An unexpected discovery
Gone is the blocky appearance of Discoverys of yore. Generation five leaps into the modern age, but it comes at a cost…
Traditionalists may scoff at the striking design of the new Land Rover Discovery, but they can rest assured that, under that swoopy skin, it’s business as usual. The Discovery 5 may look like its more glamorous Range Rover siblings and a cross-country mile removed from its utilitarian roots, but as soon as tar makes way for rocky terrain, the new SUV bounds along contentedly.
The fifth generation rides on an advanced new aluminium platform that aids it in taxing the scale up to 480 kg less than its portly predecessor, and that pays dividends on-road. Feeling less like a ship on rough seas when navigating corners, the new model handles like a car, is as refined as a luxury sedan, and rides exquisitely despite the addition on upper-tier models of ribbon-thin tyres and oversized wheels.
I’m sampling the 3.0 Td6 HSE Luxury, which might just be the pick of the range. Under the clamshell-shaped bonnet spins Jaguar Land Rover’s popular 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine. Endowed with a healthy spread of torque – the stuff that helps the Discovery to be unstoppable off-road – the V6 engine is a peach. Its delivery is creamy smooth, it shrugs off the large SUV’s still-considerable bulk with aplomb, and its drinking habits are adequately conservative to allow large distances between fill-ups. Tug one of the sturdy handles, pull open a hefty door and you’re greeted by a cabin that owes much to its ancestors in terms of layout and look. There’s that same commanding driving position (a Discovery, despite its size, is surprisingly easy to place on the road thanks to visible extremities); oodles of space for a family and its paraphernalia (although it’s disappointing that a third row of seats has been relegated to the options list at a pricey R21 800 a pop); and the latest infotainment technology, accessed through a large intuitive touchscreen.
The plastics feel suitably sturdy yet appropriate to the R1.3 million sticker price and, as mentioned, the cockpit is a hushed space in which to while away a few hours.
Back to that price: At R1 314 000, the Discovery Td6 HSE Luxury plays in a sphere occupied by the swanky Mercedes-Benz GLS and the brand’s own, more prestigious Range Rover Sport. As lovely as the new vehicle is, in such lofty company the Discovery has to rely on more than just a design overhaul to attract well-heeled weekend adventurers. My suggestion? Opt for one of the entry-level versions. They possess the newfound refinement and comfort, but in a simpler specification that’s a charming throwback to previous Discovery’.
Photos: Supplied, Text: Terence Steenkamp