Monday 20 November 2017

First look: World first pictures and details of the new Land Rover Discovery

*New SUV gets here in March and will cost about €60,000

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

THESE are the first pictures and details of Land Rover’s brand new Discovery large SUV – just unveiled in Paris ahead of the international motor show.

The three-row, seven-seat SUV goes on sale in Ireland from March and prices are expected to start from about €60,000.

There will be a static display of the new car in Dublin within the next few weeks, I’m told. It will be interesting to see what people think of it because I regard it as a huge step in terms of how its looks have changed. The front is a departure, for sure, but is still definitely Land Rover. However, they have radically altered the rear/side flanks to look rounder and taller – and less angular. All of a sudden the Discovery has gone from chunky to curvy. It is obviously being aimed at a much broader audience now, where it will increasingly rival the likes of the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and BMW X5. Make no mistake about it, this is a significant move.

Women played a big part in ‘softening’ the profile, senior executives told me at the unveiling. If ever a word was used to describe the sort of buyers they are now looking for in bigger numbers it is ‘family’. Every other word from them, every innovation revealed, was about accommodating a family in its daily life and leisure.

But just because it has gone curvy doesn’t mean it has gone soft. They are claiming it is an even tougher go-anywhere 4x4 SUV with its new (and first-use of) monocoque chassis technology.

Meanwhile, on the inside they have taken it a long way upmarket; there is a more luxurious feel to the cabin with higher quality materials used - as well as myriad luggage and ‘family’ stowage slots (21 in all).

Critically for a family, they claim there are up to 2,500-litres of luggage as well as storage spaces slotted throughout the cabin, some of which I took time to discover. The slot in the central console can hold four iPads vertically or two 2-litre bottles.

And the central armrest one can take five iPads- and the lid works as an armrest when open. As well as that, the famous ‘curry hook’ (push-operated) remains - in the front passenger footwell. And there is the twin glovebox. And room for the spare wheel. There’s loads of space.

There are also as many as nine USB ports and six 12-volt charging points across the three rows. Like everyone else these days they are highlighting how connected they are and how you can do all sorts from your smartphone. The INCONTROL system comes with a 10ins touchscreen but Irish cars initially will not have the smart phone element. They will after a while.

As I mentioned, Land Rover say there is room for seven adults – or any combination of accommodation/luggage. That is largely because of a 38mm increase in wheelbase.

But getting seven full-sized adults comfortably seated is quite an achievement considering the vehicle is under five metres long (4,970mm). I tried it out the third row (6ft 2ins when I stand up straight) and I had decent room so they are entitled to their claim. Both of those third-row seats also have ISOFIX mounting points (five in total). By the way, should you so wish, you can order heated seats for all three rows and Windsor leather upholstery and natural oak veneers – and so on.

I noticed the seats are quite a bit slimmer than I remember them in the current one.

I suppose the Discovery’s go-anywhere ability is almost taken for granted but is none the less impressive for that. The 4x4 technology and powerful engines will slog it out on most terrains but now, thanks to its aluminium construction, there is 480kg less weight to lug around.

And that will make for much better fuel consumption; emissions are already down to 159g/km.

Ground clearance is up 43mm to 283mm while maximum wading depth is up 200mm to 900mm. The multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system works across a range of settings to suit the driving conditions. You can choose your settings on the central rotary controller or you leave it to automatically pick the right one. That’s what I always do.

In extreme conditions, you can programme the All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) to autonomously maintain a suitable crawl speed so you just concentrate on the driving.

On road – where most families travel 100pc of the time - it will be interesting to see how it fares. It should be well improved as the suspension, based on the Range Rover’s, has a new integral link rear suspension.

And at the heart of the lot are the engines: 4cyl and 6cyl diesel and petrols with ZF 8spd automatic gearboxes. The engine lineup includes: *The new 180PS 2-litre Ingenium 4cyl Td4 diesel (47.1mpg, 159g/km – down 22pc on its equivalent predecessor). *The twin-turbo Sd4 Ingenium 4cyl diesel (240PS, 500Nm, 44.8mpg and 165g/km).

*And the 6cyl Td6 diesel pumps 258PS while summoning 600Nm of torque. *There is also a supercharged petrol 3-litre V6, (450Nm).

They are already claiming best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity.

And there is an ‘idiot proof’ semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist to make reversing easier. They say even ‘absolute novices’ will be able to park using the system. I’ve sampled a similar sort of system on a Volkswagen and it does work. With this, you guide the trailer by using the rotary controller (again!) for the Terrain Response 2 system.

Incidentally, if you pick the optional air suspension the Auto Access Height technology can reduce the ride-height by up to 40mm, as you enter or exit, for example.

I love the idea of the Activity Key wristband. It acts instead of a key fob; hold it up to the ‘D’ in the Discovery badge on the tailgate and it locks the vehicle while disabling the ordinary key, which you can leave inside.

As it is waterproof you can wear the wristband even when swimming – and not have to worry about where the keys are.

Ah! the old split rear-tailgate is gone. In its place you get a massive ‘door’ and an ‘inner’ tailgate. Basically the latter is a boot-width flap that you can flatten to help load stuff, sit on, or use vertically as a load restraint. It worked quite well. Still miss the old one though. And the off-set number plate is a bit unusual. Interesting to see what people make of that.

And so to the critical point. Price. If they can land it for under €60,000 as they say they will, I think they will have a real edge on rivals – for a full 4x4 SUV. They reckon they’ll get 500 buyers in a full year (world-wide 1.2m people have bought a Discovery).

Being a seven-seater means there will not be 5-seater ‘commercial’ versions of the new motor – so popular in Ireland. But with the 5-seaters costing €58,000 or so I’m thinking the 7-seater with foldable seats will serve that purpose pretty well. And, no, there are no plans yet for a 2dr commercial van.

Back the years, the Discovery was the first Land Rover to go beyond traditional 4x4 and built up a consumer base.

With this radical departure, and considering that demand for large SUVs is expected to increase by 21pc before 2021, I think that base is going to be considerably broadened with the fifth-generation Discovery.

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