What is it?
That the new Land Rover Discovery has a whiff of Range Rover about it should come as no surprise given that it shares its underpinnings with the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.
When you see a Range Rover next to a new Discovery, sit in the respective cabins, look at the price lists for certain models and go for an off-road drive, as we have been doing in a late prototype in Scotland, those first impressions of the car are only reinforced.
Watch our video review of the production version of the Discovery
But then you head into the back and start to play with the rearmost five seats. In a Range Rover you can’t collapse the electronically powered, individual seats to create a space the size of a decent studio flat, or leave them all up and have five full-size adults sit with as much head and leg room as they’ll ever need, their own individual storage, seat heaters and phone chargers and still have room for a couple of bags in the boot. That sounds much more like a Discovery.
So it is a Discovery, then, only much lighter than before, in certain version by up to 480kg, which is such a saving that a four-cylinder Ingenium diesel engine with 237bhp is now offered alongside the carry-over 254bhp diesel and 355bhp petrol 3.0-litre V6s.
The weight loss should improve the Discovery’s on-road manners and performance, although such impressions will have to wait for next February when we drive a finished car on the road for the first time.
What’s it like?
What we can tell from our drive is that the Discovery remains pretty much unbeatable off-road. It has a kitchen sink’s worth of Land Rover’s off-road technology at its disposal, including diff locks, a low-range gearbox and the Terrain Response 2 system, which itself incorporates a brilliant new All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) function that acts as a low-speed off-road cruise control, taking over the pedals and leaving you to steer.
As impressive as the ATPC system is – its control and reaction times feel better than your own on the really slippy stuff – so is the Discovery’s ability to conquer a rock crawl, both up and down, using most of the 500mm of wheel articulation, or dive nose-first into water close to its 900mm wading depth limit.
On the rest of the purely off-road route, the standard all-weather tyres and height-adjustable air suspension combine with all the electronic trickery to find grip and control over any given surface where there has no right to be any. There is nothing dramatic to report about conquering this terrain, such is the ease with which the Discovery goes over it.
While we can’t drive on road, the test does allow us a chance to have a nose around the interior. The Range Rover impressions are felt strongest of all in the front cabin: this is an interior of high quality, and now one at last of high technology thanks to the introduction of JLR’s InControl Touch Pro widescreen, touchscreen, HD infotainment system.
The driving position is as commanding as ever, and there’s a real feeling of solidity built up around the driver. The seat is comfortable and there’s an armrest on each side of the driver.
The flagship way of controlling the rear seats is through a smartphone app, but we had to make do for now with the electronic buttons on the seats, which were all straightforward to use. You can also use the touchscreen to control them. Have all the seats upright and there genuinely is room for seven adults.
There’s also a usable 258 litres of boot space at the back with all the seats up, and you can still make a seat out of the boot with a powered loading platform sliding out that can handle up to 300kg of weight, even though the split tailgate has gone. The rear of the car can be lowered to allow easier access for dogs and make it easier to attach things to tow.
All the seats can be easily folded flat individually, which results in a maximum of 2406 litre boot space and a load space that allows you to slide, say, a flatpack IKEA wardrobe in without catching on anything, as the flat seats’ leading edges are kept above the trailing ones.
Each person in the cabin will be able to keep their backside warm with a seat heater, charge their phone, find a space for their water bottle, keys, wallet, and other oddments, and connect to the wi-fi hotspot. There’s not much that hasn’t been thrown at the rear cabin of this car. Even the curry hook has been brought back.
Should I buy one?
Land Rover buyers now expect something luxurious, premium and unbeatable off-road as standard, and even from this early drive it’s clear that the new Discovery ticks all of those boxes.
In many regards it has been brought very close to the Range Rover models, but the differentiation comes from the fact that this new Discovery is pretty much as practical and versatile as cars come.
Land Rover Discovery TDV6 HSE Luxury
Location Scotland; On sale February; Price £64,195; Engine V6, 2993cc, diesel; Power 254bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 443lb ft at 1750-2250rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2298kg; 0-60mph 7.7sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 39.2mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 189g/km, 37%; Rivals Volvo XC90, BMW X5
What is it?