Autolust | 2017 Land Rover Discovery Amidst the Monuments

The new Land Rover Discovery is not a supercar. It doesn’t have a gaping maw grille, jutting fins or a condor wing spoiler. It doesn’t roar or whine like the hot pits at an F1 race. Its designers aren’t overly concerned with its top speed or its 0-60 time.

That said, the Discovery is every bit as deserving of automotive desire as any red Ferrari or racing green Aston Martin. Now standing alone atop the automaker’s full size SUV line, this Discovery builds on that unique Land Rover identity as an elite luxury vehicle capable of taking on any challenge the wilderness can conjure.

The Land Rover Discovery replaces the outgoing LR4 in the automaker’s lineup. It’s a full size, five seater that can be upgraded to add two more seats in the rear payload area. Each of those seats is grained leather, with the front seats fully adjustable.

In its standard Discovery SE trim, the SUV is powered by a 340 horsepower V6 engine. As a would-be buyer looks up the trim food chain, the HSE and HSE Luxury models offer a choice between a 340 HP V6 or the turbocharged, 254 horsepower V-6 diesel. The maxed out Discovery First edition halo version comes standard with the supercharged V6. Those trims range in price from $49,990 for the SE to $73,950 for the Discovery First Edition.

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The Discovery SE serves up 19 inch wheels, a fixed panoramic glass sunroof, infrared reflective windshield, folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers and a gesture power tailgate. Inside, every Discovery comes with a base 250 watt Land Rover audio system with an InControl Touch infotainment screen, two zone automatic climate control and keyless entry.

Moving up through the HSE, HSE Luxury and First edition Discovery options, optional upgrades add a number of enhanced features inside and out, including: Seating for seven with a power folding third row of seats with remote; LED headlights and front fog lights; 21” wheels; front center console cooler compartment; autonomous emergency braking; Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning; Park Assist and 360 Parking Aid with Surround Camera; Blind Spot Monitor with Reverse Traffic Detection; Driver Condition Monitor; Intelligent Speed Limiter with Traffic Sign Recognition; heated windshield and auto-dimming exterior mirrors and Auto High Beam Assist.

That thorough list paints an accurate picture of the stunning technology managing the Land Rover Discovery. It is a rolling suite of modern automotive driving aids, looking to wrap driver and passengers in maximum safety. The in-car entertainment and comfort features work to provide luxury from the driver’s seat through to the backbenchers. It all exists in perfect harmony to make the interior of a Discovery a sanctuary.

Still, the on-road experience of driving this Land Rover is anything but overly pampered. In fact, the feel of driving the Discovery is unlike anything else on the road — an entirely signature experience. It’s utterly balanced, grounded and stately without feeling numb or disconnected. As a counter example, a luxury ride like a Rolls-Royce prides itself on isolating the driver from the road. It’s a cloud on wheels. But, the Discovery elevates the driving experience while communicating the surface under those tires. Using aluminum construction to cut more than 1,000 lbs. from the weight of the outgoing LR4 doesn’t hurt the drive feel either.

It’s when there’s dirt, rocks, mud or sand under those wheels when the Land Rover Discovery’s amazing second personality surfaces. First of all, the SUV’s round clearance increased to 11.1-inches, up 1.7 inches from the LR4. The wading depth for crossing rivers and streams moves to 35.4-inches, up 7.9-inches.

Meanwhile, the Discovery’s suite of off-road and weather sensitive driving technologies that turn this dignified, road-owning luxury SUV into one of the consumer market’s greatest off-road machines. Once the driver selects the driving mode (Sand, Rock, Snow, etc.), the Terrain Response 2 system constantly monitors the driving conditions and adjusts settings from throttle management to gear changes.

The All-Terrain Progress Control can maintain a crawl speed with driver input — a particularly useful tool when driving on includes or over very rocky terrain, as chosen by the driver. The ATPC lets the driver focus just on steering the vehicle while the AI takes care of throttle and break control.

As a result, this reporter cruised through Utah and Zion National Park taking the Discovery from snow to rain, pavement to dirt, rock to sand. The SUV honors its cultured, yet rugged ancestral Land Rover sisters by digging up 45-degree dunes as easily as it glides along state highways

It’s that mastery of every possible driving experience that makes this SUV such an achievement of automotive design and engineering. There’s not much it can’t do — and do well.

Photos by John Scott Lewinski and Jaguar Land Rover