Defender has now gone and Range Rover's aspirational swagger has been masterfully played from Evoque to long-wheelbase luxury versions of the senior car. As such the supposedly standalone Discovery range had a chance to inherit the green welly end of Land Rover's customer base. And the new one is supposedly more capable off-road than ever. But compared with the blocky Discovery 3 and 4, it looks like it might baulk at crunching over a gravel driveway, let alone haul itself over a rocky mountain pass or wade through axle-deep mud.
En route to the unveiling of the new version in Paris, I saw an early Discovery 3 parked by the road, complete with its utilitarian grey plastic wheel arches and bumpers. You might not think it watching the open warfare around the Arc de Triomphe, but Parisian drivers are much smarter than their London equivalents and seem less fixated on the idea of blingy SUVs. But if I had to drive a 4x4 in traffic like that, I'd want it to be more like that Discovery 3 than the new one: the square-cut proportions are easier to place, the bigger glass area better for spotting the gaps and the unpainted bumpers appropriate for Continental style 'touch' parking.
To me, the Discovery 3's blocky looks are a masterpiece of design; it's distinctive, stylish, clear about its intentions but also deeply functional. This seems to me a very Land Rover thing. After all, from a Balmoral runabout for HRH to battered workhorse for Welsh hill farmers, the Defender was the definition of classless, no-nonsense motoring. The Discovery combined this with the kind of daily usability that's endeared it to many.