Large, luxurious and very clever, this is a great pre-owned buy, says Euan Doig.

If you have a large and heavy caravan or trailer to tow, you need a large and heavy car to tow it with, and in this regard there is simply nothing finer than the Land Rover Discovery.

This fifth iteration of the range is definitely the best. It's undeniably large, certainly luxurious, and despite Land Rover's sterling efforts at weight reduction, still a bit of a chubber at almost 2.2 tonnes.

Still while it is big, it's also extremely clever, with a four-wheel-drive system that will drag the Discovery up anything short of a wall, and suspension that can be raised and lowered to aid access or wade through deep water.

Something else tow car buyers will like is the Advanced Tow Assist, which allows you to control the direction of your trailer when reversing using the central terrain response controller. As we said, clever. If you're in the market for a used Discovery, it would be well worth taking some extra time to find a car with this system installed.

Model history

The Discovery is renowned as a tow car, to the extent that it has won the heavyweight category for 12 of the 13 years our Tow Car Awards have been running.

For this fifth-generation car, Land Rover wanted something that looked completely modern and in keeping with the latest range, but with some traditional elements. Hence the presence of the off-set rear numberplate. However, where it was offset for a reason in previous models, here it's merely an affectation.

That's the only bad news though, because the Discovery is superb everywhere else.

A heavyweight outfit needs a strong powerplant, so the best you can choose is the 3.0-litre TD6 diesel, which generates 254bhp and 443lb ft of pulling power in early models. However, later cars are even stronger, with 302bhp and 526lb ft. Basically, if the Discovery is unable to scale a mountain, it's strong enough to pull it out of the way.

There are other engines - two four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesels, a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol and a 3.0-litre petrol V6 that's supercharged - but the TD6 is the best for tow car buyers.

Inside, there's little to touch the Discovery, because it has a vast amount of space for five people, and the usual Command driving position that gives the driver such a clear view.

There are also two rear seats that are fine even for adults, and a truly vast load area.

The driving experience is one of complete luxury, because the engine keeps itself to itself, with little wind noise, and the ride is aimed at the comfortable end of the scale.

The downside of the soft ride is that handling is rather on the ponderous side. Still, do you really buy a Discovery to hustle? No, of course not.

Land Rover has given the Discovery a lot of standard kit, including air conditioning, air suspension and a central touchscreen on even entry-level cars. Moving up the range brings heated front seats, sat nav, auto lights and wipers, heated middle-row seats, four-zone climate control, a sunroof, and heated and cooled seats.

Land Rover also offers the Advanced Tow Assist pack, and there's an electrically deployable tow bar, so it could be worth looking for a model with these.

As a tow car, the Discovery 5 is without equal, which is why it has been our heavyweight Tow Car of the Year for the past three years, and scooped the overall award in 2017.

It can pull away towing a trailer on even a 1-in-3 slope, remains unflustered by rapid lane-changes, and stops quickly and in a straight line.

Trouble spots

The current-shape Discovery has had few problems so far, which is good news for anyone buying pre-owned. Recalls include one for emissions results that can vary and exceed the stated figure in the official literature. A number of Jaguars and Land Rovers were affected, so the Discovery is not alone.

Some models were recalled because of faulty welding on the fuel rail, which could cause a fuel leak. The next recall concerned a passenger airbag, and then a faulty fuel return pipe caused another recall.

Next up was a recall for a software update, to make sure that the car's autonomous emergency braking system would function correctly.

Finally, some models have been recalled to have the crankshaft pulley bolt replaced, because it could fail.

So make sure any car you're looking at has had those issues attended to and you'll be fine.

The good news is that only the earliest cars are at the end of their warranty periods.

Finally, ensure that any car you're considering still has the spare wheel (which resides under the rear of the vehicle) present. There have been a few reports of spares being stolen.

Verdict

Buying a Land Rover Discovery represents a significant financial undertaking, but the good news is that you're getting an absolute peach of a car for your money.

It is supremely capable as a tow car, and a wonderfully relaxing way to get around when not hitched up.

Better still, when you pull up in a Discovery, people immediately know that you've 'arrived'.

However, it'll get through a fair amount of fuel, is no ball of fire, and Land Rover's reliability record isn't perfect. Nevertheless, go in with your eyes open and the Discovery is a great car to live with.

Land Rover Discovery - need to know

How much? £32,000-£90,000

Even the earliest current-shape Discovery models have a five-figure price tag that starts with a three.

For that, you'll get a four-cylinder diesel with around 40,000 miles showing. But it's unlikely to have been lightly used and will be full of kit. Raising the budget to £50k will net you a low-mileage example with a good chunk of its warranty remaining.

If your budget is higher than that, you'll be looking at nearly new examples that have rarely done more than the school run.

What will it tow?

  • Kerbweight 2298kg
  • 85% match 1951kg
  • Towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight limit 195kg

How much is a towball?

  • Witter flange towbar £233.50
  • Witter detachable towbar £358.78
  • Fitting extra (from pfjones.co.uk)

What about servicing?

  • Interim service £88.26
  • Full service £129.37
  • (Prices supplied by Servicing Shop, 0844 324 5262, www.servicingstop.co.uk)

The good and the not so good

Top tug: 3.0 Td6 HSE

The perfect blend of capability and luxury. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel is strong, while HSE trim provides all of the luxury kit you could want.

Barge pole: 2.0 Si4 S

You really expect more kit in a Discovery, and the 2.0-litre turbo petrol simply isn't gutsy enough to haul around a heavy trailer