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Disco HIT

The new Land Rover Discovery wows with its versatility and refinement. Samuel Ee takes it through its paces in picturesque Utah.
Mar 18, 2017 5:50 AM

Ever advertise for an intern but a PhD holder applies instead? The new Land Rover Discovery is a bit like that.

There are sport-utility vehicles, and then there is the fifth-generation Discovery with improved wading depth, plus the usual rock-climbing and dune-bashing prowess of a full-fledged offroader. So why would a seven-seater luxury family SUV have such capabilities? Because it can.

While its predecessor looked like a brick on wheels, the latest Disco is smoother and sharper. Its design retains the trademark stepped roof for optimum third-row headroom but little else.

More importantly, it has a new lightweight monocoque bodyshell. Based on the Range Rover Sport's platform, the Disco is 85 per cent aluminium and weighs up to 480 kg less.

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About a quarter of the weight savings is due to the introduction of a smaller four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. For the recent media launch in Utah though, only the three-litre petrol and diesel units were available.

At 4,970 mm in overall length, the new Discovery is 132 mm longer with its wheelbase extended by 38 mm to 2,923 mm.

The interior is spacious, with all three rows of seats designed for seven six-footers, not hobbits. But it is the cabin versatility that is truly breathtaking. The seats can be folded using the touchscreen, switches in the luggage area or a smartphone, with weight sensors to detect if they are occupied.

At the back, there is a clever inner powered tailgate. When upright, this panel prevents stowed items from falling out when the main one-piece tailgate is opened. The inner tailgate has friction hinges for lowering it manually, if needed. When folded down, it supports up to 300 kg or three adults, which makes it perfect as a bench for a picnic or for removing muddy boots for storage in the water-tight underfloor compartment.

And if it is raining while doing so, the main electric tailgate - which has a delayed closing function - provides shelter.

In the cabin, the new Discovery impresses with its user-friendly features. Cupholders in the lower centre console slide forward to produce space for four iPads and a charging point. Above it, the climate control panel pops open to unveil a hidden compartment for phones and wallets.

Behind the front seats, there are two seat pockets - the usual one at the base and a smaller one above to hang an iPad for more ergonomic viewing. It was designed after chief engineer Alex Heslop noticed his eight-year-old son hunched over with the device on his lap.

There's even a convenient "curry hook'' that sits flush to the transmission tunnel beside the front passenger's right knee for any takeaway, which in the local context would most likely be a bag of kopi o.

But most of all, it is the Discovery's strength and refinement that stand out. The Land Rover's cabin is almost as quiet as a Range Rover.

In the 2,223 kg Discovery 3.0-litre Si6, the hushed interior isolates occupants while speeding across empty roads or sandy dunes.

Because like all Land Rover and Range Rover models, the Discovery is a full-fledged off-roader with all-terrain capability. Its Terrain Response 2 function automatically monitors driving conditions on a variety of surfaces, with low-range gear ratios to make steep climbs and descents not only possible but safe.

To demonstrate its strength and rigidity, the Disco crawls up a few giant boulders, stops midway at a 45-degree angle with one front wheel in the air. While balanced thus, the tailgate is opened and closed to reveal zero body flex.

The new Discovery's wading depth has also increased 200 mm to 900 mm - just in case you encounter the occasional flash flood.

For its effortless ability to carry seven full-sized adults in luxury across mud, snow and higher water - even if you may never need to - the new Disco is a hit.


Engine 2,995 cc V6 supercharged

Gearbox 8-speed automatic transmission

Max power 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Max torque 450 Nm @ 3,500-5,000 rpm

0-100 kmh 7.1 secs

Top speed 215 kmh

CO2 emissions 254 g/km

Distributor Wearnes Automotive. T: 6378-2626