What is it?
Land Rover likes to imagine the Discovery as the ideal conglomerate of its split personality: absorbing just enough of the Range Rover’s prestige to counteract the blunt-force utilitarianism of the dearly departed Defender - with the prospect of seven exceedingly family-friendly seats lobbed in for good measure.
In some parts of the world, where the Range Rover symbolises Land Rover to the exclusion of practically everything else, the Discovery hardly features. But in the UK, it is automotive manna to the upper-middle-class, muddy boot-wearing white collar types, landowners, horsebox enthusiasts and anyone with a lingering affection for ‘proper’ 4x4s.
We adored it, too. The outgoing Discovery 4 was, by rights, too heavy, too thirsty and in possession of far too many right angles for something intended to move through air - but it drove softly and superbly, could not be stopped by anything short of a tank trap and would easily accommodate a five-a-side football team, plus kit.
Its replacement does all of these things too, except it does them while being lighter, less thirsty and with all the sharp edges of a stormtrooper’s helmet. The blurrier look is intended to help broaden the car’s appeal, and better locate it in the current Land Rover line-up. A new four-cylinder engine – the 237bhp 2.0-litre twin-turbo Ingenium unit – ought to do likewise, with an official combined economy of 43.5mpg.
We’ve delved deep into the technical detail previously, so now, with the car finally in the UK, it’s time to double-check what seemed like impeccable credentials at the international launch. Elsewhere, we’ve tried the 3.0-litre diesel V6; here we concentrate on the four-cylinder in HSE trim, a combination which costs from £56,995.
What's it like?
When Land Rover replaced the Range Rover in 2012, it acknowledged that its customers wanted essentially the same car they had, just better. Almost five years later, it has plainly taken the same approach taken with the Discovery - and the result is a comparable triumph.
Anyone still resolutely bearing a grudge about the possible similarities with the Range Rover Sport’s belligerent dynamics can rest easy: the Land Rover drives nothing like its platform sibling. It feels palpably taller, calmer, burlier, extraordinarily comfortable in its own skin and proudly mindful of its occupants' isolation.
The old Discovery, with the unflappable assurance of a large policeman wrapping a blanket around your shoulders, constantly affirmed that everything was going to be okay, whether you were on the outside lane of a wet motorway or rock crawling in the Outer Hebrides. This new model does precisely the same thing, except now the copper is simultaneously handing you an iPad.
It's quite possible that the full weight of the car’s tech payload will pass by even the most diligent of users. Although no-one purchasing the HSE trim will fail to appreciate the latest InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, the Meridian sound system or the convenience of having both rows of back seats electronically powered, it's the computerised ballast underneath that staggers when the going gets tough.
In standard format, alongside the transmission’s low-range function and almost a metre of wade depth, you’ll get the same electronic air suspension and centre differntial as supplied with the Range Rover Sport – enough, realistically, to see you safely and smoothly over 90% of terrain. For the remaining 10%, there’s the £1100 Capability Plus Pack, which features an additional locking differential for the rear axle, Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control.
Throw in the £365 Advanced Tow Assist (a system which allows you to effectively steer a reversing trailer with the Terrain Response controller) and the limit of the Discovery’s off-road prowess wasn’t easily discoverable even at a thoroughly sodden Eastnor Castle – the spiritual home of Land Rover’s development team.
Not once, it must be said, during either the mud-plugging in Herefordshire or the Welsh B roads beforehand did we yearn for the larger displacement of the 3.0-litre engine. The praise already visited on the more powerful Ingenium unit is well-deserved; the 369lb ft of torque from 1500rpm being comfortable enough to make light of the car's 2.2-tonne weight.
For those particularly keen to merge with motorway traffic in brusque SUV style or power away from mid-range apexes, the gutsier unit might be preferable (it is inevitably a smidge more refined when doing either, too) but for those interested in owning and driving a Discovery for what differentiates it from the Range Rover Sport, the 2.0-litre engine fits the languorous, enigmatic, yet down-to-earth brief almost perfectly.
Should I buy one?
Yes, and you won’t be alone in doing so. Land Rover has taken around 20,000 orders worldwide already, and it expects demand to be constrained by available supply in the immediate future. The majority of those buyers, many of them repeat in the UK, have opted for the six-cylinder engine they’ve already formed an attachment to – and that’s fine.
Yet the four-cylinder unit, assisted by the new architecture’s lighter weight, does practically everything the 3.0-litre oil-burner used to, and without the need to become quite so well acquainted with your local petrol station attendant. Naturally, the objective disclaimer required here is that others – notably the starter six-cylinder unit in the Audi Q7 – will do the job even more efficiently and for (broadly speaking) the same money.
But that’s a different sort of machine; not because its car-derived platform isn’t what Land Rover even considers a proper SUV – but because it fails to replicate the Discovery’s esoteric, outsized charm. The successful transplant of this inimitable quality from old to new ranks among Land Rover's most telling achievements in an unprecedented decade of progress for the brand.
Land Rover Discovery 2.0 SD4 HSE
Location UK; On sale now; Price £56,995; Engine Four cyls, 1999cc, turbodiesel; Power 237bhp at 4000rpm;Torque 369lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2230kg; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 8.3sec; Economy 43.5mpg (combined); CO2 189g/km; Rivals Audi Q7 3.0 TDI, Volvo XC90 D5