THE RANGE ROVER EX­PE­RI­ENCE

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.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - READER ADVENTURE -

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.

STYLING

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 sev­enseat 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.

IN­TE­RIOR

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.

PER­FOR­MANCE

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 per­for­mance 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.

CA­PA­BIL­ITY

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.

CON­CLU­SION

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.

Main: The all-new Dis­cov­ery is completely dif­fer­ent from the out­go­ing model. Gone is the boxy de­sign of the Disco 4, re­placed with more Range Rover-like styling.

Be­low: The in­te­rior of the new Dis­cov­ery is ex­quis­ite. The cabin is plush, re­fined and well equipped.

This page: The Dis­cov­ery has a rather large and bul­bous rear. The rea­son for this, of course, is the pres­ence of a third row of seats. It doesn’t look as sleek as a Range Rover Sport, but it does of­fer more space. Op­po­site page, clock­wise from the top:

The new Disco has all the off-road aids you could ask for. The only is­sue is a lack of chunky tyres. Rid­ing on 20-inch rims, deal­ing with sharp rocks can be scary. A large cen­tral in­fo­tain­ment screen pro­vides use­ful ve­hi­cle info.

A cen­tral con­sole al­lows for the easy en­gage­ment of off-road systems. The well-known Ter­rain Re­sponse 2 knob is still present. The in­fo­tain­ment screen can be used to mon­i­tor the ve­hi­cle as it deals with rough ter­rain.

A con­trol panel in the rear of the SUV makes it easy to raise and lower seats.

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