..Kicks compromise into touch
LAND Rover has enjoyed a long association with rugby at the highest level and after spending a couple of days with the All-New Discovery, I suspect the association is rubbing off as the UK-based manufacturer has produced a new model that kicks compromise into touch at almost every level of operation.
If anyone believed that luxury and go-anywhere ability are mutually exclusive attributes, the new Discovery proves them wrong. For sure, some brand diehards may bemoan the fact that the new model has eschewed the distinctive if boxy styling of the third and fourth generation Discovery models in favour of a more generic mix of Land Rover Sport and Range Rover genes. It is though, the fifth generation of the Discovery that puts a little more emphasis on conquering off-road obstacles.
At first sight, the All-New Discovery is a little bigger than expected and the front end in particular is rounder and more muscular than photos might portray. The rear end, with its symmetrical window sitting atop an offset number plate intended to retain at least some element of ‘traditional” Disco design, is, by contrast, much more vertical to the extent that some described it as rather blunt.
The practical, space-liberating benefits of this upright rear window make the (optional) third row of seats surprisingly habitable in this genuine 7–seat SUV so it’s fair to say that practicality has triumphed over style as far as the rump is concerned.
To my eyes though, attention to detail in the form of much tighter panel gaps from front to back is a stand-out feature of the newcomer along with very well applied, glossy paintwork – elements that collectively endorse the premium credentials of Solihull’s altogether more imposing SUV.
Certainly, Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa weren’t shy about giving journalists carte blanche in terms of usage on a two-day adventure that took in billiard-smooth motorway, simply horrid bush obstacles, narrow and very steep mountain passes, fair to thoroughly indifferent dirt and undulating A-roads in the rural areas.
That all adds up to a searching test and it mattered little whether motive power was provided by LR’s familiar 190kW/600Nm TDV6 or by the equally familiar and admired 3.0 Supercharged Si6 (V6) petrol offering peaks of 250kW/450Nm.
Four trim levels are offered, these carrying familiar LR nomenclature in the shape of S, HS, HSE or HSE Luxury but the icing on the cake comes in the form of a short-production-run “First Edition” model which might just become something of a collector’s item. Along the road, the range will be supplemented by a four cylinder 2.0 TD.
On the outward journey, I was allocated a 3.0 V6 petrol derivative, thankfully and plushly kitted out in lightish-grey leather which I think looks so much cooler in combination with dark door and dash cappings. Design-wise, you couldn’t be in anything other than a modern Land Rover thanks to the commanding driving position and elegant execution of good quality trim materials combined with slick detailing.
As you’d rightfully expect, this Discovery is not short of space, front and rear and that includes the (optional) third row of seats which offer acceptable quarters for two adults for reasonable periods and which also don’t require undue contortions to gain access to tail-end Charlie territory. Remember my earlier remarks about a no-compromise vehicle – here’s practical proof. So too is the provision of near-endless oddments spaces as well as USB ports and power points according to specification ordered. Owners will also enjoy a multitude of seat folding, heating and cooling options.
Placement of controls along with detail design elements have been tweaked but it’s the significantly upgraded central display that takes pride of place among all the soft-surface panels. The binnacled primary instrument cluster is very Evoque-ish in execution with excellent clarity of display, but for now let’s look at that 10-inch InControl Touch Pro set-up that includes a comprehensive sat nav package.
The word “touch” telegraphs that the designers have been able to simplify in-dash switchgear through the provision of easy-to-navigate menus which control infotainment/entertainment packages that include iOS and Android connectivity and a high end (optional) 14-speaker Meridian digital surround sound system. Sadly, and as a consequence of licensing restrictions, not all the functionality of the system can presently be exploited in sub-Sahara Africa so potential owners are encouraged to consult their Land Rover importer on exactly what’s possible in each market.
Bear in mind though that the latest screen also relays a host of functional images relating to drive systems, vehicle configuration, camera images and much, much more. Further, the clever waterproof Activity Key is also available for those with a sporting bent who want to carry their key with them at all times.
By the time we arrived at a short but extremely testing off-road course, it had become apparent that the All-New Discovery has gained further refinement credentials thanks to truly excellent isolation of wind noise (those tight panel gaps really help), a near absence of mechanical commotion on the cruise and to the cosseting, controlled ride served up by the air suspension which is standard on SE and HSE models. And thanks to a considerable reduction in weight, the Disco also feels more wieldy and will doubtless consume less fuel.
Variable ride height, which logically assists with off-road work, also makes for simplified trailer hitching (for which an automated system is available) and easier entry/exit from the cabin.
Oh, and that off-road work – what this luxury vehicle can do is mind-blowing and in truth, it’s this ability to achieve the apparently impossible that sets the Discovery apart from its premium rivals.
Serious off-roaders can specify full-time 4WD with a two-speed transfer box but for most, I’m sure the full-time 4WD with Torsen Diff and single-speed transfer box will more than do the trick. Bear in mind that Land Rover’s proven and brilliant (next generation) Terrain Response 2 is standard fare and that All-Terrain Progress Control which uses the cruise control switches to set automated crawling speeds is also on hand to take the hard work out of defeating difficult terrain.
All this tech is backed up by Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Roll Stability Control and Wade Sensing which telegraphs just how near you might be getting to the incredible 900mm depth limit.
While all this tech is on-board to ensure that the Discovery truly will go where most others fear to tread, even in the hands of less experienced drivers, I really do advise potential buyers and new owners to take advantage of Land Rover’s off-road training courses, details of which can be sourced from authorised dealers. I’s also suggest a visit to a Land Rover website to try and grasp the full extent of the hidden technology and what it can do to ensure that owners really do derive full benefit from the drivetrain engineering.
Having been thoroughly impressed by the driving dynamics of the 3.0 Si6 petrol version, and that includes the smoothness and responsiveness of the 8-speed auto with paddle shifters, not to mention the potent brakes and the linear steering, we transferred to a 3.0 TDV6 for the return journey.
Diesel knock is barely an issue, even at idle with a cold motor, and open road cruising is effortless and pacey enough to make a mockery of speed limits. Incremental acceleration is also a forte but the accelerator pedal is endowed with long travel which rather exaggerates what appears to be a small dose of low speed lethargy.
On reflection though, I believe that long pedal travel may be deliberate to allow for gentle throttle progression at very low engine speeds such as encountered in nasty off-road conditions. Whatever, the petrol-powered model feels more urgent in terms of throttle response but in the mid-range and at walking speeds, the diesel’s early torque plateau makes it the better choice for regular off-roaders and for those who frequently pull laden trailers.
The diesel will also drive past more filling stations, but to help you make up your own mind, here are the raw stats and the official combined fuel consumption figures for what the latter are worth given how much real world fuel consumption varies according to vehicle end use:
DV6: 209km/h 0-100, 8.6s 7.8l/100km
3.0 Si6: 215km/h 0-100, 7.1s 11.5l/100km
In summary, all versions of the new Discovery are available in so many guises to allow for an unprecedented level of personalisation, that a visit to your local dealer is essential. An hour on an on-line configurator would also be well-rewarded.
As a consequence of the huge options listings, the end cost of a vehicle is largely in the individual’s hands but what makes any purchasing decision most reassuring is the fact that this new model is so very, very good at everything. Some may suggest that choice within the growing Land Rover range has been made even more difficult but bear in mind that with the Discovery, even more emphasis has been placed on stupendously good off-road ability to which you can add excellent refinement and on-ride driving dynamics. And then throw in cosseting comfort levels and exceptional practicality.
The Discovery truly has become an all-round vehicle without compromise and the good news doesn’t stop there as the brand is fully supported in the years after purchase thanks to the provision of generous warranty and maintenance terms.