By on September 19, 2017

2018 Land Rover Discovery - Image: Land RoverThe new 2018 Land Rover Discovery (née LR4) is not the automatically handsome successor to the Discovery 4 you assumed it would be.

The front end is visually softened. Viewed from the side, there’s enough bodywork between the windowline and wheelwell to empty the paint shop. The need to maintain a traditional Discovery shape was compromised in part by aero demands, and the result is flat rather than boxy. The C-pillar leaning far forward is more reminiscent of a Lexus RX than a Discovery Series I.

But it’s around the back where Land Rover’s own design boss, Gerry McGovern, has his own problem. “Overall, I like the design of the back of the Discovery for its asymmetry,” McGovern tells Auto Express, “because it’s tipping its hat to the Discoveries of the past.”

The problem then, Mr. McGovern? License plates. Yes. License plates.

As always, apply your standard style-is-subjective qualifier. But then search “new Discovery ugly” on Twitter and be astounded at the wide array of results, of which we’ve only selected a tiny fraction.

The Diagnosis

The Critique

The Angle

The Comparison

The Joined-Twitter-Just-For-This

The Verdict

Land Rover’s design chief, however, believes too many UK dealers are slapping on taller-than-ideal number plates. McGovern feels the Discovery’s new rear end was designed for slimmer license plates. Of course, that theory flies out the window on this side of the Atlantic, where all new Discoverys will wear taller plates. McGovern doesn’t believe the Discovery is in need of a design rethink. “I don’t want to change that asymmetry,” he says.

“But we do need to do something about the number plates.”

Given Land Rover’s recent global success, it’s easy to believe the brand could design very nearly anything and still sell it so long as the vehicle wears the green and white oval. But Land Rover’s clearly not under that impression, otherwise McGovern wouldn’t feel the need to so vehemently defend the new Discovery.

Earlier this year, for instance, McGovern was asked about criticism of the new Discovery. “I’m a professional designer and they’re not,” McGovern said of the critics. “I think it hangs together really well,” he told Motoring. Indeed, McGovern continued by criticising the previous model, saying it featured “a design that didn’t resonate with a lot of people. It was very polarising.”

Regardless, McGovern feels now that proper license plates will cure all ills. Twitterer Mark Smyth? He has a different view.

[Images: Land Rover]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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33 Comments on “New Land Rover Discovery Is Ugly – Why? Land Rover Design Boss Blames License Plate Thickness...”

  • avatar

    On the road, it lacks presence and appears as if someone drew my description to them of what a Ford Explorer looks like over the phone.

  • avatar

    I see one every day and I think it looks super cool. The one I see is in black.

  • avatar

    It has a certain Ssangyong Rodius ‘quality’ about it. Especially seen from aside.
    Oh Dear!

  • avatar

    It really is an atrocious design. People go into debt for these? Shocking.

  • avatar
    tod stiles

    “I think it hangs together really well,”
    What a ringing endorsement.
    I have never, ever heard a designer say that to defend their work and I’ve heard it all.

    “I’m a professional designer and they’re not,”
    Love it. We all have a little superiority complex but when a designer says this it’s a guarantee they come up with very pedestrian design.

    Maybe in my lifetime someone/company will have the guts to break out of this current formulaic design language. Maybe.

  • avatar

    If anything sells purely because of style over substance, it is the products of Land Rover. Blaming license plates isn’t going to sell ugly shopping trolleys that also happen to be built like Fiats. I’ve always laughed at talentless designers who blame front license plates for ruining their designs. It’s not like they were introduced during the development cycle. If you’re worthy of getting paid to scribble, you should be able to make a car that is attractive while complying with vehicle codes in all of your major markets. Otherwise you’re just a delusional hack. That goes double for someone who can’t incorporate a rear number plate.

  • avatar

    Whatever, I’m just happy to see Saab is back and making wagons again.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’ve seen several already here in Oklahoma City, and I do like the overall shape. I don’t mind the non-traditional side profile, either. I think the only thing that throws it off is that it’s still very tall and narrow-looking, especially versus the Range Rover line. That worked when you had the boxy shapes of the Series 4 and previous, but it’s a little more awkward on something with curved sheetmetal.

    And I dig the asymmetrical plate recess.

  • avatar

    Just a little point of order for our American friends.

    They are not “license plates” (as in US and Canada) … they are “registration plates.”

    Although the terms “license plate” and “registration plate” seem interchangeable in British English, they’re not the same thing. That’s because the plate is associated with the vehicle, not the owner (and will remain with it when there is a change of ownership). It is evidence of the car’s registration, not the driver’s license.

    Thank you for tolerating this interlude of anal retentiveness.

    • 0 avatar

      Huh? They work the exact same way in the US. Plates show a car’s registration and have nothing to do with a driver’s license.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought the Brits preferred the German-derived “number plate”


    • 0 avatar

      And talking of anal retentiveness, what’s up with the stupid headline of this article? ‘Thickness’ of a license plate, which would be the gauge of the metal plate, has nothing to so with anything.

      The problem here, if there even is one, is the relative large width and height of a British license plate compared to those of many other countries.

  • avatar

    The LR4 was about an 8 on the 0-10 ugly scale so its replacement is keeping it in good company.

  • avatar

    I saw one on the road a few days ago and figured it was an unfinished test mule but yikes it’s an actual car for sale (and a pretty expensive one at that).

    Mr. McGovern appears to be a graduate of the Chris Bangle I’m a Genius But People Are Too Stupid to Recognize My Brilliance School of Design.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Well, lemme see; Tim Cain used twitter quotes exclusively from men. Most of the comments will be from men, with the internet bonus of most of them never having bought or leased an LR. No one asked upper-middle class to rich women; to who this vehicle has vast cachet. They’ll just turn in their old LR when the lease is up and lease a new LR. Oh, Tata’s made them F-150/Silverado reliable.

  • avatar

    As the proud owner of an early US-spec Discovery Series I, I think this thing is a sad joke. Which is pretty much my opinion of every Land Rover product newer than the P38 Range Rover. Shopping trolleys about sums it up, despite the fact that fitted with proper tires they are actually pretty capable offroad.

    I do like the look of the Discovery Sport, but I can’t get over the fact that it is a $50K+ Ford Escape in tailored clothing.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “I do like the look of the Discovery Sport, but I can’t get over the fact that it is a $50K+ Ford Escape in tailored clothing.”

      Not really. The Discovery Sport’s D8 platform (also used by the Range Rover Evoque and upcoming E-PACE) has its distant roots in the EUCD platform, based on the documentation I’ve read. Moreover, the Escape was never on that platform. The previous Mondeo, previous S-Max, previous XC60 and current V60 /S60 are on the EUCD platform, though. But like I said, the roots are pretty distant. It’s just like how the Ford D3 / D4 platform that supports my MKS is a distant cousin of the old Volvo P2 platform.

      Now, if your qualm is about spending $50K on anything transverse-engined, I’d have to agree with you. I would need to step up to the F-PACE, Discovery or Range Rover Velar.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    All this negativity is pretty perplexing. It didn’t strike me as ugly. I put 400 miles on a new Disco in metallic black. My first thought is that it was such a vast improvement over the LR4, which seemed unnecessarily utilitarian, not to mention clumsy. But this new Discovery was fine in the twisties (not one of the hunkered-down ultra sporty hot shots but good enough). It made freeway miles glide by. The seats were swank and comfy. I don’t know. It all worked well. I’m not a fan of SUVs but this one was very sweet.

  • avatar

    Land Rover usually design attractive vehicles but this new Discovery could come from Chevrolet or Acura. It the opposite i f being attractive that for sure!

  • avatar

    Hideous POS!

    A $22,000 Mazda CX-5 looks 3x better than this and will be 10x as reliable/durable!

  • avatar

    Right idea, poor execution?

  • avatar

    And for god’s sake make sure the rear quarters provide maximum blind spots, because we surely don’t want to be able to see out!

  • avatar

    I’m not mad on the tail gate but the rest of it looks good. Also it’s a practical car first which is something that appeals more to me tha. The style

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Thickness? Did you mean height? All the difference in the world…

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