You sure that’s a Discovery, mate?
The Land Rover Discovery is all-new this time around, and represents the second-last step in the reimagination of the Land Rover range. Building on the success of its sleek new design language, the team behind the Discovery were given a clean sheet of paper and were permitted to do as they pleased, and with it, they managed to bring the Disco in line with the rest of the Land Rover family of cars while also retaining a few key design characteristics that have become ubiquitous with the Discovery nameplate.
So while many may squint at the sight of a new Discovery (and mistake it for another Land Rover), others may recognise things like the offset rear numberplate or the stepped roofline and immediately know that this could only be a Disco. That careful balance between reinvention and retention plays out throughout the car, and has resulted in a rather remarkable package that isn’t one to be easily dismissed.
Available in S, SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury grades with three turbodiesel plants to choose from, the Land Rover Discovery comes back to the fore, ready to duke it out with the big players on this end of the segment, which includes cars like the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, and even the Porsche Cayenne and Jaguar F-Pace. Is the new Discovery a rediscovery, or will it remain a left-field proposition for many?
“This fifth-generation of Land Rover's iconic 4WD has arrived wearing a sharp new suit designed to make it more appealing to a target market more likely to visit Double Bay than Dubbo. And its executives were scared the rugged, bearded types who adore the box-shaped models of old might take it less seriously now that it looks more like an actual car and less like a mobile case study in brutalist architecture.” — Drive
The Land Rover Discovery is very much an all-new car, and is most definitely not just a re-skin of an old vehicle, the way the fourth-generation was. Everything from the platform to the design to the engines are brand new, and that’s an assumption you’ll make just walking up to the thing.
If you were ever familiar with the old Discovery, this new one will look like an alien in front of the Opera House, or indeed an Aussie on Mars.
Redesigning the Discovery was a particularly hard task, as the designers were very aware that its popularity was partially driven by fans of the squared-off, boxy shape that the Discovery has taken since its inception. Where the Range Rover and other Land Rover products got gradually sleeker and minimalist, the Discovery remained stubborn in the way it looked, much like an elderly relative who refuses to replace his ratty furniture. The Discovery was comfortable in its skin, and people were comfortable with the Discovery. So much so that there was genuine concern within Land Rover that the new design’s mainstream appeal may drive its buyers elsewhere, though it appears that they needn’t have been worried.
The swept-back look, more reductionist design, and overall polished presentation means that the Discovery is now not only the reserve of those who want everyone to know they’re a serious off-road buff, but also to the growing segment that want an SUV to just deal with potholes. The kit level in the Disco higher up the range certainly aid with those looking to make a statement, with retina-searing paint shades, lashings of chrome (or black), and enormous alloys all available either as standard or as options, so you won’t have ‘just another SUV.’
Engine & Drivetrain
“There’s three diesel power plants on offer, and each pairs with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that channels power to all four wheels.” — CarsGuide
There are a total of three engines available for the Discovery, and all three feed on diesel. The base engine comes in the form of the Td4, a 2.0-litre Ingenium unit that puts out 132kW and 430Nm. While those numbers may sound perfectly adequate in isolation, a quick check with the weight figures and you’ll soon realise that that doesn’t sound much when it has to haul around over two-tonnes of Land Rover around. Land Rover claims it’ll hit 100km/h from rest in a little over 10-seconds, but this isn’t the engine you will want in your car.
The best value proposition actually comes from the higher-tuned version of this engine in the Sd4, which puts out a more considerable 177kW and 500Nm. With this engine, the Discovery is capable of completing the century sprint in a much sprightlier 8.3-seconds, down some 2.2-seconds over the Td4, which helps it feel far more powerful than might suggest. This should also be considered as the base engine if you’re looking at using your Disco for towing, because the Td4 has its work cut out just hauling its own bulk.
The most powerful engine is a very attractive 3.0-litre six-cylinder, dubbed the Td6. This engine produces a healthy 190kW and 600Nm, which feels much faster than the numbers suggest. However, there is a weight penalty to be paid, so the Td6 only commands a .2-second lead over the Sd4 in terms of the century sprint times. This engine is likely going to win favour among those who want to use their Disco for long-journeys and heavy-hauling regularly, because it’ll likely be under less stress in those conditions.
“‘The Discovery’s interior is suitably upmarket. Okay, there are a few more hard plastics and rough edges than you’ll find in an Audi Q7, but you’ll have to hunt for them because the areas your hands regularly come into contact with feel solid and look effortlessly classy.” — WhatCar
With the fifth generation, Land Rover has really moved the game on as far as the cabin was concerned. Aesthetic appeal was never a strong suit for the Disco, but the new model changes that completely. The cabin of the Disco is well and truly in the thick of things as far as luxury off-roaders are concerned, balancing form and function beautifully while adding a healthy dose of British style. Its roots are clear as far as how it goes about conveying luxury, with deep stitching in the leather and an excellent use of truly plush materials where it counts.
The Disco is still a seven-seater, though it no longer has the size advantage to its, uh, advantage. When the Discovery first came about it was easily the biggest thing on the road, but the competition has since caught up. While Audi’s Q7 is longer and wider, the Disco’s height surplus means that the cabin feels lovely and airy, even in the third row thanks to that stepped roofline. Option a light hue for the interior trim and it feels incredibly bright, though admittedly if you want that sort of thing, you ought to be looking at the Volvo XC90.
Practicality is well catered for here too, with the second-row of seats offering plenty of adjustment and the ability to slide and recline to provide greater comfort. They’re also split 60/40 as standard, allowing you to easily maximise cargo room in the back. The third row of seats is particularly remarkable, able to accommodate full-sized adults with impressive ease, a departure from its competitors where the third-row are either reserved for children or are designed to torture adults. But once again, the Volvo XC90 offers similar accommodation right at the back.
Behind the Wheel
“The outgoing Discovery’s distinguishing features served as a blueprint from which Land Rover endeavoured to barely stray, excepting in the ways which it has improved.” — Autocar UK
The Land Rover Discovery, in its previous guises, was the preferred mode of transport for distinguished and discerning buyers who wanted something that’s imperious on-road and hugely impressive off-road. It was never the last word in agility and driver involvement, but it never endeavoured to be, and it appears that the new Discovery hasn’t made any revolutionary changes in this regard.
This fifth-generation model is now definitely more composed and sure-footed than it used to be, and offers a degree of precision that the older models sorely lacked, underlining its confidence on sealed surfaces. The electric power steering is especially noteworthy for its surprisingly precise action, allowing you to place the Discovery on the road with no fuss at all. The refinement built into the Discovery reminds you how this car was engineered, providing a hushed, muted drive that permits drivers and occupants to soak in the scenery with little interruption insofar as cabin intrusion is concerned.
One significant change is how isolation has been dialled down compared to the outgoing Discos, and that’s down to its construction. Where previous iterations held to the tough-but-rudimentary body-on-frame assembly, this new car enjoys a unified structure that’s more akin to a regular passenger car. The suspension has also been tuned to make the best of this, so rather than feeling floaty and light the way most air-suspension’ed cars can (standard from SE upwards), the Discovery feels hefty and planted, allowing only surface imperfections that it deems important enough into the cabin, and even then at a greatly-cushioned degree. It lends confidence to the driver, who’ll have no qualms travelling quickly in one of these on a motorway. It feels almost autobahn-engineered this, which is no bad thing.
But make no mistake though, this is not a Range Rover Sport. The Discovery doesn’t even try to engage the driver in any sort of hooliganry behind the wheel, with the soft riding providing a degree of body roll around bends that isn’t bad enough to be unnerving, but enough to remind you that this is a family wagon at its core. When driving a Disco, remember that it’s made for cruising, not hooning, and you’ll do just fine. You’ll appreciate the refinement of the engines on offer too, a compliment that we pay to all three oilers available, though the six-cylinder is so smooth that you might mistake it for a petrol (on the inside, at least).
Safety & Technology
“The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Discovery five stars for safety, its maximum, in June 2017.” — WhichCar
The Land Rover Discovery has always been an all-terrain family car, and so it comes as no surprise that it’s very well equipped as far as safety is concerned. All models get things like six airbags, electronic stability and traction systems, rear parking sensors, seatbelt warnings for all seven seats, autonomous emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. Adaptive cruise control and active lane keeping assistance is available as an option, with the former bundling full AEB (that functions at highway speeds) into the mix too.
Rearwards safety kit is available on all but the base S model, and consists of things like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, though they are cost options. Also available is a backup trailer assist, which assists when reversing with a towed load, and lets drivers guide the trailer into the space using the rotary knob on the Terrain Response system.
Convenience tech is also decently catered for in the Discovery, with things like an impressive audio system with a myriad of connectivity options coming as standard. Paddle shifters, back-up camera and dual-zone climate control also come aboard as standard, though this gets upgraded on higher-end models. Hill descent control also comes as standard, along with the company’s proprietary ‘Terrain Response’ system (that allows you to tailor the car for the surface you’re traversing). There’s no denying that at this price point, Land Rover could have been more generous with the kit list, though it’s hardly surprising that all the best goodies are either standard on the dearer models or command significant premiums as options.
The Land Rover Discovery, in its 5th iteration, may have ditched the boxy, upright proportions of the preceding 4 guises, but by finally making a leap into the modern world it’s gained traits and attributes that were previously alien to the nameplate. The Disco now sits confidently on the road, even at speed, and is still capable of leaving the competition for dead when the sealed surfaces run out. Add that to a thoroughly contemporary design and the Discovery stops being that left-of-field choice, though it still retains its ability to make a statement.
You see, buying a Land Rover Discovery over a more engaging BMW X5 or a more cosseting Volvo XC90 says a lot about you as a buyer. You might be a family-conscious driving enthusiast in the BMW, or a contented family man in the Volvo, but the Discovery is for the buyer who has a flame in their heart for true adventuring. You don’t take the kids to the mall on weekends; you take them for a drive, picking a heading on the horizon and driving as the crow flies until you hit water.
The Land Rover Discovery is very much made to appeal to the adventurer inside, albeit one with a Victorian overtone. Its immense ability as a cruiser, comfortable and relaxed, matches its ability when the going gets tough, resulting in an SUV for all occasions. While this approach may leave buyers looking for a more involving driving experience out in the cold, we reckon that they justified this move because there are already so many driver-focused options out there, so why add another?
If we had to fault the Discovery, it would be its packaging. Land Rover has been very stingy with the kit list, leaving a lot of the more desirable features as costly options, and while the entry-level model might grab your attention with its relatively reasonable price tag, we reckon that by the time you see it, you’d already have started weighing up your ability to go for one of the plusher models or splash out for some options. A Volvo XC90 and Mercedes-Benz GLE offer better value, while the BMW X5 is sort-of on the same boat as the Land Rover.
The pick of the range is most certainly the HSE, with the SD4 Ingenium diesel. This variant should be the point of entry into the Discovery range in our opinion, as it offers the sort of luxuries you’d expect from a Land Rover. The SD4 is also the best value engine with plenty of poke and frugal consumption figures, though long-distance drivers and heavy-haulers will want to look for the 3.0-litre TD6 instead. The base TD4 diesel should be given a miss unless you spend most of your time in town, though that would beg the question, why are you looking at an SUV anyway?
Regardless, the Land Rover Discovery is back with a bang, and is certainly poised to move itself into the mainstream in the highly-competitive world of full-size SUVs.
Motoring – 75/100 – “The Discovery is a refined, capable, flexible, and beautifully presented SUV, and one we think might just have all the character traits Aussie SUV buyers want.”
CarAdvice – 8.0/10 – “Very few SUVs are as impressive as this Discovery and, when you add in its good looks (a huge improvement on the boxy bodies of old), both inside and out, this new Land Rover looks set to be a great, big success.”
Drive – 7.0/10 – “So [the Discovery] is better looking, and better on-road too. Whether it’s as tough as a bag full of British nails remains to be seen, but for the vast majority of buyers, that won’t matter one bit.”
CarsGuide – 7.6/10 – “It's a hell of a job, keeping the purists happy. But on first impressions, this new Disco should just about pull it off. Comfortable on the road, and capable of tackling anything its owners are likely to throw at it off it. Be prepared to spend up if you want a well-optioned one, though.”
WhichCar – 4.0/5.0 – “The new-generation Land Rover Discovery can seat seven people in comfort but feels easier to handle, and more nimble, than its size and tall stance suggest. This big four-wheel drive wagon is also very smooth and comfortable – it feels like a luxury car to ride in – and yet it remains extremely capable off-road, and can carry and tow heavy loads.”
The Telegraph UK – 8.0/10 – “Any worries that Land Rover might have dropped the ball with its latest Discovery can be firmly banished. This is an excellent large seven-seat SUV that combines luxury and off-road ability better than any of its rivals. However, there are some reliability problems, and if you never need venture off the beaten track, the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 might be the more sensible choice.”
WhatCar? – 5.0/5.0 – “The Land Rover Discovery is hugely capable and very desirable, and equally at home both on-road and off-road. It’s a brilliant SUV.”
Autocar UK — 4.5/5.0 — The fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery may look like quite a different prospect from any namesake, but driving it is like being with an old friend who has been given a new waxed jacket, and a new lease of life to go with it. This is such a comfortable, calming, and assured car on the road, despite its considerable size, and ready to do almost anything you ask of it. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who have a use for its Amazon-wide range of abilities, it’s a brilliant and unrivalled product.”