LAND Rover is on roll. Its Discovery Sport is selling like hot cakes, and the Range Rover flagship has taken on – and beaten – the Bentley Bentayga, so the pressure is on for the all-new Discovery to continue the success story. There’s certainly no denying the imposing Discovery has some big boots to fill. Over the past three decades, the first four generations of this rugged and practical SUV have racked up an amazing 1.2 million sales.
To find out if the new model deserves to wear the Discovery badge, Auto Express grabbed the keys to a pre-production model and headed out on to the testing terrain of the Blair Atholl estate in Perthshire. Forth is test we’re limited to trying the car’s abilities in the rough, but it’ll give us a good insight into the car’s comfort and refinement. Before you even set foot in the Discovery, it’s dear the newcomer has been pushed further upmarket. The car is much sleeker than its boxy predecessor, with lots of design cues taken from the smaller Discovery Sport.
There are also plenty of familiar design flourishes, such as the distinctive stepped roof and offset rear number plate layout. Climb aboard, and the first thing you’ll notice is the feeling of space. Underpinning the new Discovery is the same aluminium architecture as the Range Rover. Not only has this platform allowed Land Rover’s engineers to lower the Discovery’s kerbweight by a whopping 480kg, it’s also allowed them to stretch the wheelbase by 38mm, freeing up extra room inside. The increase in space is most obvious in the third-row seats, which offer enough head and legroom for those over six feet tall, although access through the gap between the folded second row and raked C-pillar is tight.
Land Rover’s Intelligent Seat Folding System is standard on HSE Luxury models and above. It allows you to raise and lower the back two rows using the buttons located in the boot. However, you can also configure the layout via the car’s 10-inch infotainment screen – which was a little unresponsive on this early car-or remotely using a smartphone-based app. This latter set-up is a neat feature, but using the standard buttons is the easiest way to do it. With all seven seats raised, the Disco features a small but usable 258-litre load bay, while lowering all the seats liberates a cavernous 2,406 litres. Unlike on the old car, there’s no split tailgate.
Instead, you get an inner panel that flips out of the floor and hangs over the rear bumper. Boasting a 300kg weight limit it’s a perfect perch for sitting while you change out of muddy boots. The rest of the cabin is packed with similarly useful features. For instance, the lidded cubby between the front seats will swallow up to four tab let computers, while prodding a button on the dashboard results in a panel housing the heating and ventilation controls to fold down and reveal a hidden storage area. In fact, everywhere you look, there are neat and useful storage solutions.
However, the interior is far from utilitarian, and sat in the high-set driving position you could be fooled into thinking you’re in a Range Rover. Not only does it get the same steering wheel and switchgear, it also has a similarly premium feel, with top-notch materials and robust build. The impression is only reinforced when you prod the starter button and the familiar 255bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel fires into life. Push the throttle and the unit emits nothing more than a muted growl.
As before, the car gets a dual-range transmission and Land Rover’s Terrain Response II traction control, which offers five driving modes: Normal; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand; Rock Crawl. However, you can choose the Auto setting, which constantly monitors grip levels. Also included is the brand’s All-Terrain Progress Control, which comes as part of the £1,100 Capability Pack. Simply select your desired speed and steer. Yet what’s really impressive is the ride comfort. Despite some seriously bumpy terrain, the Land Rover effortlessly mixes stability and suppleness. Even nasty potholes and rocks fail to shake you out of your seat. It certainly bodes well for the car’s on-road performance.