Land Rover have faced a conundrum in recent years. How do you honour your hard-earned reputation for out-and-out off-roading capability, while providing the levels of suppleness and luxury that modern buyers demand? The British brand’s upmarket Range Rover vehicles have satisfied this question for decades – with the trade-off being high prices. Combining serious capability with genuine luxury into a mainstream, sub-$100,000 Land Rover has been more of a challenge. Yet that’s what the 2017 Land Rover Discovery sets out to do – and from first impressions on the Discovery’s launch in outback Australia, it looks like the effort has been a success.
The result is a fifth-generation Discovery that is more like a Range Rover than ever. The visual similarities inside and out with the Discovery’s platform-sharing cousin, the Range Rover Sport, are obvious. So too is the way the Discovery feels behind the wheel. Immediately, it’s clear that the days of basic, agricultural Land Rovers are behind us. That’s particularly interesting given the Discovery’s place in the Land Rover range. With the hardcore Defender now gone – and a replacement now slated for 2020 or later – the Discovery will be marketed as the most serious off-roader of the group. But the overwhelming feeling is that the new Discovery has been designed chiefly to please its family buyers with true comfort on-road, and strong practicality for the Discovery’s everyday duties as a vehicle for the school run.
However, while the new Discovery’s focus is the realistic stuff families will use it for – ferrying kids, commuting, and occasional road-trips – Land Rover convincingly shot down any notion that the Discovery 5’s capability off the black top has been softened. In fact, the majority of our seat time on the vehicle’s national launch was staged off-road, including on a difficult artificial course constructed by the brand’s off-roading Land Rover Experience experts. Severe corrugations, deep wading through mud, negotiating moguls and steep ascents and descents were all present. Pleasantly, the most luxurious Discovery ever is also the most capable factory-fresh Discovery ever, too.
The British brand’s local product planners are confident that the Land Rover badge increasingly stands for guaranteed off-roading capability combined with high levels of interior luxury. That is a conscious move away from basic, utilitarian, not-luxurious off-roaders like the Defender and earlier Discovery iterations – and Land Rover accepts this characterisation. It is a move precipitated by rapidly changing consumer preferences towards luxury – and in Land Rover’s case, that includes the luxury of knowing that you own a vehicle that can tackle hard outback terrain, even if you never attempt it yourself. That is what the new Discovery is all about.
But like most modern Jaguar and Land Rover products, the Discovery is afflicted by a complicated range that makes identifying the ideal specification difficult, and spending a lot of money too easy. Five trim levels, three engines and over 80 options sees the range span from a rather sparsely-equipped Td4 S ($65,960) to the lavish Td6 First Edition ($132,160). For those that are lost in the extensive choice, a good starting point is the mid-range HSE model, with either the Sd4 ($93,550) or Td6 ($100,550) engine.
Key specs (as tested)
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