Land Rover Discovery Review
Land Rover claims the all-new Discovery is the ‘most capable and versatile vehicle it has ever produced’. Time to venture off road then.
- Go-anywhere capabilities
- Seven seat versatility
- Wide choice of engines and trim levels to choose from
- The distinctive square rear end has been modernised
- It can prove costly compared to rivals
- It may have become too ‘nice’ to get dirty
The Discovery has always been considered the formidable workhorse of the Land Rover family compared to its posh sibling the Range Rover. It has unrivalled off-roading capabilities and even boasted an impressive price-tag with plenty of kit thrown in as standard. The fifth generation model is new from the ground up with a radical new appearance, improved terrain-conquering ability, plenty of on-board technology and all the connectivity facilities needed these days.
As the Discovery is regarded worldwide as being virtually unstoppable, we decided to test it both on and off road to be sure.
On the Road
The SUV is available with three powertrains - 2.0-litre 240bhp or 3.0-litre 258bhp diesel engines or a 3.0-litre 340bhp petrol.
We tested the 3.0-litre TD6 diesel model in HSE Luxury trim priced at £64,196 (increased to £75,570 with options) on sweeping Welsh roads as well as at Land Rover’s proving ground at Eastnor Castle.
On the open road the car delivered all the power and acceleration you could wish for and the fresh streamlined design means it can be pushed along more enthusiastically into tight bends.
With 600Nm of torque, acceleration through the eight speed automatic transmission is very swift and despite weighing 2.2 tonnes it can reach from 0-60mph in just 7.7 seconds and redlines at 130mph.
But the Discovery is the toughest and most capable model to date and away from the Tarmac, it can wade through water up to 900mm deep (an increase of 200mm compared to Discovery 4), it has ground clearance of 284mm and features the company’s multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system.
Off road the Discovery crossed deep water, traversed rocky banks at death defying side angles and even marched up a set of concrete steps. It felt truly invincible.
Out on the open road, new Discovery has a very upmarket presence and seems to be far more refined in the way it drives. Despite its larger-than-life dimensions, it is actually a very easy vehicle to control as it cruises gently through the automatic gearbox. The highly-efficient suspension system irons out any bumps and dips along the way and there is minimal lean into corners even at higher speeds.
Due to the nature of the beast there will be a little wind noise when travelling at higher speeds, but the insulation has been improved considerably.
When faced with off-road assault challenges, the Discovery could be excused for puffing out its chest because it thrives on hitting the dirt track. The automatic terrain response system will do most of the technical adjustments necessary which means all you, as the driver, really needs to do is steer, accelerate, brake and enjoy the ride. Then you can look in the rearview mirror and pat yourself on the back when you see the rivers, boggy slopes and rocky trails that you’ve negotiated. Our vehicle didn’t hesitate once no matter what was thrown its way.
New Discovery is very refined compared to the older generation models and some might say it has become a little bit posh these days. However, maybe in truth, the Discovery 4 had become too dated for modern lifestyles. With that in mind, the latest SUV is a more aerodynamic, lightweight and efficient creation with a sportier stance. The headlight clusters are neater and that instantly-recognisable square end has been smoothed out. Another feature that will be noticed by anyone familiar with older models is the replacement of the square left-set number plate with a new rectangular one.
The interior is very classy and features stadium seating for seven occupants which Land Rover describes as ‘everyone having the best seat in the house’ due to the arrangement of seats and elevated views. A new clever touch is the ease in which the seats can be raised or lowered at the press of a button.
In the car
The Discovery offers excellent comfort levels for all occupants and there are techno treats galore to be explored. With such importance put on staying connected on the move these days, Land Rover has kitted out the car with nine USB ports, 3G WiFi and it is capable of hosting eight separate WiFi devices at the same time.
There is a soft-touch dashboard, leather trim along with wooden inlays and the ultra-supportive seats can be heated and electrically-adjusted.
The top trim HSE Luxury model boasted the likes of a pitch perfect Meridian sound system, a heated steering wheel, 4-zone climate control, an electric sunroof, configurable ambient lighting, a surround camera system, head-up display and even massaging seats that were an £870 optional extra.
Buyers looking to save on their outlay could look for slightly cheaper models in the Discovery line-up. The trim levels are S, SE, HSE and HSE Lux with a limited run First Edition model. As is the norm with premium brands such as Land Rover, Mercedes and Audi the customer can select from a raft of optional extras which will see the price rise considerably.
This is an area where the Discovery truly excels. Whilst the SUV has long been recognised as a very versatile model, Land Rover has introduced some great features that really up the ante in the segment.
For example, the hassle of scrambling in the back of the car to raise or lower the extra seats is a thing of the past as that job can be completed via buttons in the boot, on the touchscreen or even via a phone app. All the seats were heated on the test car too.
The split-folding tailgate has been ditched. In its place is a fold-out section of the boot floor that can easily hold the weight of a couple of adults while they remove muddy boots or simply sit and enjoy the view.
Storage facilities throughout the Discovery are excellent with a boot that can hold anything up to 2,500 litres of kit with the seats dropped flat. And there are more than a dozen additional storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle. You will have to look long and hard to find them all though. For example, we discovered a generously sized bin underneath the cup holder section.
Running costs for the fifth generation Discovery can be viewed in two ways.
On the plus side, Land Rover designers have managed to help the vehicle shed some weight and the new streamlined version is more aerodynamic and therefore more economical to run. In fact, the most efficient 2.0-litre SD4 240bhp model can deliver a claimed 43.5mpg on a combined run with carbon emissions of 171g/km.
However, over the years the Discovery’s price has been climbing too and whereas it was once a popular choice amongst the farming community and I’m sure they would relish its unmatchable towing capabilities of 3.5 tonnes, you would have to question whether they can realistically match the asking price these days. And with the demise of the Freelander and Defender, it would be a shame if the company priced itself out of the reach of its most loyal of followers.
However, the Discovery is still very competitively priced against rivals such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 so will obviously generate plenty of interest. In fact more than 4,000 cars had been ordered before the vehicle officially went on sale in February.
The Discovery comes with a three year/unlimited mileage warranty.
Land Rover has a reputation for building rough, tough and almost indestructible vehicles and when a new model is introduced it comes with the guarantee that prototypes will have undergone the most rigorous testing imaginable in some of the most unforgiving terrains on the planet.
The interior is packed with modern technology but feels exceptionally robust at the same time with strong, supportive seats which have been designed to pass the test of time.
With family versatility in mind many of the surfaces would survive a spillage and can easily be wiped clean, plus the doors close with a nice sturdy thud.
Whilst the Discovery has rivals when it comes to seven-seat luxury and driving dynamics, it is in a class of its own when faced with tricky terrain challenges or even a Mother Nature mood swing.
Land Rover has packed the Discovery with safety kit and it has been awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Despite featuring a lightweight monocoque body construction made of 85 percent aluminium, the Discovery comprises extensive use of high strength metals to protect occupants.
Other clever features include an advanced tow assist which allows the driver to guide a horsebox or caravan into position without using the steering wheel, but instead rotating the terrain response dial and watching the on-screen instructions.
In addition, there is autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane keep assist and a driver condition monitor to detect any signs of tiredness.