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Monday 5 December 2016

Discovery: chunky to curvy but still SUV powerhouse

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

Land Rover's brand new Discovery SUV
Land Rover's brand new Discovery SUV
The INCONTROL system has a 10in touchscreen

When I published details of the first official pictures and details of Land Rover's brand new Discovery SUV online last week, I mentioned it was something of a 'shift' in design and market focus.

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I think I may have understated the extent of the quiet revolution.

Sure, the smaller Discovery Sport set the tone and tenor for change and this most certainly follows suit.

But while the Sport was made as a new medium family SUV, the Discovery had roots in deeper tradition and market preferences.

Time will tell but I think it was both a brave and necessary call. In today's market where you, the buyer, hold absolute sway, the car maker that stands still won't stand long.

And so we get the new Discovery, the unrelenting off-roader with a soft touch for the urban and the familial; the mud-busting 4x4 with three rows of adult sized seats (I sat in and had room in the third row) that has the rounded, raised looks on its rear flanks that would be, until now anyway, more at home on the curvey Lexus RX.

That's big change; no doubt.

It goes on sale in Ireland from March with prices expected to start around €60,000. They hope 500 people will buy in year one.

The really unthinkable part, until now, would have been putting in a 2-litre diesel to shift this large a frame. People would have turned away from it.

But with so much weight shed (480kg) thanks to the high percentage of aluminium and new monocoque chassis construction, it looks like 180PS from the new Ingenium diesel (47.1mpg, 159g/km) will be quite sufficient for suburban mums and dads.

For those with trailers to pull (3,500kg towing ability) there is a 240PS version (500Nm, 44.8mpg, 165g/km). And there is the 6cyl Td6 (258PS, 600Nm).

Here are some key facts (in no particular order):

* All models have ZF 8spd automatic gearboxes.

* There is an 'idiot proof' semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist to make reversing easier.

* They claim 2,500-litres of luggage plus storage spaces throughout the cabin.

* The decent room for seven adults is largely due to a 38mm increase in wheelbase. Vehicle length is 4.97 metres.

* Both third-row seats have ISOFIX mounting points (five in total).

* Ground clearance is up 43mm to 283mm. l Wading depth is up 200mm to 900mm.

* The multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system works across a range of settings. On extreme terrain, you can programme the All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) to autonomously keep a crawl speed while you concentrate on the driving.

* The Activity Key wristband acts instead of a key fob. It locks/unlocks the vehicle if you hold it up to the 'D' in the Discovery badge on the tailgate. It's also waterproof.

* The old split rear-tailgate is gone. In its place you get a big 'door' and 'inner' tailgate.

There are also a lot of storage spaces throughout the cabin.

Some of the more useful/interesting include the one in the central console that can hold four iPads vertically or two 2-litre bottles.

They also claim the one in the central armrest can take five iPads. The lid works as an armrest when open.

The famous 'curry hook' (push-operated) remains - in the front passenger footwell.

There is a twin glovebox. And room for the spare wheel.

There are also as many as nine USB ports and six 12-volt charging points across the three rows.

And there is, of course, a heavy emphasis on connectivity. As is now expected you can do all sorts from your smartphone.

The INCONTROL system has a 10in touchscreen but Irish cars initially will not have the smart phone element. They will in the relatively near future.

Just to go back for a second on the seven seats. I'm 6ft 2in (or used to be) and had decent room in that third row - where in many cars you can only squeeze in toddlers. I know the old one could take seven too, but this felt roomier.

Maybe part of the reason is that the seats overall are quite a bit slimmer than I remember them in the current one.

By the way, if you're looking for real luxury you can order heated seats for all three rows and Windsor leather upholstery and natural oak veneers among other things.

On a more practical front, there will not be 5-seater 'commercial' versions. That is not the end of the world, I think, because it looks like there won't be that much of a price gap between the 5-seater (€58,000) and 7-seater with its foldable seats. And there are no plans yet for a 2dr commercial van.

For all that, I think price will determine so much with this new arrival. If it begins around €60,000 for a well-specced start-up model, as is expected, they should have an edge on rivals because it is, at the end of the day, a full 4x4 SUV. The Discovery may have its revolutionary leanings but some things never change.

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