If there’s a common phrase about Land Rovers to take away from the correspondence we receive, or from browsing internet forums, it’s this: “I love the car, but…” Following it might be many things. A quirk, a quibble, a complaint. It’s rare that ‘but’, phrased within “I love you, but…”, is followed by a positive.
To the Land Rover Discovery 5, then, which landed on Autocar’s fleet last autumn. So do I love this car? I do. The Discovery was launched last spring. I liked it then and I like it now.
It’s the big one, the practical one, the one to take on all comers and seat seven while it’s at it. It’s a TD6 HSE Luxury, which puts it at £64,195 – a lot, granted, but the majority of Discovery buyers opt for HSE or HSE Lux spec, so it’s clearly where Land Rover is: this isn’t just a 4x4; it’s an executive or luxury car rival.
As talented as it’s always been, the TT covers every base as well as you...
The donkey is a 3.0 V6 diesel with 255bhp and, more important for a car with a 3.5-tonne towing limit (and a 2230kg kerb weight, to which you could add another 200kg with options), 442lb ft from 1750rpm.
It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, plus there’s a low-range transfer case and Land Rover’s full gamut of off-road systems. This, they said at the launch, will go farther than a Defender (although bear in mind that off road, as on asphalt, there’ll be some give and take over different terrain).
This was one of the initial launch cars, too, and it performed duties as an early press demo. That means it’s a very early build and it had 12,500 miles on it when it arrived. We put it to stern use straight away because, well, it’s arguably the most broadly capable car in the world.
And that matters, because of all the things we’ve done with this car – towing, getting it filthy, using all the seats, all the space – it’s perhaps been at its best when it’s late, I’ve been tired, the weather is rubbish and I’ve got 80 mostly motorway miles to get home. It’s perfect for that.
The driving position is great, with large seats and easy armrests. Visibility is good: you see a lot of bonnet and the mirrors are massive, although it’s harder to place than a Disco 4. There are cameras all round, but flicking between the ones you want is less straightforward.
The ride is excellent, really well isolated, with steering that has terrific stability, and the directional stability is top rate. Puddles don’t remotely make it flinch. No surprise, then, that in inclement weather – so from October until, er, last week – the Discovery is where you’d want to be.
Fortunately, when it snowed, it was where I was. If you’ve half an ounce of sense, in all conditions, getting stuck is something you won’t do.
All smooth sailing, then? Not quite. The infotainment system is sufficiently sluggish and the nav so quirky that I appended my phone to the dashboard and looked at the nav on that.
The sound system is good but would sometimes forget my device was plugged into it. And while sometimes a few months with a car breezes by without a second thought, the Discovery has kept me busy – mostly reasonably, sometimes not.
The TD6 is necessarily complex so it meets exhaust emissions standards. It runs with a urea exhaust solution: about a litre every 300-350 miles or so (10-litre tub every month or two). And when the diesel particulate filter runs through a burn cycle, to clean itself, it draws a little diesel into the engine oil.
Apparently, that’s normal too, and the car monitors the dilution. What it means is that, on this car, every 9000 miles or so, rather than 20,000, the oil wants changing: it was done under warranty at 19,000 and needed doing again nearing 28,000, when the car returned to Land Rover.
Land Rover Milton Keynes also replaced a faulty, smoky, diesel-powered heater, which helps with cold start and quick cabin heating. That kind of thing isn’t unusual anecdotally, meaning Land Rover placed 31st out of 32 car makers in the What Car? annual reliability survey last year. Sigh.
There are so many terrific features on this car: perhaps if there were 10% fewer but they did them 10% better, that would help. Or maybe people wouldn’t like it so much if it wasn’t 100% the way it is.
I’ll admit it too: as a car to drive, to be comfortable in, to want in poor conditions, to relax you, to move things, to pull things, to go where others cannot, I love this car. But…
A quick drive is all it takes to work out the secret of the Disco’s success. The sense of imperiousness our long-term test car bestows upon its driver is intoxicating. Throw in an interior that never fails to make you feel special, a luxuriant ride and a thumping engine, and it’s hard not to fall for it.
Servicing away from the elements - 25th April 2018
I’ve taken the Discovery to my most convenient dealer, in Milton Keynes, for a fix. The service ‘tunnel’ is brilliant: you drive up, a door opens, you drive in, it closes, and handovers are completed in the warm and dry, without paperwork blowing everywhere. The car’s smoking fuelburning heater has been replaced under warranty; I’ll have more info in the next, perhaps final, report.
The Land Rover remote app is a thing of novelty and, at times, usefulness. It lets you see last week’s journeys (so far useless), how much fuel your car has (handy) and if any of it needs servicing (ditto). You can even start it remotely to pre-warm the cabin. It also tells you where your car is parked, so if it gets nicked, you’ll know exactly where it has ended up.
Our Disco’s been emitting more smoke than a papal conclave - 28th March 2018
The Land Rover Discovery has an auxiliary fuelburning heater, which ignites on start-up at less than 5deg C to aid cold start and heat up the cabin quicker. It burns a small amount of diesel and normally you wouldn’t be aware it was running. You probably wouldn’t even know it was there.
But I know it’s there, and I know when it is on. How? Because during a recent cold snap, the car began smoking like a laboratory beagle on start-up and didn’t stop for ten minutes. If you’re moving quickly, you’d not notice much happening, but if you’re moving along more slowly, it emits more light-coloured smoke than a papal conclave.
The internet reckons that fuelburning heaters might, occasionally, smoke a little on start-up if there’s some stale diesel in the pipe after it has been used for the first time in, say, months. But this wasn’t a little.
This emitted from the underbody in sufficient quantity that when I parked up to first see what it was, I did it near a fire station.
It eased, and so confident was I that I drove it round the block (no smoke), then parked it up at home. But starting it again later from cold, it did the same thing, so I called Land Rover Assist.
Things began well. They offered a Land Rover technician between 3pm and 5pm, or the AA right away. I chose the Land Rover bod, but he was cancelled at 3.45pm because of an overrunning previous job. It happens. So, they said, he can come tomorrow, or you can have the AA straight away, and we’ll arrange a replacement car if that doesn’t help.
Half an hour later, then, Andy from the AA was agreeing that the smoke was excessive, diagnosed the fuel-burning heater, but couldn’t fix it, so 20 minutes after he left – about 6pm – Land Rover Assist called to say an Evoque with my name on it should be in Milton Keynes the next morning, if I didn’t mind taking the Discovery over there. Sure, said I, only in the morning it turned out it wasn’t going to be ready until 4pm, at which point I took the sensible option and pulled out the fuel-burning heater fuse.
I’ve booked the car in when both dealer and I are free – though this isn’t until April, when they’re still so busy they can’t give me a replacement car. Land Rover Assist called again and told me they’d ask the dealer to move things closer. They haven’t, but I haven’t had time to chase it either.
Meantime, I think the Discovery takes a mite longer to heat up the cabin and is, perhaps, a bit noisier on cold start (though I might be imagining it), but otherwise you still wouldn’t know it had a fuelburning heater, even though it doesn’t, if you follow me.
Everything else is normal and functioning well. The mileage is up to 22,400 and I’ve had to pop in another 10 litres of AdBlue, which keeps the usage at one litre every 350 miles or thereabouts. And the 99% of the car that’s still working is still great.
REMOTE APP I downloaded the Land Rover Remote app, which tells you loads about the car – more on which another time.
FUEL BURNING HEATER Fuse boxes are easy enough to find, but I dropped the darned FBH fuse as I pulled it, and there’s no way back for it.
Camera curiosities - 14th March 2018
A long, easy run to France, the kind of journey at which the Discovery is fabulous, has improved the economy to the other side of 30mpg. I tend to use my phone’s satnav because the Disco’s is a bit clunky, but its other systems – the plethora of cameras in particular – are good. Recently, the screen turned curiously negative (see image) but only for a moment, and it hasn’t done it since.
Last time I briefly reported that the Discovery had been in for an unexpected service, so more on that now. It’s the kind of thing that I don’t think gets huge mainstream attention but sets owners forums twitching.
Basically, as far as I understand it, a car with a diesel particulate filter needs it declogging every now and again, by getting it hot enough to burn the soot out of it. Usually the car finds a time to do the cycle automatically, when the engine is running at higher revs – which is fine if your engine visits those higher revs.
I once heard, although it might be apocryphal, that London cab drivers didn’t always get their engines warm enough. They spent so much time idling around town that the DPF would soot-up and a light would come on suggesting they needed to go to the service centre to get it declogged. But the centre was in Southampton, so they’d get onto the M3 and, hey presto, one declogged filter.
Anyway, newer cars can apparently prompt a DPF declog, even at low engine speeds, by injecting more diesel at low revs to heat up the exhaust gases. When they do that, though, some of the diesel can seep into and dilute the engine oil in the sump. And if that happens too much, you need an oil change at intervals before the expected 20,000 mark.
I usually do lots of long-distance work so was at first a bit surprised that this car needed an early oil change. (Although putting the engine on ‘for a couple of minutes’ to warm up the interior and then dozing off in the back with it idling for about two hours during a 24-hour race probably didn’t help.) But anyway, Land Rover Milton Keynes did it all under warranty, and I’ve had a few emails since from people who’ve had similar, either completed under warranty or, once or twice, as something they’ve had to pay for, which seems mean.
Add to this the spectre of AdBlue diesel exhaust fluid, then. The Discovery’s thirst for this additive is about one litre per 350 miles or so – about the same as a couple of owners I’ve spoken to. It means I’m putting in a full 10-litre container at a time, every few thousand miles.
It’s not a huge faff, although the containers pour too fast for the filler neck and the container spout leaks around the thread, but it’s not something you’d bother going to a dealer for. Given all this complexity, though (Håkan Samuelsson at Volvo thinks hybrids will soon be cheaper to make than diesels), maybe it’s no wonder that it doesn’t take many scare stories and the threat of taxation to suddenly hugely dent the popularity of diesel.
Which is daft, because no petrol non-plug-in hybrid alternative would get close to the ability or economy of the diesel V6 in a car of this size or capability. I haven’t stretched its abilities since it stopped snowing, suffice to say it’s a brilliant late-night, home-from-the-airport motorway car that is impeccably stable, quiet and comfortable.
But I did call on it the other day when I’d been chopping logs. Lots and lots of logs, which needed moving from a field to my back garden – a distance of only 50 yards but not a trip I wanted to walk 100 times, two stumps in hand each homeward leg. I’d feel bad doing this to a typical £70,000 luxury car, and they probably wouldn’t get through the mud anyway, but with the Discovery I could chuck in a tarpaulin and remind myself that, well, it’s a Land Rover, after all. I just hope it didn’t spend too long idling.
DOOR MIRRORS - The size of the mirrors let you park a big car in hard-to-get-at spaces.
REVERSING CAMERA - The reversing camera can get its freak on. It’s only done it once but, still, it’s odd.
A minor parking scuff - 7th February 2018
“If I tell you something, you won’t be cross with me, will you?” says my stepdaughter, a relatively new driver, directly on arriving home. “Have you damaged your car?” I ask. “Well,” she says, “not my car...”
Her rear bumper has given the Discovery a minor parking scuff, but I think it’ll all polish away. I’ll let you know next time.
You can leave this little knob on the transmission tunnel in auto, or you can stick it through to different modes, one of which is grass/gravel/snow (GGS), and it adjusts electronic gubbinry to do you a favour.
It wouldn’t have needed anything more than auto to gain sufficient traction, but I suspect that GGS mode better calibrates the ABS, in particular, to improve the stopping distance. I tried it back-to-back on an icy/snowy bit of road in auto and GGS modes, and GGS stopped me quicker.
They weren’t perfect test conditions, but I think it was reflective; in GGS, it seems that ABS is less reluctant to kick in, because when there’s a build-up of snow or gravel (or mud on wet grass, perhaps) in front of a locked wheel, it can stop you better than a rolling wheel trying to skip across the top.
The car also prefers to start in second gear, and I wonder if the throttle mapping in GGS mode means the accelerator pedal doesn’t do quite so much in its initial travel.
While I was out in it, a neighbour said that her kids had had some friends over the night before, but she now couldn’t drop them home because her car was stuck. As at my gaff, the power was off, so would I mind dropping them back home to the next village?
Of course, says I, but even if you have the most capable car in the world – and there’s an argument that I did – on a major road you’re still at the mercy of a two-wheel-drive Nissan Juke on 19s failing to get up the nearest hill.
Which is why it’s worth having a truly capable off-roader. Then you take the tiniest roads and carve your own path.
No surprise, then, that six inches of overnight snow was no particular obstacle to a car that spent rather more of its development life than the industry average in Sweden, in winter.
Ergo, it defrosts amazingly quickly and, in HSE Luxury spec, you get heated seats, windscreen and steering wheel as standard, as well you might at £64,000. And call me a princess, but I do like a heated steering wheel.
The Discovery was serviced not long before it arrived at Autocar Towers, when it had 10,000 miles on the clock, but despite a lengthy service interval, just 5000 miles later it started saying it would soon want another, which is odd.
Land Rover’s boffins say it might just be a diesel particulate filter, so I’ve booked it in at Milton Keynes, my nearest dealer.
There’ll be two service updates at the same time – those things that they cover when they don’t need to do a recall but do need to change something; one for the tow bar, and one for something else.
I rather like that because, although no car should actually be feeling tired or rough after 10,000 miles, that’s usually the kind of mileage after which cars disappear from us, rather than arrive with us, which sometimes hides the nitty gritty of running it.
It’s mostly workaday commuting stuff. But, ah, what commutes, my friend: first to a disused quarry in the Midlands.
The tests I put the Discovery through – repeated runs through swathes of mud, at speeds high enough to please our photographers – were ones we expect, and generally find, Land Rovers to deal with ease.
And this Discovery did, albeit requiring quite a lot of hosing off afterwards and gaining a metallic graunching noise from one front corner.
Metal on brake, I reckoned, and so it proved – but nothing serious. The discs have thin backing plates and the pressure of a water splash had pushed one into the disc. So I pushed it away again with my fingers. Problem solved.
Its next run was to Spa-Francorchamps, where it was my support car for a 24-hour race in a Citroën C1. While some competitors napped in a camp chair if they were unlucky, or retreated to a motorhome if they weren’t, I parked the Discovery in an underground car park behind the pit lane, folded down the rear seats and kipped in the back.
That, plus regular commuting, at a still fairly epic rate, has upped the mileage to 15,500 in a very short space of time.
And it’s the early or late commutes, when the weather is pants but motorways are fairly clear, where the Discovery really seems to get into its stride. Its ride is always good, particularly so at motorway speeds and, for a high-sided car, straight-line stability and resistance to crosswinds is really exceptional.
I was surprised to see, then, the dashboard tell me that another service is imminent. I’ve queried it with Land Rover, who say it’s probably the diesel particulate filter that just needs clearing, so I’ll book that in imminently and report next time around.
Meantime, it also started running short of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), or AdBlue as it’s known under trademark.
Despite the amount of miles I cover, this was a first for me. The handbook recommends you visit a dealer but really there’s no need; follow the instructions, fill the tank enough and the warnings go away.
Take a look around: there are loads of them specced like this. It’s a way of having a car that’s as luxurious and well appointed as, oh, I dunno, an up-spec Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or a BMW 7 Series, without anybody thinking that you’re on an airport taxi run.
We’re running this shiny new Discovery – about 10,000 miles on the clock, fresh from its first service, having served a few months’ time as a press demonstrator before it came to us – to see how well it will do the whole executive transport thing.
Not that I am an executive – or anything like, obviously – but most of my driving is similar to those who will use a Discovery properly: early starts, to hammer along a motorway, and then subject it to the harsher vagaries of domestic duties at the weekend.
But the Discovery counters with the characteristics that are a result of its mechanical layout. You’re well isolated from road noise, the ride is extremely good, great visibility is afforded by your height (to the expense of those around you, granted) and there’s a tremendous sense of imperviousness in poor conditions.
Standing water affects the stability of a Discovery far less than it does lower cars on lower-profile tyres; while, as weather starts to turn, increasingly mucky country lanes don’t seem to fling mud quite so far up the Discovery’s body side as lower cars. And it doesn’t look out of place when it does.
I haven’t yet challenged the full off-road or towing capability of our test car. It’s only been with us a few weeks. But I have put the long-distance cruising and practicality to use.
This is going to be handy. 'Activity Key' sits on your wrist so you can leave the proper key in the car rather than worry about losing it. pic.twitter.com/WGftIp0yqf
Noise levels are pretty low, the ride is controlled enough on twistier roads – considering the kerb weight, which must be 2500kg if it’s a day – and the seats remain extremely comfortable over a distance.
Seats in the back feel just as comfortable as those in the front. And the climate control feels nicely over-specced. Via an option, the seats in the back are cooled, as well as the standard heated, plus those in the third row (which I haven’t used yet) are heated.
This car is quite serious about keeping you at the right temperature. And I’m a sucker for a heated steering wheel, especially given that the steering has a pleasing weight, speed and self-centring that Land Rover and Jaguar are really pretty good at.
It’s versatile, I’ll give it that. There are several home screens to scroll through, giving control of everything from electrically dropping the seats through to (an option, but a very cool one) a system that lets you reverse a trailer to exactly where you want it, via the screen and adjusting the Terrain Response dial, without the hassle of counter steering and fumbling.
I like to kid myself that I’m second only to artic drivers when it comes to reversing, but I’m quite excited to try that regardless.
But some bits of the screen are a bit fiddly. Sometimes the system forgets it’s synced to the music on my phone. Inputting destinations can be slow. You get used to all of this, but it’s a pity this car came earlier than the Velar’s system. Can’t be helped.
It sometimes pays to leave the eight-speed auto in S rather than D for ideal step-off response, which is one of those tricks you discover on a long test like this, as you learn to get the best out of what already seems like a very impressive car.
The last big car like this I tested was a Volvo XC90 and, although I like the cut of that car’s jib (and its appearance), it was harder to get in and out of it in car parks than the Discovery.
Prices: List price new £64,195; List price now £66,595; Price as tested £74,420; Dealer value now £57,000; Private value now £55,000; Trade value now £53,000
Options: Dynamic Design pack (shiny trim, different 21in alloy wheels) £2340, metallic paint £1660, head-up display £1035, timed climate control £1035, Capability Plus pack (limited-slip rear diff, off-road cruise) £1000, electrically deploying towbar £985, TV £880, climate second-row seats/heated third-row seats £835, privacy glass £390, tow assist £365, activity key £315, cool box £235, second row 12V sockets £110
Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 39.2mpg; Fuel tank 85 litres; Test average 28.2mpg; Test best 32.5mpg; Test worst 25.8mpg; Real-world range 527 miles
Tech highlights: 0-62mph 8.1sec; Top speed 130mph; Engine V6, 2993cc, diesel; Max power 255bhp at 3750rpm; Max torque 442lb ft at 1750rpm; Transmission 8-spd automatic; Boot capacity 258-2406 litres; Wheels 21in, alloy; Tyres 275/45 R21; Kerb weight 2230kg
Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £610; CO2 189g/km; Service costs None; Other costs 40 litres AdBlue, £52; Fuel costs £2967; Running costs inc fuel £3019; Cost per mile 20 pence; Depreciation £7000 (estimate, since 12,565 miles); Cost per mile inc depreciation 67 pence; Faults Fuel-burning heater (replaced under warranty), early oil changes (changed under warranty)