It is testament to the esteem in which the old Discovery is held that no car I can think of had engendered as much hostility before anyone had even driven it than Land rover’s fifth generation SUV. As the owner of six Discoveries over the years, I’ll admit I greeted designer Gerry mcgovern’s proclamations of premium this and luxury that with dismay. When I first saw the show cars with their range rover front, rounded off slightly weird back and ivory leather interiors, my mood didn’t really lift. the last version of the Discovery was like a favourite old waxed jacket for me – worn absolutely anywhere, not to everyone’s taste but adored nonetheless.
So it was with a degree of trepidation I walked out to the test Discovery that was to be mine for the week. And first impressions weren’t favourable. I don’t especially like the way it looks, but then I was reminded I didn’t especially like the way the Discovery 3 looked when it was first launched. the inside is much, much better. It is a very nice place to sit, with much more space in rows two and three than the old model, and an infotainment system that is more up to date than the sextant out of the sunroof version we’d all grown to hate. It is light and airy, even for back seat passengers, which is a far rarer commodity than you’d expect when children complaining of feeling sick because they can’t see out is hardly the most premium experience imaginable.
the only negatives are mr mcgovern’s hatred of knobs and buttons has caused the key controls to be no longer all to be operable while wearing gloves and the owners of dog boxes would do well to check their old one fits into the boot. Oh, and the tailgate isn’t now split but it does have a little shelf that folds down so you can still change into your wellies in comfort.
Fire it up and the top of the range V6 diesel version I’d been lent settled into a muted version of the familiar Discovery tune and was no less welcome for such. taking advantage of the new more lightweight architecture, the Disco 5 is now available with a four-cylinder diesel too, which I tried very briefly and which is brisk enough and much more quietly installed than it is in the rather rattly Discovery Sport.
Once on the road it is reassuringly Discovery-like and still rides comfortably, with plenty of relaxing stability around the straight ahead but no pretence to sportiness. even though parent company JLR has a facility at the Nürburgring, I am pleased to say it doesn’t feel like this car has been anywhere it.
Off-road, it has gained some wading depth and, while its overall ground clearance has dropped a fraction, my enthusiastic testing showed it retains its title as Land rover’s, and therefore the world’s, most competent off-roader. even on the tyres it left the factory on, it is incredible on the rough stuff and will get you further than any other gunbus that doesn’t run on tracks. I hitched it up to one of our big trailers too, and it
hardly noticed it was there. With all its cameras and electronics, it can even reverse them for you so it’s even better than the old one there too.
If you think I’d started to warm to the new Disco, you’d be right. Off-road, it’s superb. towing it’s superb. I did a long motorway journey in it and it was quiet and comfortable. the satnav, fuel economy and back seat space are much better than the old one. before the week’s end I’d specced myself a car. V6 diesel, muted colour and all black interior so as not to show the dirt. It might be a shiny new barbour right now, but I reckon I’ll grow to love it as much as the old one soon enough.
While the exterior isn't to everyones' taste the SUV earns its keep once you're on/off the road.