In a world dominated by off-roaders incapable of handling mud or rocks, Land Rover has doggedly stuck to its guns with the Evoque, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Sure, they're posh and comfortable, but they can also transform into genuine four-wheel drives at the push of a button. The new Discovery, with its flexible interior and fancy exterior, might look at home on high street, but it'll also take you to the moon and back should you so desire.
Lets start at the outside, because that's probably what people are going to talk about. The days of the boxy, utilitarian Discovery are gone, and in their place is a smoother look. To our eyes, it looks fantastic – especially in the metal, where it manages to hide its considerable bulk well.
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It's a similar story inside, where the chunky switchgear and hard plastics of the outgoing car have been replaced with a slicker, higher-tech layout derived from the Evoque and Range Rover. The three rows of seats are staggered in height, giving second and third row passengers a better view of what's ahead, and Land Rover claims the rearmost seats can house full-sized adults. All three rows can be heated, and (as Bear Grylls demonstrated) the layout can be tweaked remotely using a smartphone app.
Land Rover is also at pains to mention the storage space on offer, with plenty of nooks and crannies to store oddments, phones and water bottles in the doors and between the front seats. Down back, there's 1,137 l (40 cu.ft) of boot space with the third row folded, and dropping the second row opens up a van-like 2,406 l (85 cu.ft).
In spite of this new, more luxurious focus, the Discovery has lost a staggering 480 kg (1,058 lb) compared to the outgoing model. According to Land Rover this impressive drop comes thanks to aluminum, and lots of it. Built on the brand's full-size SUV architecture, the Disco's monocoque is around 85 percent aluminum, and magnesium has been used for some of the key structural beams and braces.
Now for the part we know you've been dying to know – will it actually go off road. The answer is yes, it absolutely will go off-road. Ground clearance is 283 mm (11 in), and the new Discovery's wading depth of 900 mm (35 in) means it will ford (almost) every stream. It'll also follow every rainbow, provided drivers don't exceed the 34-degree approach, 27.5-degree breakover and 30-degree departure angles.
Air suspension at all four corners, along with a full-time four-wheel drive system and a two-speed transfer box, mean the Terrain Response system can tailor the ride and performance to suit mud, ruts, grass, gravel, rocks and sand. The system will even monitor surfaces and automatically adapt its characteristics to suit them, although keen off-roaders will likely want to take control with the center console-mounted dial.
Power comes from a range of engines, kicking off with a 240 hp (179 kW) four-cylinder diesel. In spite of its diminutive size, the 2.0-liter motor also makes 500 Nm of torque, and emits just 171 g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle. Jumping up in the range brings a 258 hp (192 kW) V6 diesel engine, and there's also a 340 hp (254 kW) V6 petrol on offer.
As you'd expect of a modern four-wheel drive, there's a full range of active safety features to keep the kids safe. Along with auto-emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, anyone nervous about hooking up a trailer will be pleased to know the car will warn you when you're overloaded, and can even reverse park itself without jackknifing.
Pricing for the new Discovery starts at £43,495 ( about US$56,400). It'll hit showrooms in the second quarter of 2017, having debuted at the Paris Motor Show.
Take a closer look at the new Discovery in the video below:
Source: Land RoverView gallery - 23 images