The sports utility vehicle (SUV) market has expanded substantially since Land Rover first launched its Discovery 26 years ago. Today, it has to compete with models like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90.
It even has a rival from within its own Jaguar Land Rover stable in the form of the Jag F-Pace and there can be no arguing that it has also lost a few school-run sales to the smaller Range Rover Evoque.
Unlike the X5 and F-Pace, the Discovery has always been about more than luxury. It is a Land Rover after all and this means offroad ability.
Today Discovery is no longer one model, with the advent of the Discovery Sport.
The company is also promising another model will wear the Discovery badge too, but there can be only one real model and that is about to become something very new entirely.
These are the first pictures to show the fifth-generation model virtually undisguised. Snapped by our spies outside the company’s testing facility in Germany, it bears a close resemblance to the original Discovery Vision concept.
The lack of any significant disguise clearly shows that the model is close to launch and our insiders suggest it could be set for a Paris Motor Show reveal at the end of this month before hitting international markets as soon as the end of 2016.
Unfortunately we have been unable to get Land Rover SA to confirm exactly when it will arrive on our shores. The only comment we received was a firm “no comment”.
It is unlikely to be here for the end of 2016 though, particularly as the new model will feature the latest engines which will require cleaner fuel. That will have the local strategists making a plan when it comes to the models we will receive.
We are confident that it will be worth waiting for, though. The main reason is that Land Rover is promising to include much of the tech that was in that original concept. Perhaps not the virtual reality side windows, but that “transparent” bonnet, which projects an image of the terrain beneath the vehicle on to the bonnet, is in.
Our insiders have also confirmed that laser-light projections are also in. These projections on to the road ahead can give the driver an idea of the vehicle’s width, useful in both urban and off-road situations. We expect them to also be able to project indicators on to the road surface to make the driver’s intention clear in dense traffic.
There will be yet more laser technology too. It could well get laser-scanning technology which can read the terrain ahead and adjust the suspension and transmission settings while you drive. Inside the vehicle there will be a laser head-up display, similar to that on the new Jaguar XE.
On the subject of the interior, our sources have confirmed that the new Disco 5 will retain that large central touchscreen that was on the concept.
No doubt the team at Land Rover has been looking at similar systems in the Volvo XC90 and the Tesla Model S. It is likely to be even more connected than the Jaguar systems, with the ability to display a wealth of information, not just on the vehicle, but from the internet as well.
We have not seen any final pictures of the interior as yet, but we also expect a radical departure in interior design, although as you can see from the concept interior, there are a few styling cues that will be familiar.
The layout will be familiar, with the company adamant that the new Disco had to retain its seven-seat format, sticking to the theatre-style raised seating for rear passengers. That has been possible by keeping the slightly stepped roofline which you can see in the pictures.
That stepped roofline will be one of the only main characteristics to carry over from the previous generation, although there will be a slightly offset number plate housing, which will be part of a split tailgate.
The rest of the design will be a major departure for the Disco, although it will share a family look with other models. It loses some of its utilitarian looks and instead has a smoother and more dynamic appearance to take on rivals like the X5.
The new Disco will be based on the same bonded and riveted aluminium monocoque as the lord of the manor Range Rover and its Sport brother, all of which aims to ensure a strong off-road package while being substantially lighter than the previous generation.
Engine options have yet to be confirmed, especially for SA, but we expect Land Rover to focus on its new Ingenium engine family. Land Rover SA has already confirmed that the new Ingenium diesel engine will arrive in 2017 in the Evoque so we should see that along with the 2.0l petrol.
What we are not likely to see is the Discovery 5 hybrid, which will use the 2.0l Ingenium petrol engine linked to an electric motor inside the eight-speed automatic gearbox.
This combination is expected to give the vehicle an electric-only range of around 22km in town. However, the engineers have tailored it to also provide just the right amount of torque when you are offroad.
The final piece of tech is not entirely going to be in the car at all. According to our sources, the promised Remote Drive system will debut in the new model.
As well as allowing the car to be parked remotely without anyone in the car in the same way as the new BMW 7 Series, we expect it to also have an app so you can drive the car over obstacles from the safety of a nearby rock. For some that will take all the fun out of offroading, but for others it will be the ultimate remote-controlled car.
The Discovery has been losing sales to rivals in recent years, although it has retained a loyal following among its fans.
Land Rover is aiming to regain some lost ground with the fifth-generation Discovery and it is hoping that very different styling and some serious tech will help it do just that. – Mark Smyth