First drive: Land Rover Discovery

The new Discovery has been hotly anticipated since Land Rover announced it at the Paris Motor Show back in September. Promising to be more rugged than ever before, yet at the same time much more luxurious, it caught the imagination of petrolheads worldwide.

Could Land Rover live up to these promises? After test-driving a prototype off-road in the Scottish Highlands, we can confirm that it has.

What is it?

The fifth-generation Discovery promises improved capabilities both off-road and on, thanks to a host of new technologies. While we haven't driven it on-road, the Discovery has proved that while it may have been softened at the edges, its capabilities haven't dulled.

Hidden inside this curvy package is a plethora of equipment, which will allow the new Discovery to go further off-road than any model before it.

Available in three powertrains in the UK – one petrol and two diesels – and with an automatic transmission as standard, the model boasts an incredible wading depth of 900mm and a towing capacity of 3,500kg – making it a market leader in both respects.

What's under the bonnet?

The Discovery will be available with three Jaguar Land Rover engine options, all of which are paired to a smooth ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The cheapest powertrain in the model is the 238bhp twin-turbo Sd4 Ingenium four-cylinder diesel, which produces an impressive 500Nm of torque.

A petrol offering comes in the form of Land Rover's advanced 335bhp supercharged petrol 3.0-litre V6, which boasts 450Nm of torque.

Finally, we tested the 254bhp, 600Nm 3.0-litre Td6 Diesel, which Land Rover claims can achieve 39.2mpg, producing 189g/km of CO2.

What's the spec like?

The new Discovery features Jaguar Land Rover's InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, which replaces a third of controls on the centre console and comes with a 10-inch touchscreen.

While this de-clutters the dash, the system is not very easy to use because of all the available options. The screen could also do with being a touch more sensitive.

In the cabin, seven full-size adult seats are surrounded by an equally generous array of equipment. A WiFi-hotspot can host up to eight devices, which can be charged from either six 12-volt or nine USB charging ports.

Intelligent seat fold – which is standard on HSE models – allows the entire seating configuration to be rearranged from a smartphone app, allowing for all 2,500-litres of storage to be used to its full extent.

Optional features of the semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist and Wade Sensing make towing and wading easier and safer for the driver.

Practicality in the Discovery goes without saying. Alongside the 2,500-litre storage space behind row one, the model boasts 44.9 litres of interior stowage space, for items including iPads, smartphones and wallets.

Gone is the split tailgate of previous generation Discoverys, to be replaced with a powered inner fold-down tailgate, capable of supporting up to 300kg and wide enough to seat three adults. The large, fold up boot therefore provides protection from the elements on rainy days and can be opened by just a wave of the boot under the rear bumper.

Accessibility cannot be faulted, either, with Land Rover's Auto Access Height function automatically reducing the ride height by up to 40mm to allow easy entry and exit from the high vehicle, which usually has a ground clearance of 283mm.

Any rivals?

Rivals to the new Discovery include the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes GLS. Starting from £43,495, a host of equipment and a new luxury appearance make the new model an attractive alternative to the others.

First Drive: Land Rover Discovery

First Drive: Land Rover Discovery

What's it like to drive?

Unfortunately, our test drive was limited to an off-road course, and so we were unable to gather a comprehensive impression of the new Discovery.

However, if the off-road feel is anything to go by, the on-road drive should be comfortable and, similarly to previous Discoverys, easy.

Land Rover claims the 3.0-litre Td6 diesel powertrain can propel the 2,223kg car to 60mph in 7.7seconds, before topping out at 130mph.

Off-road, this engine has enough poke to power the car up and over steep rocky slopes with ease, thanks to Land Rover's all-conquering Terrain Response 2 system. It offers six modes of Normal; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand; Rock Crawl and Auto. It optimises a range of settings from throttle sensitivity to gear change characteristics to suit the driving conditions and maximise traction. Combined with the model's improved ground clearance and wading depth, the new Discovery boasts an extremely impressive off-roading ability.

The optional All-Terrain Progress control makes off-roading even easier, with the driver having to simply select their desired speed and steer.

In our Highland test drive, the Discovery clambered up steep rocky slopes, negotiated boggy fields and crossed deep water.

Twelve Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) aid the driver in manoeuvring the heavy vehicle. These include Parallel Park and Parking Exit, Blind Spot Monitoring, HD Surround Camera System, Driver Condition Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Cruise Control, amongst others.

AOL Cars verdict:

The new Discovery is certainly a different beast. Now more Chelsea tractor than ever before, the model successfully combines a luxury drive with off-road ability. It's spacious, practical, packed with equipment and looks the part, but we're left wondering whether its sleek appearance may dissuade drivers from getting down and dirty off-road.

The info:

Power (bhp): 258bhp
Torque (Nm): 600Nm
Max speed (mph): 130mph
0-60mph: 7.7secs
MPG: 39.2mpg
Emissions (g/km): 189g/km
Price as tested: £69,415