The Land Rover Discovery is now in its fifth generation, having first arrived in 1989. Back then it was incredibly popular, blending the off-road capability of the famous Defender with the feeling of luxury that comes with a Range Rover.
Today its role is slightly less clear. It competes with the Evoque, the Discovery Sport and, more recently, the Range Rover Velar — and, of course, the new and very different Defender.
By all accounts, the Discovery has lost its place a bit, but a few changes for 2021 have been made to try and get people to re-discover it.
It still has that radically different look that came with the latest generation, including, I hate to say, that rear number plate that makes me grind my teeth. It’s a nod to previous generations, as is the C-pillar and a few other elements, but now it has more of a Velar-like grille and new LED headlights. R-Dynamic models have a slightly sportier look about them, too, including unique lighting.
The biggest changes are inside, especially when it comes to infotainment. The Discovery now has the latest Pivi Pro that debuted on the Defender, which means an 11.4-inch touchscreen that is much easier to use. Not only does it have more features and a better layout, it actually responds to your first touch, something that could not be said about the old system. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the Land Rover InControl Remote app, and it’s integrated with the digital instrument display. It’s a much more intuitive thing to use and more elegantly designed, too.
A big plus in the pandemic is the inclusion of its new cabin air ionisation system, which reduces allergens, toxins and harmful particulates significantly. We’re not saying the Discovery is Covid-secure, but it’s now engineered to make the air inside a bit healthier.
There’s more tech, too, in the form of new wireless charging, wi-fi connectivity for up to eight devices and new driver assistance systems, such as blind sport assist and adaptive cruise control. You might have to specify optional packs for these though.
That will add to the starting price for the range of R1,452,700 for the diesel D300 S, which arrives in June, followed by the mild-hybrid petrol P360 models in July from R1,487,600.
All Discovery models get new six-cylinder Ingenium engines, which means 221kW and 650Nm for the D300 and 265kW and 500Nm for the turbocharged petrol. A bonus is that they are both mild-hybrid electric vehicles (MHEV), which means there is a small, 48V electric motor to enhance power and efficiency, although this technology is a far cry from actually making it an electric vehicle (EV) in any real form.
On the road it’s a very comfortable thing, gobbling up the kilometres with ease while accommodating up to seven people, although, of course, Covid rules meant it only had to deal with carrying me. Things are a bit soft at times compared to some of its siblings but nothing to really write home about and besides, it’s still very much a Land Rover. That means dialing in a setting on the Terrain Response 2 system and going mud-plugging where it seems to turn into an excited puppy and proceed to splash though without a care in the world.
Few people will, though, which is a pity, but even fewer are likely to tackle the rough stuff in their Velar. That, too, is a shame, because the updated model (arriving in SA any day now) is also a proper Land Rover at heart. It’s slightly less capable than the Discovery but it wasn’t found wanting as it charged through muddy woodland tracks, weaving between trees in search of adventure.
The Velar also gets a few tweaks, although they are less than in the Discovery. It has the new Pivi Pro system, but it’s still in the same landscape-oriented 10.4-inch screen as before. The focus is more on luxury, with a new noise cancellation system that reduces the intrusion of outside noises and there’s less vibration to ensure a smoother and quieter ride.
The big news for the Velar though is the arrival of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, which, unlike the MHEV Discovery, can actually run in electric-only mode, for up to 53km. Use it wisely and you could do your daily commute in EV mode, especially if you use the save function to stop the electric motor from joining in with the petrol one when you’re outside town.
The PHEV is set to arrive later this year but, in the meantime, the range starts with the 184kW P250 S at R1,290,100 with a mild-hybrid from R1,438,700 and the P400e PHEV from R1,651,200.
With so many SUVs on the market these days, Land Rover could compete just by making luxury models that are great in town and packed with features for the weekend break, but that just isn’t enough. It continues to stay true to its heritage with models such as the Discovery and Velar that are more capable off-road than most owners ever need yet are almost as comfortable on the road as an executive sedan.
So, while some of the changes might seem small, it’s what hasn’t changed that makes the biggest difference.