The all-new Land Rover Discovery is sleek and sophisticated enough to wear a Range Rover badge. What that means, though, is that the Disco has lost a bit of its original essence.
While attending the launch of the all-new Discovery, we watched as a lifestyle journalist proceeded to photograph a Range Rover Sport being used by the support crew, clearly oblivious to the fact that this was not the vehicle being launched. While this was a rather egregious error, it does tell you something about the Land Rover Discovery’s nature. The all-new Disco is so impressive that it is almost indistinguishable from the company’s Range Rover vehicles. It is sophisticated, plush and technologically advanced. Sure, there are some nods to the history of the Discovery – there’s the signature stepped roofline, for example – but overall, it looks and performs more like a Range Rover Sport than the vehicle it replaces. To be sure, it is a better vehicle than its predecessor, but not quite as charming.
Like the Defender, the previous Discovery was a boxy SUV that looked perfectly at home in the African bush. The all-new Discovery (Land Rover is adamant that it is not the Discovery 5) is a completely different animal. Like other recent Land Rover creations (the Disco Sport and Range Rover Sport, specifically), it is sleek and sloping. This evolution is hardly surprising, since it brings the Disco’s design in line with the rest of the company’s vehicles, but it is nevertheless a tad disappointing. The new Discovery feels like a more generic creation than its predecessor. That said, Land Rover is clearly aware that this is a substantial reimaging of the Discovery that’s sure to result in grumbling among hardcore fans, but still seems confident that it was a necessary change.
“The Discovery family has always had a spirit of adventure and the new model provides a dramatic reinterpretation of Discovery’s 27 years of heritage and practical DNA with a sophisticated design that pays homage to previous models without being restrained by them,” states the company press release. From the front and side, the Disco looks similar to the Range Rover Sport, but the Sport has a sloping roofline, while the Discovery has that stepped roof. The rear of the Discovery is also more bulbous, lacking the sharp and sleek lines of the Sport. The reason for this, of course, is the vehicle’s third-row accommodation. Like its predecessor, the all-new Discovery boats impressive seven-seat capability. According to Land Rover, 95% of adults will be able to sit comfortably in the rear two seats, and indeed, we found the back of the Discovery to be surprisingly spacious.
Like the interior of the previous model, the new Discovery’s cabin is not only sophisticated and minimalist in appearance, but also very practical. Using Land Rover’s Intelligent Seat Fold technology, seats in the second and third rows can be individually configured with minimal effort. Drivers can adjust this configurable seating using controls at the rear of the vehicle, a seat-control menu in the central touchscreen and remote control functionality in the Land Rover smartphone app. Load capacity behind the second row of seats is 1 231 litres. With all seats folded flat, that figure more than doubles to 2 500 litres. Another great feature of the new Discovery is all that stowage space. There’s around 45 litres of space, scattered across 12 areas, including a dual-compartment cubbyhole, multiple centre console stowage areas, door pockets and under-floor compartments. There is even a hidden stowage pocket for smartphones or wallets behind the climate control panel on the central console.
Connectivity is another big aspect of the Discovery. As mentioned, many features and functions can be controlled with the help of an app. The Disco also has something called InControl Connect Pro, which uses 3G connectivity to create a wireless hotspot for up to eight smartphones, laptops or tablets. With this connectivity, the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system gains internet access, allowing for satellite navigation with live traffic and integration with popular apps on drivers’ smartphones. To ensure that the whole family’s devices are always charged and connected, the vehicle can be specified with up to nine USB ports and six 12-volt sockets.
Another interesting new feature is the Discovery’s single-piece tailgate. Unlike the previous model, the latest Disco has a single tailgate that tilts upwards. Without that bottom tailgate in front of you, it’s much easier to reach into the luggage area. If you’re lamenting the fact that the tailgate can no longer be used as a makeshift worktable, not to worry: there’s a powered 285mm-long inner tailgate that is capable of handling 300kg, and which can be deployed with the push of a button once the tailgate is open.
Only two engine derivatives are available at present. There is the supercharged 3.0-litre Si6 that develops 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, and the TDV6 diesel engine that offers an equally impressive 190kW and 600Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic ZF transmission. The oilburner is sure to be the most popular, offering a good balance between perfor-mance and economy. The TDV6 can accelerate from 0–100km/h in 8.1 seconds and has a top speed of 209km/h. Fuel consumption, meanwhile, is pegged at around 7.8 litres per 100km. This figure might be a tad optimistic when it comes to real-world driving, but there is no denying that, considering the size and weight of the Disco (it is 4 970mm long and weighs 2 230kg), it is remarkably economical.
When it comes to piloting the Discovery, it’s impossible not to be impressed. The vehicle is quiet (as quiet as a Range Rover on the inside) and composed. The ride is soft and comfortable, but never boat-like. It feels tight and controlled in corners. It’s not a focused performance vehicle like the Range Rover Sport, but it is nevertheless fun to drive. Land Rover has managed to shave about 400kg from the overall weight of the Disco, and you notice this weight saving when driving the SUV. With 190kW and 600Nm on tap, the TDV6 feels lively and agile. When behind the steering wheel, the new Discovery feels like a smaller vehicle than it actually is. It’s worth mentioning that the engine/gearbox combo is also excellent. The Discovery doesn’t feel sluggish; put your foot down and the vehicle responds. Peak torque is available from 1 750r/min, and the ZF transmission provides quick and practically imperceptible gearshifts.
The all-new Discovery is an intelligent vehicle, boasting countless systems that make life easier and safer. These include Park Assist, which offers semi-autonomous functions for perpendicular and parallel parking, and Blind Spot Monitor and Blind Spot Assist that’ll inform the driver when it’s unsafe to change lanes. Lane Keep Assist helps drivers avoid straying into lanes. Closing Vehicle Sensing, meanwhile, scans for fast-approaching vehicles further behind and alerts drivers to collision risks if they were to move into the path of an approaching vehicle in an adjacent lane.
With the latest Discovery, Land Rover has extended these technologies to improve the off-road and overlanding capabilities of the vehicle. It’s easier than ever, for instance, to manage a trailer or caravan. The car’s camera system can be used to hitch your caravan, and there’s nifty system that will continuously flash the Disco’s lights to check if the caravan/trailer’s lights are working. The vehicle will cycle through the lights while you walk to the rear of your trailer and check its lights, so this is no longer a two-person job. The Discovery also makes it easier to manage the counterintuitive process of reversing with a trailer. Advanced Trailer Assist will allow you to steer your vehicle/caravan setup with the Terrain Response 2 knob. Simply follow the guidelines on the screen and you’ll never again need to try and figure out which way you need to turn the steering wheel to move your trailer in the right direction.
Land Rover’s excellent Terrain Response 2 system works much as it always has, but the company has added an interesting new system to the mix called All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC). ATPC autonomously maintains a suitable crawl speed from 2–30km/h, allowing drivers to concentrate solely on steering the vehicle while they negotiate off-road obstacles. For those used to more manual off-roading, ATPC can take some getting used to. Once a speed is set, the vehicle won’t speed up to gain extra momentum when dealing with sudden loose sand or a steep little bump. It’ll just dawdle along at the selected speed. So, when the incline suddenly becomes much steeper or the surface provides less traction, the vehicle will come to a standstill. At this point, you need to fight the urge to get involved. Instead, you just need to wait while the Discovery figures out where it can gain the most traction and sets off again. The system will probably be useful if you’ve never ventured off-road and unexpectedly find yourself in a sticky situation, but if you tackle 4×4 trails for fun, you won’t see much use in it.
In addition to the above, the new Discovery also has off-road ABS, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Electronic Traction Control, Roll Stability Control and a wading depth of 900mm. Looking at all of this, you wouldn’t think that Land Rover has ‘softened’ the vehicle, but all these off-road bells and whistles are hampered by low-profile tyres and large rims. Thanks to the Disco’s 209km/h top speed and large brake callipers, the smallest rim you can opt for is a 19-inch one. The pricier models come with 20 or 21-inch ones, and you can even opt for 22-inch rims. So, while the Disco is undeniably capable off-road, we’d be reluctant to take it onto a serious off-road trail. The SUV does come with a full-size spare, but those low-profile tyres will have us sweating at the sight of any and every sharp rock.
The all-new Discovery is a product of its time. While it wears a nameplate with a strong off-road heritage, it isn’t aimed at hardcore overlanders or 4×4 fans, since this market isn’t large enough to be worthwhile. Few owners will ever take their vehicles off-road, but they do care about on-road stability and cornering speeds. If you’re interested in hitting pukka 4×4 trails, the Discovery will disappoint you. But, if you’re looking for versatile family SUV that can do a fair bit of 4×4, but will largely be used on tar, you’ll love the new Disco. It is an intelligent, comfortable and spacious SUV, a Range Rover for those who are adventure/family oriented.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 3.0 TDV6 HSE LUXURY
Engine Longitudinal V6 common-rail diesel
Displacement 2 993cc
Power 190kW @ 3 750r/min
Torque 600Nm @ 1 750r/min
Transmission Eight-speed ZF
Top speed 209km/h (claimed)
0 – 100km/h 8.1 seconds (claimed)
Consumption 7.8 litres per 100km (claimed)
Ground clearance 283mm (air suspension)
Articulation 500mm (air suspension)
Wading depth 900mm (air suspension)
Luggage space 258 litres (seven seats) – 2 500 litres
Tyres 255/55 R20
Price R1 314 000