However, the wheelbase is a mighty 35.5cm longer than its predecessor’s, a layout that allows much better rear-door access and improved legroom for middle-row passengers. Second- and third-row seats fold into the floor, Zafira-style, giving the Discovery a huge, uncluttered load bay with class-leading carrying capacity.
The T5 platform introduces a new construction method which Land Rover calls an Integrated Body-frame. In essence, this places a self-supporting steel monocoque on top of a modern-design ladder chassis to provide a massively strong structure with the refinements (tight panel gaps, fine surface finish and excellent vibration suppression) of a modern monocoque.
The technique was first used on the Freelander, which also has a mono body atop a simple chassis frame, but the company says the Discovery 3 moves the technology on a long way.
All this strength and stiffness does nothing to save weight, however. The Disco weighs in at a cool 2400kg, around 150kg more than the outgoing model, itself no lightweight.
There will be two engines in the UK, both new to Land Rover. The petrol option will be a stroked, 4.4-litre version of the recently expanded all-aluminium 4.2-litre Jaguar V8, with many ancillaries shifted to the top of the engine for good access and better protection from off-roading damage. The engine produces a healthy 295bhp at 5500rpm, plus 314lb ft of torque at 4000rpm.
The diesel option – strongly tipped to be UK buyers’ favourite – is a 187bhp, 2.7-litre V6 built in Ford’s new Dagenham diesel plant to a Ford-PSA design. Its spectacular 325lb ft torque peak is developed at just 1900rpm.
Suspension and brakes
Big news here. The new Discovery gets all-new independent suspension by double wishbones. All but the lowest-spec models have height-adjustable air springs, similar to those in the Range Rover. Base models make do with coil springs.
Air springs – a compact, easy-to-package design which is new to Land Rover – allow simple height adjustability. This means the vehicle can be raised to traverse extremely bad roads, or lowered for loading and restricted-height car parks.
Brakes are all-disc, with an integral drum handbrake cast into the rears. All models have anti-lock with electronic brake assist and brakeforce distribution. Most also get DSC stability control. Steering is by power-assisted rack and pinion, and the latest Disco improves considerably on its predecessor’s oil-tanker turning circle.
Land Rover engineers are proud of their new Terrain Response system, which lets drivers customise the car’s sophisticated dynamic systems – traction control, anti-lock, transmission settings, locking diffs, hill descent control and suspension height – through one easy-to-use control. Drivers simply set the rotary switch between the front seats to match prevailing road conditions.
Five settings are available: normal driving, slippery conditions, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl. The system self-selects the correct traction, height and even throttle sensitivity for the job in hand.
There’s more. Discovery 3 comes with electrically controlled clutch-type centre and rear locking differentials, which decide for themselves when locking is appropriate. All the traction systems use an advanced central wiring system, which notably smooths the response and cuts the required ‘thinking’ time.