Land-Rover’s all new Discovery has made its public debut in the UK, nudging the mid-range SUV a notch or two upmarket. Unusually, the grown-up Disco follows the introduction of the smaller Discovery Sport – normally the derivative comes after the main event – but Jaguar Land-Rover (JLR) have the confidence to approach things differently these days. The smaller car filled the gap left by the old Freelander model, while the Discovery itself slots in just under the prestigious Range Rover line-up.
And “prestige” is a word Land Rover hopes to tag onto this model too. While the price point remains, more or less, on par with the previous generation Discovery (£43,500-£52,500), the contemporary design, improved comfort and updated tech will attract a slightly more refined class of customer than before.
Of course, the all-important “Land-Roverness” is present and correct, with the usual world-beating off-road credentials cleverly stitched into the urbane outfit, but this Discovery is more of a designer suit than a hiking boot.
There are those who bemoan Land-Rover’s persistent upwards spiral into the posher echelons of the market. They would pop a vein if they found out that the seating of their beloved go-anywhere, do-anything utility truck was now configurable by smartphone, or that it comes with nine USB points and WiFi connectivity for up to eight devices. But those are not the people JLR are needing to recruit to the brand. Those people, who actually used the swiss-army-knife of SUVs to climb every mountain and ford every stream, will hang on to their old Discos for another few generations, or at least until the all new Defender family breaks cover, filling the void left by the Discovery’s upward mobility.
The new Discovery should be thought of as the ultimate family estate car, with all the real-world practicality a modern family needs. The interior gets a more luxurious feel, but the chunky buttons remain where it might have been tempting to replace them all with contemporary touch-screen controls. That being said, the infotainment screen can double up as a control panel to access phone apps – something that has, quite frankly, taken car makers far too long to get around to developing.
Space inside is generous with five seats in place, but the 1,137L boot shrinks to a paltry 258L with the two rear seats in use. Fold all the rear seats flat, either with the touch of a button, or a tap on the phone, and 2,406L becomes available for all the bits and pieces you might need to lug down to the local dump of a long weekend. To keep the leather in good nick, the middle row of seats won’t fold completely flat until you press the button again to force the seat backs to press down further.
For towing the caravan down to the coast, the Discovery has added tech to keep the trailer in check and includes some autonomous wizardry to help drivers manoeuvre without the need to have someone with no towing experience stand outside shouting confusing directions to the driver. Those who do tow will be happy to note that the Discovery retains the magic 3,500kg towing capacity that sets Land Rovers apart from most other posh-roaders.
If on-road performance is your thing, then you’ll find the 3.0L Petrol engine does the business away from the lights in 6.9seconds. There is a 3.0L Diesel engine available too for those who just need to get on with more serious work. Thanks to new lightweight aluminium construction, the new Discovery can also be ordered with JLR’s 2.0L four-cylinder “Ingenium” Diesel engine, squeezing an impressive 43.5mpg from the big 4×4.
Outside the overall shape is unmistakably Land-Rover, with the new family face giving the front end an aggressive look, while a narrower glasshouse area makes it look more planted than the sit-up-and-beg stance of the outgoing model. There are a few nods to the old style such as the minutely stepped roof-line and an offset rear number plate – an odd design feature rendered redundant by the absence of the boot-mounted spare wheel.
Anyone who follows this blog will know that the Discovery has had a fraught relationship with technological enhancements over the years. The new customers that Land Rover is hoping to win over, when the car goes on sale in Spring 2017, will demand the highest levels of quality and JLR is now confident it can deliver this with the all new Discovery 5.