The Land Rover Discovery is by far one of the most complete off-road vehicles ever made. Every generation, from the first to the fourth, was equipped with formidable capabilities and each new vehicle raised the bar for other off-road vehicles. This has been the case for the past 28 years.

Knowing that the Discovery made its name and built its reputation on these credentials, it was somewhat of a surprise when Land Rover revealed the new Discovery and the SUV adopted a “softer” design. It’s a move away from the box shaped design of generations passed and very unlike Discovery.

However, formulating an opinion based on looks is unfair and observers will only be doing themselves an injustice if that’s the case.

New design

The most notable change to the new Discovery over the fourth-generation is the vehicle’s design. It’s smoother, more round, more appealing to the eye. Aficionados will soon tell you that “a Discovery should not look like this!” Perhaps. And perhaps they have a point. But there is reasoning behind donning the SUV with a new jacket.

The new shape is more aerodynamic than before. In fact, it’s the most aerodynamic Discovery ever made. But smooth, round lines tell only one part of the story. Vehicles like the Discovery are coming under increasing pressure from European “law makers” to have cars adhere to certain criteria. And one of the criteria is that when a vehicle knocks over a pedestrian, the design of the vehicle needs to offer the pedestrian some sort of protection. Hence the box shape had to move over for something more pedestrian friendly.

What’s more, the new Discovery needs to appeal to a broader audience. It needs to compete against the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE and the design is the first step in dwelling into this territory.

Over the outgoing model, the new Discovery shaved off almost 500kg in weight and the body is made out of 85% aluminium. 50% of that is recycled materials. The Discovery has a drag efficient of only 0.35cod.

Comfort for seven

Perhaps the biggest distinguishing factor for the fifth-generation Discovery over the preceding models is that it is packed to the brim with technology and features that could make a Tesla come across as incompetent.

For starters, depending on the model, all three rows of seats can be set up and folded electronically. The tow bar can be operated from inside the boot, as well as the ride height of the SUV. On the tow bar: it is now possible to hook a trailer man alone by using the touch screen on the centre console.

READ: En route in the new Land Rover Discovery!

Almost every conceivable setting of this new SUV can be operated via the touch screen – the system is called InControl Touch Pro – and it displays all the information a driver would need regarding his Discovery. InControl features a 60GB hard drive and the functionality of the system made it possible for there to be a third fewer buttons than before. A nifty feature of InControl Touch Pro is that drivers can now set their traveling routes on their smartphones and the phone will transfer the route to the Discovery on start-up. It will also memorise your daily route.

Users can also download the InControl app onto their smartphones and do a raft of things via this app, including starting the Discovery remotely, set the temperature on a cold winter’s morning, and seeing important data regarding the vehicle.

Behind the headrests of the front seats, passengers in the second row of seats have their own screens from which they can control various media functions.

Perhaps fitting that one of Land Rover’s techies refers to the Discovery as “the digital successor to the analogue original”.

There are more than 20 storage spaces and the foldout bench inside the boot can support up to 300kg!

Tar, gravel, rough stuff

Land Rover made sure that its new Discovery retained the driving dynamics it became known for. On the launch route from Centurion to Thabazimbi and the Waterberge and surrounds, the Discovery was put to the test in a variety of conditions.

Two engines are available, both 3.0-litre V6 units. The diesel punches out a very healthy 190kW and 600Nm and the petrol 250kW and 450Nm. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

What definitely aids the Discovery’s ride quality is the air suspension. This feature (standard, depending on the model) adapts the Discovery’s ride quality as you drive along. It reads the road condition and suspension travel at any given moment and adjusts accordingly to deliver a comfortable drive. On tar and secondary roads you might be forgiven for thinking you’re driving something smaller than an SUV. Gravel is also not a much of an issue, either. Whether the Terrain Response is in Auto mode or in in the gravel setting, it is easy to traverse over the loose sand with a good amount of confidence.

But undoubtedly the one part of the Discovery’s arsenal that needed answering was whether or not it could still do off-roading. In short, yes. But leaving it at that would be a complete injustice. See, Land Rover improved the Terrain Response 2 system in the Discovery and dialing in the right settings is now a lot easier and more user-friendly. With a ground clearance of 283mm, the Discovery can scale virtually any obstacle. Be it rocks and boulders or deep ruts, the Discovery knows how to overcome them. It also has a wading depth of 900mm, which means that “swimming” through a stream of water has never been easier.

Combine the improved Terrain Response system with the ground clearance and wading depth, and the Discovery proves that it lost none of the traits that made the four preceding generations legends.

More Range Rover than Discovery?

The Land Rover Discovery grew up in a number of ways, but perhaps inadvertently, the British carmaker positioned the new SUV against the Range Rover/Range Rover Sport. Because it is so luxurious now. There’s nothing wrong with it really, but the Discovery now treads on ground that belongs to the Range Rover.

But the important part of it all is that, despite being more luxurious, the Discovery remains Land Rover’s most complete off-roader. Just because the SUV is more appealing, it lost none of the true credits that it will ultimately be judged on.

Pricing from:

3.0 TDV6 S: R992 540

3.0 V6 Supercharged S: R1 037 310

3.0 TDV6 SE: R1 121 790

3.0 V6 Supercharged SE: R1 145 560

3.0 TDV6 HSE: R1 235 540

3.0 V6 Supercharged HSE: R1 259 310

3.0 TDV6 HSE Luxury: R1 326 540

3.0 V6 Supercharged HSE Luxury: R1 350 310

3.0 TDV6 First Edition: R1 452 540

3.0 V6 First Edition: R1 476 310