What we were looking for
Refinement, comfort and poise combined with intelligent use of space inside. The winner's constitution must be strong enough to handle off-road challenges.
Land Rover Discovery 2.7 TDV6 SE auto
List price £39,100
Target Price £36,480
First, this is a fantastic family car. Need to seat seven adults? It will do that. Need to transport a wardrobe? It will do that as well. There are storage spaces everywhere, so even the most demanding of children will be able to take everything with them.
The Discovery is built to withstand family life. The high-quality plastics feel robust and classy, while the wipe-clean surfaces take the sting out of transporting mucky kids and pets.
The elevated driving position is a boon, as is the fantastic visibility, so this king-sized 4x4 is easy to drive, even in city streets.
You won't feel many potholes, either. It's great at dismissing the very worst lumps and bumps that British roads have to offer.
With some large 4x4s, a pliant ride comes at the expense of poise in corners. Not so here. It's a big, heavy off-roader, so it's not going to be lithe, but it never loses its composure and the level of body lean is tightly controlled. There will be no complaints about feeling sick in a Discovery.
It's even better as speed increases. Engine and road noise are particularly well isolated and the Discovery feels super-stable on the motorway. With a 500-mile cruising range, it's a consummate long-distance car.
Being a Land Rover, off-road ability is a given. True, not every 4x4 owner will take their car into the wilds, but it's an integral part of the appeal of these cars that they can. Rest assured, your nerve will fail before the Discovery gets stuck.
So, it's refined, perfect for a family and great on- and off-road. It's also loaded with kit; its Tonka-toy looks have a chunky appeal; and that premium badge keeps resale values high.
True, the 2.7-litre diesel engine can occasionally struggle to shift the hefty Discovery with meaningful urge, but it's brisk enough most of the time and wonderfully hushed at a cruise.
The best news is that all this ability can be yours for £36,363, or less if you bargain hard at the dealer.
It's not a completely rosy picture, however. Land Rover's reliability record isn't good. It came 26th out of 26 manufacturers in our 2007 reliability supertest (What Car?, January 2008), as it did in the 2006 survey (What Car?, December 2006).
The reader reviews on whatcar.com point to various problems with this Discovery, too.
That still doesn't stop us recommending the Discovery, though. It's the best large 4x4 you can buy.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRTD GSi 7st
List price £22,977
Target Price £21,695
Land Rover Range Rover TDV8 Vogue
List price £62,600
Target Price £60,409