Backed by two new engines, a host of extra luxury and technical features - and of course that renown 'go-anywhere' ability - Land Rover's facelifted Discovery 4 is set to tackle new challenges.
Leading the new Discovery team is a feature-packed V8-powered model which the British company claims is a match for the credentialed German and Japanese rivals in the luxury mid-size SUV segment
Car Showroom joined motoring journalists from throughout the world in putting the new Discovery through its paces over a variety of roads and tracks in the Scottish border district and we must admit we can see what all the fuss is about - this is more than a facelift, it's a reinvention of the Discovery which is already one of the world's most-awarded SUVs.
What You Get
Clever, competent, nice to drive and still very British, Discovery 4 has been softened inside and out and boosted by two new engines - a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel and a direct-injection 5.0-litre V8 petrol.
There are five-seat and seven seat versions, luxury leather or cloth interior trims.
And of course there is technology laid-on to deliver remarkable on-road and off-road performance including Land Rover's unique Terrain Response and Hill Descent Control.
You don't score international awards for nothing and Discovery 3 has more than 100 trophies in its cupboard so Discovery 4 has enormous boots to fill.
Under The Hood
Entry to the Discovery lineup remains the 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel which is good for 140kW/440Nm.
Two models - the SE and HSE - feature the new 3.0-litre twin turbocharged V6 turbo-diesel engine offering 180kW and 600Nm.
Closely related to the diesel offered in the new XF Jaguar (but suitably modified and protected for off-road use) the new V6 is a third generation common rail design with twin sequential turbochargers. Fuel consumption of 9.3l/100kms is actually nine per cent less than the superseded 2.7-litre V6 and emissions are down by almost 10 per cent to 244 g/km.
A smart new feature for diesel Discovery models is a Diesel Misfuelling Device which prevents the accidental filling of the tank with petrol. Filling diesel vehicles with petrol is a simple mistake which is often made and can result in hefty repair bills.
The all-new 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V8 delivers 276kW and 510Nm. This engine features direct injection and variable camshaft timing and is also more efficient than the previous 4.4-litre V8 with fuel consumption down by seven per cent to 13.9l/100kms and emissions reduced by eight per cent to 328 g/km.
Drive is via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Major changes are immediately evident in the Discovery 4's interior - a complete redesign with a new dashboard, switchgear, center console, steering wheel and seats plus new, higher quality materials and finishes to deliver a substantially more premium feel. There are two new colours - Nutmeg and Arabica.
The Terrain Response control is now more prominently located at the front of the center console.
HSE models gain LED interior mood lighting.
A new five-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driver information screen has been introduced along with an upgraded Harman/Kardon nine-speaker audio system (suitable for Digital Audio) and a Portable Audio Interface allows connectivity of most personal audio storage devices, USB sticks and MP3 players. Blutooth phone connectivity is fitted.
Like the new Range Rover, Discovery 4 comes with no less than five external digital cameras relaying a near 360 degree view to the touch screen to assist off-road, parking and hitching of trailers. In the 'Tow Assist' function, drivers can input specific information about their trailer (number of axles, width etc) to provide enhanced, user-friendly outputs.
Exterior & Styling
Simon Butterworth, formerly with Ford Design in Australia, is now Land Rover's Design Manager and his brief for Discovery 4 was to retain its 'Land Rover-ness' but to give it a softer edge.
So while the new model is still clean and geometric, smoother lines, subtle curves, more colour-coding, a new front bumper and new LED lights have given the Discovery a more contemporary look that is certainly more refined and oozes quality. Three new exterior paint colours have been added - Nara Bronze, Bali Blue and Ipanema Sand.
New-design 19-inch wheels (20-inch optional) complete an excellent styling job.
On The Road
Discovery's reputation has been built on its brilliant off-road ability and thanks to some excellent tracks, we were able to fully test the new models in arduous conditions.
Both the V8 and new twin-turbo diesel are responsive and refined.
On sealed roads the new Discovery is a delight with low noise levels, nice cornering balance and high levels of grip.
Drive-assist technology is abundant including Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), All-terrain Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), electronic differential control, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Enhanced Understeer Control (EUC), Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) with Gradient Release Control (GRC).
One feature we didn't test but which is sure to be appreciated by many Discovery buyers is Trailer Stability Assist which monitors key vehicle behavior to detect unwanted trailer sway and if appropriate, initiates reduced power and braking to bring a recalcitrant, swaying trailer back under control.
The overall size of the Discovery is actually shorter than the Mercedes-Benz ML class and so rear seat leg room is not massive.
We've long been fans of the Discovery and Land Rover has been spot-on with the changes in the Discovery 4. This is now a smartly-packaged, luxurious, high-tech and powerful mid-size SUV that ranks amongst the best in the segment.
And that brilliant off-road performance is just as you would expect from Land Rover
Entry to the new Discovery 4 lineup starts at $68,490 for the 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel while the range-topping 5.0-litre V8 is stickered at $126,460.
We would back the Discovery 4's off-road ability ahead of any of them.
Styling is largely a matter of personal taste and certainly the distinctive looks and sheer 'British-ness' of the Land Rover allow it to sit comfortably in this segment populated by excellent vehicles.
Now has genuine luxury feel; great drive; lots of tech; brilliant off-road
V8 is pricey; rear seat leg-room a tad tight