Jewel in the desert

Land Rover’s gen­uine off-roader takes the Utah land­scape in its stride

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive - paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER

IT’S Utah, it’s sharply brisk at the end of win­ter, and the land­scape is very, very rugged and al­most im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful.

This high-desert coun­try is where a Land Rover Dis­cov­ery can do its best work, even though the vast ma­jor­ity will tackle noth­ing tougher than a hill start out­side a pri­vate school.

We’re here to crawl over gi­ant boul­ders and down dry riverbeds, cruise de­serted high­ways, and pile seven adults into the cabin to see if the fifth­gen­er­a­tion Dis­cov­ery has the lux­ury and flex­i­bil­ity that up­scale fam­i­lies de­mand of their SUV.

The new Dis­cov­ery looks good, both inside and out, with the gen­uine off-road cre­den­tials of a Land Rover in­clud­ing the abil­ity to wade through 900 mil­lime­tres of wa­ter. It’s 480 kilo­grams lighter than the pre­vi­ous model and loaded with cutting edge tech­nol­ogy.

A fold-down rear panel can work as a seat for three peo­ple and there’s also a dog-friendly lug­gage space.

There are al­ready more than 400 or­ders for the Disco 5 in Aus­tralia, a num­ber that will soon jump past 1000 dur­ing a na­tion­wide teaser tour, with more than 80 per cent of buy­ers pre­pared to pay in the $80,000 range.

The start­ing price for the Disco 5 is $65,960 for a fiveseater S pow­ered by the “low out­put” four-cylin­der turbo diesel with 132kW and 430Nm, but that’s ir­rel­e­vant for now be­cause none will reach Aus­tralia un­til the fi­nal quar­ter of 2017.

Ri­vals for the new­comer, ac­cord­ing to Land Rover Aus­tralia’s man­ag­ing direc­tor Matthew Wies­ner, cover a broad spread. “It’s every­thing from the Toy­ota Prado and LandCruiser to Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Mercedes GLS. But we’ve added a lot more at the top end,” Wies­ner says.

The ba­sics are sim­ple: four­cylin­der and V6 turbo diesel engines — 177kW/500Nm and 190Kw/600Nm — an eight­speed auto gear­box, per­ma­nent all-wheel drive that ad­justs to dif­fer­ent ter­rain, a five- or seven-seater cabin and as much lux­ury as you can af­ford.

The high­est price is $117,750 for a TD6 seven-seater HSE, but there is a heav­ily-loaded “First Edi­tion” at $132,160.

“This is a core Land Rover, but it shares the plat­form with the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, so it gets a vast im­prove­ment in drive­abil­ity, tech­nol­ogy and de­sign,” Wies­ner says.

Disco 4 av­er­aged between 2500 and 3000 sales a year over the past three years and Wies­ner sees those num­bers surging in the short term. “It will be our top seller, for sure.”

ON THE ROAD

The new Dis­cov­ery is larger than it looks in pic­tures but it’s fresh and mod­ern and far less util­i­tar­ian than pre­vi­ous mod­els.

It’s not as met­ro­sex­ual as an Evoque but far less blokey than a LandCruiser and the cabin is a ma­jor im­prove­ment with more up­scale materials and fin­ish­ing.

We’re driv­ing heav­i­ly­loaded pre­view cars in Utah, with no chance to sam­ple the ba­sic Disco 5 S, as JLR is push­ing the wow fac­tor with lots of leather and elec­tric fold­ing seats.

My first dis­ap­point­ment is the con­tin­ued ab­sence of Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto but it’s a mi­nor thing.

It fades fast as I open the driv­ing in an SD4, which is a bit flat in the en­gine room but won­der­fully quiet, cushy and cos­set­ing to drive. It’s far qui­eter than I ex­pect at 100km/h, the steer­ing is firm and re­ward­ing, and the sus­pen­sion is both ca­pa­ble and con­trolled.

Mov­ing into the TD6 diesel brings much more lively re­sponse at all speeds. The four­cylin­der might be all right for family-car work but the V6 makes a huge dif­fer­ence and will be the choice for peo­ple who plan to tow up to 3.5 tonnes or go se­ri­ously off-road.

OFF THE ROAD

The Disco 5 is bril­liant when the bi­tu­men stops. It copes eas­ily with gravel roads sim­i­lar to Aus­tralia, deep sand — both wet and dry — and some se­ri­ous boul­der hop­ping.

The tech­nol­ogy makes things easy, from the heigh­tad­justable air sus­pen­sion to the Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem that au­to­mat­i­cally tweaks the en­gine-gear­box-trac­tion set­tings for the best re­sult.

Through­out some of the tough­est off-road driv­ing I’ve tried the Dis­cov­ery is quiet, com­fort­able and com­posed.

It’s a gen­uine Land Rover but also a lux­ury car, not just trans­port. It’s not as re­fined as a Range Rover, but it is a true seven-seater SUV and it’s far more likely to be taken into the bush. It’s also way cheaper.

At a time when ev­ery new­comer gets bet­ter, the Dis­cov­ery is a lot bet­ter. It might not be for ev­ery­one, and there are still worries about Land Rover’s qual­ity, but it’s go­ing to be a bench­mark SUV in its class.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.