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First Drive – 2017 Land Rover Discovery: still the all-versatile warrior

St. George, UT – Snow-covered mountain peaks, large red rock formations and a deep sand dune were all part of a playground for the all-new 2017 Land Rover Discovery. Seems fitting for the capabilities of a Land Rover product, even though they're customers rarely taken to task. On this two-day journey through the heart of both Utah and Arizona desert country that saw us cross into Zion National Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Land Rover aimed to prove how capable the newly-sculpted Discovery still is.

The Discovery nameplate may not be new globally, but in North America, it's taking over for the LR4. A refreshing change to an off-roading SUV that needed a complete overhaul from its mundane name to its aging boxy style. Canadian sales stayed status quo for the LR4 in 2016, but the British brand needed to aspire for more than triple digit sales numbers, which meant being niche in its off-road capabilities and not in the looks department as well.



A transformation in design

At 2,080 kg – 20 percent lighter (480 kg) than the LR4 with most of its construction out of aluminum – the Discovery resembles other luxury SUVs with a rounded, more aggressively-sculpted appearance. According to Phil Simmons, Land Rover’s Studio Director for Exterior Design, Land Rover wanted to “build on the [Range Rover] Evoque's styling cues that resonated emotionally with customers. A progressive more adventurous design that goes along with the brand's heritage.”

The driving force behind the sleek look comes down to aerodynamics – the 2017 model achieves a coefficient drag of 0.33. The smooth front corners remove bulk in front of the wheel allowing it to not only look planted, but have air flow around the sides to the back of the wheel arch, reducing wind noise and fuel economy in the process. The rear end takes on a whole new look with horizontal LED taillights and an off-centred license plate that bucks the trend.



Its exterior takes a while to get used to, but don't judge a book by its cover. This Discovery can still sit seven, has class leading ground clearance of 283 mm, 900 mm of wading depth when in need of some refreshment, can climb large mountains and tow up to 3,500 kg. And outside of the towing, that's exactly what we accomplished, and all of that with ease.

Conquering challenges along the way

Before we get into its on-road and off-road prowess, let's go over the two engine choices offered: a supercharged, 340-hp 3.0-litre V6 gas unit with 332 lb.-ft. of torque and a turbocharged, 254-hp 3.0-litre diesel V-6 with an impressive 443 lb.-ft. of torque. Both are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive (4x4) system.

That 4x4 system is what separates the contenders from the pretenders and Land Rover has numerous drive modes that include: Auto, Rock/Crawl, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts and Sand. Land Rover didn't hold back on the Discovery's capabilities, putting on a first class presentation of its skills with no stone left unturned.



Sandy trails were just an appetizer for the Discovery, as the diesel unit powered through those quicksand dips, turns and inclines with only minor moments of fear, but that was more to do with the driver getting acquainted with the sandy terrain.

Once settled in, it was those Coral Pink Dunes that teleported us to a scene in a modernized movie version of Lawrence of Arabia. The sand was deep, the inclines steep, and the Discovery had to find its own lines to gain any traction. After watching the lead instructor get bogged down in some heavy sand twice, it was clear this was no easy task, but this is why our tire pressure was lowered. Amazingly, every single Discovery made its way up, down and sideways through the dunes. The key was keeping momentum and powering ahead, and when done successfully without driver error, the Discovery made it past every challenge.

The last major off-road obstacle was a rock crawl. Once again, this wasn't your typical trail, but plenty of instructors were on-hand. The rocks were large, edgy, and at times, they appeared never ending. The Discovery was put in low-range and outside of a little slip right at the beginning, yours truly made a slow crawl through the most difficult rocks without any second attempts. I've been with other capable off-roaders, granted not on the same course nor with these amount of instructors, but that typically comes with a few gear shifts to get the job accomplished.



Calm, composed and quiet

The off-road obstacles were clearly the highlight of this first drive. But on reflection, it was the on-road component that became the most impressive part. And before you roll your eyes, give me a second to explain.

We expect a Land Rover to be able to be an off-road warrior – it's been doing that since its inception. What makes this new version unique is that it turns into a quiet and composed drive that allows all occupants to sit back and enjoy the plush luxuries of its cockpit. It's all about versatility and the fact that it can transform into a regular SUV with improved fuel economy – we managed a combined 10.5 L/100 km in the diesel version and 8.9 L/100 in the gas model in mostly highway driving – gives it an edge over its luxury competitors.



The LR4 never had great handling skills, but for a girthy SUV, that comes with the territory. For 2017, the Discovery still isn't the easiest to manoeuvre, but advancements have been made with turning more direct and in less need of wheel correction. In addition, braking tended to be a little slow and in need of additional pressure, but that's something that can be worked out over time.

Overall, the gas and diesel powertrains were similar rides. A few key differences of note came down to acceleration and off-road climbs. The gas version showed better chops when in need of some acceleration on the highway or while navigating city streets. On the other hand, the diesel accessed that extra amount of torque to perform some difficult rock climbs at an easier rate.

Tech-savvy interior

The technology used in its off-roading capabilities may be equal to the ones found inside. The layout is easy to understand and filled with gadgets that include 21 storage bins, nine USB ports, six 12-volt power outlets, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a rotary transmission dial. The only downside was its new 10-inch touchscreen that may use vibrant colours and graphics, but became difficult to use with slow reaction times and buttons too small to accurately press when scrolling through radio stations and other functions.

 

As frustrating as the touchscreen can be, Land Rover makes up for it in the cargo department. A one-piece liftgate breaks away from the previous split setup and supplies a handy hop-on shelf that can hold three people. In total, there is 2,500 litres of cargo space with both rows folded down, which reduces to 2,406 litres in the seven-passenger setup. Seat folding controls are made easy with electronic switches in the trunk or on the touchscreen that fold in 14 seconds. If only the third row needs to be flattened, the second row intelligently slides forward to allow for a fully flat canvass.

Conclusion

The 2017 Land Rover Discovery turns a chapter on the boxy-look we've all grown accustomed to. Its new sleek and rounded exterior may resemble a similar tone like most luxury SUVs on the market, but it's a whole lot more. The Discovery showed its strengths during rock climbs and sand dunes, but its transformation into a quiet and comfortable street cruiser makes it the total package.

Not only will it appeal to more consumers, it has everything that was rugged and versatile about the LR4 carried over along with more technology and improved fuel economy. The Discovery will start at $61,500 and go up to $82,500 with Canadian sales to begin in May.



 

Land Rover's fifth-gen Discovery shown to the world

The all-new full-size Discovery embodies the Land Rover brand’s drive to go Above and Beyond, combining British desirability with an unstoppable spirit of adventure. It’s an authentic, three-row, seven-seat(1) SUV that brings new levels of capability and versatility to the Discovery family.

Everyday ingenuity has been at the heart of the Discovery for the last 27 years. The new Discovery signals the transformation from cogs to code with more than 1.2 million owners with us on every step of the journey.

The fifth-generation model benefits from the strong and light full-size Land Rover SUV architecture, delivering comfort and adaptability like no other.

The all-new Discovery is ready for the digital age. Smart technology features keep families connected and confident on a variety of surfaces, terrains, and weather conditions; ensuring their destination is reached.

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Chief Design Officer said: “The all-new Discovery redefines the large SUV. The Land Rover design and engineering teams have revolutionized the Discovery DNA to create a highly desirable, extremely versatile and hugely capable premium SUV. We truly believe the result is a radical departure in design that will introduce the Discovery Family to a new, wider customer base.”

Revolutionary design

The all-new Discovery was previewed by the Discovery Vision Concept, which showcased the future direction of the entire Discovery family when it debuted at the New York Auto Show in 2014; it represented a radical departure for the most versatile SUV from Land Rover. The revolutionary design gives Discovery a dynamic appearance with sophisticated surfaces and precisely engineered details designed to resonate with customers on an emotional level.

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Chief Design Officer said: “Design creates an emotional connection between our customers and our vehicles. Our clear design strategy means our vehicles are instantly recognizable and communicate the values of Land Rover that our customers love. The flawless volume and proportions, sophisticated surfaces and precise detailing of the all-new Discovery, beautifully combine with engineering integrity to create a premium SUV that will resonate with today’s customers.”

The Discovery family has always had a spirit of adventure. The new model provides a dramatic reinterpretation of the 27 years of heritage and practical DNA Discovery is best known for, and combines it with a sophisticated design that pays homage to previous models without being restrained by them.

Trademark design features include the stepped roofline, which has identified each of the four previous generations of Discovery and provides an elegant solution to a practical need. The stepped profile optimizes headroom for passengers travelling in the third row of seats(1). It also accommodates the customary stadium seating configuration Discovery is best known for, which sees each row of seats positioned higher than the one in front, ensuring every seat is the best seat in the house.



Design and engineering integrity from Land Rover ensures the fifth generation Discovery is able to accommodate seven full-sized adults in an SUV body measuring just over 16 feet in length (4,970mm). Most similar-sized competitors provide 5+2 seating, but the new Discovery is designed for 95th percentile adults to sit comfortably in its rearmost seats, providing complete interior flexibility. Each of the third-row seats(1) incorporate ISOFIX mounting points (four in total), so families with children have the freedom to put child safety seats in the most appropriate location for any journey(13).

Inside, the all-new Discovery continues the design revolution started by the Discovery Sport, where customers can specify a range of premium materials including luxurious Windsor leather upholstery and natural oak veneers.

A limited-run ‘First Edition’ model showcases the very best of the new model. Only 529 examples will be available in the United States with exclusive features including unique etched map detailing on the aluminum trim for the doors and dashboard, unique badges, bold color choices and a comprehensive list of standard equipment. 3

The optional Dynamic Design Pack gives the fifth generation Discovery a more purposeful, clean appearance both inside and out, with features including a contrast roof, athletic front and rear bumper designs, luxurious leather upholstery and a sports-inspired steering wheel and pedals setting it apart.



Connecting every generation of the family

The all-new Discovery offers an available world-first Intelligent Seat Fold technology, allowing owners to reconfigure the second- and third-row seats with minimal effort; using controls at the rear of the vehicle, the central touchscreen, or even remotely – via a smartphone app – as part of the Land Rover InControl® Touch Pro services(2,5).

The innovative feature allows owners to rearrange the seats from inside the store while they wait to pay for large or bulky items, ensuring the vehicle is perfectly configured to accommodate their purchases when they go to leave.
All three rows are available with heated seats – heated and cooled in rows one and two – while massage seats are available for the driver and front passenger to optimize comfort on long journeys.

Enjoying the spacious interior of the all-new Discovery is made easier by another thoughtful Land Rover innovation. On vehicles equipped with air suspension, Auto Access Height technology reduces the ride-height by up to 1.57 in. as passengers prepare to enter or exit the vehicle.

Alongside the spacious and flexible seating layout, the other key to the new model’s versatility is the optional Land Rover InControl® Touch Pro infotainment system(6,11). Vehicles equipped with InControl Touch Pro benefit from a large 10-inch touchscreen positioned high on the center console(5,8). This development enabled Land Rover designers to reduce the number of switches on the center console by a third, delivering a clean and uncluttered appearance.

Crisp graphics and easy-to-navigate menus incorporate the latest navigation and entertainment technologies including door-to-door navigation, which can share directions to a paired smartphone to help owners complete journeys on foot8. Seamless iOS and Android connectivity combine with a 17-speaker Meridian digital surround system and 3G WiFi to provide the ultimate listening experience, whether streaming songs online or playing music directly from a connected device.

Up to six 12V charging points ensure the new Discovery is perfectly equipped to cope with the demands of the most connected owners and their passengers, while as many as seven USB sockets (up to nine when the rear seat entertainment is fitted) allow passengers in each row to power their smartphones or tablets simultaneously.

Another technology feature for active families is the Activity Key wristband – first debuted on the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE – which allows customers to enjoy sports and active hobbies without having to carry the standard key fob and worry about the risk of damage or loss. Holding the waterproof Activity Key up to the ‘D’ in the Discovery badge on the rear tailgate simultaneously locks the vehicle and disables the ordinary key, which can be left safely inside. This leaves customers free to run, swim, ride or play without worrying about the security of their vehicle.

Storage addiction

At every stage of its development Land Rover has designed the all-new Discovery around the needs of its customers. This is evident when you look around the cabin. Design and engineering teams at Land Rover have an addiction to storage; this resulted in a host of convenient interior storage solutions for owners, including:

- Storage in the central console capable of holding pair of two-liter beverage containers.
- A central armrest cubby large enough to house five tablet computers with a lid that hinges through 180 degrees to function as an armrest even when open
- Small-item stowage behind the fold-down Climate Control panel
- A flush-fitting, push-operated, bag hook in the front passenger footwell capable of securing shopping bags

The effort put into developing the first-rate cabin storage in the all-new Discovery has been matched by the thought put into its luggage space. The premium SUV provides 82.7 cu. ft. of load capacity, or 45 cu. ft. behind row two, and the new optional dual-purpose Powered Inner Tailgate provides all the versatility expected from a vehicle wearing the Discovery badge. 4

When raised, the fold-down panel at the leading edge of the load area operates as a practical load restraint, but when lowered, the 11-inch overhanging section doubles as a useful bench for event seating or changing muddy footwear, all under the shelter provided by the new one-piece tailgate. This simple device replicates the functionality of the horizontally split tailgate fitted to previous Land Rover vehicles.

Comfort and capability

The all-new Discovery retains renowned Land Rover all-terrain capability thanks to its combination of excellent off-road
geometry and advanced driver assistance technologies4; together, they enhance the everyday usability of the new model.

Ground clearance is rated at 11.1-inches – an increase of 1.7 inches from the LR4 – while a maximum wading depth of 35.4-inches – an increase of 7.9-inches – provides unrivalled confidence when tackling waterlogged trails(4).

A comprehensive suite of available off-road driving technologies ensures the all-new Discovery maintains its supreme all-terrain capability and is easy to access for even inexperienced drivers. The Land Rover multi-mode Terrain Response® 2 system optimizes a range of settings, from throttle sensitivity to gear change characteristics, suiting the driving conditions at the turn of a rotary controller(4). Terrain Response 2 can even select the optimum setting automatically if drivers are unsure of the best choice.

When tackling particularly challenging terrain, All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) can be programed to maintain a suitable crawl speed as chosen by the driver. The clever technology allows the driver to concentrate solely on steering the vehicle as they negotiate obstacles, without the distraction of operating the throttle or brake pedals, and can also be used from a standstill to help when pulling away on slippery, low traction, surfaces(4).

The all-new Discovery also benefits from lightweight and durable Land Rover aluminum architecture. Similar to the construction on Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the all-new Discovery cuts more than 1,000 pounds from the weight of the outgoing LR4, which used steel ladder construction(3). This weight savings, coupled with an advanced integral link rear suspension, delivers improved handling characteristics and on-road performance without compromising the superb ride comfort that has defined generations of Land Rover vehicles.

Another Land Rover trademark carried over into the all-new model, is a Command Driving Position which helps owners enjoy the vehicle’s enhanced breadth of capability with confidence, on variety of surfaces, terrains and weather conditions, by providing excellent visibility(4).

This confidence extends to towing capability, which has been a hallmark of every generation of Discovery since it was used to tow a train at its original launch in 1989. In the US, the all-new Discovery has a maximum towing capacity of 8,201 pounds3. This figure is enhanced with the introduction of some clever technology developed to make the towing with the Discovery more accessible than ever.

Advanced Tow Assist allows owners to complete potentially difficult reversing maneuvers when towing trailers with ease4. The driver’s assistance feature manages the tricky counter-steering required to position trailers accurately when reversing. The driver simply guides the trailer into the desired space with the rotary controller for the Terrain Response 2 system; this is done using responsive guidance lines overlaid on the rear-facing camera feed which are displayed on the central touchscreen, taking the stress out of an otherwise tricky task(4).

A choice of powertrains



The all-new Discovery is powered with the option of both a petrol and diesel engine familiar to the Jaguar Land Rover line-up; each of which is paired with a smooth and responsive ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. They include:

- The 340-HP supercharged 3.0L petrol V-6 carried over from the LR4. With 332 lb.-ft. of torque on demand, the petrol V-6 delivers high-end responsiveness and excellent passing power.

- Shared with the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the all-new Discovery benefits from the introduction of a 254HP turbocharged diesel V-6 that delivers 443 lb.-ft. of torque from as little as 1,750 rpm.


BMW and Jaguar Land Rover focus on car sharing programs

We've long known about the car2go program featuring the Smart fortwo, and recently featured Ford's new GoDrive, but now both BMW and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are jumping into the car sharing fray.

BMW will be using its new ReachNow service to debut in the EV-friendly city of Seattle; while JLR is still in the early stages with the launch of a technology business of its own called InMotion, an app service that aims to tap into a younger generation that are looking for short journeys hauls on the cheap.

It may be a first for JLR, but BMW has similar programs in Europe, but Seattle will be its first venture into the United States. The Emerald city will receive a fleet of 370 cars including BMW 3-Series, i3s and MINI Coopers. BMW expectations are for the ReachNow program to launch in three other North American cities this year with eventually hitting a total of ten major North American cities.

ReachNow works a bit differently from your typical ride share program, as it charges by the minute. This may seem expensive, but it's geared towards urban dwellers that need a ride for a short hall, even if it's a one-way trip. ReachNow vehicles can be located, reserved and paid for through a smartphone app. If you need the car for a specified period of time, a pre-determined price will be offered.

As for JLR's InMotion, the British brand will begin product testing in North America, Europe and Asia with public road tests to follow.

  • Published in News
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