Land Rover Discovery long-term update: Disco glamping
We've already done some serious road-tripping in our long-term Discovery, but never with something like this in tow.
Tim StevensFormer editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
If you're driving a $82,100 luxury SUV like our long-term 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury, the notion of heading to a US National Park and going camping might seem a bit... curious. But, there's camping and then there's camping, and what we did was definitely in the territory of glamping. This, friends, is glamorous camping at its best courtesy of the latest and greatest that Airstream has to offer.
If you're unfamiliar with the chrome, loaf-shaped trailers, Airstream has been an American icon in travel trailers since the mid 1930s. The polished-aluminum trailers demand a stiff premium over the competition, making up for it with luxurious appointments on the inside. And, increasingly, techy ones too.
Our Land Rover Discovery looks at home in the woods
And while there are certainly cheaper big SUVs on the market than the Discovery, it's also winning us over with its luxurious interior accommodations. The Discovery has kept us cozy over 7,100 miles (and counting) of highways and byways in the Northeastern US. For the camping trip, I engaged on Roadshow's longest road trip yet, to Acadia National Park in southern Maine.
Airstream offered me a 19-foot Flying Cloud for the weekend, a trailer that sets the mark at about 3,800 pounds at the scales when dry -- closer to 4,000 when its 23-gallon fresh water tank is full. That fits comfortably inside our Discovery's 8,200-pound maximum towing capacity. The hitch height was just about perfect too, enabling me to skip the drop-ball mounts many larger tow vehicles would require. However, before towing something like this with your Discovery, check with your dealer and with your RV retailer about the need for a trailer brake controller, hitch sway-bar or weight distribution system.
The drive itself wasn't quite as effortless as, say, towing a car trailer behind Roadshow's former long-term ride, the Nissan Titan XD, but in fairness, that's a semi-heavy-duty pickup. The Discovery had plenty of power to get up to speed and maintain it, however, even on the many hills I had to climb on the way up to Maine. On uneven lanes and windy portions of the 10-hour drive, the getup could be a bit of a handful, but never felt unsafe. My biggest concern was snaking through a series of narrow, single-lane MA construction zones bordered by an endless series of cones. Spotting the extents of the Airstream's fenders was a challenge. If you're planning on frequently towing with a Discovery, you may want to consider outrigger mirrors.
I pulled into the campsite well past sundown, a late arrival thanks to having to make far more fuel stops than anticipated. (We've been averaging around 18 MPG in the Discovery in normal driving conditions.) After hitching up the Airstream, that figure dropped to about 10 MPG. That meant stopping every few hours to top up the 23.5-gallon tank -- an expensive and time-consuming process.
Backing the trailer into the narrow campsite in the pitch-black National Park evening was a challenge all by itself -- and one that wasn't helped by the Discovery's Tow Assist feature. The Disco comes with a large, square sticker that looks like a simplified QR code. In theory, you can slap that on the front of your trailer and the Discovery will more or less back itself up automatically into a spot.
Sadly, it didn't work. At least, not here. The system requires the sticker be applied a minimum of three feet behind the rear of the Discovery. Thanks to the shroud covering the propane tanks in the Airstream, that wasn't possible. That meant I had to back up the trailer the old fashioned way: Having my wife get out with a flashlight and yell directions. A few minutes later, we were in position.
The Airstream I borrowed was a special, Tommy Bahama edition that came complete with branded everything, tropical colors throughout, and an eye-opening $79,995 price tag. That is, simply, a massive amount of money for a 19-foot trailer, but if you can afford it you'll be living in luxury.
In the front you'll find a small dining area that folds into a bed, next to a tiny cooktop, oven and sink. Behind is a surprisingly cavernous refrigerator flanked by storage for the TB-branded wine glasses. Up front you'll also find the interface for the Bluetooth-enabled sound system, which links up with speakers scattered throughout the Airstream.
There is, of course, an HDTV, mounted on the wall above the main bed, which tucks into the rear corner of the trailer. Just to the side of that is a toilet area and small shower, both blocked off courtesy of a trick, dual-hinged door. This either gives you extra room for your morning constitutional or folds away to give you even more bedroom.
For a couple, it's cozy but comfortable. Adding a pair of large dogs into the mix made for some occasionally awkward stumbles in the dark, but that didn't keep the Airstream from being a really nice place to spend a long weekend. The 23-gallon water tank was plenty for my group, even when we took daily showers. And thanks to the power connection at the campsite, we didn't need to worry about draining the trailer's batteries.
What comes next? Well, it's time for the Disco to migrate to the midwest. We took a road trip out to Detroit in the middle of winter... which didn't go so well. Stay tuned for that.