Still months away from its Australian debut, the Land Rover Discovery has already ruffled owners of previous generations thanks to its more rounded styling and by shifting a low-range transfer case onto the optional equipment list.
At its core though, the new Land rover Discovery is still very much a Land Rover, and as TMR discovered after two days, and 600km of driving through the wind-carved stone cathedrals of Utah and Arizona the new Discovery not only overcomes any obstacle with ease, it does it all while you sit in a cabin that's quiet, comfortable and filled with modern appointments.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: From $65,960 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 177kW/500Nm 2.0-litre cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic
Pricing for the new Discovery range starts at $65,960 for the 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel Td4 S, climbing to $71,560 for the more potent twin-turbo diesel Sd4 with 177kW and 500Nm as driven here.
Keep going up through the range and there’s also a 190kW/600Nm 3.0-litre turbo diesel and specification that rises through S, SE and HSE trim levels, topping out with the limited-numbers First Edition from $132,560.
Five seats come standard with an optional third row costing an extra $3400, with Land Rover claiming that any of the seven seats is capable of carrying an adult, free of compromises
Whilst space is the headline act, technology comes a very close second with the Discovery featuring 35 exclusive InControl apps - including one that allows you to configure the power-folding seats remotely "from anywhere in the world" - nine USB ports, six 12V chargers, the ability to stream from your device to the headrest screens, and storage for four iPads between the front seats, all things any modern family will tell you are essential!
Of course claiming comfort for seven adults is nothing new, with plenty of large SUVs making the same proclamation, however in the Discovery the boast is more accurate than almost anything else short of a dedicated people moving van, with Land Rover even going so far as to state that "every seat is the best seat in the house." A grand notion indeed.
Headroom, legroom and bum-support are all in new territory for third-row passengers, but you have to wonder how often people actually move seven full-size humans around, particularly when doing so entirely encroaches on available boot space, which is admittedly vast when you're not doing so (1231 litres, or a whopping 2500 litres with both rear rows stowed).
ON THE ROAD
From behind the wheel of the new Discovery there’s a real sense of luxury, particularly as you're cruising smoothly along sealed roads, giving no hint of just how much off-road ability lurks beneath.
Land Rover's weight-saving efforts, highlighted by a body in white that's 85 per cent light-weight aluminium (and yet still delivers the most torsionally stiff Discovery ever), have allowed the company to achieved a 20 per cent weight reduction, down to 2080kg, and allowed it to downsize its powerplants.
This means you can now have one of its giant SUVs with a four-cylinder engine, starting with the the base model's single-turbo 2.0-litre Ingenium Td4 diesel engine, which offers just 132kW and 430Nm, but does achieve a claimed economy of 6.3l/100km.
At the Discovery’s American preview drive this entry-level engine was absent from the drive roster, so we’ll have to wait for another time to be able to comment on its driveability.
Happily, though, the twin-turbo diesel Sd4 (starting at $71,560) was present, with 177kW and 500Nm, turns out to be more than capable enough for those who will use this luxo-bus almost entirely as a city commuter and school-run shuttle.
Off the line, it provides an encouraging pat on the back on its way to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds (a full 2.2 seconds faster than the Td4), and it will sit comfortably at highway cruising speeds.
Put your foot flat to overtake - or climb a boulder - however, and there's a bit of a torque hole to be driven around, but in fairness it's almost twice as good as anyone has any right to expect it to be.
The more sensible, albeit more expensive, choice ($78,560 in the lowest spec) is the new 3.0-litre TdV6, with 190kW and 600Nm and an economy figure of just 7.2 litres per 100km, which makes easy work of highway overtaking or mud-plugging.
Its power is ample, without being exciting, and, as in the four-cylinder, the soundproofing of the cabin is so good that you rarely hear it doing its work. Happily, the kind of diesel rattle you got in Discos of old is never an issue.
Speaking of refinement, the ride quality is also excellent, although with the air suspension - standard on all but the entry-level model - there is a slight floatiness to the experience, as if you are gracing the road with your presence rather than actually driving on it.
It's a similar story with the steering, which isn't over-endowed with weight or feel but is gracefully easy to use.
The overall effect is of being captain of a ship, with your crew of six behind you, cruising the
roads, while the mere prawns in their tiny cars swim around you.
There's nothing exciting about driving a Discovery - unless you're climbing cliffs or fording rivers, which you can now do at depths of up to 900mm - but there is much that is pleasant about it. Effortless is the word that probably best describes it, which is impressive for such a large vehicle.
You can go around corners quickly, if you so desire, but the fact that you are sitting so far above any given apex means this will be slightly disconcerting, and will involve giving your passengers enough of a shake-up that they may even look up from their iPads.
What Land Rover has done with its new Discovery is to keep its core customers happy; those people who wanted the class and quality to feel and look more like a Range Rover, and its hard-core customers as well; those who want to drive into volcanos or up mountains.
What the new entry-level models, with their city-friendly, economical four-cylinder engines also allows the company to do is target an all-new and burgeoning market; the city-dweller who wants a big SUV, no matter how impractical it may be for the tight suburban streets where they live, and who give not a fig about its versatility, except when it comes to bragging about what it could do at a BBQ.
They're the customers who won't be shelling out the $2060 extra for the optional Terrain Response 2, which is so clever - sensing the terrain and grip levels 100 times a second and adjusting automatically - it makes doing the extreme seem almost mundane. Even without it, the Discovery, which goes on sale locally in July, would still be hugely capable.