Land Rover’s design HQ is expanding. It has to if it’s to cope with the wave of new product that’s coming over the next few years. Range Rover, Land Rover, Defender: the brand lives in three distinct silos now, having morphed from British Leyland country bumpkin into one of the glittering jewels of the car industry. An insatiable appetite for SUVs has helped. But a highly astute design philosophy has played a major part too, as has a growing reputation for engineering integrity and ingenuity.
LR’s chief design officer Gerry McGovern occupies an impressively stark mezzanine office, and is a man possessed of a clear strategic vision. There may be a fluffy white cat around somewhere, but I can’t see it. Having just been inside the all-new Discovery, I can confirm that there’s ample room to safely swing one (metaphorical, obvs).
‘Design creates an emotional connection between our customers and our vehicles,” Gerry says. “We truly believe the new Discovery is a radical design departure that will introduce the car to a new and wider customer base.”
If it doesn’t look all that radical, it’s probably because it’s very similar to 2014’s New York Vision Concept, or indeed a Discovery Sport that’s been inflated by an industrial-size straw in the exhaust. Personally, I reckon the outgoing Disco is a masterpiece of modern product design, although its bluff surfacing polarised opinion. The new one won’t. But when it drives into LR’s daylight viewing area – always essential to see how natural light plays off a car – it makes the old car look just that.
In fact, McGovern orders two new Discoverys into the atrium for inspection: one is in standard trim; the other wears Dynamic Design apparel, which runs to different bumpers, black or grey contrast roof, 21 or 22in alloy wheels, and badge deletion. Stealthy. There’s greater visual differentiation than you might think, but both are unquestionably 21st-century Land Rovers sophisticated, modern, chiselled to within an inch of their lives. “We love the original Discovery,” Gerry says, “but I’m not sure it was ever actually designed.”
The new one – Disco 5 – makes that car look antediluvian. The windscreen has a “faster” rake, the stepped roof is intact and there are castellations round the wheelarches. At the rear, the new Disco gets horizontal rear LEDs, signalling the end of the split tailgate. It’s more dynamic looking, says McGovern, but also increases the loading aperture, while a rear spoiler optimises aero and stops the rear end getting too mucky. There’s also a new fold-out inner section that can support 300kg, for hunting, shooting or fishing, and the new Disco has a best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity.
The drag coefficient is an impressive 0.33, a significant improvement on the Discovery’s barn-door predecessors, with the efficiency benefits that accrue. There’s some great detailing: on SE models and above, there are “lightpipe” elements in the front lights that glow from white to amber when you’re indicating. Indeed, the front seven-cluster LEDs have no fewer than five different lighting modes.