The first thing you need to know about the new Land Rover Discovery is what it is not: the new Defender. But it will help bridge the gap until Land Rover does finally come up with a replacement for the ür-SUV.
Nor is it merely an upgraded version of the smaller Discovery Sport, based on the Range Rover Evoque, which came out in 2014. And finally, it’s not really a revamped LR4 either, itself an evolution of the original Discovery, which debuted in 1989.
Longer, lighter, lower, better looking and more capable both on-road and off, the new Discovery is nothing less than a timely reminder that Land Rover can do stylish SUVs better than anyone.
Land Rover Discovery (4 images)
Refreshingly, the Discovery hasn’t been downsized to meet the current craze for crossovers, those hideous halflings that split the difference between hatchback and sport utility without fully realizing either.
Capable of a seven-passenger configuration, it’s unapologetically voluminous in much the same way the full-sized Range Rover lords over the road. The new pinnacle of the Land Rover-branded range, with a starting sticker of $49,900 — $8,100 more than the Evoque — it has appropriately upscale appointments and finishes that belie its best-in-class off-roading chops. No longer are Land Rovers merely for those who can’t afford a Range Rover.
We speak from experience, having been given the wheel for a weekend in the wilds of Utah, on everything from highway to sand, mud, dirt, rocks and snow. The blizzard, in fact, was not part of the original program, but rather blew in of its own accord, with such force that a lesser vehicle might have lost the plot. The Discovery easily powered through, however, with a mere turn of the Terrain Response dial to the appropriate setting for unseasonal snowstorms. And in a truly unscripted bit of showmanship, one of the Discos in our convoy even managed to tow a wayward tractor trailer back onto the tarmac.
Land Rover Discovery 2 (3 images)
After demonstrating equally impressive prowess over boulder-strewn tracks, rock-bound roads-in-progress and even the epic drifts of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park — the Discovery conveyed us in suitable style to the eye-popping Amangiri, a 007-worthy desert retreat hidden among towering rock formations and stately canyons, seemingly carved out of the rugged landscape. We don’t invoke the super spy’s digits lightly: Amangiri was in fact the setting for some of Quantum of Solace’s most memorable scenes.
A fitting reminder that the Discovery is, like Bond, J., capable of both extreme action and well-bred refinement — and that the modern-day adventure frequently calls for both.