Damien Reid got be­hind the wheel of the new-look Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, and un­ex­pect­edly found him­self to be a fan

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS -

Land Rover Dis­cov­ery

It’s a brave move, chang­ing the face of the Mid­dle East’s favourite car – the Land Rover.

The all-new, rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent look­ing Land Rover Dis­cov­ery has po­larised opinion among Emi­ratis and Mid­dle East off- road­ing geeks. It has shed its rugged, boxy, high- rid­ing look with wide- open­ing sin­gle tail­gate for a sleeker, lower and rounded shape.

The over­haul of the Dis­cov­ery is the big­gest in its 28-year his­tory, both cos­met­i­cally and – thanks to a brace of new elec­tronic driver and off-road aids – un­der the skin as well.

From the front it’s now got the char­ac­ter­is­tic Range Rover nose and even diehard fans are ac­cept­ing this, al­beit be­grudg­ingly. How­ever, things change once your eyes move past the C- Pil­lar and around to the rear. Here it’s de­cid­edly softer and car­ries over a trait from ear­lier it­er­a­tions – the stepped hipline around the back.

Re­flected as an off set li­cence plate po­si­tion­ing, this gives the im­pres­sion of wear­ing an eye patch and for ob­ses­sive com­pul­sives out there, the lack of sym­me­try can be a lit­tle hard to take.

How­ever, most Land Rover own­ers are loyal to the brand not be­cause of what it looks like, but what it can do. The boxy ear­lier ver­sions and the De­fender were no oil paint­ings, but they did the job of off-road­ing bet­ter than just about any­thing else out there. And af­ter my time with the fifth-gen­er­a­tion, 2017 Dis­cov­ery, I can say that this prob­a­bly still stands true.

Be­ing nearly 500kg lighter than the old model, af­ter aban­don­ing its old- style chas­sis and go­ing for a mono­coque con­struc­tion com­pris­ing 85 per cent alu­minium, it feels much more nim­ble and re­acts to steer­ing changes faster. But it’s the out­stand­ing elec­tronic Ter­rain Re­sponse Sys­tem where the car re­ally shines.

De­pend­ing on the set­ting it re­acts to snow, mud, ice, gravel, road and more. And dur­ing our time, we en­coun­tered all of the above in­clud­ing sev­eral put to­gether in one mushy, muddy, snowy, desert quag­mire in the Utah high­lands.

A par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing 80-me­tre drop down a 30 per cent gra­di­ent sand dune that had a thin layer of ice on top with snow atop, tested the down­hill de­scent con­trol per­fectly. Never touch­ing the ped­als, it guided us down eas­ily with­out slip­ping on the snow or get­ting bogged down in the sand. Then, with a heavy right foot, I used the 340bhp and 450Nm of torque from the 3-litre V6 to power our way up the other side kick­ing up gi­ant icy, sandy rooster tails along the way.

This mix of ter­rain and grip lev­els all at the same time would have sent many elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tials into frenzy and prob­a­bly seen them de­fault to the eas­i­est set­ting. But the Dis­cov­ery had the right amount of grip and power at the right time.

Like­wise, its 900mm wad­ing depth, 283mm of ground clear­ance and 500mm wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion were all called into ac­tion for some ex­tremely slip­pery mud trails.

Back on the sealed high­way, the ex­tra sound in­su­la­tion over the old model was no­tice­able, as was the clearly higher-grade in­te­rior and com­fort that’s now much closer to Range Rover than it is to De­fender.

The fac­tory claims that with its eight-speed auto the car will get to 100kmh in less than seven sec­onds and de­spite its still hefty 2200kg weight, it feels lighter and eas­ier to ma­noeu­vre around town as well.

Vis­ually, while it may have lost the rear bub­ble in the roofline, make no mis­take it’s a proper seven-seater with more room in the third row for two adults than many MPVs.

Over­all, the new Dis­cov­ery strikes a far bet­ter bal­ance be­tween school runner and off- roader than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, and I be­came an un­ex­pected fan by the end of the drive. A ca­pa­ble all- rounder even in the tough­est con­di­tions.

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