► Land Rover Discovery 5 driven
► We test new Disco off-road
► Early review of prototype
In many ways, the Discovery is the backbone of modern Land Rover. Now the Defender has bitten the dust, the Disco is the essence of the brand: tough, family-friendly and with a knack of taking you places other SUVs and 4x4s can only dream of reaching.
There have been murmurings of discontent in some quarters. That the new 2017 Land Rover Discovery is a touch too slick, too fancy. That they've blurred the boundaries too much betwixt L-R and R-R. That it's just too damn posh to be a real Discovery.
To see if the naysayers are talking tosh, we've come to remotest, wildest Scotland to drive a late prototype of the Discovery 5. Read on for our early review...
What's new for 2017?
Everything, in case you hadn't noticed. Read our earlier news report from the Paris motor show for all the detailed specs and details, but suffice to say it's more than just a radical new look.
The lumbering underpinnings of the old model have been jettisoned to the scrapheap alongside that other icon of the brand, the Defender.
In its place comes a new aluminium-intensive architecture, shaving half a tonne from the Disco's kerbweight (down to a still-porky 2.3 tonnes). The relative diet explains the promise of 39mpg and 189g/km CO2, despite retaining the brand's traditional go-anywhere powers, room for seven and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity.
Styled less like a brick and more like a car
The new Discovery may disappoint purists with those softened-bar-of-soap looks, but it's certainly more efficient. The drag coefficient tumbles to 0.3, from the old car's double-decker bus 0.4 figure, promising more hushed M-way cruising.
This remains a big car: 4970mm long and 2073mm wide - which means it also packs in space for seven adult passengers. This is a core Disco requirement and one traditionalists will applaud.
You'll have heard of the new electro-folding Intelligent Seat Fold, available on higher-spec models. They can be operated by app (what do you mean you've never sat on the sofa at home itching to lower your car's seats remotely?) and the good news is space is abundant back there.
All three rows of seats are heated (the front two are chilled, too, depending on spec) and there's wi-fi and USB charging aplenty to keep the sprogs happy on family duties.
How does the new Discovery 5 drive?
In case you can't tell from the photos, we could only drive the new 4x4 off-road. Which is at once its natural habitat and, of course, a gimmick since the majority will spend 99% of their time on tarmac driven by school-run mums, not wannabe Ranulph Fienneses.
Our test environment does, however, mean we can confirm it'll rock-scramble and wade with the best of them, Terrain Response 2 snicking all relevant electro-nannies and diffs into the appropriate mode as you ford 900mm-deep rivers and clamber up ravines that you'd think twice about tackling on foot. Air suspension will be standard fit in the UK, providing a sutiably lofty ride height.
This is an unstoppable car when the going gets tough; even on roadgoing all-seasons 20in tyres, we could traverse the kind of terrain that might give a mountain goat the hebejebes. For sheer off-road prowess, we'd say it's job done.
And on road?
A bit too early to say. But you'll immediatley notice a car that feels lighter, nimbler, more controlled than before.
The signs are they've come up with a well judged balance between ride and handling too - with decent, linear steering that gives you confidence when threading what remains a big, heavy car through narrow lanes. We'll give a full on-road verdict in the coming weeks.
The new 2017 Land Rover Discovery 5 has impressed us on first acquaintance. This is a very limited driving experience and we must wait to see how it performs on road until the spring.
This much is clear: it's a very polished performer, one that'll set the cat among the pigeons. We, too, worry it might have strayed too close to its Range Rover Sport brethren - in design, in feel, in execution - and yet the market continues to lap up these cars in droves.
Our prediction? The world will mourn the old Discovery's design - but will love the new-found style, gadgetry and dynamics offered by the replacement. The Disco beat goes on, just remixed for 2017.
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