Land Rover Discovery SUV (2017 - ) review
The Land Rover Discovery is a practical and versatile seven-seat off-roader that competes with other premium SUVs like the Audi Q7. It can play the role of luxurious cruiser or hardcore mud-plugger, and both roles are performed with identical brilliance. A fabulous car.
Interested in buying Land Rover Discovery?
Previous versions of the Discovery have been unashamed about the rugged, no-nonsense nature of their styling, because these chunky looks really suited the car’s hardcore character. However, with the latest Discovery, Land Rover has really softened things off, with curvier, more rounded edges, and subtler details. This might well appeal to a broader section of buyers who prefer sophistication to ruggedness, but it might leave traditional Discovery buyers – of which there are plenty – feeling a little underwhelmed. Entry-level S cars have 19-inch alloys and halogen headlamps, while SE cars have front fog lamps, spangly 20-inchers and even more spangly LED lights. HSE models throw in swankier rear lights on top, while HSE Luxury models get huge 21-inch rims.
The Discovery has always been a car that can play the hardcore off-roader one minute, and luxury limo the next. The car’s interior quality has traditionally played a big part in that, and with the latest Disco, things have been kicked up another notch. Were it not for the big Discovery badge on the steering wheel, you could easily think you were in a Range Rover. The cabin has a wide range of materials and finishes on display, which keeps things interesting to look at, and the vast majority of them feel expensive and nicely textured. There are some exceptions, such as the plastics used on the stalks and window switches, and particularly on the gearshift paddles, and these slightly betray the ‘posh’ feeling. When so much of the cabin is so solid, it jars even more that the armrest cubbyhole cover, for example, feels so cheap. Overall, however, the car still feels like a high-class environment. Your view of the road ahead is wonderfully clear thanks to the high driving position and low bonnet, and most versions feature full electric adjustment for your driving position. The dashboard is pretty short on buttons – mainly because most functions are dealt with through the touch-screen infotainment system – but the system can be confusing to use, with menus that are both numerous and convoluted, and a screen that doesn’t respond particularly quickly to commands.
The Discovery is about as practical and as versatile as any car you could wish to find. Each of the seven seats is an individual chair that’s set higher than the one in front so you get a good view out, and the rearmost five can be folded down electrically using either the touch-screen system, a cluster of switches located in the boot, or a smartphone app. They go completely flat, too. Each seat has enough space to accommodate a six-foot adult in comfort, and access is also pretty easy. The cabin also has a dizzying amount of storage space for odds and ends, and depending on the grade of your car, up to nine USB ports for charging the family’s devices. The boot is big enough in seven-seat mode for a few small soft bags, but it’s absolutely massive when the car is used as a five-seater, and positively van-like when used as a two-seater. The old car’s split tailgate is gone, but it has been replaced by an ‘inner tailgate’ concealed behind the main bootlid, which is an electrically folding shelf that extends out of the car from the boot floor and makes a handy seat or picnic table.
Ride and handling
Most owners will only use their Disco on Tarmac, and in that environment, the car largely excels. The standard air suspension provides a wonderfully compliant and forgiving ride, absorbing any bump or rut with zero fuss, wafting you along in supreme comfort. The only quibble we have is that on some motorways it’s almost too soft and wafty for its own good, resulting in the car see-sawing a little, which won’t help people prone to car sickness. Chuck a few corners into the mix, and the Discovery deals with them in an impressively controlled way. There’s no disguising the sheer hugeness of the car, in terms of both its dimensions and weight, but you have to be driving it properly hard before it starts to feel flustered or clumsy. And to be fair, there’s absolutely no reason to drive it like that anyway. If you do happen to take to the wilderness, you’ll be even more dazzled: the Discovery will do things you might not have thought possible in a car. The massive ground clearance, low-range transmission, huge selection of electronic traction aids, and a collection of clever differentials, all help keep you going on just about any surface, even if you’re not experienced at off-roading. As well as all that, you’ll be able to wade through rivers and scamper up steep rock faces if you ever find the need.
The Discovery comes with a range of three engines: two diesel and one petrol. The diesels will likely prove the most popular. The most affordable option, the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder with 237bhp, is not especially brisk – the initial responses are pretty lazy, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox can occasionally dither over which ratio is right for the job – but in most situations, there’s just about enough urge to haul you around reasonably easily. It’s worth noting that we only drove the car carrying a couple of people: load it up with seven plus luggage, and we suspect the engine will start to struggle a bit more. Refinement is another area where the engine is adequate rather than ground-breaking, with enough quietness and smoothness to keep things civilised. The other diesel, a 3.0-litre TDV6 with 254bhp, is more refined than its smaller sibling but can’t compare to the benchmark diesel V6 found in Audi’s Q7. However, it should provide all the grunt you’ll need for most tasks, including towing up to 3500kg. It’s nice and torquey, meaning fairly swift progress with minimal effort. The one petrol version on offer, a 3.0-litre V6 with 335bhp, is the briskest of the bunch, but still not especially quick, and it’s also incredibly thirsty.
The latest Discovery is a lot more efficient than previous versions, not least due to the vast amount of weight that’s been shed. But it’s still a pretty thirsty car to run. The 2.0-litre diesel is the star performer, with a fuel economy of 43mpg and CO2 emissions of 171g/km, but even these figures don’t compare all that well with the ones for rival seven-seat SUVs like the Audi Q7. The V6 diesel’s figures are quite a way behind those of the 2.0-litre, too, and don’t even ask about the petrol; it’ll be ruinously expensive to run. That said, purchase prices are a bit lower than those of the Q7, making it seem like decent value for money, and resale values should be reasonably competitive with those of other high-end SUVs.
This is a very difficult area to judge with any accuracy because of the lack of any meaningful reliability data. It’s true that previous iterations of the Discovery – like many Land Rover products – have suffered their fair share of glitches and gremlins. You need only look at the car’s rock-bottom score on Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index for proof. However, it would be a little unfair to assume the same of the latest car before it’s had a chance to prove itself, so we’ll reserve judgement for now.
When it was tested by the experts at Euro NCAP, the Discovery scored a maximum five-star rating. Beyond that, the extensive suite of traction systems helps towards your level of adhesion on the road, as well as off it, and that will always contribute to safety. All versions also get Lane Departure Warning and an Autonomous Emergency Braking System with Pedestrian Detection, and all but the entry-level car have five Isofix child seat mounting points (the S has four). If you go for HSE trim or above, you’ll also get a rear-view camera and a Blind Spot Monitor. Many more safety features are available on the options list, including a self-park function that works with either a parallel or perpendicular space, and parking cameras that see all around the car. If you tow regularly, the Trailer Stability Assist function – which acts to calm a swaying trailer – will be very useful. So will the optional Advanced Tow Assist option, which takes the sting out of reversing with a trailer: you simply tell the car where you want to go by ‘steering’ with the Terrain Response dial, and the car makes all the necessary steering inputs automatically.
The entry-level S trim comes with cruise control, climate control, a heated windscreen, DAB radio, a powered tailgate cover and a powered inner tailgate, but misses out on a couple of important things that most Discovery buyers will want, such as sat-nav and leather upholstery. SE trim checks both those boxes, along with several others including mood lighting, automatic headlights and parking sensors at both ends of the car. That’s why SE trim is the one we’d recommend. Upgrade to HSE trim, and you’ll add a panoramic roof, heated rear seats, keyless entry, an infotainment upgrade and a gesture-controlled automatic tailgate, along with a whole heap to the price. HSE Luxury trim does exactly what it says on the tin, adding cooled front seats, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a surround-view camera arrangement.
For a variety of reasons. You want a car that’s comfortable, luxurious and packed with kit. You want a practical and versatile family car. You want to go further into the wilderness than most other cars can take you. Your horsebox won’t tow itself. Whatever the reason, the latest Land Rover Discovery will be a very pleasurable car to own.