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First Drive: Land Rover Discovery

By / 2 months ago / Medium, Road Test, Small / No Comments

Alex Grant finds out if small engines and fashionable styling blunt the Discovery’s rugged usability.

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SECTOR: Large SUV PRICE: £43,495-£65,695 FUEL: 26.0-43.5mpg CO2: 171-254g/km

Combining luxury, versatility and pulling power, the Discovery might not have been a mainstream fleet car, but its diverse appeal made it just as at home with highway patrols as it was on the driveways of executives. So Land Rover may have softened its edges, shed weight and introduced smaller engines, but the first all-new Discovery since 2004 has many boxes to tick.

For all the crossover-esque styling, it occupies as much space as a Range Rover, only looking tall and boxy when you’re following it in traffic, if you can distract yourself from the offset number plate long enough to notice. And Range Rover similarities don’t stop there.

The size increase is offset by widespread use of aluminium, cutting weight 300kg between equivalent versions and enabling Land Rover to fit a four-cylinder diesel engine without affecting performance. The 236bhp 2.0-litre diesel, similar to the Discovery Sport‘s, makes less power than the old TDV6, but it’s 400kg lighter, so offers more horsepower per tonne and can still tow up to 3.5 tonnes.

This makes a huge difference. It’s lost the feeling of rolling momentum that the old Discovery had while slowing or cornering, and the small diesel engine doesn’t feel underpowered in what is a very large SUV. Good news as it’s the expected game-changer in fleet; the reduced entry price, BiK-friendly 171g/km CO2 and claimed 48.7mpg motorway economy helping keep tax bills down. But the weight loss also makes more of the TDV6, the expected big-seller at launch, which only has a small power advantage but offers a wider spread of pulling power and less thrum under load.

It’s no soft-roader. All versions get an eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive and high and low-ratio gears for off-roading. Wading depth has increased to 900mm – any deeper and it would float – and the extremities are no more vulnerable over rocks than the old car. Not that you need to be Bear Grylls to get the most out of it – the Discovery can maintain a pre-set speed and crawl over rough or slippery surfaces with no need to touch pedals, and can alter drive modes automatically based on weather conditions, axle articulation and grip.

Versatility goes beyond the driving experience, too. It seats seven adults, with three rows banked like a cinema so everyone can see out of the windscreen, five of them fold flat, and there are cubby holes and USB ports throughout. However, there’s not a huge amount of elbow room in the third row and a fold-out picnic bench has replaced the split tailgate. Load height and capacity has reduced slightly behind the second row, but it’s got all the space and practicality most drivers could need.

Not everyone, though. There won’t be a Commercial version from launch, and, with no Defender to direct those customers towards, that’s a niche it could do with filling sooner rather than later. But, otherwise, the Discovery’s appeal is broader than ever.

What we think

Genuine all-round capability with added efficiency and driver appeal, the Discovery has all the right ingredients to widen its presence in fleet.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.