With the UK’s appetite for pick-up trucks having peaked during the past decade there is one very obvious loser in the van sector.
That loser is the commercial 4x4 whose numbers have steadily declined and, save for a few models, all but disappeared from the marketplace.
Mitsubishi with its Shogun Sport and Outlander models as well as Toyota’s Land Cruiser have been the most visible constants in the sector. At times certain Ssangyong models have been converted and there’s been Dacia, the Mini Clubvan and a handful of other short-lived wonders.
But Land Rover has, throughout all of this, also quietly been going about its business. The Land Rover Defender might be a more common sight in the farmyards where you might expect to see a 4x4 commercial vehicle, but the Land Rover Discovery Commercial has been a popular, if less publicised, option.
The sheer go-anywhere capabilities of the Discovery make it ideal for any off-road job, but it’s the combination of ability with comfort that makes it so appealing. For some the Defender might be a more appropriate work tool, but for now (at least until the new Defender is released as a commercial vehicle later this year) the Discovery will get you to the job more quietly and in far greater comfort.
Re-launched in late 2017, the Discovery Commercial came with a 2.0-litre SD4 Ingenium diesel engine, producing 238hp and 430Nm of torque. By the summer of the following year a second engine option was added: the 3.0-litre TD6 producing 306hp and an enormous 700Nm of torque. Both get a ZF-made automatic eight-speed gearbox as standard along with a twin-speed transfer box for high- and low-ratio driving.
To get you off-road far enough to use the low-ratio transmission the Discovery has an electronic centre differential and our test model was also fitted with an active rear locking diff (£1,060, excluding VAT). There’s electronic air suspension to make sure the ride is comfortable, even in the extremes – which it certainly is – and then come a raft of safety and stability functions including all-terrain progress control, hill descent control, roll stability control and gradient acceleration control. It all makes for a faultless off-road driving experience, which you would expect from a Land Rover.
On road, the Discovery Commercial is just as capable and surprisingly nippy too. The 2.0-litre engine works seamlessly with the eight-speed auto to give rapid and smooth gear changes making the 8.3-second 0-60mph sprint seem entirely plausible. The ride is exceptionally good for a 4x4, which is where pick-up truck owners often miss out, and when loaded with a small amount of weight there’s no noticeable change in the damping or dynamics of the Discovery.
Slightly disappointing is the noise levels, which were higher than expected for a premium SUV, but flip the switch and compare this to a commercial vehicle with an open bulkhead and the Discovery is obviously church-mouse quiet in comparison.
The interior is also next level compared to most commercial vehicles, and while the SE isn’t the most luxurious trim available it delivers a number of comforts above the standard S model’s electrically adjustable leather seats, aircon, and 10-inch touchscreen.
Navigation is added, along with heated electric folding mirrors, 360° parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, and a meaty 250W sound system. HSE increases the alloy wheel size from 19in to 20in and upgrades the leather seats and the sound system (up to 380W). There’s also keyless entry, blind-spot detection and a rear-view camera among the upgrades.
It’s a smart, sophisticated and comfortable package, which goes some way to justifying the pre-VAT £50,125 starting price.
The Discovery Commercial is immensely capable as well as comfortable, but the price tag is not something often found in an off-the-line light commercial vehicle. But a van it is, and it can definitely function as one with a 650kg payload and 1.8m3 of load volume, as well as a 3.5t towing capacity.
Land Rover Discovery Commercial 2.0 SD4 240hp HSE
Price (ex VAT) £50,125
Price range (ex VAT) £40,975-£52,875
Insurance group 40E
Service intervals 21,000mls
Load length 1,635mm
Load width (min/max) 1,411mm
Load bay height 939mm
Gross payload 653kg
Load volume 1.8m3
Engine size/power 1,999cc/238hp
Combined fuel economy 33.7mpg
With money no object, the Discovery Commercial is by far the most luxurious small van. It’s both good and bad: small volume capacity and enormous price tag; moderate payload and mega comfort.