THABAZIMBI – We sample the fifth-generation Discovery at its local launch held around the Waterberg mountains…
So what do we have here … the new Land Rover Discovery? Looks very different and very familiar at the same time. Know what I mean?
I certainly do. It is indeed a very different looking vehicle to its predecessor, but it’s also remarkably similar to its sibling, the Range Rover Sport. The Disco might still have a hint of its predecessors’ trademark stepped roof and meaty C-pillar, but both in profile and nose, there’s not too much in it.
Plus, looking at their price points, there isn’t all that much in that either, with the Disco going for between R990 000 and R1,47-million, while the Rangie Sport is, relatively speaking, not that much more at R1,15-million to R1,6-million for its V6 turbodiesel and turbopetrol derivatives.
Which begs the question…
Why are they so similar? Yes, I put that question to one of Land Rover’s representatives at the launch and the answer is basically this…
Land Rover vehicles have, at their core, three key attributes – strength, capability and luxury. All of its ranges (Defender, Discovery, Range Rover) have all three in some form, but one quality is dialled up in each. In the Discovery, there’s a little more emphasis on capability, where as the Range Rovers aim more at luxury and the Defenders, obviously, at strength.
I take it, then, that the Discovery has better off-road abilities than the RR Sport?
Precisely and I’ve got to hand it to them, Land Rover South Africa put together the perfect route for us to test just how capable its new Disco is. From the Land Rover Experience training centre near Centurion, we drove up to a bush camp in the Waterberg near Thabazimbi. Apart from experiencing the Discovery on highway and secondary roads, we also drove it on gravel and, along the way, on a 4×4 course.
On tar, one thing that immediately stood out was the…
Sorry to interrupt. Before we get to that, a quick run through of the drivetrains please?
Apologies, I should’ve mentioned that up front. The range launches with two engine derivatives sporting the Jaguar Land Rover group’s familiar 3,0 V6s: the 190kW/600 N.m turbodiesel in the Td6; and the 250kW/450 N.m supercharged petrol in the Si6. Both deliver their power to all four wheels via a ZF-sourced eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
There are four trim levels – S, HS, HSE and HSE Luxury – as well as a limited “First Edition” spec (2 400 units) that tops the range. A 2,0-litre turbodiesel will join the line-up at an as-yet unconfirmed later date.
Great, thanks. Okay back to its on and off-road abilities…
Right. As I was saying, what immediately jumped out at us while cruising north up the N1 was just how impressively low the NVH was. Even at highway speeds, there was very little in the way of tyre, wind or engine noise that made its way into the cabin. This was a particularly well received by both my driving partner – Popular Mechanics editor, Anthony Doman – and I. If he’s also at a launch, I usually share a car with Mr Doman. He’s a man of discerning musical tastes similar to my own and it usually gives us the opportunity to natter about and listen to some righteous tunes.
We drove both the diesel and petrol versions on the road, and whereas the diesel naturally offered a little more in-gear grunt, both powertrains were very refined – buttery smooth in power delivery with a supple ride that also offered plenty of grip through low-profile 275/45R21 rubber sitting on the optional 21-inch wheels.
These characteristics should, of course, be no surprise. Unlike its steel ladder-chassised predecessor, the new vehicle shares its aluminium monocoque platform with that Range Rover Sport. Land Rover claim 480 kg less mass than the previous generation and it’s certainly evident on road where double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link layout with an integral link at the rear combine with that monocoque chassis to produce excellent road manners. Front and rear air suspension is also standard on the SE and HSE models, and it can be lowered by up to 60 mm for easier loading access and to assist when hitching trailers, or raised by 75 mm to increase ground clearance.
Talking of ground clearance, let’s hear more about its abilities off road.
The previous Discovery had near-legendary off-road abilities for a luxury SUV and the new car dials that up a notch or two. You can order your Disco with a two-speed transfer box, giving you selectable high and low range gears and a 50/50 torque split between front and rear wheels. As is the often the case with big SUVs these days, sensors will detect slip at each corner and distribute torque to the wheels capable of taking up the slack.
Venturing off road is made even easier by Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 technology that will automatically select the low-range gears when you choose one of the off-road driving programmes (general driving; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts; sand; and rock crawling). Added to this is the optional All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) system, which is basically a cruise control for steep terrain. All you need to do is select a speed between 1,8km/h and 30km/h, and the Discovery’s electronic brain applies the appropriate acceleration and braking. All you have to do is steer.
It made the off-road course you see in these pics an absolute doddle, with the Discovery clambering over rocks, wading through water and ascending steep, muddy banks with ease despite its low-profile, road-biased tyres.
It must be good, because you’re not exactly an off-road expert, are you?
Hey. Thanks for that. Look, I’m no Kingsley Holgate, but I can get up and over most things. However, for the benefit of serious off-roaders like yourself, here are the new Discovery’s credentials:
:: Ground clearance – 283 mm
:: Approach angle – up to 34 degrees
:: Breakover angle – 27.5 degrees
:: Departure angle – 30 degrees
:: Wheel articulation – 500 mm
:: Wading depth – 900mm
And what was it like on gravel, because I would guess that of the off-roading Discovery owners are likely to do, this would make up the lion’s share?
Actually it was on this surface that the Discovery impressed me the most. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say, it’s the best gravel-roader I’ve driven. That air suspension, together very impressive suspension damping, smoothed out concrete-hard washboard ruts and combined with the lighter monocoque chassis for a planted and exceptionally smooth-for-gravel ride. The Subaru Forester I had as a long-termer a couple of years ago had been my favourite on gravel, but this new Disco has trumped it.
I notice you haven’t said much about the interior…
That’s true, but it’s not for any negative reasons; it’s just the least interesting bit to talk about in the new Disco. It’s a very comfortable space with a look and feel that’s an excellent, model-appropriate mix of luxury and hard-wearing practicality. The build quality is rock solid and it offers a host of innovative stowage spaces, including a clever little mobile phone and wallet cavity hidden behind the climate control panel.
In seven-seater configuration, the third row takes two adults in relative comfort. I chose to sit there for an hour-long drive up to a mountain viewpoint at dawn on the second morning of the launch and found it perfectly comfortable. It also gave me another indication of just how good the Discovery’s suspension set up is … sitting over the rear axle in a seven-seater SUV over bumpy ground is usually a chiropractic experience.
So, it’s the perfect luxury off-road SUV, then?
Pretty much. The only quibble I have is the price. There are a number of features I would have wanted as standard in my new Discovery, especially at HSE spec … they are, however, options. And they stack up.
On our Montalcino Red Td6 HSE Luxury, for example, you would be paying extra for the seven-seater configuration, the Terrain Response 2 and ATPC systems, auto dimming mirror, four-zone climate control, 360-degree PDC with visual display, which, among other options, added a whopping R285k on top of the vehicle’s R1 323 918 asking price. That’s well into Mercedes-Benz GL territory (also a seven-seater and a CAR favourite) and among the pricier Range Rover Sports.
And that means, if you want a Discovery for its off-road abilities and seven-seater practicality, it does start to look a little expensive…
Base Pricing (excl. CO2 tax):
3,0 TDV6 S: R992 540
3,0 V6 Supercharged S: R1 037 310
3,0 TDV6 SE: R1 121 790
3,0 V6 Supercharged SE: R1 145 560
3,0 TDV6 HSE: R1 235 540
3,0 V6 Supercharged HSE: R1 259 310
3,0 TDV6 HSE Luxury: R1 326 540
3,0 V6 Supercharged HSE Luxury: R1 350 310
3,0 TDV6 First Edition: R1 452 540
3,0 V6 First Edition: R1 476 310
Price:R1 326 540
Engine:3,0-litre V6, turbodiesel
Power:190kW @ 3750 r/min
Torque:600 N.m @ 1 750 - 22 50 r/min
0-100 km/h: 8,1 sec*
Top Speed:209 km/h*
Fuel Consumption:7,8 L/100 km*
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Maintenance Plan:5 year/ 100 000 km
Notes:* claimed figures