What is it?
Land Rover invented the Discovery in 1989 to fight new rivals such as the Mitsubishi Shogun, and it has since proved not just capable but also almost cultishly likeable.
No wonder the concept hasn’t changed in five generations, except to mature and improve. And today's Disco duly follows the same rough recipe as the original: it's the love-child of rugged Defender and lavish Range Rover, which is to say formidable off-road but equally happy on the motorway. Plush but not posh. And for a price that, were people more rational, would have it outselling the Range Rover Sport and Velar.
And yet, the Discovery's long-standing niche in the Land Rover line-up has recently been skewed by the arrival of the rejuvenated Defender. By swapping the body-on-frame setup for the D7 aluminium monocoque used by the Discovery and Range Rover (albeit heavily beefed up), the Defender’s on-road manners have been transformed, while its interior feels like the Palace of Versailles compared with before. It's now an effortlessly useble machine, as well as one that's more capable than almost any other.
Where does this leave our friend the Discovery, then? In quite an uncomfortable position, truth be told, which is why the updates for 2021 have been aimed at gently re-establishing the model in the Land Rover line-up, as well as keeping it competitive with the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The makeover starts with new air springs, new anti-roll bars and recalibrated dampers and steering to imbue the Discovery 5, which has been with us since 2017, with more precision on the road while sacrificing not an iota of that capability off it. The current Discovery has never been something you could describe as 'agricultural', but the chassis tweaks are aimed to make its road manners better than ever.
And, if anything, its ability to negotiate improbably tough terrain has also been improved, as you can now manually configure the ride height and locking characteristics of the rear and centre differentials irrespective of the mode selected for the Terrain Response 2 programme. That you can also now see in real-time when and to what extent those differentials are locking, via the superb new 11.4in Pivi Pro touchscreen infotainment, brings an extra bit of fun and involvement.
Wading depth also remains class-leading, although the Discovery’s commendable breakover, approach and departure angles are easily outdone by those of its sibling. And while we're at it, the braked-trailer towing capacity is still 3500kg across the range, which is as much as you can lug around on a regular Category B driving licence.
The interior then benefits from that hugely improved new Pivi Pro infotainment system, whose curved touchscreen lifts the ambience, but the decision to swap the lovely Range Rover-inspired steering wheel for one clearly Defender-related is curious.