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Land Rover gave the rugged Discovery SUV a stylish makeover and it's pretty much flawless

Benjamin Zhang
Land Rover Discovery 12

In an auto market with an insatiable appetite for SUVs, Land Rover is a brand uniquely positioned for success. Its growing lineup of luxury SUVs allows Land Rover to touch everything from the high end of the mass market with the Discovery Sport to the rarefied air of the ultra-premium market with the Range Rover Autobiography.

And boy, have they capitalised. Since 2014, Land Rover's annual US sales have surged more than 40% from 51,000 vehicles to more than 73,000 in 2016.

At the heart of Land Rover's lineup is the trusty Discovery SUV. Since 1989, the mid-size Disco, as it is commonly called, has delivered traditional Land Rover utility with a dose of Range Rover civility at a price point within reach of the middle class.

For 2017, Land Rover debuted the all-new fifth generation model, the first complete overhaul of the Discovery in more than a decade. And the first new Discovery under the ownership of India's TATA Group who have reinvigorated Land Rover and sister brand Jaguar since taking over in 2008.

Recently, Land Rover dropped off a 2017 Discovery HSE Luxury in a chic silicon silver paint job. The Discovery starts at $65,960 while our high-spec HSE Luxury test car starts at $100,950.

Here's a closer look at the new fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery:

The original Land Rover Discovery Series 1 debuted in 1989. The Disco's arrival coincided with Land Rover's decision to push its Range Rover model deeper into the luxury space.

As with the every Land Rover, the Discovery soon proved it was as rugged and as capable as the brand's heritage.

In 1999, Land Rover updated the Discovery with a more luxurious interior, stylish exterior, and new electronic goodies to create the Series II.

In 2004, Land Rover introduced the first all-new Discovery since 1989. The Series II or LR3 in North America featured a new chassis and new engines options from corporate parent Ford.

As an update to the LR3, Land Rover introduced the new fourth generation Discovery in 2009. In North America, it was badged as the LR4.

Fast forward to 2017. The fifth generation model, now badged as the Discovery in North America, is only the third all-new Disco since 1989.

Its styling draws heavily from Discovery Vision Concept that debuted at the 2014 New York auto show.

For the first time in its history, the Discovery has shed its trademark boxy looks.

With the Discovery, Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern decided to redefine the model with an infusion style. Design elements like the jewel-eye LED headlights and ...

.... Sleek lines are new ...

... While the Discovery's signature stepped roofline remains.

Under the sleek new sheet metal is an all-new aluminium-intensive platform that's a whopping 450kg lighter than the outgoing LR4.

The asymmetrical rear fascia has been a polarising feature for Business Insider's staff. Some like the distinctiveness of the tailgate, while others found it to be just weird.

Under the hood, US-bound Discoveries are powered by either a 340 horsepower, 3.0-litre, supercharged V6 or a 254-horsepower, turbocharged V6 diesel. Our test car came with the gasoline V6.

Hooked up to a sensational ZF 8-speed automatic transmission and an advanced four-wheel-drive system, our test car hit 60 mph in a manufacturer claimed time of 6.9 seconds. According to JLR, the V6 diesel can make the run to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.

Inside, the Discovery effortlessly blends style with utility. The high-quality interior materials look like they are ready to take on mother nature while the gloss black accents inject an extra dose of panache. The black Windsor leather seats were exceptionally comfortable.

Our highly optioned test car came loaded with a wide array of drivers' assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, lane keep assistance, and driver condition monitor. On the highway, the adaptive cruise control proved to be easy to use.

Here's Jaguar Land Rover's distinctive rotary shift knob. It raises when the vehicle is fired up.

The center console is dominated by Land Rover's electric drive mode controls. In the proper setting, the Discovery can take you just about anywhere.

Our test car even came with a chilled cool box.

The new Discovery is equipped with a 10-inch touchscreen running Jaguar Land Rover's latest InContol Touch Pro infotainment system.

Overall, JLR's new generation infotainment system works well. It's quick, responsive, and easy use.

It's packed with functionality, crisply rendered, and ...

... Its menus are intuitively placed.

Our car even came with an optional rear-seat entertainment system. It's a neat touch that's becoming much rarer these days with the advent of in-car wifi and streaming video. The Discovery is also available with 4G LTE wi-fi connectivity.

However, the InControl Touch Pro has proven to be one of the more fragile infotainment systems we've come across in recent years. The system's satellite radio function failed while my colleague Matt DeBord was behind the wheel of the Discovery. It's the same issue we encountered in the Jaguar F-PACE SUV last year.

When we experienced the infotainment issue with the F-Pace, we reached out and received a quick response.The company said the problem was likely software related and that JLR was dealing with it. We reached out again as it's our policy to give OEMs the opportunity to address any problem we consider out-of-the-ordinary, or when more than one of our reviewers experiences the same issue.

With that said, the InControl Touch Pro system we experienced in the Discovery showed marked improvement in terms of reliability and operational stability over the unit in our F-PACE test car last year.

Overall, the Discovery's cabin comes through on its promise of comfort and functionality.

The second-row seats are positively cavernous. The Discovery comes standard with seating for five. Our test car had the optional third-row seat.

While its dual sunroofs flood the cabin with light, even for those in the third row.

With the second and third-row seats folded down, the Discovery boasts 77 cubic feet of cargo room. To help make loading easier, Land Rover's adjustable air suspension will even dip the rear end of the Discovery to reduce to the amount of work you have to do.

The Discovery also came with an Activity Key.

It's a waterproof electronic wrist back that allows you to lock and unlock the car simply by tapping the 'D' in the Discovery's rear badge.

On the road, the Discovery was a pleasure to drive.

With that said, you can't drive the Discovery with the same enthusiasm as one would a Range Rover Sport. With its tall stance and high center of gravity, the laws of physics simply won't allow it. Even after its 1,000-pound weight loss, the 4,835 pound Discovery is still not exactly light on its feet.

But, under normal driving conditions, the Discovery's easy going demeanour is almost car-like. This is particularly impressive considering the fact that it isn't a crossover, but a rugged SUV with serious off-road street cred.

The cabin is quiet and refined while the ride is supple without feeling sluggish. Kudos to the air suspension.

The 3.0 litre, supercharged V6 is one of our favourites. It's terrific in the Jaguar F-Type sports car and XF sedan and it's terrific here. The V6 delivered power on demand every time.

Unfortunately, fuel economy is not its strong point. The EPA estimates 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway/18 mpg combined fuel economy. Although the diesel option will return better numbers.

Our Verdict.

The all-new fifth generation Discovery is certainly an ambitious undertaking by what is rightfully an ambitious brand. The Discovery has long been a popular product for Land Rover, and tweaking the secret sauce is always a risky manoeuvre.

As my colleague Matt DeBord noted, Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern has the unenviable task of producing a design that caters to the brand's wildly divergent client base. These days a Discovery will have to look and feel as at home in front of a luxurious Beverly Hills hotel as it is fighting its way through the Malaysia Jungle.

With the new Discovery, Land Rover has its next big hit. The brand's new found style has not compromised substance.

Sure, the Discovery is still big and heavy with a kink or two that's yet to be worked out. But, as an overall package, the new Land Rover is fantastic. It's spacious, incredibly comfortable, has great cargo capacity, a gutsy engine, plenty of technology, and Land Rover's go-anywhere four-wheel-drive system.

It simply does everything you need a large premium SUV to do. What more can you ask for?