Discovery to channel new baby engine here?

The next Land Rover Discovery isn’t set to undertake its New Zealand adventure until mid-2017, but the local distributor is already thinking about how it needs to equip.


WHETHER a four-cylinder engine suits a Land Rover previously described as the best four-by-four by far is suited to New Zealand conditions will depend on the outcome of a test drive.

The desire to try before he buys in respect to the new entry edition of the next-generation Discovery, dramatically revealed yesterday – with a stunt involving the world’s biggest Lego structure (see the video with this story) - ahead of a full Paris motor show display next week and set to come on sale here next June, was expressed by Steve Kenchington, who heads the Jaguar Land Rover brands for importer Motorcorp.

The Auckland-domiciled distributor has signaled that while it aims to start off where the current model starts - $90,900 - the top-line new versions will command a higher premium than the current $110,000 flagship because this is the car Land Rover says will take Discovery up-market.

“Price-wise, we have no visibility at all … we’re hoping it’s going to fit into our price range of current Discovery but there will be a premium price to top spec, similarly probably to (Audi’s) Q7, I would expect.”

Conceivably, that means a high-end Discovery might command around $144,000. Gulp.

Of course, as Land Rover is reinforcing, this is a different Disco - more space, more equipment and more refinement. It might wear the Land Rover badge but it presents better than any Range Rover did just a few short years ago, the brand attests.

While local market specifications and pricing is still to be addressed, engines are already getting consideration however, not least because of the news that, for the first time in the nameplate’s 27-year history, the Disco will have a four-pot powerplant.

That concept is something Land Rover NZ is approaching with interest – and also a touch of caution.

Kenchington believes the majority of a Kiwi fanbase that – with used imports taken into account – is the largest for any Land Rover model will prefer the Disco Five to dance mainly to a 3.0-litre six-cylinder tune.

The options there are a petrol Si6 V6 packing 250kW and 450Nm and a Td6 turbodiesel making 190kW/600Nm.

Yet he doesn’t discount potential for the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel. There’s a high-output 177kW/500Nm version that has also recently gone into a Range Rover Sport variant that is off the local menu for now and a base 132W/430Nm TDi, also running all-wheel-drive (of course) and an eight-speed ZF automatic.

Suitability for NZ all depends on how it prices and drives; getting wheel time as soon as possible has become a priority.

“I really, really want to drive it before making any judgements on it.”

Kenchington observes experience with Volvo, another Motorcorp holding that he directed until recently, provides good reason for taking a punt.

The XC90 – now wholly four-cylinder and conceivably a Discovery competitor in also being an upmarket seven-seater sports utility - has had no issue finding acceptance.

“We need to drive the four-cylinder to determine if there is a market for that. We sort of think our traditional customer doesn’t want four-cylinder yet … that 90- to 95 percent of our customers will prefer the 3.0-litre.

“Yet, you know, Volvo has done a good job with that four-cylinder, seven-seater market. It (Discovery) has to be as good as that, if not better, if it wants to compete. So we will give it a go and see how it feels.”

“I would suspect that initially we will launch with that 3.0-litre diesel and then look at alternate drivetrains later on, when production frees up.”

Whatever the under-bonnet choices, one thing is sure.

“Discovery is a hugely important vehicle to Land Rover, there’s no doubt about that, and it is certainly the biggest segment we play in, one that has more customers than in any other segment that we compete in. So it’s really important that we get it right.”

Because the model is so different to the current model, he anticipates it will attract a much broader audience.

“It will be a significant upgrade from the current one – I think that it will therefore attract a lot more conquest customers who were perhaps polarised by the one we have at the moment.

“It’s going to be extremely competent off road, moreso than the current one, but it will still speak to a much broader audience.

“There’s always been a niche audience that looks at Discovery simply on the strength of its capability and I don’t think they are going to be disappointed, but it’s also a significant step up in refinement and quality – similar to how Freelander was to Discovery Sport.”

The Discovery owner catchment here is bigger than for any other Land Rover, but not easily reached. LRNZ generally only knows current first owners of NZ-new stock; there are a lot of others beyond that point it wants to hear from.

Original intention to have it here in the first quarter of next year has been scuppered the factory. “We’ve been advised there will delays, so we will not expect to see it until around June.”

A wholly aluminium chassis has massive effect on kerb weight – incredibly, this model is 480kg lighter than its steel-framed predecessor - and that also brings pluses to its dynamic form, performance and economy.

 Land Rover says the model will become a more realistic seven-seater, through now having a third seating row that will easily cater for adults. It’s been engineered and designed to fit 95th percentile adult males.

That third-row seating system can be remotely configured by an application on a smartphone (or via the multimedia screen or physically at the seats themselves), so there will be no more clambering into through luggage compartment.

The styling keeps a touch of the old, with a hint of the current Discovery in the squared rear end, but mainly goes all-new, with a lot of Discovery Sport in the nose and silhouette. Some might say there’s a touch of Ford Territory in the rear glasshouse. Now that it has been properly revealed, the link between the production car and the Discovery Vision Concept car at the New York motor show in 2014 is clearly apparent.

Land Rover’s never immodest Chief Design Officer, Gerry McGovern, has instantly spruiked his latest creation as a car that redefines the large SUV and revolutionizes “the Discovery DNA to create a highly desirable, extremely versatile and hugely capable premium SUV.

“We truly believe the result is a radical departure in design that will introduce the Discovery to a new, wider customer base.”

The heart of its off-road ability is managed by Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, which is either switchable from a rotary controller or can be left to operate automatically, working out what the car needs from its sensor inputs.

Ground clearance has gone up 40mm from 243mm to 283mm on standard wheels and tyres, but it won’t be a hard thing to egress or enter as Land Rover has cleverly fitted it with a system that drops the car’s body back down by that exact same 40mm for when people are getting in or out. It is also able to wade through a stunning 900mm of water, which is 200mm more than the present model manages. Speaking of the wet stuff, it comes with the same kind of ‘activity key’ built into a waterproof wristband as the F-Pace. This is a sensor that allows you to leave the actual key inside, in deactivated state; on return from your day out skydiving and white water rafting, you need only hold the wristband up to the letter 'D' in the Discovery’s tailgate badge and entry is allowed.

The Discovery 5 can tow up to 3500kg in a trailer or van, plus it uses semi-autonomous reversing technology to make it easier to tow and park. The driver just needs to aim it on the reversing camera and the car’s computing power will take care of the steering and the counter-steering needed to reverse park a trailer.

The interior is where the real design effort shows; all seats in the second and third rows are fitted with Isofix mounting points, it can be ordered with nine USB ports, six 12-volt chargers and a centre console that can hold four iPads. And, yes, the car is enabled as a 3G wifi hotspot.

The Disco can swallow 1231 litres of luggage but that bumps up to 2500 litres with the second and third seating rows folded flat.

The tailgate is a single-piece unit, but there’s now an electronically operated “inner tailgate” at the rear-most edge of the luggage compartment that, in addition to acting as a de facto cargo screen, can also be lowered to serve as a seat or a changing bench. Land Rover says it delivers all the practicality of a two-piece tailgate without the complications.