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The all-new Land Rover Discovery has landed in Australia, overtaking from the very successful, ageing 4th-generation Discovery. While everyone might be more excited about the Defender, the Discovery is an equally (if not more) important vehicle, by volume at least.

Australia has been a bastion of support and love for the Discovery, ever since the started lobbing in on Australian roads and tracks back in the early 1990’s. The Discovery has accounted for almost 50% of the marque’s sales in Australia, and definitely helped with pulling the company out of it’s financial turmoil in the 1980s.

 

The new Discovery brings you a very new design, with a few nods to the heritage thrown in for good measure.

The new Discovery brings you a very new design, with a few nods to the heritage thrown in for good measure.

 

There’s no doubt that the Discovery has come a long way since those two-door, Range Rover-underpinned models, with a 3.5 litre V8 or 200dti diesel to choose from. But funnily enough, the Discovery has gone back to borrowing noticeably from it’s more expensive stablemates. No more chassis rails to see here: the Discovery uses an aluminium monocoque setup.

It’s pretty cheap

Remember when the Discovery 3 first came out, with the pov-pack ‘S’ designation model that had basic cloth seats, not many options and coil-sprung suspension? Land Rover is doing that again, with a very competitively-priced $65,960 starting point on the 2017 Discovery. Sure, you won’t get much tech or spec for that money, but when you compare that to a Prado, Grand Cherokee for example, you can see where a budget Discovery might make sense.

There are a lot of folk out there who buy 4X4s only because they want a big vehicle, and never slip into low range or go beyond a manicured gravel driveway. So, to appeal to this kind of buyer, Land Rover is breaking the Discovery mould and offering single-range (no low range) options towards the lower end of the spec. It has worked well already, did you know that 45% of Range Rover Sports are sold these days without a transfer case?

It’s also pretty expensive

Now, don’t get thinking the 2017 Discovery will be cheap overall. With an option list longer than Chopper Read’s rap sheet, you can take the final price of a Disco way, way up. Want to spend the most dosh? There’s a limited number of ‘First Edition’ models, which have the options book thrown at them, and cost $131,871.40. SE-specced models go for between $77,050 and $94,701, whilst HSE models go from $87,150 to $103,661. You’ll be shelling out between $100,950 and $117,461.40 for the HSE Luxury.

Is it a Range Rover? No, it's not. The new Discovery has a resplendent interior, in high-spec models at least.

Is it a Range Rover? No, it’s not. The new Discovery has a resplendent interior, in high-spec models at least.

SE-specced models go for between $77,050 and $94,701, whilst HSE models go from $87,150 to $103,661. You’ll be shelling out between $100,950 and $117,461.40 for the HSE Luxury. This price is largely dictated by your choice in engine, which leads me to my next point. Models we have driven were on the well-specced end of the scale, and were very, very nice. The interior is a definite step up over the older Discovery.

There are new engines

The new range of Ingenium diesel engines are available in the new Discovery, joining up with the already-used 3.0 litre V6 diesel. It’s outputs have been slightly tweaked into 190kW @ 3,750rpm and 600Nm @ 1,750-2,250rpm. Combined with the weight savings, you can scoot from 0-100km/h in 8.1 seconds, and use 7.1 litres per hundred kays (according to the sticker). It’s smooth, quiet and crispy, giving you a huge, surging push of torque immediately with your right foot.

You can see the underbelly is well protected for off-road work, and the air suspension gives you plenty of ground clearance.

You can see the underbelly is well protected for off-road work, and the air suspension gives you plenty of ground clearance.

The other interesting choice in engines is the ‘SD4’, a 2.0-litre sequentially-turbocharged four-pot that makes, 177kW @ 4,000rpm. Impressively, there is 500Nm available from this unit. Even more impressively, it’s from only 1,500rpm. How do they do that, you ask? The primary turbo in the circuit pushes over 3.7bar of boost. That’s 53 PSI!

Impressively, the performance of the four and the six are quite similar. You can feel the V6’s more broad, deep push of torque, but the four-pot is seriously hot on it’s heels, off the mark. The gearbox is fast and fluent in switching to the right gear, and the engine revs fast, clean and willingly. It’s only fractionally slower, too: 8.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h, and it can sip away at only 6.5 litres per hundred kays.

The 3.0 litre V6 diesel is the pick of the engines, but those conscious of economy can have their cake and eat it too with the SD4 diesel.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the pick of the engines, but those conscious of economy can have their cake and eat it too with the SD4 diesel.

The most base engine is a single-turbo 2.0-litre engine, which wasn’t available to drive. It makes 132kW @ 4,000rpm, and 430Nm @ 1,500rpm, and will be mostly paired up with lower-spec offerings.

There are tonnes of options

The all-new Discovery is a definite move up the tree, blurring the lines between Land Rover and Range Rover. Other than the way it looks, the best way to grasp this is to look at the options list: Intelligent Seat Fold costs $1,140, and you can do heated seats for $830.00 (1st), $1,660.00 (1st & 2nd), or $2,490.00 (1st, 2nd and 3rd). Or, do climate seats on the 1st and 2nd row (with heated 3rd) for $3,910.00. Get 4-zone climate control for $930, a heads-up display for $2,370.00 or dual-view touch-screen for $1,810.00. Combine this with your options for interior trims, colours, engines and wheels, and you’ll be spending days just sorting through the options list at the dealership.

Another option to spend your dollars on is the impressive 'InControl' infotainment unit, which runs on a very big screen.

Another option to spend your dollars on is the impressive ‘InControl’ infotainment unit, which runs on a very big screen.

It’s heaps lighter

The new Discovery steals it’s new aluminium architecture from the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, where the new technology saves a huge amount of weight. 85% of the Discovery is weight-saving a600 aluminium. There’s a smattering of steel in the subframe, magnesium at the front of the chassis, and the back door is made of some kind of composite. In total, you’re saving up to 480kg over the heavy-set Discovery 4. And that has positives across the board: The new Discovery handles better, brakes better, accelerates better, rides better, and is noticeably better off-road.

It’s very capable

Yes, don’t worry. Just because the new Land Rover Discovery doesn’t subscribe to the typical 4X4 lookbook, that doesn’t stop it from being immensely capable in technical terrain. One of the biggest proponents of this is the weight saving: When it’s 2,200kg vs 2,700kg, lighter wins every time.

balanced wheel travel front and rear gives you a very stable performance over ruts like these. The traction control is hugely effective as well, making any drongo look like a weapon off-road.

Balanced wheel travel front and rear gives you a very stable performance over ruts like these. The traction control is hugely effective as well, making any drongo look like a weapon off-road.

But, there’s more than that. Cross-linked airbag suspension simulate live axles, giving 500mm of stable, supple wheel travel to keep the wheels in touch with the ground. When wheels do lift, the traction control system is quick to keep progress going. It’s not as smooth or progressive as it’s Range Rover stablemates, but it’s still very, very good. The air suspension can give you up to 283mm of ground clearance, and will even lift itself up when it senses you’ve bottomed out somewhere.

Combine all of this with Terrain Response 2, and the Discovery takes all of the hard work out of tricky terrain. Seriously, any old mug would be able to get up and over some pretty tough obstacles in the Discovery, with only basic training and knowledge. From what we drove, we were mightily impressed.

2017 Land Rover Discovery

A 900mm wading depth comes from a ‘labyrinth’ air intake built into the bonnet, which works to separate air and water before hitting the engine. Land Rover reckon you’ll start floating at 900mm, as well.

It’s a very premium experience

The new Discovery picks up the electric steering, which has been tuned and weighted very nicely for the car. One spot where you notice it most is corrugations: we were sitting at that annoying 60-80km/h on some decently corrugated roads, but the way the car soaked them up was pretty amazing. The suspension is tuned really nicely for comfort and touring, and the driveline is both powerful, smooth and quiet. You’ve got up to 9 USB plugs, and up to 6 12V plugs as well. The Discovery is a rolling hot-spot, with the ability to connect to the internet and host 8 different devices.

Storage spots abound inside, as well, hidden behind panels and under cup holders. Heaven help you if someone hides someting, amongst 45 litres of stowage space, hidden across 21 different spots.

But, there is something missing.

The new Land Rover Discovery is more revolution than evolution over the older model. You’re getting more of everything these days: more options, comfort, luxury, efficiency and performance, both on-road and off-road. But at the same time, where the advances have been made, the change in the recipe has left it a little less ‘bushy-ready’.

We'll be eagerly anticipating what the aftermarket industry will be able to brew up for the Discovery.

We’ll be eagerly anticipating what the aftermarket industry will be able to brew up for the Discovery.

Land Rover isn’t currently planning on offering accessories that will help the Discovery live a life off-road, things like roof racks, bullbars, winch mounts and antenna tabs.

Once, the Discovery was perfect for those buyers who wanted sometime a bit more advanced and refined to a LandCruiser, but still wanted to bolt up some accessories and go 4X4 touring. We’ll have to see what the aftermarket can supply for the Discovery to help fill these needs, because the Discovery has more comfort and capability than ever before. It just needs a little help feeling right at home on those dusty Australian tracks.