New benchmark set for premium SUVsSave
Once in a while - or even more rarely - a product comes along that re-defines a market or market segment.
That's what the new model Land Rover Discovery does, principally through an enhanced off-road capability that mixes its deep reserves of practicality with a heightened sense of adventure and interior refinement and space, re-modelling thinking about premium SUVs.
Re-imagining a classic is no small thing. This is the fifth generation of the Discovery and, impressively, Jaguar Land Rover engineers have managed to ensure both sides of the premium SUV equation (off-roading plus luxury) have grown and developed in concert with each update.
That's not easy to pull off when you have loyal customers who use one attribute more than the other. The new Discovery manages the clever trick of sitting wholly apart from what has gone before, yet is still imbued with subtle nods that make it distinctly a Discovery.
But, even given the external design and elegance of the cabin and appointments, it is the enhanced off-road muscle of this classic that gives the new model market-altering qualities.
That still defines the Discovery. Its off-road abilities link it indelibly to the go-anywhere heritage of Land Rover - but also drives the brand forward in the modern era.
In Land Rover's hands, off-roading has gotten very, very clever. It'll go up a mountain in a straight line without even pausing for breath.
It produces confidence-inspiring, effortless off-roading in some truly gnarly environments. While I'd like to take the credit for deftly traversing near-sheer rock faces and the softest sand I've ever attempted to place a tyre on, I can't. The Discovery did it.
It features an impressive arsenal of rough-stuff-conquering hardware and software, designed to be easy to engage and responsive when needed.
In addition to permanent four-wheel drive with low-range gearing and a locking differential, the updated Terrain Response 2 drive system monitors driving conditions in real-time and can shift through different modes for grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts, or sand and rocks.
Through careful management of a number of parameters, such as throttle sensitivity and gear-change characteristics, the SUV essentially ensures it's always giving itself - and the driver - the best of its four-wheel drive abilities, regardless of the surfaces being driven across and how they change.
For steeper inclines, the impressive All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) is also available, autonomously maintaining a careful crawl at a suitable speed, chosen by the driver. The driver just has to concentrate on vehicle placement, rather than modulating acceleration and potentially giving the SUV too much - or too little - power for purpose.