Land Rover Discovery review
The updated Land Rover Discovery is hugely practical, feels very posh inside and is amazing off-road, but it’s not quite as good to drive as some German alternatives.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Land Rover Discovery
If you’re after a big, posh off-roader with seven seats and bucket-loads of off-road ability, you should definitely take a look at the Land Rover Discovery.
With the reborn Defender 4×4 arriving on the scene with much fanfare, the Discovery seems a bit like the under-appreciated middle child. However, it’s been updated for 2021 with changes to the way it drives, new engines and lots of tech improvements.
Unlike the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLE, the Land Rover Discovery doesn’t try and look like a high-riding saloon. Instead, its boxy body, black plastic trims and silver skid-plates make it look sturdy and tough – albeit in a subtle, understated way. If you want something that’ll really turn heads on the school run, the futuristic Lexus RX is a better bet.
Unlike the exterior, which looks largely the same, the Land Rover Discovery’s interior has been given a lift for its mid-life update. There’s posher trims and new upholstery choices, plus the rear seats have been made more comfortable. But the main difference is on the technology front, with Land Rover’s latest infotainment system being both quicker to respond and more feature-packed than the old unit.
The Land Rover Discovery’s roomier interior also means it’s better at carrying lots of passengers than an Audi Q7. There’s space for six-footers to stretch out in the front five seats and there’s just about enough space left over for adults in the very back – not so in many seven-seat SUVs. You’ll have to flip the rearmost seats down if you need to carry anything larger than a weekly shop in the boot, though.
If it’s some seriously bulky luggage you’ll be carrying, you can flip all but the front seats down to open up a huge van-like loadbay. When it comes to helping out with impromptu house moves, the Discovery is hard to beat.
The Land Rover Discovery is a premium family car with more go-anywhere ability than any other large SUV.
Land Rover has also made a few changes to the way the Discovery handles. Air suspension is still standard across the range, but tweaks have sacrificed a little bit of the cushy softness to make it feel less wayward in the bends.
It’s still more comfortable than most big off-roaders, however. The suspension irons out bumps very nicely around town and helps make the Discovery very quiet to travel in on motorways.
The flip-side to the Land Rover Discovery’s supple suspension is that it still doesn’t feel as agile as the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 – but don’t let that put you off. It’s easy enough to drive and doesn’t lean a great deal in tight corners so your passengers won’t have any reason to feel car sick.
The engines offered with the Discovery have been updated, too. Thankfully, the rather gutless four-cylinder diesel has gone, with an impressively refined and smooth straight-six diesel engine offered with two power outputs. It now gives the SUV the performance needed to keep up with the Germans, and offers decent efficiency for something so bulky, too.
This is also the engine you need if you plan to do any serious off-roading – something the Land Rover Discovery excels at. It’ll cross terrain that’ll leave the Germans stranded without breaking a sweat and comes with loads of tech to help make trips beyond the Tarmac feel like a walk in the park.
There’s no hybrid offered with the Discovery – the only other engine options are two petrols: the P300 four-cylinder and P360 six-cylinder. We’ve only driven the latter, and while it has a strong turn of pace and makes a nice noise its hefty thirst for fuel means you’d still be better off with one of the diesels.
It’s not just fancy off-roading that the Discovery’s good at – it’s raised seating position and big windows make it reasonably easy to drive in town, too. You also get a decent amount of standard safety kit to help prevent avoidable accidents.
So, if it’s a safe, stylish and sure-footed SUV you’re looking for, the Land Rover Discovery is worthy of a place on your shortlist.
The Discovery’s interior has space for seven adults with some space left over for luggage – and it’s more comfortable than ever for rear passengers.
You could read a good book in the time it takes for the Discovery’s electric seats to fold into the floor
Sitting in the Discovery’s driving seat is a bit like reclining in a throne. It towers over most other cars, so you get a brilliant view of the road ahead and even basic models get eight-way adjustable seats that mean you’ll get comfortable no matter what shape and size you are.
Trade up to an SE car and you get heated front seats with 18-way electric adjustment. HSE models get a massive 20 ways to electrically adjust the front seats, with heating and cooling for the front seats and heating for rear passengers.
The middle row of seats are also pretty spacious, and they’re now more comfortable as Land Rover has changed the design. Knee and head room are good and the small hump in the boot floor, plus the car’s width, means your passengers can sit three abreast without feeling too crushed.
Even the rearmost row of seats can carry adults – not often the case in a seven-seater SUV. Even with the middle seats rolled back on their runners as far as they’ll go, there’s room for an adult of under six foot to have just enough knee room and headroom is decent even if they sit up straight.
All Discovery models come with five Isofix points – one in the front, two in the middle row and a pair in the back. Fitting a child seat to the middle row is easy. The back doors open wide and the Discovery’s height means you don’t have to bend your back when you’re locating the base to the Isofix points, which are easy to see under pull-up flaps. Once it’s located, the seat slides in easily enough on top.
The Discovery’s interior storage is very impressive. The front door bins can swallow a 1.5-litre bottle of water each and you get two big gloveboxes stacked on top of each other. You get two cupholders in between the front seats, but they can slide out the way to reveal another deep cubby.
The space under the front-centre armrest is even deeper and for an extra £235 can be cooled, but the best bit is the hidden cubby behind the climate controls that’s ideal for hiding your valuables. The door bins for the middle row of seats are also big, all but S models get a rear armrest with two cupholders, and you get two airplane-style pockets on the back of each front seat.
The Land Rover Discovery’s load bay is pretty practical. All models come with an electrically operated tailgate that, in HSE models, can also be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Standard across the range is a powered inner tailgate, which drops over the back bumper when you open the boot, giving you somewhere to sit when taking your wellies off. It also means there’s no load lip to lift heavy luggage over.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the much-advertised electrical Intelligent Seat Fold system is only fitted as standard to HSE models. It allows you to fold individual middle and back row seats remotely using an app on your smartphone, so the car can be ready for loading on your return from a holiday abroad.
Even with all seven seats up, the Discovery has a 258-litre load area – roughly the size of a VW Up’s city car’s boot, which should be enough for a few bags of shopping. Fold down the rear row of seats and the total capacity rises to a huge 1,137 litres – plenty for a family of five’s luggage for a fortnight. Drop all the rear seats down and the total capacity rises to an almost never-ending 2,406 litres, which will be very handy if you have a house move or incurable addiction to Swedish flat-pack furniture.
The Land Rover Discovery’s quiet cabin and comfortable suspension make it an excellent cruiser, but it’s not exactly the most agile car around.
For 2021 Land Rover changed the Discovery’s engine range for the better. The fairly sluggish 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel option was ditched, leaving two six-cylinder diesels and four or six-cylinder petrols. All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts gears extremely smoothly.
Unless you really enjoy visiting petrol stations, you’re much better off with the new diesels. Now straight-sixes rather than V6s, even the base 249hp D250 does 0-60 in 7.6 seconds. It’s plenty quick enough for most needs and will do nearly 35mpg.
The 300hp diesel is best if you do lots of towing or regularly load up with passengers. It’s pretty brisk, going from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, and is as economical as the D250. Both engines are really refined and smooth, too.
The 2.0-litre turbo petrol might sound a bit limp for a big 4×4, but it too puts out 300hp. It’s got much less low-down pulling power than the diesels, however, and even Land Rover’s own figures say it only does 25mpg.
Bizarrely, the more powerful P360 straight-six petrol engine drinks less fuel – officially at least – managing 26.4mpg. In reality, though, expect sub-20mpg almost all of the time. It’s pretty quick and sounds good, but the D300 diesel is almost as fast and suits the Discovery much better.
Like a first class seat on a plane, Land Rover built the Discovery to be as comfortable as possible – something you’ll notice the minute you set off.
Air suspension is fitted to all models and although you’ll find it can fidget a little over big bumps at low speeds (especially with larger alloy wheel options fitted), at high speeds it just wafts along. Wind noise is mostly kept out of the cabin thanks to the Discovery’s sleek shape and noise from the tyres isn’t too noticeable either.
All models come with cruise control that can hold the car at a set speed. But active cruise control, which can match the speed of the car in front before returning to a preselected speed and stop and start the car in traffic, is only standard on HSE models.
Safety is a strong point, though – the Discovery scored five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP under 2017’s extremely tough regime and all models come with automatic emergency braking and a full suite of driver assist features.
The new Discovery is up to 450kg lighter than the old Discovery 4, so for a big old car it handles pretty well, helped by steering that doesn’t feel as vague as you might expect. For 2021, the suspension was tweaked a little to sharpen up the handling a touch, so it doesn’t wallow about in the bends as much.
Despite that, the Land Rover still isn’t as sharp as a BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne or even an Audi Q7, but unless you’re going after lap records in your SUV it’ll be absolutely fine.
In town, the Discovery is better than many big 4x4s. Its raised suspension gives you a brilliant view out of the front and there isn’t much of a blind spot where the windscreen meets the front doors. Trying to see out the back isn’t as simple but Land Rover throws in front and rear parking sensors as well as that clever 360-degree camera system to help in tight spots.
You might not get sports-car-like handling from the Land Rover Discovery but if you want an SUV that’s actually capable off-road, this is it. All models come with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, so you can use a knob to quickly set the car up for a variety of conditions including grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts, sand or rock crawling – or you can just let the system decide for itself. The Discovery is also a safe bet if you’re looking for a tow car – even the 2.0-litre diesel can pull up to 3,500kgs.
The Discovery’s interior looks smart and luxurious, and even more so since the 2021 update. Even base models now offer a good level of standard kit.
Land Rover Discovery colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.