From £43,1409
The fifth-generation Discovery is simply one of the world's most capable cars, even with the 2.0-litre engine

Our Verdict

Land Rover Discovery

Is this a triumph of style over substance or is the fifth-gen Discovery the best yet?

Matt Prior
15 February 2017

What is it?

The most important new car of 2017? The new Land Rover Discovery is certainly one of them, and when I tell you it’s new, I mean it’s new-new.

You can probably see that yourself, mind. The previous-generation car, the Discovery 4, looked a lot like the Discovery 3, only was far more upmarket inside. And it drew a lot more sales by being that way. That’s what gave Land Rover the impetus to up the ‘premium’ count again and make the Discovery a family of cars and launch the Discovery Sport. So, in the same way the Disco Sport replaced the Freelander, so this Discovery arrives, replacing the old Discovery’s blocky, stubby looks.

In its place is a car that’s more Ranger Rover-esque around the front. Land Rover is aware it’s playing with a car that owners have dearly loved and bonded with, so is at pains to say it has carried over many Discovery cues, such as some shapely metalwork around the C-pillar, a clamshell bonnet (though a Range Rover gets one of these too), and a roofline gently rising all the way to the rear. This is essential to package the seven full-sized seats which Land Rover says are crucial to the Discovery’s success – and which differentiates it from a Range Rover. It uses words like ‘lifestyle’ and ‘versatile’, but what it’s talking about are the things that have made it a great family car in the past.

More on that in a moment, but first, technical details. As with the Range Rover Sport, the old Discovery’s separate chassis and body has been replaced by an aluminium monocoque, suspended by double-wishbones at the front and an integral link setup at the rear, just like the Range Rover. There are differences, though: instead of aluminium subframes front and rear, the Discovery uses steel ones; heavier, yes, but they take up less room, which is what allows a full-size set of seats in the third row, a deep luggage space (up to 2406 litres) and room for the full-size spare wheel that buyers of ‘proper’ 4x4s will consider essential.

This make the new Discovery lighter than its predecessor, obviously - by up to 480kg according to the headline figure. As ever, it’s not quite that simple: the body itself is 250kg lighter, the chassis 130kg, with the rest coming from the fact that the entry-level engine is no longer a V6 turbodiesel, but a 2.0-litre four-cylinder from Land Rover’s Ingenium family. (As I write, that’s the only engine I’ve driven; we’ll try more today and update this story accordingly.)

Bit worrying, that. The Discovery is lighter, yes, but it’s still a 2184kg car. It’s also at least a £43,495 one, with a top-spec 2.0 HSE Luxury asking £62,695. All big numbers to be accompanied by ‘2.0’. Some markets (though not the UK) will even get a 178bhp 2.0 base engine, but our way into the Discovery range is at least a new variant of the Ingenium unit, with two turbos of unequal sizes and making 237bhp at 4000rpm and, crucially, 368lb ft from just 1500rpm; claimed to be good enough for a 0-60mph time of 8.0sec.

It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, there is a low ratio transfer case, and the Discovery gets the full suite of Land Rover’s latest ‘terrain response’ system, which manipulates power delivery, throttle response, differentials and so on, to make this car – absolutely no question, says Land Rover, so don’t be fooled by the sleeker new looks – simply the most capable car off-road it has ever made. It can wade 900mm, its maximum ground clearance is 283mm, and it has half a metre of axle articulation. It’ll go further than any Discovery, Range Rover, or even Defender, before it, they say.

What's it like?

Inside, most of the things that made the old Discovery a Discovery have been retained. What we always liked about this car – and what got under customers’ skin – was how relaxing it was to drive. It took the S out of SUV, with a high driving position, low window line, and very clear ends to its body, making it easy to place.

Some of that has been compromised by the new appearance. I feel like you sit a touch lower, in a more car-like driving position, but the window line is still lower than in most rivals, the mirrors are big and you can see the most part of the bonnet. The rear window is large too, although now lacking in the cut-out half way across it – instead only the number plate holder is skewed, making the back of your Discovery look like it’s had a stroke.

Like the rest of the design, Land Rover is aware that, with the tailgate, it’s messing with something customers loved, by replacing a two-piece one with a one-piece, top-hinging plastic tailgate: it points out, before you’ve even asked, that the first Discovery had a side-hinged tailgate and that these things always evolve, so please don’t think badly of the company for doing it. I was tempted to, but as standard there's a powered flap inside the boot, which does the same thing as the split-tailgate: can hold 300kg when it’s lowered and you sit on it to change out of your wellies, and helps keeps dogs or shopping in place when it’s raised.

The rest of the interior continues the best of the previous Discovery’s themes; it gets big buttons, and clear dials, there is masses of storage space dotted around the cabin, entry to middle and third rows of seats is easier than ever and the rearmost seats themselves are more accommodating than ever. It really is a genuine seven-seater in a way that an Audi Q7 or even a Volvo XC90 just aren’t; this is a very useful car, but a lot of car to be powered by a 2.0-litre engine, right? So you’d think.

First surprise: this new Ingenium unit is quiet. I’m not sure if it’s the new engine derivative or the installation that makes it so, but the Ingenium is massively vocal in a Discovery Sport – far more so than, say, an Audi Q5 – and pretty gruff in a Jaguar XE. Here it just isn’t; I’d swear it was quieter than the V6 diesel in the old Discovery, and certainly more refined than Volvo’s XC90. Serve a dining hall with rice puddings and it’d even remove their skins, too. Before this drive, a couple of Land Rover employees told me they’d been driving the 2.0-litre and that it had plenty of power, which is the sort of thing you take under advisement. But they were right. Throttle response is fine, torque is high, and you don’t have to work the 2.0 nearly as much as you might think to make progress.

Obviously, if you tow a lot of stuff – the Discovery has traditionally been a fabulous tow car, and still has a 3500kg limit – you’d want a 3.0-litre diesel, which makes 254bhp and a more oofsome 443lb ft. It’s probably not that much less economical, either. Instead of the 2.0’s claimed 44.8mpg mpg (we saw around 30), the V6 is 39.2mpg, but you probably have to work it less hard, less often, and the premium is only £3k. More on it another time.

What engineers will say, though, is that the 2.0 – by dint of being a good 70kg lighter than the V6 – is the better handling car of the two. The weight of an adult missing from the nose means that the Discovery steers and turns more easily and its weight distribution is close to 50:50. It’s still no sports car, or even sports SUV, you should understand, but it’s extremely satisfying to drive, even if it’s a touch less imperious than it was. The steering is 2.7 turns between locks, pleasingly weighted and smooth, brake and throttle weights are good, and the seats are armchair comfortable, which all go to make the Discovery an extremely relaxing car. Our test car rode on 20in wheels with 255/55 profile tyres; and I suppose the world is coming to something when you think: ‘phew, these are some of the smaller ones, so should be kinder on the ride’. You can have up to 22s, but I’m not sure I would. Certainly, on 20s, the ride is isolated as smooth as it always was, but now with better body and roll control, too. It’s still a Discovery in character, but enhanced.

Should I buy one?

I know what some of you will be thinking. Don’t think we don’t read the comments: ‘British mag, British car, of course they’ll love it’. Listen: the last time I wrote a Discovery group test the Land Rover was beaten by a Volvo. Ride and handling aside, a Jaguar XE is inferior to a BMW 3 Series. A Discovery Sport’s Ingenium motor is so vocal that I’d have an Audi Q5, perhaps a Mercedes-Benz GLC, instead of one.

So believe me when I tell you that the new Discovery is a seriously impressive car. I’m still not sold on the looks, but maybe that’s just me, because on the day the car goes into showrooms, Land Rover has already taken 20,000 orders. And certainly, while it looks less like the bluff, blocky Discovery whose character farmers, shooters, horse owners, towers and, quite frankly, big families have come to adore, its intrinsic personality, beneath it all, is, if anything, enhanced. From the outside, I really thought they’d screwed it up. And I do think Discovery 3 and 4 will become standout classics in future. But make no mistake: this is one of the world’s most capable cars.

Land Rover Discovery 2.0 SD4 HSE

Location Utah; On sale April; Price £56,995; Engine 4cyls in line, 1999cc, diesel; Power 238bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 368lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2184kg; 0-60mph 8.0sec; Top speed 128mph; Economy 44.8mpg; CO2/tax band 165g/km 

Join the debate

Comments
65

jer

15 February 2017
I know I would'nt. I saw a bronze one two weeks ago in Heathrow short term car park. I thought it looked pretty distinctive, different form the current one but a bit edgier. How companies isolate 2.0 diesels seems to be a dark art of the industry.

15 February 2017
I can't help wondering if the aluminium alloy, used by JLR for bodyshells, contains a high percentage of osmium?

Citroëniste.

15 February 2017
Did previous version have lead panels? On a more serious note the V6 version fuelled-up must still be pretty close to the Base Model X. Anyhow pretty good review of a pretty good car. Deserves to do well

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

15 February 2017
Matt, looks like LR has flown you somewhere outside the UK - maybe put you up in a swanky hotel and plied you with fine food & alcohols. One of the things I really admire about Jalopnik is the full disclosure. Time I believe for Autocar to do the same. And maybe time for Car of the Year jury members to pro-actively start a campaign in this regard?

15 February 2017
[quote=soldi]Matt, looks like LR has flown you somewhere outside the UK - maybe put you up in a swanky hotel and plied you with fine food & alcohols. One of the things I really admire about Jalopnik is the full disclosure. Time I believe for Autocar to do the same. And maybe time for Car of the Year jury members to pro-actively start a campaign in this regard?[/quote] Let me just clarify your thoughts. Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes - whatever invite you to test their new car abroad while pampering with you with fine food and champagne while watching the PowerPoint presentation and you would reply..."I'm sorry but all this luxury is inappropriate and may influence my decision when deciding awards later in the year. I operate entirely ethically, so please just deliver the test car to my flat in Basingstoke and leave the champagne to those other journalists." Oh, if I could really believe that, Soldi.

15 February 2017
[quote=Kamelo]...Oh, if I could really believe that, Soldi.[/quote] And your point is what exactly? Can you think of any reason why transparency and disclosure should be avoided? Actually I believe testing around Basingstoke is more relevant to me than evaluation in a desert in the USA. And I would certainly expect a UK testing opportunity before awarding an overall vehicle rating.

15 February 2017

You can assume on nearly all overseas car reviews that we were flown there and accommodated at somebody else's expense: for a manufacturer, they think it better, and it probably is more efficient, to take journalists to one central location where roads are good and terrain is most suitable, to drive the car and talk to executives, designers, and engineers, than it is to take cars and people to each journalist.

And you can believe what you like, but this is a source of some frustration to me. I have told manufacturers that a series of local launches would be better than one global one. Porsche does try to do this: instead of going to South Africa earlier last month, I spent a day in Wales with a 911 GTS. But it can't always be done.

So, yes, as I write I'm in America. Yes, I am in a nice place, but it has taken four days out of my life to drive a car that is built an hour from my house, it will leave me jetlagged for the weekend, I despise airports, I haven't seen my children since Monday morning, and arranging childcare has cost me money and considerable effort.

I'm not complaining, because I love my job. But if you think it positively influences what I think of the car, I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong.

15 February 2017
Matt, you are one of the best motor journalists in the U.K. and no one likes their integrity being questioned. I understand your frustration. However, it also remains true that JLR and certain others do benefit from some very generous coverage from Autocar at times. Batting for the home team is fine, but surely the readers must always come first?

15 February 2017
As someone whose Dad had a stroke recently, I found myself (unusually) offended by the following comment in Matt Prior's text - I doubtl I will be alone, so please remove it. " ...making the back of your Discovery look like it’s had a stroke". Poor show.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

15 February 2017
[quote=Bishop]As someone whose Dad had a stroke recently, I found myself (unusually) offended by the following comment in Matt Prior's text - I doubtl I will be alone, so please remove it. " ...making the back of your Discovery look like it’s had a stroke". Poor show.[/quote] Don't be an arse.


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