David Motton

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The new Land Rover Discovery stole the limelight at the Paris Motor Show 2016, but there are other new tow cars to look forward to as well, says Motty

There's an exciting new generation of tow cars at the Paris Motor Show, including the new Land Rover Discovery, the Škoda Kodiaq and the Audi Q5.

We had a pretty shrewd idea what the new Discovery would look like – Land Rover had already released an image showing the car from the front – but the wraps finally came off completely at the show last week.

As expected, it's a big change from the bluff and chunky current generation. There's a close family resemblance to the smaller Discovery Sport, and to my eyes there are hints of the Range Rover Sport here and there.

I've got a soft-spot for the old car's tough and upright stance, but there's no doubt the new Discovery looks far more modern and contemporary.

The looks could divide opinion, and the new car's weight could also prove controversial in caravan-towing circles. The Discovery has shed a huge 480kg from the kerbweight to bring it into line with its lighter and more fuel-efficient rivals, like the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.

However, even after its dramatic diet, the Discovery still weighs in at over two tonnes. The maximum legal towing capacity is a reassuring 3500kg. 

There are changes to the engine line-up, with the new range starting with the twin-turbo Sd4 four-cylinder engine rather than old six-cylinder engine. The Sd4 has 237bhp and 369lb ft of torque, compared with 252bhp and 443lb ft for the old SDV6.

However, economy and emissions are much improved, achieving 43.5mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 171g/km of carbon dioxide, compared with 36.7mpg and 203g/km. It's worth noting, though, that despite the new car's improved efficiency it still emits more than the most fuel-efficient Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.

For more performance and the added refinement that an extra pair of cylinders tends to bring, there's the 254bhp/443lb ft Td6. With near-identical outputs to the previous engine but a lower kerbweight, acceleration should improve compared with the old car. Indeed, Land Rover claims a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds. The Td6 returns 32.9mpg on the combined cycle and emits 189g/km of CO2.

Those who prefer petrol power can choose the 335bhp supercharged V6, badged Si6. It returns just 26mpg and emits 256g/km of CO2, so you'll need deep pockets to keep it topped up with fuel.

As well as the revised engine line-up, the new car gets some caravan-friendly technology that the old car lacks. In particular, there's a clever new feature called Advanced Tow Assist.

It works much like VW's Trailer Assist, and will steer the car for the driver when reversing. The driver controls Advanced Tow Assist using the rotary controller for the Terrain Response 2 system, with guidelines appearing on the rear-view camera display to help the driver instruct the system accurately. We look forward to trying Advanced Tow Assist for real.

Inside, the Discovery retains its seven-seat layout, with the second and third rows higher than the seats in front so everyone gets a good view out. Both third row seats have Isofix mounting points on SE spec cars and above, so this style of child seat can now be used safely in the third row as well as the second. 

That's not the only change to the Discovery's seating. Using a feature called Intelligent Seat Fold, the second and third row can be controlled remotely via a smartphone app. Say you're about to take some garden rubbish to the tip. A couple of taps on your phone and the seats are lowered and ready for you to load up. 

Other interior changes include the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen. The old Discovery's infotainment is a little behind the times, so it's good to see Land Rover catch up.

Prices will start from £43,495 for the four-cylinder diesel in S spec. That looks like a price cut compared to the £47,505 asking price of the current car, but don't forget today's Discovery is on run-out in a couple of high-spec versions. It's also important to remember that the entry-level price is for the four-cylinder model, not the six-cylinder car which is a better comparison with the current version.

The six-cylinder model isn't available in S trim. It does come in SE, HSE, HSE Luxury and First Edition specifications, with prices starting from £50,995. So in effect there's a significant price hike.

Elsewhere in Paris

Increasingly, there's clear daylight between the cost of big 4x4s like the Discovery from an upmarket brand like Land Rover and mainstream SUVs.

Take the new Škoda Kodiaq, also on show in Paris. Prices have yet to be confirmed, but there are rumours the car could be priced from around £22,500, which is remarkable for an SUV of this size.

I've written about the Kodiaq before at some length, so I won't repeat myself here, except to say that our colleagues on Autocar and What Car? are now predicting that range-topping models will cost a little over £35,000. That's very competitive for a high-spec seven-seater. I'll be driving the car in November, so watch out for more detail then.

Other cars in Paris with strong tow car potential include the new Audi Q5. Looking every inch a slightly shrunken Q7, the five-seat Q5 will arrive in the UK early next year. It's as much as 90kg lighter than the current car, a relatively modest decrease so matching ratios shouldn't suffer too much. Expect more tech, a bigger boot and improved fuel economy.

Pricing hasn't been decided, but anticipate an increase on the £32,850 starting price of today's car when the new model arrives in UK showrooms early next year. 

As fascinating as a big motor show like Paris is, there's clearly no substitute for driving. I look forward to getting behind the wheel of the Land Rover, Škoda and Audi over the next few months, and towing with them in 2017.

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