What image does your mind conjure when you think of Land Rover? A spic-and-span luxury SUV parked in the lobby of a posh hotel? Or a yellow-hued beast with one kayak, two sand ladders, three fuel cans and four fog lamps on the roof rack hacking though the Amazonian jungle? If you’re too young to remember it, Google the Camel Trophy, an event so gnarly it made the Dakar look easy, the unofficial 4×4 Olympics for nearly two decades.
And now we have the Discovery 5 that, I fear, looks way too posh to get muddy. But there’s no criticising the nearly 500 kilos that has been shaved thanks to the switch to the Range Rover Sport’s all-aluminium platform. Underpinning it are steel front and rear subframes to which are bolted double wishbones at the front and a multilink rear with Land Rover’s characteristic integral link.
In days gone by the Range Rover Sport borrowed the Disco’s body-on-frame construction, now it is the Disco that borrows the Sport’s monocoque, but that’s all semantics anyway. What matters is capability and the Discovery 5 is mighty. For the shaukeens, here are the figures to consign to memory – 34-degree approach angle, 27.5-degree breakover angle, 30-degree departure angle and 500mm of wheel articulation. Ground clearance has reduced by 27mm to 290mm but wading depth has increased by 200mm to a whopping 900mm. Terrain Response 2 now automatically sets the Disco into the appropriate mode – grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand, or rock crawl – if you’re too lazy to turn the knob on your own. The low-range transfer box, the deal clincher really when faced with an Amazonian jungle (or the Thar desert closer to home) is still standard on the equipment list – neither the GLS nor the Q7, X5 or XC90 get it which puts it in a class of its own. And there’s All-Terrain Progress Control, an off-road cruise control working between 2 and 30kmph to clamber over rocks and plug through mud, managing slip, braking when needed and powering out when required in a manner that’s as smooth as the smoothest off-road practitioner leaving you to focus on just steering.
What about on-road manners? Well, the ride quality is fantastic. Low speed ride is the best you will get on any SUV and that’s saying something when the segment is filled with over-achievers. The air suspension just soaks up everything, the Disco riding with a large-chested and hefty lope that conveys authority; it says nothing can stop it.
Part of that is also down to the engine. Now on paper this supercharged V6 petrol– yes, it’s a petrol, we will come to that in a bit – makes a healthy 335bhp and 450Nm of torque and hustles the Disco to 100kmph in under 8 seconds. And, oh, the motor has a healthy appetite for petrol, really healthy if you release all 335 of those horses.
The switch to a monocoque and also the longer wheelbase has really done wonders in liberating cabin space. It is among the most spacious third rows in the business and it does not come at the expense of a full-sized spare wheel that’s mounted under the boot floor. That’s another example of authenticity. When you go criss-crossing continents you will have a flat and run-flats or space savers just won’t do.
Optional (at just Rs 30,000) is the seat fold system that allows you to electrically fold both the second and third row of seats (flat into the floor) via the infotainment screen, a smart phone app or switches inside the tailgate and on the C-pillar. Also optional (at Rs 22,000) is the activity key, basically a Fitbit kind of wristband that is your waterproof key so you can leave the actual key, valuables everything locked inside the Disco and go swimming, kayaking or whatever it is you do that could possibly damage the regular key. Intelligent stuff like this abounds on the Disco – there are secret cubby holes behind the air-con controls and under the cup holders that slide out of the way; the two-piece tailgate has a shelf that opens down to deliver a bench with enough load capacity for three adults to sit on it; there are six 12-volt sockets and seven USB ports; cooled front seats are an option; and the 825-watt Meridian sound system sounds fantastic. But why no Apple CarPlay or Andriod Auto on something that costs over a crore of rupees fully taxed and insured?
Which brings us back to the petrol engine. You see Land Rover has always battled this perception of being very, very expensive but with recent price revisions to the Evoque and Discovery Sport it is bang in the ballpark, in fact the Disco Sport is actually the most affordable 5+2 seater in the segment. And they’ve done the same with the Discovery 5, the petrol engine allowing a (much) lower starting price of Rs 71.3 lakh for the S variant. The HSE we’ve tested is Rs 77.85 lakh ex-showroom which is just Rs 3 lakh more than the Q7 petrol that, remember, has a smaller 4-cyl motor and doesn’t get all the (mighty) off-road kit.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Discovery 5 has become a posh SUV that will be seen in more hotel porches than off-road award ceremonies. But one thing is for sure, if ever you succumb to the wiles of the yellow spray paint cans, know that at heart the Discovery 5 remains true to its roots; it is still an honest, authentic 4×4 with capabilities far in excess of most owner’s abilities.