New Land Rover Discovery has the chops to be a serious off-road vehicle

The newest model from Land Rover has a name that's not really new: Discovery.

"The Discovery bridges that gap between a Defender and a Range Rover," said Nathan Hoyt, spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover North America.

The rugged Defender model he's referring to isn't currently sold in North America, however. Something else isn't new about the Discovery. It can actually go off road in serious fashion.

The Land Rover tradition has been being able to go where there are no roads, beginning decades before people started using SUVs as urban people movers.

For this newest Discovery, the off-road ability was never something to be left off the table.

"Every one of our vehicles is thoroughly tested off road. From the desert sands of the Middle East, to the Arctic during a Norwegian winter and even Rodeo Drive. It is thoroughly, thoroughly tested," Hoyt said.

Sure, the old joke is that soccer moms will never take these anywhere that isn't paved. But sometimes just knowing that a vehicle can is a selling feature.

Technology helps the Discovery live in both the paved and non-paved worlds with ease. For years, vehicles that had true off-road capability would have large levers poking out of the floor to engage the four-wheel drive and the low-range gears.

But today, electronics control all the various traction hardware and even make it easier for novice off-roaders to negotiate steep grades and ruts without worry.

To be fair, other SUVs from other brands are using this technology as well. Notably Jeep, which has expanded its line of "trail rated" models to a variety of its vehicles like the Cherokee compact.

But to enthusiasts, the old-school four-by-four chops of the Wrangler remain at its core. And Jeep not only sells every Wrangler it can build, but it's readying a new version that will still be a traditional four-wheel drive.

For anyone who buys a new Land Rover Discovery, that kind of off-road ability is an asset that's always there, just in case. Even if "going off road" ends up meaning off the paved road and into paved parking lots.
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