Meet the car set to be another smash-hit for Land Rover: the 2017 Discovery. Replacing the strikingly aged Discovery 4, this new Discovery (there’s no ‘5’ in the name) is an out-with-the-old reinvention. It has a fancy new aluminium platform, which cuts almost half a tonne from the kerbweight. There’s more space than ever, and more off-road ability than ever. And most notably, sleek new styling that takes the Discovery into Range Rover territory. There’s a lot to discover.
Land Rover has comprehensively rethought the Discovery because it wants to take on the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90: something the utilitarian Discovery 4 increasingly was unable to do. Customers want more premium machines in this sector, it says, proven by the big sales lift when the rugged Discovery 3 turned into the posher Discovery 4. This is, by some margin, an acceleration of that process
Sit the new Discovery alongside the old one and they appear several generations apart, not one. Lego-brick look becomes swish and sleek. Your first impressions are not of Discovery, but of Range Rover. Not without basis, either – it’s now based on the same platform as a Range Rover.
You bet. The same aluminium architecture used by the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport is now employed here. This is 480kg lighter, taking the Disco to just over 2.1 tonnes – 20% less than before. It’s a monocoque design, so should feel much tighter and sharper on road, but Land Rover insists off-road ability has been enhanced, not lost. All it lacks is the expensive anti-roll and dynamic handling tech of a Range Rover. That’s why you buy a Range Rover Sport, it says.
This is the interesting bit. In run-out spec, the old Discovery cost from £47,500. Lead-in price for the new one is LOWER – from £43,495. This could be the story of the century, particularly when an Audi Q7 barely scrapes in under £50k. Well, partly. That basic Discovery is now a 2.0-litre turbodiesel; the V6 diesel costs from £50,995, level-pegging a Q7. Even so, this sophisticated new Disco is anything but wildly priced, perhaps explaining why Land Rover already has over 20,000 pre-orders for it.
Time for a first look on the global model launch in Utah. And how the Discovery has evolved. Following the look of the Discovery Sport, it has a sleek nose, beautifully-profiled sides and strong, clean feature lines. It’s curvaceous where the old one was shed-like. Panel fit is super-precise, giving it a hewn-from-solid look. It’s rich and expensive-looking. Yes, it’s more Range Rover than ever.
No, it’s not the blocky Discovery of yore. It was never going to be: that was a car 12 years old, says Discovery engineering chief Nick Collins. Everything has moved on and Land Rover was never going to make a retro Disco. There are Discovery cues, sure – the reverse-rake C-pillar, the step in the roof – but we’ll simply have to accept the Discovery is now a premium car like an Audi, not a rugged-look off-roader. Again, sales have proven this is exactly what customers want. (Besides, if you want a rugged Land Rover, there'll eventually be a new Defender to tick that box...)
Land Rover argues the Discovery has never really been about being a pure, rugged 4x4. At launch in 1989, the genius of it was being a more car-like, an incredibly versatile family-friendly machine for those new to the brand – people scared off by the tough Defender or expensive Range Rover. This has perhaps been forgotten over the years as the car has aged, so the firm believes this one resets it and takes the Discovery back to what it originally set out to do – just with the flash, fancy finishes modern premium buyers expect.
It’s enormous inside. Land Rover makes a big play on designing its vehicles from the inside out. The Discovery is big on the road, five metres long, wide and tall, but also massive on the inside. Adults feel almost child-sized up front, have limo-like room in the middle row and can even sit comfortably in the third row. Someone on the engineering team is 6ft 4ins and is fine in the seven-seat Discovery, we were told. He was squashed and had his head shoved into the roof when they tested Q7 and XC90. See: that stepped roof IS still functional.
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