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A supercharged two days in LR’s latest ‘Disco’!

S Muralidhar | Updated on March 10, 2018

The new Land Rover Discovery

Sporty wheel The steering, though thin, is precise on the road.- S MURALIDHAR   -  S Muralidhar

Creature comfort: The second row offers good thigh support. - S MURALIDHAR   -  S Muralidhar

The new Discovery is a hulk on steroids with surprisingly nimble ‘feet’

With broad wheel arches, a narrower shoulder and roof, the new Land Rover Discovery looks the part, fitting nicely into the brand’s current, modern design language that was rolled out first in the Evoque. The Discovery is meant to straddle the space between practicality and luxury; and wedge itself between the compact Discovery Sport and the Range Rover.

The new Discovery is the fifth generation of this practical sports utility vehicle from Land Rover. Sold earlier with the numeric generation reference, the Discovery was sold as the LR3 and the LR4 in the US; from this new generation it will simply be called by its first name. The new Discovery shares the light-weight platform of the Range Rover. This can only be good news; the monocoque is now almost 500 kg lighter. At nearly five metres in length, including that slightly ungainly-to-look-at rear overhang, the new Discovery is still quite the hulk. It also weighs in at nearly 2.2 tons.



Design



The Discovery is quite a departure from the previous generation’s boxy, over-upright design. The new model still has the stepped roof design, but it is mostly cosmetic and intended only to refer back to the design history of the previous four generations that were built on some form of ladder chassis. View its side profile and the new Discovery seems similar to the more compact Discovery Sport, except the extra length, which is a simple pointer to its third row of seats. Being a seven-seater in the Indian market even in the luxury class is quite frankly an advantage; apparently there are a number of buyers who still want that versatility.

The design is overall less like a bread-box and features mildly curved panels including the roof and tail-gate, all of which come together to give it a more squat appearance.

The new Discovery also gets a lot more changes on the exterior, which are a breakaway from the past. The headlamps are now sleeker units with new signature LED DRLs. The tail-lamps are similarly new slim horizontal units with LED tubes, instead of the previous generation’s vertical units. Instead of the split gate of the LR4, the new one gets a single, powered door hinged at the roof and made of lighter composite material.

The clam-shell bonnet, another LR signature, is of course there, as is its tradition of building true off-roading capability right into the design. A maximum ground clearance of 284 mm, a water wading depth of upto 900 mm (that’s three feet!) and an approach angle and departure angle of upto 34-degrees and 30-degrees respectively are all pointers to the new Discovery’s underlying prowess. The other change in the new generation model’s design is the third row glass, which instead of merging into the roof, now features a blacked out C-pillar, and together with similar treatment to the A-pillar and the contrast colour offers a variation of the floating roof concept.



Cabin



The new Discovery’s cabin bears the stamp of classic LR design. With the trademark mix of vertical and horizontal elements, the dashboard is simple, yet elegant. The choice of materials, especially some of the plastic parts weakens the overall quality. But, any plusher and the Discovery will seem like it is nipping at the Range Rover’s heels. The open-pore wood trim and the polished aluminium bits around the cabin in my test mule were neat additions. The best feature of the cabin has to be the ventilated (heated and cooled) leather seats. With wide squabs and supportive bolsters, the seats are super comfortable; almost all seven of them. The third row seats are little cramped, but thigh and shoulder support even in the second row is excellent. The headrests are a little too tall and can affect driver visibility if they are all in use, but can be folded down when not occupied. One-touch power folding of the second and third rows is possible, as is lowering or raising the car for easier loading into the boot.

The steering wheel felt a little uncharacteristically thin to hold; being so used to chunkier rims on even sub-₹10 lakh SUVs. But, later into the drive I discovered that the steering is delightfully precise and has a sporty centre-weighted feel. The other cabin feature that I thoroughly enjoyed during the two days I spent in it was the Meridian music system. I wouldn’t give full marks to the touch screen on the centre stack, which missed out on better connectivity options and was prone to delayed touch response. The centre console features two rotary knobs for the primary PRNDS selector that rises when the engine start button is pushed and the other one for the Terrain Response selection. The new Discovery features LR’s second generation Terrain Response, which includes a more elaborate and sophisticated manual or auto (new) selection of modes depending on the on-road or off-road conditions. Adjustments to the traction control, throttle, ABS and differentials are made based on inputs from monitoring wheel slip and spin, speed, angle of approach and departure, and the suspension’s position and rebound.



Performance



The Discovery HSE Si6 that I test drove featured the three-litre, supercharged V6 petrol engine, which it supposedly shares with a few Jaguar models. This unit generates a hefty 336 hp (250 kW) of peak power and 450 Nm of peak torque. On paper those numbers are good, but for a hulking SUV such as this, is it enough? I was in for a surprise. Already, during light throttle in city traffic, the car pulls clean without much of an effort showing on the powertrain. But, on the highway and on occasions when I floored the throttle, the Discovery leapt forward like a powerful sedan, pushing me into the seat and leaving me white knuckled every time. Peak torque kicks in from 3,500 rpm, but with a free-revving engine that has it’s redline set at 6,500 rpm, there is no perceptible delay and there is a truck load of power and torque in the mid-range. Mated to this 2,995 cc engine is LR’s eight-speed auto transmission, and real-time four-wheel drive is standard. In addition to a sport mode, manual gear selection with the help of steering mounted paddles is possible. At higher revs, the supercharger’s whine and the engine’s roar is a delight to hear in the cabin. Despite its size and weight, the new Discovery manages to make the 0-100 kmph dash in 7.1 seconds! With this petrol powertrain, there is no way owners will miss a diesel’s torque spread, they will miss the prospect of better mileage that a diesel engine could deliver.



Bottomline



My test mule featured electronic air suspension. The ride quality will be immensely satisfying if you are a back bencher. Even though in the standard setting it seemed a bit wallowy, there is a sense of controlled suppleness to the ride, and massive potholes and speed breakers alike are swallowed by the Discovery without so much as a ruffle in the cabin. I was braking instinctively to avoid bad patches only to realise in the last minute that this vehicle can really sail over all of them.

As for the Discovery’s handling, yes, there is a bit of body roll, and I missed the feel of tighter turn-ins while tackling some corners. But, the overall confidence level that a big, high-sprung SUV such as this inspires is still remarkable. For its true-blue LR off-roading cred, much better design, extremely practical and plusher cabin, and that sweet petrol powertrain, the new Discovery is a worthy package in the ₹71 lakh to ₹88 lakh price range.

Published on November 30, 2017

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