First Drive: 2017 Land Rover Discovery

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JaguarForums Heads West to Experience the 2017 Land Rover Discovery

Discoveries. Land Rover has made generations of them since the late 1980s. It produces the fifth incarnation of its full-size SUV in the West Midlands, UK, but decided to hold the global media launch for it in the American West. The automaker recently invited us there so we could drive the redesigned and re-engineered rig and make some discoveries of our own.

We knew many of them would come in the form of slide presentations – the basic stuff, such as trim lines, pricing, engine options, etc. They did. The LR4 is no more. The Discovery name will be used worldwide. The 2017 model will be available as a five- or seven-seater. Prices start at $49,990 for the base SE, $56,950 for the HSE, $63,950 for the HSE Luxury, and $73,950 for the First Edition (a 2017-model-year-only trim level).

In its total overhaul of the Discovery, engineers switched it from the body-on-frame underpinnings of the LR4 to a unibody structure which is 85 percent aluminum and helps make the Discovery about 1,000 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The sleek, laid-back lines of the new Discovery still retain the model’s signature stepped roof while giving it a 0.35-0.36 coefficient of drag, depending on engine choice. review 2017 land rover discovery launch

Land Rover will offer the Discovery with two engine choices in the U.S. A supercharged 3.0-liter gas V6 will get passengers down the road and up into the mountains with 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. A turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 will allow Discovery drivers to go mall or rock crawling with the power of 254 horses and the push of 443 lb-ft. We found each one capable of getting the Discovery up to speed with a satisfying amount of urgency. Both engines will be paired with an eight-speed automatic. The diesel will have a five mpg edge over the gas power plant in city, highway, and combined ratings, getting 21, 26, and 23 mpg, respectively. More serious off-roaders can order their Discovery with a two-speed transfer case with low range gearing.

Inside, the Discovery’s reclining second-row seats have 6.3 inches of forward and backward travel. Land Rover states, “The rearmost seats have been designed to accommodate 95th percentile adults (74.8 in. tall), so comfort is assured in every seat.” Properly equipped models will have heated/cooled/massaging first-row, heated/cooled second-row, and heated third-row seats.

Behind the second-row seats, there’s 43.47 cu. ft. of luggage space. There’s another 9.1 cu. ft. behind the third row.

The other discoveries we made about Land Rover’s reborn road-and-rock warrior came when we drove two of them – one gas and one diesel – for two days through Utah and Arizona. These are a few of them: review 2017 land rover discovery launch

– Part of the Discovery is Old News…in the Best Way

We spent a total of probably eight hours either driving or riding in a Discovery on and off the road. We spent the first on-pavement stretch of the event riding shotgun through Zion National Park. Nature’s Morse code of rock strata dashes and scrub brush dots streaked past us at 70 mph as we noticed how similar the Discovery’s cabin is to the interior of the Range Rover, from the window controls to the door handles to the steering wheel to the HVAC dials. That parts sharing may keep the Discovery’s cockpit from being a sight of ground-breaking design, but it makes the leather-and-veneer-lined inside of the Discovery an attractive, well-furnished place of artistic restraint.

The Discovery is also like its more expensive sibling when it comes to ride quality and interior noise levels. Between the painted lines of the highway, the Discovery suspension was soft and seemed to float over and beyond imperfections in the road. To use a scientific term, it was squishy – just the way we liked it. We can say the same for the nearly complete lack of wind noise coming off of the mirrors. The only times the tires announced their presence was on rougher roads. Body lean and understeer was noticeable in the curves, but not at alarming or unexpected levels. review 2017 land rover discovery launch

-Auto is Truly Short for Automatic

Our first day’s journey took us through the faded Hollywood glory and yesteryear charm of Kanab (the visual inspiration for the town of Radiator Springs in Pixar’s “Cars”). We would’ve liked to have stopped there, but we had tires to cover in sand. We did just that through miles of rutted grit. The Discovery’s Terrain Response 2 system has a dedicated sand mode, but Land Rover’s expert trail guides told us to leave it in Auto mode and raise the air suspension to its max height. Then it was time to wind through the desert terrain. We kept the throttle on and TR2 kept us moving. It tailored the throttle and steering responses perfectly for our needs. With a combination of slight twitches of the wheel to the right or left and a heavy foot, we made it out of what could’ve ended up being a sand trap. review 2017 land rover discovery launch

– All-Terrain Progress Control May Not Have All the Answers Right Away, But It’ll Find Them

Land Rover ended the first day of the Discovery launch trip with an epic session of rock crawling. We turned the transmission to neutral, pushed the button for low range, put the Discovery back into drive, turned TR2 to Rock, and activated All-Terrain Progress Control. We set Land Rover’s equivalent of off-road cruise control to its lowest speed and lowered the front windows so we could hear the Irish- and Scottish-accented instructions from our guides. We obliged by keeping the steering wheel straight on up- and downhill stretches and not touching the gas pedal. There was a time or two when we had three wheels on the surface of the rock and our ears picked up on the sound of one them not getting enough traction. Within seconds, the Discovery routed power to the wheels with the most grip and we began to slowly move forward once again, our inner nerd smiling the whole way. review 2017 land rover discovery launch

– Standard Can Be Extraordinary

We made it over that challenging and flop-sweat-inducing land full of leaning and leading on the Discovery’s factory-issue tires. We used the stock tires on a diesel Td6 Discovery to turn the Vermilion Cliffs into a thick vibrant red streak and get us up and around the Coral Pink Sand Dunes on the second day of our journey. The recovery vehicle drivers had knobby rubber under them, but not us. It was just as well. We didn’t need it. To get us across the shifting mountains of grit, Land Rover’s trailmasters aired our tires down to 18 psi to expand their footprint. With a few helpful squawks on the walkie talkie, plenty of gas, some gentle left-and-right sawing of the wheel, and our eyes targeting fresh sand, we cut a groove through the dunes. By the time we got out at the end of the trail, our minds were blown. So was the fine abrasive powder that we had sprayed out of the channels in the Discovery’s tread blocks. It flew into our eyes, but didn’t keep us from seeing what an impressive machine the Discovery can be in the rough. review 2017 land rover discovery launch

If you’re interested in making some discoveries of your own in the 2017 Land Rover Discovery, you can do that starting in the middle of this year, when it arrives in U.S. dealerships.

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Derek Shiekhi contributes to a variety of Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including J-K Forum , Jaguar Forums, and 5 Series. He's also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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