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 Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.