Enormously capable and versatile in design, the fifth generation beauty will do anything you ask it to. Alvin Thomas bonds with the all-new Disco for a silky smooth dance on the road and the beach.
Quick question. If the successor of the Land Rover LR3 is the Land Rover LR4, name the descendant of the latter. Well, if you said Land Rover LR5, then you’re out of the game. Why? Because the boffins at Land Rover seem to think that the answer to the question has nothing to do with a numeral at all. As a matter of fact, the actual answer to my question is: The Land Rover Discovery.
Yeah, it makes no sense to me either. But bear with me, here. For I think it’s not right to throw shade on this new contender from the great land of England. Or to rephrase it in simpler terms, the new Land Rover Discovery is all aces. And you know what? I hail the company’s decision to drop that damp squib “LR” moniker to resurrect the ‘Discovery’ nameplate and get serious.
You heard me right, folks! The “Disco” is back, and it’s here to seize back its share from those pesky, yet overtly capable, Asian and German off-roaders; and funnily enough, a share that has long been associated with the Disco’s bigger brother: Range Rover.
It looks its part, too. The Land Rover Discovery, with its new styling, looks (unmistakably) like a Range Rover –at least from some angles –and that’s definitely a good thing. I cannot even begin to tell you how many cars swerved out of my path; it really has prodigious amount of road presence.
My tester car –which was finished in almost navy blue colour –looked spectacular in person. And because it was loaded with all the optional goodies like the LED headlights and massive 54cm alloys, it also looked premium.
The lights, especially in LED form factor, look very much like that of the Range Rover: stretched over length into an almost-wedge-like shape, and garnished on the edges with daytime running LED lamps. Apart from that, the front fascia is rather plain, with only a couple of intakes on either side, Land Rover’s traditional grille, and two small strips of LED fog lamps.
The side profile of the Disco remains bare, too, aside from the grey plastic panels that have ‘Discovery’ badges etched on them. The large windows and the overly tall stance of the stepped roof are concealed rather well by the dark colour on my tester, but I suppose lighter shades could really undo that impression.
The rear end, however, is where the Disco takes all its censure: its hind is lanky, and the number plate takes an awkward offset position on the tailgate. But indubitably, there’s beauty in it, too. For instance, the thin, fashionable LED taillights, and the rugged black plastic panels on the bumper round off the rather juxtaposed design of the posterior of this SUV.
Hey, if it works… Thankfully, unlike the smaller Land Rover Discovery Sport crossover, the Disco classifies as a full-blown off roader, even though it is now based on a uni-body platform.
Moving over to the interior reveals a rather minimalist cabin. It’s light years ahead of its overly complicated predecessor, and more in line with the manufacturer’s new cabin-design philosophy, as seen in the bigger Range Rovers and Jaguar sedans.
You get a beautifully laid out leatherette cabin, splashed with soft-touch surfaces on the upper portions of the dashboard and centre console. There are hard plastics, too, but it is confined to panels below your waist, so that everything you immediately touch and feel is plush.
As expected, you also get JLR’s signature gear knob –the one that rises slowly from the centre panel upon starting the SUV, as well as the stupendous and responsive 26cm wide touchscreen entertainment unit, with a booming 14-speaker Meridian sound system (with a subwoofer!). The sound system is by far one of the best I have tested.
Unlike most SUVs, stepping inside the cabin is quite an easy task, thanks to the side-steps (an extra-cost option). But, if need be, the Disco can also crouch down for people to enter or raise up for loading or unloading heavy cargo, courtesy the air suspension.
There’s plenty of cabin space to play with: space in the first and second row are in plentiful, and there’s enough headroom for a large group of circus clowns to play in. Space in the third row is limited, but I could fit inside without any hiccups, and the panoramic sunroof and the enormous glass helps curb claustrophobia.
The seats are quite large –more like a throne even –providing a very commanding feel when on the road. But I must say that the riding position isn’t as commanding as say, a Range Rover Vogue. The seats are well bolstered, even in the second and third row, and hug the passengers in place even while cornering hard.
Boot space is great with the third-row seats down, and you can also fold flat the second row to gain more space to transport a couple of large bicycles or even a kayak. There are also several –and by several, I mean an abundance of –storage bins in the Disco. You get your usual two cup holders in the front, door pockets and cubbies; but that isn’t all. Underneath the cup holders lies a large storage compartment; one above the glove box and one hidden behind the a/c controls.
Meanwhile, if you’re loaded with money, you can also opt for the waterproof wristband, Land Rover’s legendary heads-up display, the convenient foot-waving power-tailgate opening, two rows of heated/cooled seats with “winged” headrests, and a lot more.
Underneath the hood lies a Jaguar-sourced 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine, pumping out a hefty 335hp and 450Nms of grunt. The latter is what gives the Disco its gruff, however, the engine sounds soulful –much like what you will hear in a Jaguar sedan. And because much of the torque lies in the 3500 to 5000rpm band, you will have to pump up the revs to get the engine to thrust you forwards; it’s a unique feeling.
The superb powertrain is rounded off by an eight-speed “ZF” automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels via Land Rover’s “trick” differential. All of this translated to a time of 7.9 seconds during my sprint from naught to 100kph. But I must say that the power delivery is linear, and the gear ratios apt for brisk acceleration despite the 2.2 tonnes of metal it has to lug around.
As expected from a vehicle of this size, there is a fair amount of body roll while cornering. However, the results are nowhere close, and is much, much better than what you can expect from a similarly sized (stock) Asian rival. The Germans can take corners harder, but there’s none in this class and price point that can rival the Disco off-road.
The ride, however, is silky smooth. Actually, let me rephrase that: the Disco has one of the best ride qualities I have ever experienced in an SUV. It’s miles ahead of the Range Rover, even with its large 285/40 tyres. All credit goes to the air suspension that is tuned for comfort. Wind noise is kept to a minimum, too.
As for the steering; it’s a tad vague, with no feedback translating to the driver whatsoever. But, it is perfectly weighted, remaining heavy on the highway and light for city driving.
The brakes are strong and linear in stopping power, but the pedal seemed dampened –possibly to avoid the driver from upsetting the balance of the car while braking.
Oh, but don’t for a second think that the Disco isn’t capable off-road. There’s a galore of computer-operated off-road nannies such as a terrain-management system, electronically selected low-range gearing, all-terrain crawl control, hill-descent control, gradient-release control, and an air suspension system that can raise the vehicle by 40mm to 75mm depending on your speed.
I didn’t dare take the Disco off the tarmac, except for a photoshoot on the beach. And I can report that the SUV can take even the deepest and softest of sands without a hitch. I’ve also been told by fellow off-road enthusiasts that the Disco –while resembling a city cruiser –still possesses excellent capabilities on tricky tarmac.
So, is it the perfect SUV that you can buy, today?
Well, you see, that’s a tough call (at least for me). Ever since I laid my hands on a Range Rover, I’ve been in love with it. Heck, I even have posters of the Range Rover Sport SVR in my bedroom –like a 12-year-old kid would do so.
But, if anything, the Land Rover Discovery –with its Range Rover-esque looks, off-road capabilities, practicality, and affordable price tag –may very well be the best bet for those not looking to spend a fortune on a premium SUV.
Then, the Disco is by all means what the doctor ordered.