borders into both industrial wasteland and millionaire’s row; towards the western edge of the borough in particular is an area called Hadley Wood which has homes belonging to everyone from popstars to footballers to oligarchs, plus the odd X-Factor house or two!
Given the wealth that oozes out of Hadley Wood it is not too surprising that it is the location of my nearest Jaguar Land Rover dealership, and after writing my post about the new Land Rover Discovery Sport last week I decided to eat my own words and take a trip to have a look for myself – not just at the new model but also the other lush metal that lurks on the forecourt. My findings were a little mixed and although I really enjoyed the experience I was left a little disappointed with a few of Land Rover’s other models, although I still wouldn’t say no!
Land Rover’s smallest model came across as just that…small. The Evoque is a striking looking machine in the metal, and even though it has become a familiar sight on UK roads it’s visual appeal has not been dented – especially in 3 door coupe form. Inside the cabin itself is pretty nice in terms of material choice and layout (it’s certainly a notch up from the Disco Sport) but those small dimensions mean that it is pretty cramped and the driving position is not particularly high either, which for me is a major part of the appeal for an SUV.
The newest horse in the stable is the new base model in Land Rover’s line up, although size wise it is a noticeable notch up from the Evoque and because of it’s height appears noticeably bigger than rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. In the metal the Sport is more attractive than pictures suggest but it still lacks a little of the style from the Evoque and the visual clout of the brand’s larger models, especially when optioned with smaller (ie more sensible) wheels. Alas however inside is as disappointing as I thought it would be; cheaper plastics abound and although the metal bits of the cabin aren’t plastic as I thought it still lacks some of the premium atmosphere that it’s price would suggest. Thankfully though a little saving grace comes in the form of a very generous boot and those 2 extra rear seats which although very small are probably not much worse than those found in cars from the class above.
Despite some serious reservations about things like reliability and running costs I have to admit that I’ve become seriously enamored with the current Discovery over the past few weeks. That square and imposing styling cuts quite an impression on the road and although I am not really in need of the 7 seats and massive boot, they would be handy to have along with the decent levels of kit that XS models and above receive. However I couldn’t help coming away from Hadley Wood a little disappointed in some aspects of the Discovery; the first thing may sound silly but is something that really annoyed me not just on the Discovery but also the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover too – a very low door trim which makes the car feel a lot lower to the ground than it actually is. I know this is a very pinickity issue and probably something I would get used to but the massive expanse of metal below the door pocket strikes me as odd and is not present on any X5 I’ve ever seen (although I did also notice it in an Audi Q7). Neither was I a fan of the cheapy grained plastic that can be found either side of the main controls – it looks a lot better in pictures and seems inferior even compared to my 10 year old BMW. And although the car feels massive inside (and out) I did find it odd that the middle row of seats have relatively restricted legroom, I guess to give more room for those in the rearmost seats (which incidentally are frustrating and difficult to raise and lower).
Range Rover Sport:
Although I am never going to be able to afford the current generation Range Rover Sport as my next car it was still very nice to be able to say I’ve had a good sit in one of my favourite cars of the last few years. Probably what struck me the most about the Sport was just how cocooned you feel as the driver; the centre console is very high as is the infotainment screen and other controls, which results in an almost claustrophobic feel more akin to a sports-car than anything this high and large. I’m not sure if that’s really a criticism but it was different, as were the vast swathes of leather across the dashboard and the touchscreen interface (which seemed pretty out of date in my opinion…a definite critique there!). The rest of the interior came across as expensive and modern but maybe not as spacious as the car’s large exterior dimensions may suggest…apart from those throne-like front seats it seemed little bigger than the Discovery Sport and although the car I saw wasn’t equipped with 3rd row seats I find it hard to imagine there being much more space there either.
The previous generation Range Rover is very much a part of my dream garage and likely will do for a long time, so it’s successor had some pretty big boots to fill when it was launched a few years back. They are not an uncommon sight on the roads of Enfield and surrounding areas so I have gotten used to the sleeker looks and Dame Edna-esque headlights, and although I prefer the squarer looks of the previous model the new one is still an attractive machine and undoubtedly is much more modern inside and out. From pictures I had assumed that the interior of the bigger Rangie was a near carbon copy of the Sport’s, but in reality they came across as very different thanks to the former’s more traditional layout versus the sportscar one of the Sport I have previously mentioned. Personally I found myself leaning towards the larger car’s cabin purely because it’s throne-like seating position and spacious layout remind me more of my own X5, and also the aforementioned ‘low door’ of the Discovery and Range Rover Sport seemed less noticeable here too. No third row can be had on the Range Rover but that’s no bad thing, although I did find the optional electric rear seats a little over-complex and pretty useless given their likely price, I also thought the electrically operated 2 piece boot was a little crass given how little effort the bottom section takes to push back into place. Unfortunately though I was not completely blown over by the big Rangie…I mean I liked it but at over £100k for the car I sat in I just didn’t think it was worth the premium over the £70k Range Rover Sport I sat in, and it certainly didn’t feel like 3x the car the new Discovery Sport is – I guess I shouldn’t worry though as I don’t have that sort of money burning a hole in my pocket!