Attending Tire Rack’s Street Survival School with Our Four Seasons 2017 Land Rover Discovery

And running up the odometer with a road trip to Indiana

South Bend, Indiana, seemed like the perfect distance from Metro Detroit for a two-day roundtrip to push the range on our 2017 Land Rover Discovery. I left Friday afternoon with 12,056 miles on the Disco’s clock; returned Saturday and drove it to work Monday, after a couple of short weekend errands, with 486 miles added. A fill-up took 19.99 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel. The tank holds 22.5 gallons, so at my 24.3-mpg average, range should be about 545 miles.

That tops the Disco’s 23 mpg EPA combined rating, and it’s 2 mpg short of the highway number, which in a post-VW Dieselgate world is not bad.

Why did I pick South Bend? Because I get all the glamour trips.

In this case, I drove to Tire Rack’s headquarters to help them celebrate the 1,000th class of its Street Survival program for teenage drivers. I spent the school hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday observing the classroom and track instruction of 11 young drivers.

Sponsored by Tire Rack, the BMW Car Club of America Foundation, Enterprise, Michelin and the Sports Car Club of America, the school will have taken to the road for 106 or 107 school in locations around the U.S. and Canada by the end of this year. The school usually costs just $75 per student, though it was waived for the 1,000th class. Teens showed up in a variety of cars, including a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, an E46 BMW 330i sedan, and a well-broken-in Pontiac Bonneville. Tire Rack made each student check his or her pressures before taking to the retailer’s testing course with its inner skidpad. Street Survival uses coned parking lots (sometimes at road racing courses) and airstrips around the U.S. and Canada.

This morning, the track was coned off into a slalom course and a braking test. For the afternoon, the young drivers switched from counter-clockwise to clockwise on the skidpad and the braking test was changed to a lane-change exercise. There was a steady rain in the morning, and in the afternoon, Tire Rack watered down its skidpad. There was a lot of repetition, but for my ride-along, instructor Arnie Coleman, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, pushed 16-year-old Jason Margush of Goshen, Indiana, to let his parents’ E46 BMW 325i wagon get loose on the slippery skidpad. Good, safe, fun driving.

“What makes this program different is that the students use their cars, or their parents’ cars,” Coleman explained.

Wrapped around compelling on-test track practice are classroom sessions first thing in the morning, and then immediately after lunch. National program director Bill Wade was the instructor here.

“There are no accidents,” he said, reflecting a recent change in attitude toward the word, “accident,” among safety advocates. He attacked distracted driving, too. “Nearly 80 percent of crashes, and 65-percent of near-crashes are due to distractions that occur three seconds before the crash.”

Wade’s classroom instruction includes lessons on how to properly set your seat, tilt/telescope wheel and mirrors, plus vehicle control skills and the physics of contact patches and weight transfer. “This is Tire Rack, after all,” Wade said.

Students got to sit in the driver’s seat of a tractor/trailer to learn how hard it is to see a Toyota MR-Spyder and Porsche Cayenne in the “lane” next to them. Then, instructors exploded an airbag on a disembodied steering wheel for the students and their parents.

Afternoon classroom sessions end with dire warnings on the hazard of texting and driving, including a replay of AT&T’s hard-hitting video on the subject, first released some eight years ago.

There was no need to distract myself, even with a voice-command call to my wife, during the 230-odd miles back to Metro Detroit. A rest stop along the Indiana toll road and a coffee stop just north of the border afforded that opportunity.

But I could not do anything about the information-entertainment touchscreen. The Landie’s physical volume-control knob is nice, but changing radio stations can take one’s eyes off the road for too long, especially if you want to listen to FM and not Sirius/XM when you’re out of range for your presets.

Setting the navigation system when driving alone should always be done at the side of the road, as Land Rover’s system is less intuitive than most. I couldn’t figure out how to call up previous destinations and the series of commands had me hitting the “back” button more often than usual. I’m with Automobile contributor Marc Noordeloos on this: the touchscreen needs to go.

Otherwise, our 4Seasons Land Rover Discovery is settling in the Detroit Bureau nicely. Our local dealer fixed the improperly fitted a-pillar black trim piece early on, and several weeks later, we returned to the dealer’s service bay to have an tint-less rear-quarter window replaced with a tinted one, to match the other side. Land Rover covered both repairs.

I’m getting used to the turbo lag at tip-in, simply by launching into traffic only when there’s a bit more of a gap than I would allow for, say, the Discovery’s gas V-6. This, after all, is what you should expect from a turbocharged diesel engine, at least as a tradeoff for meeting emissions standards. Once I became used to the turbo lag and the radio-lag, the Land Rover Discovery proved to be a supremely comfortable vacation hauler for my wife and myself, and our three collies when heading up to our new, humble little cabin 175 miles to the north. I find the ride plenty of comfortable, especially considering how well the Disco handles the dirt roads near the cabin, though I’d like a bit more body control when it comes to squat and dive.

Publisher Eric Schwab, an aficionado of luxury cars and trucks, took advantage of the Discovery’s 7,716-pound tow rating (it’s 8,201 pounds if you order the gas V-6) to tow the corporate TEN party trailer to a tailgate party. He also added miles with a run to Tire Rack in South Bend, and used the Disco to tailgate for a Wolverines football game at the University of Michigan’s Big House in Ann Arbor. Put aside the niggling issues we have with the Land Rover Discovery’s touchscreen, we’re quickly racking up miles in this adventure-luxury workhorse.

Our 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 Luxury

MILES TO DATE 12,542
PRICE $66,945/$79950 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel V-6, 254 hp @ 3,750 rpm/443 lb-ft. @ 1,750-2,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine 4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 21/26/23 mpg (city/highway/combined)
L x W x H: 195.6 x 87.4 x 73.5 in
WHEELBASE 115 in
WEIGHT 4,916 lb
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec
TOP SPEED 133 mph