Land Rover Discovery (2017) preview: Seven-seat family disco
The British star of the Paris Motor Show 2016 was undoubtedly the new Land Rover Discovery.
You’ll be aware that there’s already a Discovery Sport, but big brother Discovery promises to do more than it’s sibling – it’s more luxurious, more powerful, has more space… more everything.
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Dimensions-wise, these changes mean that the new Discovery is 141mm longer than before (at 4970mm), and it’s got a longer wheelbase for better cabin volumes. But it’s also lower and narrower, which should make it wieldier in tight situations (such as multi-story car parks which sometimes proved the previous Discovery’s nemesis).
Land Rover is acutely aware that the Discovery is a favourite with well-heeled families, as its seven-seat status has made it a firm favourite. You can get the Discovery Sport with seven seats of course, but its rearmost seats are good for kids only, whereas the full-fat Disco can accommodate two adults. We got back there and can say that, headroom-wise, a six-footer fits in easily.
You also get your own cubby spaces, power point and kids isofix points. Legroom subjectively seems tighter than the old car, but the middle row slides to redress the balance if you like.
While we’re on the subject of seating, one thing we weren’t convinced about was the electric folding nature of the five rear seats (three in the middle row, two at the rear). While having a button in the boot to fold the rearmost row we can see as useful, when juggling people versus luggage, the middle row’s electric folding mechanism seems slow – it’s a nice idea, but the amount of time it takes the outer seat to topple forward to allow access to the very back row makes you question whether an electric, motorised unit makes sense. We look forward to standing waiting for it to do its thing while we and our kids get rained on.
One area you won’t get rained on is under the boot tailgate. On the last Discovery, the tailgate split – so the glass lifts up, while the body section folds down to create a ledge to sit on or slide things into the boot. In new Disco, the whole lot goes up, but the ledge is still there, just folded into the boot. Fold it down and it supports up to 300kg of people or stuff – more than enough for pulling your wellies on while sheltering from an English shower.
Up front, the Discovery feels much more luxurious then before – the steering wheel is from the Range Rover, the centre panel is lathered in gloss black, and you get (up until now reserved for Jaguar) InControl Touch Pro – JLR’s colourful, 10-inch widescreen infotainment system with a host of apps available and some functions on your mobile phone.
Land Rover has built some clever stuff in here too – like “commute learning” where the car learns your regular journeys and proactively suggests the best route based on live traffic info. The ability to lock the car via an app or your smartwatch is handy if you’re going outdoor Bear Grylls-ing and are worried about losing the key. Just don’t forget to clean your boots before getting back into your fully carpeted, blonde-leather trimmed Discovery.
From everything we can see inside, the Discovery still looks like a stellar form of transport for epic trips, seven up. It’s got more competition than before though. If moving people and stuff is your only concern, then we’d point you to a Volvo XC90 – its interior is more modern, its seats equally accommodating and you get more boot space seven-up.
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Of course, the Volvo won’t see which way the Discovery has gone when you venture off road. Land Rover says the Discovery’s all-terrain abilities are class-leading. So if you’ve got wading, track-scrabbling or sand, snow, rocks or mud to traverse, we’re sure you’d be a fool to believe Land Rover is wrong.
The new Discovery is available for the first time with JLR’s new Ingenium, four-cylinder diesels in two power-outputs – the bigger, kicking out 240bhp – which should mean you’ll need less fuel to get you where you need than in the earlier Discovery.
You can also get the 258hp V6 diesel, which will sound more cultured and refined, but with just 18bhp power advantage, it does make us wonder about the point. Emission fall, accordingly.
We’ve left the exterior design to last as it’s the most controversial aspect of the new Discovery, playing big bro to Discovery Sport, but largely binning the square, product-like aesthetic of the old car which so many people loved.
The new Discovery immediately appears more sporting and aggressive. Many will like that. Our issue is that it’s now a whisker in style away from Range Rover – which seems like an odd move (surely, better to differentiate two brands and products to spread appeal?).
And many Discovery signatures – the bump in the roof, the asymmetric tailgate window and the alpine (high level) windows behind the C-pillar – all become sad shadows of their former selves. So slight or so whimsical are they, that it’s as if the design team deliberately got rid of them, only for some higher power to insist they get shoe-horned back into the design at the last minute. Shame.
No matter, the Discovery feels and looks impressive. If it drives as well as recent Land Rover products, and upholds the family standard off-road, it’ll be a winner.
Land Rover used to go by the tag line “the best 4x4xfar”. Don’t bet against the fifth-generation Discovery still being the 4×4 to beat.