MOTORING

The all-new Dis­cov­ery marks a turn­ing point in Land Rover’s his­tory. And it looks even more promis­ing than the brand’s boxy past, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Contents -

Curves ahead: We check out Land Rover’s new Dis­cov­ery.

If the iconic De­fender’s death last year marked the end of decades of un­apolo­get­i­cally boxy SUVs from Land Rover, the new 2017 Dis­cov­ery is the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin. Hav­ing started life as a bridge be­tween the Spar­tan De­fender and the posh Range Rover in 1989, the Dis­cov­ery, or LR4 as it was known in some mar­kets in the pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion, has carved a niche for it­self along­side its more hal­lowed sib­lings. It never got el­e­vated to the leg­endary sta­tus of the other two, but to have re­ceived a gen­er­a­tional up­date now af­ter 28 years in pro­duc­tion is tes­ti­mony to its pop­u­lar­ity.

When it was re­vealed late last year in the UK, the new Dis­cov­ery raised many an eye­brow, es­pe­cially those of hard­core fans of the brand who hoped at least this model would carry the man­tle of boxy styling for­ward for Land Rover. But the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Dis­cov­ery is any­thing but boxy. In fact, it’s unashamedly curvy, more so than any other model in Land Rover’s line-up. The front fas­cia adopts the same fam­ily styling cues seen in the other mod­els in the range, while the side pro­file looks more like a stretched, slightly more el­e­gant take on the smaller Dis­cov­ery Sport’s. The rear is the most rounded bit of the Dis­cov­ery’s ex­te­rior, and the most likely to po­larise opin­ion. The tail­gate seems oddly pro­por­tioned in re­la­tion to the rest of the ve­hi­cle, al­though the de­sign­ers have at­tempted to main­tain a con­nec­tion with the older mod­els by plac­ing an im­pro­vised ver­sion of the asym­met­ric rear.

Whether you like it or not, the change in ap­pear­ance sig­ni­fies the rad­i­cal changes un­der­neath the flow­ing sheet me­tal. Gone is the heavy chas­sis, re­placed by a mono­coque struc­ture, and up to 85 per cent of the body is made of alu­minium, mak­ing the Dis­cov­ery lighter by a good 480kg

than its pre­de­ces­sor, al­though it still tips the scales at nearly 2,200kg.

All these cos­metic and struc­tural changes project an im­age of a softer ve­hi­cle than the osten­si­bly rugged LR4. How­ever, if looks could de­ceive, the Dis­cov­ery’s ap­pear­ances are the most de­cep­tive.

De­spite mov­ing to a uni­body con­struc­tion, the Dis­cov­ery is still a Land Rover at heart. It’s still equipped with the bril­liant Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tems, in­te­gral-link rear sus­pen­sion, ground clear­ance of 283mm, 500mm wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion and an im­pres­sive 900mm wad­ing depth.

The front dou­ble wish­bone and rear multi-link sus­pen­sion has been de­rived from the Range Rover, so it strikes a great bal­ance be­tween off-road abil­ity and on-road com­fort and re­fine­ment. In fact, for all its cross­coun­try ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the Dis­cov­ery is a re­mark­ably bet­ter-be­haved car on the road than the LR4. It shows none of the clum­si­ness the pre­vi­ous model dis­played around cor­ners and feels in­fin­itely more self-pos­sessed and planted. The steer­ing, al­though not the most re­spon­sive, is light and easy and makes the Dis­cov­ery feel smaller than it is. The 3.0-litre su­per­charged V6, mated to an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, is good for 340bhp and 450Nm of torque. De­spite the two-tonne heft, it man­ages a sprint to 100kph in less than 7.0 se­conds. And it feels ef­fort­less and grace­ful all the time, whether off the road or on it.

The cabin is also suit­ably up­graded and looks and feels more pre­mium than that of any Land Rover badged ve­hi­cle, in­clud­ing the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s. The Dis­cov­ery is an ac­tual seven-seater, with the third row of­fer­ing lots of leg- and head­room. The only draw­back, a ma­jor one at that, is that at full ca­pac­ity the five head­rests at the back ef­fec­tively cover the rear wind­screen com­pletely, se­ri­ously ham­per­ing the driver’s rear view. But if you don’t have that many pas­sen­gers Land Rover has pro­vided three op­tions to con­trol these seats elec­tron­i­cally; via but­tons in the boot, near the rear doors or via the touch­screen on the dash­board. The seats take their own sweet time to fold down, but once they do, you have a

The CABIN is suit­ably UP­GRADED and looks and feels more PRE­MIUM than that of any Land Rover badged ve­hi­cle, in­clud­ing the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s. The Dis­cov­ery is an ac­tual SEVEN-SEATER

whop­ping 2,500 litres of cargo space.

With the new Dis­cov­ery, Land Rover has taken a gam­ble sim­i­lar to that Nis­san took with the Pa­trol seven years ago. As pop­u­lar as the boxy, rugged Sa­fari was, cus­tomers just snapped up the new ur­bane Pa­trol. Go­ing by that, it’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore a new gen­er­a­tion of cus­tomers re­mem­ber Land Rover as a brand that makes curvy, suave SUVs that are great off-road and greater in the cities.

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For all its cross-coun­try ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the Dis­cov­ery is a re­mark­ably bet­ter­be­haved car on the road than the LR4

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