If it looks a touch heavy over the rear wheelarches, there’s a good reason. The new Discovery stakes a bold claim as the most useful car in the world. It’s pushing five metres in length, but there’s now room inside for seven 95th percentile adults, the rearmost seats have Isofix mounting points, and all three rows are even available with heated chairs. Gone are the days when folding, or sitting in, a Disco’s rear seats was a particularly cruel form of mental torture; LR is pioneering Intelligent Seat Fold tech in the new car, via the main touchscreen, switches in the luggage area near the C-pillar, or – get this – by using a smartphone app. Sensors detect items that might be in the way, so you won’t crush your kids.
With row three folded, there’s 1,137 litres of stowage space, enough to accommodate a washing machine. Stash row two as well, and the Discovery is big enough, as previously noted, to hold the annual West Midlands Cat Swinging Festival. The previous Discovery was probably the ultimate family all-rounder, but the new one makes its interior look as commodious as a Caterham Seven’s. There’s a total of 172 litres of storage space spread between doorbins, glovebox and underfloor areas, with room in the centre console for four iPads or a pair of two-litre water bottles. The climate-control panel even folds down to reveal a secret storage space, and up to four 12V sockets and nine USB charging points can be specified. There’s also in-car 4G wifi that can support up to eight devices: that’s an end to some modern family arguments right there.
Up front, driver and passenger get JLR’s InControl Touch Pro multimedia set-up that includes a touchscreen, dual view (does anyone ever actually use that?), satnav with a new “commute mode”, and the full suite of connectivity. Hell, the new Disco probably has its own Instagram account. It’s not as pretty inside as the Volvo XC90, but it feels more robust.
It will also go places most cars simply can’t. Forget the USBs, this is an LR USP. Ground clearance is 283mm, and breakover and departure angles are bewildering. The wading depth is 900mm. LR’s Terrain Response 2 tech ensures that any numpty can tackle heart-stopping off-road manoeuvres, by monitoring throttle mapping, steering input and traction, All-Terrain Progress Control can set a crawl speed of up to 19mph, nudging us closer to autonomous off-roading, and the electric power steering can read different surfaces and vary feel accordingly.
The new Disco should be a decent steer on-road, too. The body is 85 per cent aluminium, which both lops a thumping 480kg off the base car’s weight (it’s now 2,100kg unladen), and improves the Discovery’s sustainability credentials. There’s cleverness wherever you look: the entire bodyside is a single pressing which improves rigidity while being less complex, there’s another single-piece pressing for the floor, the dash structure is magnesium, and lightweight steel is used on the front and rear subframes. The air suspension features a double-wishbone layout at the front, and an integral multi-link rear for optimum roll stiffness without losing suppleness, with the added impact resistance an SUV demands.
JLR’s Ingenium engines land in the new Discovery, with the 239bhp 2.0 twin-turbo four-cylinder leading the charge. It shovels out 369lb ft, and can deliver a claimed 43.5mpg and 171g/km of C02. There’s also a 256bhp six-cylinder turbodiesel, and a 338bhp supercharged petrol. They’re all harnessed to ZF’s excellent eight-speed auto.
Prices start at $53,000 for the Discovery S, and the 600-unit limited First Edition – which features a map etched into the aluminium on the doors and dash – costs $84,000. Gulp. The sweet spot is probably somewhere in between. Naturally, we plan to test it to destruction ahead of its on-sale date next spring.