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Land Rover Discovery: Little to report in facelift

“Facelift” is a tame word at the best of times in the motoring world. Usually it’s the intermediary step for a manufacturer to hype up the release of a new product in the middling years before the new model is released. It’s their way of letting you know that they haven’t forgotten about your favourite car and are working hard to tweak its design and features.

The new Land Rover Discovery plays particularly fast and loose with this concept. When it arrived on our doorstep, the major changes were annoyingly hard to pinpoint. Any non-Discovery aficionado would need to hold up a picture of the old one and play a game of “spot the difference”. It’s still got that very boxy, signature shape that rides high off the ground. And yes, it retains the derrière that elicits more opinions than Kim Kardashian’s.

Were the designers given extended leave after the momentous launch that was the Defender

The additions that do eventually become apparent are a bunch of glossy bits around the car, new badge colouring, and new matrix LED headlights. Ours was the much touted new R-dynamic model (beginning at R1 574 862), which meant the bits were even glossier and the bumper upgraded too. 

To be fair, the inside shows a lot more effort in shaking things up. Immediately noticeable is the introduction of a new gear lever, replacing the dial of the previous iteration. That’s a pity: the old one added a whole experience. You would click the engine on and a cylinder popped up out of the centre console. It was a cool gimmick that has been shelved in favour of a traditional option.

With that gripe over, the rest of the interior takes a steady step forward. The dash is now hyper-modern with the climate and seat controls slotting nicely into two adaptive dials on the front. The gauge cluster — now fully digital, of course — is excellent and retains a raw, analog aesthetic. The technology similarly shines through in the infotainment system, which has been consistently good from the manufacturer of late.

Also worth a shout-out is a neat little compartment that can be opened up by pushing a button just below the screen. It feels very secretive and is unlikely to be checked by the cops if you’re the type of person that needs to hide contraband. 

Indeed, this SUV would suit the flashier members of a gang — the cream-leather seats are almost mafia-esque in their luxury. The R-dynamic has the option to turn up the heat or turn them into massage chairs. Don’t expect any heavy kneading, but it can be a pleasant distraction if stuck in Jo’burg traffic. 

Should you wish to escape the city all together, the Discovery naturally maintains the solid off-roading capabilities with which its brand is associated. This includes the latest technologies available to the stable, such as wade sensors and cameras that reveal the terrain you’re driving on.

These smatterings of newness are undoubtedly enjoyable and yet the fact remains: this is the Discovery largely as you’ve always known it.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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