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Rugged looks make for 'interesting' Discovery

About Mark

Mark Holgate is the driving force behind Exhaust Notes Australia, one of this country's premier automotive websites, with in excess of 1 million visits every year, and literally hundreds of car reviews and motoring stories.

With more than 20 years experience as a journalist, and five years as a professional blogger, he brings a wealth of knowledge about cars, bikes and everything in between.

In the past, the Land Rover Discovery has been referred to as the Swiss Army knife of the automotive world.

This is, after all, a luxury vehicle capable of carrying seven adults with room to spare, and it's packed with gadgets.

Rugged good looks.

Rugged good looks... the 2018 Land Rover Discovery TD4 SE

It’s also as capable off road as it is comfortable thundering along a motorway.

The latest Discovery may look sleeker than its square-edged predecessor now that it is based on the Range Rover platform, but Land Rover has assured customers that it’s still the same capable Discovery that everyone loves.

All of this surely means that it’s just a little less rugged than the cars that have gone before it, right?

Read more from Exhaust Notes Australia: Driven: 2018 LDV T60

Before we go any further, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. Land Rover has been copping some flack for it’s rear end on the new-generation five Disco. And let's be honest, it is hideous (in our opinion, anyway).

Viewed front on, the new Disco looks smooth and powerful, with a narrow bonnet that drops into the flared arches of the front wheels adding instant road presence. But look at it from the rear end and it's a different story.

We had it described to us by a punter who was walking past during the photo shoot as being Tarago-esque, with a hint of HR-V. But let’s move on and deep dive into the new Discovery TD4 SE, and see if it really meets the expectations of its avid followers.

There’s three diesel power plants on offer and each pairs with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that channels power to all four wheels. The Discovery TD4 SE we drove had the 2.0-litre four cylinder, turbo-charged Ingenium power plant.

That engine pushes out 132kW and 430Nm, which Land Rover says will help produce a 10.5-second sprint to 100km/h, with claimed fuel consumption sitting at 6.2L/100km for the 5-seater and 6.3L/100km in the 7-seater (we averaged between 7.2 and 9.4).

The Disco does a good job propelling the two-plus tonne vehicle with poise and punch, but does have a considerable amount a lag when you push down on the throttle. We put this down to turbo lag and the fly-by-wire throttle control.

Either way, it was definitely annoying and had the potential to be a little dangerous if you decided to push yourself out of an intersection and needed that little bit of extra get up and go to move across traffic.

We have no doubt that Land Rover has faced a near-impossible challenge with the new Discovery --to replace the legendary Defender as the brand’s most capable offering, while softening its image and improving its road manners for less outdoorsy customers.

It's not an easy feat for any car maker, but for one that has so many purist fans it's potentially near impossible. But let us be the first to say, we think they’ve done it.

When you put its tyres in the dirt, the Land Rover really comes to life. We tested it over some steep, rocky terrain -- complete with washouts and loose gravel -- and it really excelled, feeling right at home in the mud and dust.

With a maximum 283mm ground clearance, 500mm of wheel articulation and a wading depth of 900mm (which is 200mm more than outgoing model), along with air suspension on all but the entry-level S, it was a definite performer.

Our shiny Silicon Silver 7-seater test vehicle also came with the larger rim and lower profile tyre combo that is so prevalent in premium level SUVs. The higher sidewall, semi off-road spec tyres on the 18-inch rims also give the car a distinct character.

As with most modern 4x4s, the Discovery has a number of electronic aids to assist with off-road obstacles, with multi-terrain assist providing a range of pre-programmed options to almost autonomously guide you over rough ground.

You can also set a crawl speed while negotiating difficult terrain, with the terrain response system optimising vehicle settings for a range of conditions, including general driving, grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawling.

Additional all-terrain technologies include hill-descent control, gradient-release control and roll-stability control. The Discovery’s air suspension can also raise the vehicle up to 7.6cm when traversing difficult off-road conditions.

Once you’re ready to descend a rocky slope and ensure the correct terrain mode is engaged, the Land Rover serenely ratchets itself down any type of terrain you care to throw at it.

Inside, the Disco is reasonably familiar to anyone who has sampled any type of Land Rover product over the past couple of years. The eight-speed gearbox operates via a rotary dial that rises from the centre console in alluring fashion (it’s super cool).

There’s also a large touchscreen in the centre, which controls the majority of the car’s functionality, and a regular two-dial instrument cluster sits ahead of the driver.

The new InControl Touch infotainment system feels out of place in a new-build model, feeling a little dated; the result of some genuine difficulty in making it behave right and an odd lag in responsiveness.

The interior is tastefully understated, covered with premium materials, and the dark headlining shrinks the car around its occupants. We suggest you don’t choose the all black interior though, as it feels a little bland.

It’s a very long vehicle, even by SUV standards, which does mean there is a decent amount of room inside the cabin. This facilitates an array of flexible options, all controlled by electric switches that raise and lower the second and third row of seats.

The front seats are mounted quite high and the seat base is just a fraction too short to be comfortable on longer journeys. It’s also quite bulky under the thighs, which does make the legs ache after a long trip.

It’s a surprising oversight for a long-range tourer. Visibility from the driver’s seat is good looking forward, but is compromised over the shoulder, thanks to the combination of the large headrests in the second row and quite thick C-pillars in the small glass area.

The rear seats can be reclined in the upright plane and, interestingly, there is virtually no transmission tunnel on the floor in the rear, which makes for a better time for the middle rear seat passenger.

Second-row access is great thanks to large door apertures, although the step up is high. Access to the third row, meanwhile, works via a sliding rail for the second row and there’s even enough room back there for a 185cm adult.

Going seven up results in absolutely zero luggage space, however. There are two flip-up bins in the back row that hide a small bottle holder, a USB port and a little bit of storage space for occupants.

In the rear, the last two seats fold flat into the floor, completely hidden away when not in use, and Land Rover’s unique tailgate seat is present. It’s a strange little perch that helps retain cargo in the space, but also raises the load height to an awkward level.

The result is that putting prams, boxes and the like in the back can become awkward, even when it’s lowered, and we’d leave this option out if we were buying the new Discovery.

Up front, storage is well taken care of, with a pair of cup holders that can be slid back into a recess to reveal a very large, deep storage container underneath. This hides two USB ports, a SIM card holder, 12-volt port and an HDMI cable socket.

A second 12-volt socket is located underneath the dash, along with a shallow receptacle to hold wallets and phones. There are cup holders in the centre-rear armrest (second row) and there is a capacity to hold bottles in all four doors.

Our Disco was also equipped with the Active Key wristband, borrowed from the Jaguar F-Pace, which allows you to lock your key fob in the car and unlock it later by touching the waterproof wristband to the D in the Discovery tailgate badging.

It’s perfect for those that want to go for a surf and not lose their keys in the sand.

There’s plenty of safety in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery TD4 SE, too! It has autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, closing-vehicle sensing, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, and an HD surround camera system.

Advanced driver assistance systems include park assist (parallel, perpendicular and exit), adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, auto high beam, and a driver condition monitor.

As an overall package, the Discovery is well built, and we liked what we saw and drove. We were very impressed with its off-road capabilities, the technology that abounds within the vehicle, and the sheer amount of room inside.

You can purchase a new Land Rover Discovery from $79,550 plus on-roads, and it’s available in the following solid colours: Narvic Black, Fuji White; and metallic Santorini Black, Corris Grey, Indus Silver, Loire Blue, Byron Blue, and Yulong White.

Additionally, it comes in Farallon Pearl Black and three premium metallics: Namib Orange, Carpathian Grey and Silicon Silver.

Our test car was supplied by Jaguar Land Rover Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Land Rover Discovery TD4 SE, contact your local Jaguar Land Rover dealer. Land Rover Discovery TD4 SE pictures courtesy of CMC Photography.

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