From £43,1409
Superbly comfy, practical and versatile, with much greater luxury and class than you might expect, the Discovery puts the utility back into the large SUV

Our Verdict

Land Rover Discovery

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

Nic Cackett
23 March 2017

What is it?

The top-of-the-range diesel version of the new Land Rover Discovery '5', soon to be seen displayed up on ramps and at improbable and eye-catching angles outside various Land Rover dealerships near you.

Powered by a 254bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 and coming with an impressive list of standard equipment that includes LED headlights, a 14-speaker premium audio system, rear-seat entertainment screens and 21in alloy wheels, this version of the Discovery is probably Land Rover’s biggest in-house threat to the continuing sales success of the Range Rover Sport - although you can bet your pension that Land Rover itself won’t be selling the car in those terms.

It’s a mightily plush and upmarket car, then, but somewhat different than the Range Sport, and also nothing less than the most capable car that Land Rover claims it has made to date. As a result of the move away from the Discovery 4’s old semi-separate chassis, the Discovery’s ground clearance has actually been reduced from 310- to 283mm (which, whisper this, is actually no more than a Mercedes-Benz GLE gives you at its most rugged, and less than you’d get from a Mercedes-Benz GLS).

But the new Discovery will wade through as much as 900mm of water, is considerably lighter than the car it replaces, retains a low-range transfer gearbox and has a more sophisticated suite of electronic ‘terrain response’ traction and stability control systems than any Land Rover that has come before it.

Not that so rare a combination of off-road capability, onboard luxury and typical Land Rover-brand suburban-set desirability comes cheap, of course. Land Rover charges £8000 more for this car than either Audi does for an equivalent Q7 or BMW does for an X5 30d; some of which premium is justified by the Discovery HSE Luxury’s amount of standard kit. But that high showroom price, multiplied by the high benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax banding that a relatively large, heavy and un-aerodynamic Land Rover inevitably comes with, will probably make this Discovery pricier to own than its rivals by hundreds of pounds per month rather than by tens.

With that in mind, you might well observe that the TD6 engine only improves on the 0-62mph performance of the cheaper-to-tax 2.0-litre SD4 model by a couple of tenths of a second. Plus, you might note Land Rover’s own admission that the four-cylinder car actually handles better, and then you might wonder if the V6 is worth the considerable extra outlay. Well, in our book, it certainly is: provided you’re buying a Discovery for the reasons that Land Rover expects to motivate you.

What's it like?

The new Discovery is a touch lighter, lower and less imposing than its predecessor, but it still feels very much like just about the most commanding and capable SUV on the road from the driver’s seat. Getting in will mean stepping up for almost anyone. You then settle into a driver's seat that locates your eyeline several inches above where it might be in any of the Discovery’s German rivals, and that sits you upright and bent-legged at the controls a way above both the car’s shoulderline and the melee of surrounding traffic.

The Discovery’s front seats are broadly comfortable, if a little bit short in the cushion. It was also surprising to hear longer-legged testers complaining of a very slight shortage of leg room up front.

In the second and third rows of seats, however, passenger space is very good. The rearmost row is particularly spacious, big enough even for full-sized adults to travel in, as well as fitted with proper Isofix childseat anchor points and, as in our test car, optionally available with heated seats.

The Discovery’s practicality party tricks are the motorised folding and unfolding mechanisms for all five rearmost seats, which can be controlled from the infotainment screen up front, from buttons in the boot opening or via smartphone app. Standard on HSE Luxury cars and optional on HSEs, these automatic folding seats seem a great deal less gimmicky and more useful while you’re watching them do their thing in person than they may seem on paper. It’s just a shame that Land Rover couldn’t come up with a better solution for a loadbay cover than the fairly cumbersome conventional roller cover, which you still have to reach in, unlatch and remove the old-fashioned way before five passenger seats can be turned into six or seven.

Land Rover’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine announces itself with a little less reserve than a Q7 3.0 TDI does. On the move, the Discovery's mechanical refinement is good but it’s not quite as hushed as the quietest and most luxurious SUVs. There’s also more wind noise in evidence in the Discovery, fluttering its way quietly into the cabin around the door mirrors and door seals, than you’ll experience in some rivals.

Overall though, the isolation shortfall isn’t marked enough to burst the bubble of calm that the act of driving the Discovery creates. This car’s size and bulk, its gentle ride, its precise but pragmatic handling and its torquey but laidback power delivery all combine to make for a wonderfully relaxing at-the-wheel experience, and one that’s as clearly distinguished by as effortless a sense of superiority on the road as any Range Rover. Everything about the way this new Discovery eases its way down the road reminds you of what it’s holding in reserve.

The car is directed with a typically large-diameter steering wheel that’s moderately paced and yet still quite weighty. Through corners, the Discovery doesn’t roll as hard as its predecessor, but it certainly rolls. And it doesn’t handle as keenly or grip as hard as considerably more sporting, ‘car-like’ additions to the large SUV ranks such as the Q7 and Volvo XC90. Not that you’re likely to mind much.

The Discovery rides and handles like a big car – but a very cleverly tuned one. There's real accuracy and feel to the steering over the first 45deg off the straight-ahead, before that body roll gently builds, telling you loud and clear how quickly the car is meant to be driven through a series of bends and giving you plenty of margin in which to reign in your enthusiasm.

Push past that point and you’ll ultimately find a good deal less outright grip, and earlier-onset understeer on the road, than you get from the typical German premium 4x4; something caused at least in part by the all-season Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres fitted to our test car, whereas most of the Discovery’s opponents come on more road-biased rubber. But the car’s stability and traction control systems are clever enough to keep things under a constant and discreet sense of control even when you do hustle the car along.

Aside from the provision of the necessary chassis compliance and wheel travel to make good on Land Rover’s claims for this car off the tarmac, the Discovery’s particular suspension tuning also makes for a superbly comfortable ride on the road. Here, the Discovery’s total freedom from sporting pretension really pays dividends. Its suspension soothes away bumps large and small with a beautifully judged suppleness unknown to plenty of luxury saloons. Although our test car’s air suspension and 21in alloys didn’t always deal with rough surfaces all that quietly, it still set a very high standard on rolling comfort that few cars in the world could equal.

And what of that V6 engine? Well, in outright flat-out performance terms, it does indeed only give the Discovery a marginal improvement on roll-on pace compared to the surprisingly torquey SD4. The Discovery isn’t a car likely to surprise you with its briskness in the way that a Q7 does. But under part-throttle, in the lower reaches of the rev range and for its greater flexibility, the V6 does deliver useful performance gains. The engine only revs to just beyond 4000rpm, so it’s not one you’ll spin up just for the kicks – but that 443lb ft of torque does a lot to make a heavy car seem less heavy away from corners and junctions.

Should I buy one?

Some will argue the answer to that question depends if you really need a seven-seat SUV or you simply might quite like to have one. Which is nonsense.

With the possible exception of its styling (which seems to attract as much criticism as praise) there is certainly even more to ‘quite like’ about this Discovery than any of its predecessors. Then again, owning a Discovery will probably continue to make you a conspicuous target for the ire of certain other road users, who will doubtless continue to assume that nobody really needs a car that takes up this much road space, or one that’s designed, engineered and specified for genuine dual-purpose on and off-road use in a way that few very other SUVs can even approach.

We’ll be testing the Discovery’s much trumpeted mud-plugging ability in detail soon, hopefully before anyone suggests we’re blindly accepting Land Rover’s biggest claims for the car – so look out for a group test pitting it against the most rugged SUVs on the market.

But in truth, even if you don’t happen to run a salmon fishery, tow a medium-sized day boat, live on a remote Hebridean croft or have a family large enough to make a small football team, the Discovery adds choice and wonderful authenticity to the SUV market. It’s the antidote to the trend that continues to make large SUVs more exotic and ‘dynamic’ by the year, but also less practical, capable and useful than they might be. And it continues to be at once deeply impressive and thoroughly likeable.

Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 HSE Luxury

Location UK; On sale now; Price £64,195; Engine V6, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power 254bhp at 3750rpm;Torque 443lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2230kg; Top speed 130mph; 0-62mph 8.1sec; Economy 39.2mpg (combined); CO2 189g/km; Rivals Audi Q7 3.0 TDI, Volvo XC90 D5

Join the debate

Comments
45

23 March 2017
For us folk living downunder there are still a few unanswered questions, particularly relating to off roading. Is the spare wheel inaccessible as in the D3/D4? The fuel tank is rather small compared to the opposition. Can the middle row of seats be removed as in the D4? What tyre sizes are available (you don't go off roading with 21s or 20s, even 19s are sub optimal)? Will one be able to fit a second battery under the bonnet (I have 3 in total, 2 being optima yellow tops)? How many 12 volt outlets are available? Are there front and rear recovery points? And so it goes. Can anyone accurately answer these questions.

A34

23 March 2017
... is not the target for this car. Maybe it's for the rich surgeon to get to a remote luxury campsite. Not so likely you will see one with a winch on the front! Can't quite see a Camel Trophy version in the Amazon...

23 March 2017
Despite lagging rivals in every area except two - rear space & suspension comfort - Autocar has awarded it 4.5 stars! As far as I can tell this review is worth 4 stars at most, I guess there's always the fact that it is a British brand...

23 March 2017
volvocu wrote:

Despite lagging rivals in every area except two - rear space & suspension comfort - Autocar has awarded it 4.5 stars! As far as I can tell this review is worth 4 stars at most, I guess there's always the fact that it is a British brand...

My thoughts exactly. As I was reading the review I kept seeing "not as good as" against rivals in almost every area. Why give it 4.5?!! Poor yet again from Autocar. As for Land Rover...it may be top spec, but £64k?!! That is insane! There's so much you can buy for that! You could get two very good cars for different purposes for that money! Arrogance yet again Land Rover.

23 March 2017
AddyT wrote:
volvocu wrote:

Despite lagging rivals in every area except two - rear space & suspension comfort - Autocar has awarded it 4.5 stars! As far as I can tell this review is worth 4 stars at most, I guess there's always the fact that it is a British brand...

My thoughts exactly. As I was reading the review I kept seeing "not as good as" against rivals in almost every area. Why give it 4.5?!! Poor yet again from Autocar. As for Land Rover...it may be top spec, but £64k?!! That is insane! There's so much you can buy for that! You could get two very good cars for different purposes for that money! Arrogance yet again Land Rover.

You will very rarely (if ever) find a car that excels in every area. However this could easily be the best of the bunch and probably is. Yes The RR Sport is more sporty, the Audi has a better cabin and the X5 probably goes faster but I can easily see this being the best design, best interior room and most comfort for its class.

23 March 2017
AddyT wrote:
volvocu wrote:

Despite lagging rivals in every area except two - rear space & suspension comfort - Autocar has awarded it 4.5 stars! As far as I can tell this review is worth 4 stars at most, I guess there's always the fact that it is a British brand...

My thoughts exactly. As I was reading the review I kept seeing "not as good as" against rivals in almost every area. Why give it 4.5?!! Poor yet again from Autocar. As for Land Rover...it may be top spec, but £64k?!! That is insane! There's so much you can buy for that! You could get two very good cars for different purposes for that money! Arrogance yet again Land Rover.

x 2.

23 March 2017
AddyT wrote:
volvocu wrote:

Despite lagging rivals in every area except two - rear space & suspension comfort - Autocar has awarded it 4.5 stars! As far as I can tell this review is worth 4 stars at most, I guess there's always the fact that it is a British brand...

My thoughts exactly. As I was reading the review I kept seeing "not as good as" against rivals in almost every area. Why give it 4.5?!! Poor yet again from Autocar. As for Land Rover...it may be top spec, but £64k?!! That is insane! There's so much you can buy for that! You could get two very good cars for different purposes for that money! Arrogance yet again Land Rover.

x 2.

23 March 2017
Yup, the Disco has an image problem, largely due to those suburban families who buy them for the school run. Which, frankly, is both ridiculous and pathetic, no?

23 March 2017
It's actually not much bigger then a Ford Galaxy. People that complain tend to be the people that need something to moan about. When this car is transporting 7 people then what is the difference between this and a Galaxy.?

23 March 2017
About 500kg?

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Seat Ibiza
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    A model upon which Seat has staked its future, the new Ibiza must now deliver
  • Honda Clarity FCV
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    Honda’s fuel cell flagship reaches its second generation, but is the world ready?
  • Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta 2017 review
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    A UK drive in Nissan’s crucial crossover shows an update has not cost it any of that which makes it sell so well
  • Seat Ibiza 1.0 MPI
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    The Seat Ibiza has wowed in other iterations, but how will the entry-level 1.0-litre MPI version stack up in the UK? We've been to north Wales to find out
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer 1.5 Turbo 165 2017 review
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    Mid-range petrol engine suits Vauxhall's new family-sized load-lugger well. Another refined, comfortable, easy-to-drive and attractively priced Insignia.