The latest incarnation of the Land Rover Discovery has just been launched in S.A and yours truly was lucky enough to attend the launch of the brand's iconic nameplate. As usual, the Land Rover crew introduced us to the new model by adding in some amazing driving roads (both on and off road), breathtaking views and a spattering of light adventure. Land Rover is all about the lifestyle after all. I've been on a Land Rover launch before when the Discovery Sport was released in SA, and so I knew we were in for a brilliant time off the beaten path.
The contingent of journalists met at the Land Rover training centre for some much needed coffee and breakfast that lead into an introduction to the 5th generation Land Rover Discovery with a run down on some of the new tech features that have been added to the premium SUV. If what those internet memes say about your smartphone having more computing power than what NASA used to send Mr. Armstrong to the moon are right, then the new Discovery has enough tech packed into it to land humans on Neptune. Now comes my problem, what do you need to know about and what can I leave out? If I add in everything available in the new Disco then I'll be here for an age and a day, there's just that much going on.
What you do need to know about the tech is that all of it is there to make your life a lot easier, from accessing the boot, arranging the seating to expand the storage space, through to planning your journey and navigation - you can even hitch up a trailer with no help from anyone, just the onboard technology. The powers-that-be have named seven wonders of the new Land Rover Discovery, the list is as follows:
1 - The Magnificent Seven: every seat is the best seat in the house
• Flexible interior provides seven full-sized adult seats, instantly configurable from your smartphone using the world's-first remote Intelligent Seat Fold technology.
2 - A much loved member of the family: keeping you safe for the last 26 years
• Semi-autonomous safety technology provides the family peace of mind.
• Premium interior combines leading design with durable, high-quality materials and space for the whole family.
3 - King of the hill: unstoppable on all surfaces, all terrains and in all weathers
• Land Rover’s full-sized SUV architecture delivers world-beating all-terrain capability.
• Lightweight aluminium construction saves up to 480kg, delivering enhanced efficiency
• Towing king: best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity and semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres.
4 - British creativity: designed with charm and sophistication loved by the world
• Design retains key Discovery family cues, adding optimised proportions and sophisticated surfaces.
5 - Storage addiction: discover the space for everything
• Up to 2,500-litres of luggage space and clever storage for 21st century family essentials.
6 - Connects every generation: Ingenious features that make life easier
• Digital Discovery equipped with up to nine USB ports, six 12-volt charging points and an in-car 3G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.
7 - After the roads end: reaching threatened habitats and vulnerable people
• All-New Discovery will continue Land Rover’s work in humanitarian aid and conservation projects around the world.
Much of the tech in the new Land Rover Discovery is found in the outgoing model, but there have been tweaks and improvements throughout, as expected. One new addition we were shown in the tech centre was the Intelligent Seat Folding feature, which received a host of negative comments when I Tweeted about it from the launch. The general consensus was that it wasn't needed and an extra thing that could go wrong. I must admit that when I first read about it I thought similar, but seeing it in action changed my mind. The seats can be folded and moved in various configurations with the touch of a few buttons on a panel in the boot or via the infotainment screen. It can also be done via Land Rover’s InControl Remote app. Comments were that spiteful people or kids could mess around with it and possibly cause damage or harm, but there are safety parameters set up so that any resistance to the seats moving will stop the operation. I like this feature, sure it can be called gimmicky, but I'd find real world use for it when needing to load the SUV with larger than normal items (up to 2,500 litres of space). You can have the seats fold to the config you need while you're still in the queue at Builders.
Adding to the versatility is a new single-piece tailgate. It opens wider than before and can offer shade or shelter from the elements when fiddling in the boot. It can be opened with a swipe of your foot too so that there's no need to put your shopping down to fumble with access. Another nice feature is the Powered Inner Tailgate. This is an extra fold-down section that opens when the tailgate is accessed. It looks thin, and is lowered and raised by a thin wire coupled to a motor. While the wire looks to be thin, it's strong enough to support up to 300kg. This can be raised and lowered independently of the tailgate making it quite the handy feature. To test it, I sat on it with a rather well-known Land Rover ambassador, I'll get to more on him a little later.
Another great piece of tech has been carried over from the sister brand's Jaguar F-Pace, is the Activity Key. For the active types, or those wanting to show off new tech, this is great. You can lock everything in the car, including the key fob, to keep it safe. With the durable ( withstands 30m water depths and temps ranging between -50 to +125 degrees celsius) activity wristband worn, you can lock up and go off to do all sorts of things and know that you won't lose your keys. It's a simple procedure, you just hold the wristband up to the D on the tailgate. This locks the Landy and disables the conventional keys.
From the tech presentation we bundled into the fleet of new Discovery models and headed out on a nigh on 300km trip to an amazing makeshift camp site near Thabazimbi in the Waterberg biosphere. Ok, campsite is misleading, it wasn't your normal kind that your wife hates, it was a luxury setup with each tent having electricity and an en-suite toilet and shower. Also known as glamping - glamourous camping. Anyway, this route gave us a chance to feel what the new Discovery is like on the open road with your normal, everyday traffic, as well as a chance to sample the SUV's off road capabilities. Firstly, the tarmac drive is perfect. The power delivery, the gear shifts from the 8-speed auto and the handling is second to none, but that really is expected from a car with this kind of heritage and price tag. This stint saw us in the 3.0 V6 turbodiesel-equipped HSE Luxury model that produces a cool 190kW with a monstrous 600Nm. As expected, these specs make for some interesting performance figures. At just about 2300kg, the powertrain is still able to return claimed figures of an 8.1-second 0-100km/h dash with a top speed of 209km/h. It's quite easy to get there too, the drive is so smooth and quiet that if you don't pay attention you'll easily find your mugshot on Metro's website. The drive is much the same from the petrol derivative that offers up 250kW and 450Nm from a supercharged V6. As with the same setup in the F-Pace range, I'm a fan of the torquey feel of the diesel and the growl of the supercharged petrol. Choosing between the two is a hard task that I luckily don't have to make.
When we made it to the Waterberg area, we had the chance to experience what the new Land Rover Discovery offers off road. It's a lot. It has to offer a lot, because while many will only really use this as a city commuter, there are those that will put it through it's paces in some rather unfriendly environments. Before hitting the short and technical trail, we were introduced to another great feature of the new Discovery - Hitch Assist. Want to go camping, tow a car or do anything else that needs to be hooked up to a tow bar? With the new Discovery you can get everything set up on your own, because technology. The Hitch Assist system allows you to guide a trailer into position with trajectory lines and a sort of target circle that appears on the screen to guide the Landy's electrically deployable tow bar to be directly under the trailer mounting point. Once connected, you can make sure you're safe on the road thanks to another industry first - the Trailer Light Test feature. This allows you to make sure all the lights are working on the trailer with the Landy pulsing them on and off them while you stand outside so check. The Rear Height Adjust feature allows the you to lower and raise the rear height of the rear of the Landy to make the process even easier. I think the new Discovery may lead to owners putting on weight, easy also means lazy. Of course, once up and running, there's more technology like the Trailer Stability Assist that will make sure your towing experience is a safe and pleasurable one.
Actually taking the new Land Rover Discovery on the trail was a revelation, all the technologies on the older models will still help you safely navigate and traverse some pretty mad terrain, but the chaps in white coats have added in even more tech, and one feature can turn even the most inept metrosexual city boy into bonafide Bear Grylls outdoor master. When you're on a mild trail and things start to get a little on the scary side, all you have to do is activate the new All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) feature. The best way to describe it is that it's like an advanced hill descent control but for going up and over stuff. When used, the Discovery autonomously maintains a crawl speed of between 2 and 30km/h leaving the driver with one simple task - steering. ATPC controls the brakes and accelerator effectively, it's been tuned using decades of Land Rover’s off road expertise. While for some this may take a lot of the fun out of an off road trail, it's a great way to make sure you don't end up as a fail video. It was pretty weird to feel though, the ATPC crawls along at the right speed to make the terrain passable. We drove through some deep water (not sure on depth but it was enough for me to drown in) and then up and over some rather large and slippery rocks. The power was distributed to the wheels that needed it most and the new Land Rover Discovery made light work of a pretty mean little trail.
There's obviously a lot more to the new Discovery, but those are some of the things I thought you needed to know before anything else. So, what does the Best of British cost then? Well, it ain't cheap, but I'm sure you knew that. There are three models available, the S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. The S kicks off at R980 000, the SE at R1 109 250, the HSE at R1 223 000, the HSE Luxury at R 1 314 000. There is one higher up, but it's a limited edition called First Edition and that's set at R1 440 000. The HSE Luxury I drove on the launch has various options fitted and this had the price up at just over R1 600 000.
A few people have commented online (and in person) that they're not sure how much sense this Discovery makes business-wise as it's pretty close to, if not on par, with a Range Rover in capability. The Range Rover is obviously the big daddy that comes with automatic baller status, but with the new Discovery being this good, will people be happy to fork over nigh on a million Rand more for the Range Rover? It would be a hard choice for me. On the other hand if I wanted a premium SUV in my driveway, I'd also be considering a Jaguar F-PACE. So it seems that either way, the same people would get my money. Once again we have a brilliant offering from Land Rover, and if you're in the market for something premium, you'll be doing yourself a disservice not to test drive one of these magnificent beasts.
Kingsley Holgate - The man, the legend.
I mentioned that a well-known Land Rover ambassador joined us on the launch, and if the pic didn't tip you off, it was none other than Kingsley Holgate. The man is just awesome, he's been there and done that and he doesn't just have the t-shirt, he made the material himself and mixed up the ink for the print using rare berries found in the wild. I've known about Kingsley and his exploits under the Kingsley Holgate Foundation banner for as long as I can remember, so when we had dinner and he sat at our table, I mainly just listened, too awestruck to ask anything. The man has so many stories based on real life experiences that you don't really want to speak to him, you just want to listen. In the near future, Kingsley will be heading into deepest, darkest Africa on another humanitarian expedition and he'll be captaining a fleet of new Land Rover Discovery vehicles on the epic journey. I did ask him what changes would be made to the cars for the trip, and they're basically going as is. Some will see a strengthened set of roof rails that will allow a sturdy platform to be built across and some will have the spare wheel moved from underneath the boot onto dedicated mounting points. Other than that they'll be wearing the smallest optional wheels to allow for tyres with a bigger sidewall. Robert's your mother's brother - the Land Rover Discovery fleet will ready for anything. If Kingsley trusts the car and it's capability, you should take note.
Thanks to this lasting collaboration between Land Rover and Kingsley's foundation, nearly 240 000 kids in unreachable areas have been taught the value of saving our rhino; over 265 000 malaria nets have been handed out with the result of drastically reducing occurrences of the sickness; nearly 12500 Life Straws have been given out to allow people to drink purified water from just about any water source found, and over 126 000 people have been given prescription glasses under the Right to Sight initiative. The man is a legend in every sense of the word. Click on the images below to visit the foundation website and find out more about this amazing man's initiatives.