2017 Land Rover Discovery

It’s all change at Land Rover, as Archie Vicar might say. I have prepared this visual analysis of the car so as to show you what’s being offered.

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The new car looks longer and lower and has lost a few degrees of rectilinearity. It has also lost the hard, industrial character which made the last Disovery so appealing and indeed distinct from the Range Rover above it. The residual roof bump might make sense in a design board meeting (“We’ve refenced the step in the roof, Bob, but made it more dynamic…”) but in reality it is now pure styling. The base of the A-pillar is visually very unsettling, a hard corner amidst a mass of radii. The previous model handled this area nicely. Notice the lamps are now horizonally accented and not vertical. They resemble a Ford S-Max and the stepped feature offers nothing functional. The BOF construction has gone as well as the square looks.

Verdict: the Discovery now looks like many other mid-size SUVs.

Image sources: 2017 Discovery and 2009 Discovery.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

32 thoughts on “2017 Land Rover Discovery”

  1. I have some sympathy for JLR. Most buyers will never take their new Disco off road, so this is aimed at them, not farmers. I think the design is fine… clearly related to the big Range Rover pair, but different enough. It is, supposedly, objectively better in terms of ground clearance and interior space. It’s lighter too (it had to be, although JLR has a propensity for overstating the weight saving properties of its aluminium chassis). I’m not sure it will prove to be such a good tow tractor, we will see.

    However, my main concern from a design point of view is the rear side door – it seems to go back a long way, yet the rake of the C pillar might compromise the benefit of this. Will you be able to open it in a car park?

    1. One of the reasons stated by LR for moving away from the previous ‘cliff-face’ styling was that while it appealed to a section of the customer base – it did not appeal to a broad enough swathe. For instance it was a huge turn off to a large subset of female buyers – a significant proportion of the SUV market, let’s not forget. The new car is less visually polarising, but it’s also less distinctive, which to me at least seems a pity. But JLR know their market and they will have focus grouped this left, right and centre. Nothing will have been left to chance.

      I notice too they have managed to imbue the interior with a decent cabin architecture and a semblance of style. Clearly no Jaguar people were involved in its design.

  2. On one of the very few occasions I’ve watched a motoring programme (it wasn’t Top Gear, maybe 5th Gear, or maybe something else, I can’t bother remembering) it reviewed the, then new, Discovery 3. Their verdict went along the lines of ‘Good car, but its dull looks might put people off’. That was a major step in my realising that most motoring journalists just don’t do aesthetics.

    The outgone Discovery, in both 3 and (not quite so right) 4 versions was one of those few vehicles that you don’t get tired of seeing. It looked functional (which is what I guess those fun-lovin’ TV journos meant by ‘dull’) but it was very neatly detailed. It’s one of a very small list of 4x4s I’d ever consider owning. Discovery 5 is not. It now looks like any other 4×4, less practical but hardly a looker. Still, I’m sure it will sell.

    1. Since design is now and perhaps always has been a major part of the car industry I would consider that a fully rounded automotive journalist should understand design as well as engineering and also economics. Or at least understand they know very little. It seems most of the current batch have a very tiny idea of how industrial design works. Conversely, the public and automotive writers don´t understand design so car companies should not hire anyone who needs to communicate to the world using billion euro vehicle development programmes. Toyota seems to adhere to the “no designers here” approach and don´t do so badly. The new Discovery will sell very well, I expect. Didn´t the last one sell well too?

      The journalist who called the Discovery dull might just as well have accused the film Bridget Jones´ Diary of not being very frightening.

  3. Eoin: I think you are being a little harsh on the Jaguar people. And while it´s okay to attract customers, it´s a bad idea to repel them as well. This design will put off the Disco loyalists who liked the fact their car could go off road and looked like a machine-gun emplacement.
    The art of design, in my view, is to find compromises. I think this design is too much in school-run and football-mother territory. I have nothing against people who do need to go to Tescos and the school. The Galaxy and S-Max are right there and don´t use V8s. I´d like it if this car didn´t make such a cynical appeal to people who use what is ostensibly and off-roader to in order to go buy 500 grams of Kenyan kumquats from Waitrose on the way to pick up James and Tabitha from their schools. Off course, people also used the old Disco to do this so maybe it´s doing the atmosphere a favour that it´s lighter and a bit less profligate. A Hyundai i20 can do 98% of what most of these cars will ever do.

    1. How many of those Disco loyalists “who liked the fact their car could go off road and looked like a machine-gun emplacement” were actually buying them new at £45k plus? A Hilux will cater to the needs of those folk.

      As others have said, LR has understood its core market (wealthy families) and pitched the latest Discovery squarely at that group.

      I understand that part of the appeal of LRs is the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you *could* go off road if you wanted to, even if you never actually do it. LR will need to rely on its long-promised Defender replacement to lend off road credibility to the rest of the range.

  4. The sad fact of the matter is that for all its merits, worldwide Disco sales barely crest 30,000 a year. Whilst that may be the same ballpark as the Range Rover, the Disco does not command that car’s margins. The Disco has also lost all of its economies of sale since being split from its Range Rover Sport twin, making it something of a surprise that JLR allowed it to soldier on for this long.

    It is disappointing that the Disco is moving towards a softer, more pillowy look. My wife is a big fan, being of the mindset that a car needs what TTAC describes as “capability in reserve”, and has often said she would prefer a Disco over the new RR Sport. I do not think that JLR have supplied sufficient rigour in differentiating between their Land Rover / Range Rover lines; now everything looks like a slightly less baroque Evoque. Still, I said that about the Range Rover Sport and the bloody things are everywhere now, so I clearly know nothing.

  5. As much as i like the utility of the old L319 Discovery, i do understand what they are trying to accomplish with the new model, as the ‘practical’ member of LR’s aluminium unibody SUV family. The new design is compromised for sure, yet it seems to have space for two adults in the back, it’s much lighter and very aerodynamic for it’s kind (cw 0.33 according to the press release). I may not like it but if i would be in the market for a large SUV i would consider it my choice.

  6. Could they not at least have integrated the rear roof spoiler in a cleaner fashion? And, the rear hatch panel, with the attempt at asymmetry is cack handed – and I like a bit of asymmetry, so I’m more positively inclined to such riffs.

    As to the ‘women don’t like the current model’ – I can assure you they do in Hertfordshire!

  7. It’s an old trope that the toughest job most 4x4s have is running over the crossing attendant’s toes on the school run. But whereas few go truly off road, irrational though it might be, just like the people who buy supercars they never exploit, buyers of these like to think they can. just as people who buy Burberry trenchcoats seldom sit in trenches getting wet. With this new Discovery and the demise of the Defender, it seems that JLR are happy to leave the true off-road niche to others. That might make short-term commercial sense, but will it diminish their longer term image? And, as suggested above, just as PSA don’t seem to know what the difference is between Citroen and DS, so JLR don’t seem sure what is the difference between Land and Range Rovers.

  8. Jeep have done a much better job of updating their iconic Wrangler for the roughty-toughty crowd. Land Rover by contrast are taking far too long over the next Defender. I think they missed something of an opportunity to amortise costs by spinning a new Defender off the Range Rover Sport / Discovery architecture in the mid 2000s. Now those two cars have gone full monocoque, the Defender will be something of an outlier, assuming it retains a body on frame architecture.

    1. Is the Defender replacement going to be BOF? The last I read, they didn’t seem that concerned about producing an actual workhorse. Just something that sort-of looked a bit like one maybe. Actually they’ve had 60 bloody years to work out what a replacement should be, it’s ridiculous they’ve let Defender die and haven’t done so.

    2. I believe that is the intention. Similarly the DC100 concept has been put on ice; perhaps Tata saw reason and suggested that it was too much of a show pony for the workaday market.

  9. It looks a bit like someone connected a high pressure air hose to the old one, and inflated it a bit too much. The back 1/3rd of the thing looks hideous, sort of like a poorly executed tribute to a Ssangyong of old.

    As for the old one, I always thought it sharp but grossly overweight. Seemed to have found favour with plenty of female drivers in this part of the world though. One or two (of the older Discos) even have mud on their tyres!

    1. So I’ll have to recant. Except what I wrote above is only based on what I read previously which was based on the usual ‘insiders tell us ….’ stuff. So Speth says that the new Defender will be Very Tough Indeed. That’s good. The Autocar rendering suggests it’s picking up on the functional look abandoned by Discovery. Still 3 years too late though. Or 30 if you wish.

    2. Yes. Speth says it needs to be tougher but only ‘fairly different’, which doesn’t suggest ‘radically different’ BOF. But, with good engineering, monocoque construction could still produce a good off-roader.

    3. Doubtless they can, but it smacks of expediency. They must think that the numbers don’t stack up. The previous generation Disco/RR Sport chassis must’ve been adjudged a weighty cul-de-sac unworthy of further development.

  10. I don’t really see a point of this car between the Evoque and the other Range Rovers. What really is the differentiation between a Land Rover and a Range Rover? What really is the difference in market segment? Who even cares if there’s a difference in price and size? Does anybody care? They all seems lost somehow…

    1. I presume the product planners have very sensitive measuring devices that can see quantum-level gaps in the price points that the intermediary Landies can exist in.

    2. I actually thought there was already a new Disco out and had been for some time. Google tells me that what I thought I saw was a Discovery Sport.

      Having compared this and the actual new Disco, I am genuinely none the wiser as to what LR imagines the difference is supposed to be.

    3. I thought the same thing when I saw a Disco Sport yesterday… I knew the car on the picture looked familiar.

  11. Stradale: I haven’t been paying attention.
    The LR Discovery Sport is 4.59 metres long and dates from 2014 and replaces the Gerry McGovern-designed Freelander (designed by Gerry “I’m Gerry McGovern” McGovern). The new Discovery seems to be 40 cm longer but has a shorter name.
    So: out goes two very different cars (Freelander and BOF Discovery) and in come a short and long variant of the Evoque labelled as Disco Sport and plain Disco. Confused?
    Analogy: Ford replaces the Focus with a bigger car, and renames it (say) Slalom then cancels the Mondeo saloon and replaces it with a Mondeo GT (say) and then builds a longer saloon from that and call it the Mondeo (thus leveraging a Focus-y car up to Mondeo prices). This platform chicanery is reminiscent of that CLK class coupe based on the C-class.

    1. Is it me, or is the car leaning over to the right as we look at it? Why would you want to achieve such an effect?

  12. Chris mentioned worldwide Discovery sales of around 30,000 a year and UK sales account for over a 1/3 of those. Interestingly, rather than dropping regularly as you’d expect for an old model, this figure seems to have oscillated around that point for the past 10 years. That seems quite respectable. Yesterday, on a 5 minute walk to the newsagents, I passed 3 newish Discoveries. At that rate, had I gone on walking, it would have been maybe 13 days, without rest, before I had passed all the UK production for 1 year. At normal walking speed, that would be 1,560 km. All three Defenders were black. Does this tell me anything at all.

  13. The other “elephant in the room” must be the unsettlingly enormous rear overhang.
    All this unsightly real estate is at odds with the nice, tight rear of the previous model.

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