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First Look at the Completely Redesigned 2017 Land Rover Discovery

Posted in Features on September 28, 2016 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Courtesy of Land Rover

Digital Disco, anybody?

It’s an all-new, fully redesigned Land Rover Discovery for 2017. The Land Rover Discovery has always enjoyed its own niche within the storied Jaguar, Land Rover, and Range Rover brands. The Jaguar F-Pace which delivers on-road performance with all-wheel-drive foul weather traction. And for the upper-echelon consumer there’s the Range Rover line, which heaps over-the-top amenities on top of honest and true off-road capability…but at a steep price. Yet, somewhere in the middle of these lay the Land Rover lineup: For those with discerning tastes coupled with a sense of adventure, who seek a sense of breeding without appearing overly snobbish, and who demand a more-than-adequate level of luxury without giving up off-road capability there was Discovery. And it delivered it all at a price that didn’t completely breaking the bank. But now the fifth-generation Discovery is at the plate. And it’s lighter, stronger, quieter, sleeker, and revamped with the needs of the 21st century in mind. Let’s take a look.

Styling

With its classic tall, boxy shape that harkens memories of old analog Defender 110 models, previous Discovery models have always screamed “classic Land Rover.” Whether you feel good, bad, or indifferent about it, that’s obviously no longer the case. If you’re like us your first impression was, “it’s a fullsize Range Rover with a slightly bumped up rear roofline.” But after the Discovery Sport embraced Range Rover styling cues last year, the proverbial designer’s writing was on the wall for the gen-five Disco. And that’s not exactly a bad thing since the Range Rover styling is about as mean, nasty, and tasty as anything offered in the SUV world. It’s just not very…well, Land Rovery. The C-pillars employ the traditional Discovery forward-swoop and there’s the obvious roofline bump. Also, in a nod to the Land Rover Defender DNA, the rear license plate is offset in the new one-piece swing-up tailgate. With the same aluminum unibody construction now shared by all Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles, the Discovery employs similar wind tunnel-friendly swoopy front treatments as its siblings, distinguished by Discovery’s ubiquitous roofline bump. But that bump is a full 1.6 inches lower than the previous Land Rover LR4. Coupled with the auto-lowering air suspension and it all equates to the 0.35 drag coefficient in the wind tunnel, but at the cost of the classic head-in-clouds seating position and overly stretched pillars and side glass that made you feel as though you were riding inside a greenhouse stuck atop a four-wheel-drive go kart. Honestly, we’re sad to see it go. The new Land Rover does raise the seat mounts to help keep some semblance of the command seating position of previous Discos, but now the feeling that you’re sitting down inside the vehicle, well immersed within the beltline, is hard to shake. The fenders have all sorts of bulgy, scoopy bits and an almost sinister, purposeful look that says “out of my way, I’ve got a big soccer game to get these kids to.” And like Discos of yesterday, you’re not severely limited on how many little soccer stars you can transport.

Interior

Inside there’s seating for seven passengers: Two up front, three in the second row, and two in the rear row. And hey, that third row that you always forget to fold down after the last kiddo departs? Or worse yet, forgot to fold up before they get in and now you’re blocking traffic at elementary school pick up with irate parents honking behind you as you try to jockey and fumble the third row into play? No worries now because the 2017 Discovery features Land Rover’s new Intelligent Seat Fold on its second and third row seats, which lets you raise or lower the seating through the InControl infotainment system, various switches in the C Panel or seats, or…wait for it…your smart phone. It’s part of Land Rover’s new ap system that takes the power of the InControl dash to your smartphone. We’ll show you more on that once we get our hands on a test vehicle, but if you’re not that excited about it you probably don’t have kids. That’s one hell of a party package if you’re a parent. And even if you’re not, Land Rover claims the third row seats are comfortable for even average-size adults.

With regard to fit, finish, and overall interior luxury the new fifth-gen Discovery is a step above its predecessor. Granted, the old LR4 did not lack in amenities, well-appointed trim, or quality of materials. It’s just that the new Discovery skews more towards Range Roveresque luxury and less towards traditional Land Rover utility. At least in the limited “First Run” editions that will hit the North American market first. Lower-optioned models will enjoy a subsequent roll out, but until then it’s all the bells and whistles including an excellent Meridian sound system, high-quality leather and bright work, InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, enough USB and connectivity to keep a junior high school happy. As in, up to six 12-volt outlest and nine USB ports. And those seats. Man, those seats. All three rows feature seat heaters, rows one and two feature air conditioning, and the driver and passenger seats have built-in massage. There’s almost literally too much else to list. Toss in a panoramic roof here, center console refrigerator there, and cubby and smart storage niches everywhere and you’ve got the makings of a truly luxury vehicle. No, really – there is storage literally everywhere in this vehicle from the center console to behind the HVAC controls. Push a button and the whole display flips open exposing a secret cubby for your wallet or sunglasses. And we mentioned it’s now got a one-piece tailgate that opens upward for better cargo loading. Sensitive that many Land Rover owners use their lower tailgate as a seat, picnic bench, work bench, or just like knowing they can sit down for a minute and contemplate the trail they just drove up, a special fold-down panel can be lowered which will support 300kg of weight. Or, if you’re hauling lots of little rolling objects or don’t want your groceries falling out when you open the tailgate on a hill, you can have the panel remain up, keeping cargo items from escaping.

Powertrain

Making a reappearance on the engine front is Land Rover’s smooth, yet powerful supercharged 3.0L V-6 engine that pumps out 340hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. It’s enough to haul the new Discovery from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, besting the old LR4 by a decent margin. No doubt, the all-aluminum body/chassis and other weight saving that add up to a 1,000 pound reduction help performance, as well as fuel economy. And that’s one area in which the LR4 needed help because our combined mileage in testing supercharged 3.0L Discovery LR4 wasn’t that impressive. But there is a high-mpg option now! The really exciting news for the American market is Land Rover Discovery can be equipped with the company’s exceptional 254hp Td6 3.0L V-6 turbodiesel engine. With an absolutely silky-smooth manners and a meaty 443 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm the diesel can shuttle the Discovery from a dead stop to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and (if our prior experience with this engine is any indication) should deliver a solid 30 mpg on the freeway.

Both engine options will be backed by the stout eight-speed automatic, which is exceptionally tuned. Upshifts are sure and smooth, downshifts are immediate and sure, and there is never any hunting, pecking, lagging, or drama. We’ve had nothing but positive praise to heap on the ZF auto in the past, as is the case with Land Rover’s optional Terrain Response 2 four-wheel-drive system, which includes a rear differential lock, locking T-case, and either manual or auto-selected modes which alter things like throttle tip-in and sensitivity, air ride height, gear selection, maximum or minimum rpm, and a host of other inputs and outputs that translate into dead-serious off-road capability.

Capability and Utility

Let’s expound on Discovery’s potential for off-road capability for a moment because nowadays so many manufacturers simply don’t care about it. Discovery boasts 11.1 inches of ground clearance, which is a full 1.7 inches more than the LR4 it’s replacing. And if you’re a water monkey, the Discovery can ford a depth of 35.4 inches, which is 7.9 inches more than LR4…and a best in its class. Get stuck off-roading? The new Discovery will temporarily air up the suspension an additional 70mm above off-road height to help get you unstuck off an obstacle. Approach and departure angles look good, but with no empirical numbers to quote yet, we’ll have to leave at what our trained eyeballs tell us. And in keeping with Land Rover and Range Rover’s ethos of not sacrificing off-road clearance in the name of style, all of Discovery’s dangly bits are housed inside the vehicle’s silhouette. That means the exhaust system, suspension, gearboxes, and everything else under the chassis is up tight to the undercarriage and doesn’t protrude out into the approach or departure areas. Off-roading: Land Rover still cares about it.

And if you trailer the new Land Rover Discovery doesn’t give up any of the towing capability its predecessors were known for with a tow capacity of 8,201 pounds, an auto swing-out trailer hitch, and its new Advanced Tow Assist System will steer the vehicle for you as you back your trailer. All you have to do is work the brake and throttle pedals.

Bottom Line

Land Rover has always enjoyed something of a cult following. This is a big design change for the company and not every Land Rover die hard will appreciate the fact that the new Discovery looks like a Range Rover. However, sales-wise, we think it’s a homerun move for the company. With a starting price of $49,990 and well-optioned models most likely coming in the $80,000 ballpark, Discovery will give those buyers craving the luxury and styling of a Range Rover a lower-priced option. And why wouldn’t you when you get all of the capability, more interior seating and utility, and nearly all of the amenities. If a truly off-road-capable luxury SUV is what you’re after, we think the new Discovery will warrant a good, hard look. You can be sure we’ll be getting our hands on one as soon as they’re available for testing. We’ll bring you the full rundown when it happens.

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