Shipwright Nick Gates explains why the new Land Rover Discovery 4 is a brilliant all-round workhorse in any boatyard
As a shipwright, towing boats is a major part of my daily work. The start and end of each season will see me launching and recovering 25 boats or more. Although some require the yard’s travel hoist and crane to get them in and out of the water, I look after many of them myself. Most of my customers sail cruising yachts of over 25ft in length, so I need a very capable vehicle – one that can cope with towing boats of a considerable weight.
Land Rovers have long been my vehicle of choice, especially when it comes to towing, so I was fascinated to see how the 2012 model Land Rover Discovery 4 would perform. One of its main attractions is an impressive towing capacity of 31⁄2 tonnes, which is equal to a braked trailer and a 21⁄2-tonne boat, such as a Contessa 26.
The yard where I work, Emsworth Yacht Harbour in Hampshire, has a rather steep slipway, so I was keen to see how the Discovery 4 would cope with hauling out a 13⁄4-tonne Hunter Legend 25. I’d already tried the vehicle at my local off-roading site, where it took on anything I could throw at it, so I wasn’t surprised to see it make light work of a slimy, seaweed- covered slipway with a 30° gradient. The Discovery 4 boasts excellent grip and, with the Terrain Response ® System settings adjusted accordingly, to allow for the slippery surface, it retrieved the Legend with no difficulty.
A key feature of this latest model is Land Rover’s patented Tow Assist technology – part of the Surround Camera System – which makes hitching up and towing trailers an absolute doddle. You simply select the type of trailer on the dashboard touchscreen – choose between boat trailer, caravan, horsebox and more – and the screen displays trajectory lines that predict the path of the vehicle and trailer. You can also punch in the length of the wheelbase from the hitch to the centre of the wheels and the number of axles.
The Surround Camera System is seriously impressive. It’s like being in a security guard’s CCTV room, with five cameras providing a near 360° view of the vehicle. Manoeuvring around the boatyard, the different camera views helped me squeeze into tight spaces with no risk of hitting anything, either with the car or the boat on the trailer. The cameras also made hitching up a trailer really easy -I don’t even need someone to help me. The trajectory lines provided by the Tow Assist technology were a boon and the Surround Camera System extends your line of sight when reversing around a corner.
I also do a fair bit of long-distance towing. The 2012 model Discovery 4 is so comfortable and silky smooth to drive that this couldn’t be more relaxing – it’s easy to forget you’re towing 31⁄2 tons. Unlike my previous Land Rovers, it has four-corner air suspension, which makes it extremelystable when towing. This, combined with the Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) feature, makes towing on a long run stress-free and safer, too, as the TSA feature helps bring wayward trailers under control by slowing the vehicle with careful braking, which stops them from swaying from side to side.
All in all, the 2012 model Discovery 4’s performance is hard to beat – I’m amazed how much they’ve managed to improve an already excellent vehicle. It comes up trumps both at home and at work, and has certainly convinced me that a 2012 model Land Rover Discovery 4 is the way forward.
*Not all features are standard on all derivatives.