Land Rover Discovery Review
The Land Rover Discovery is hugely practical, feels very posh inside and is one of the best off-roaders you can buy, but it’s not as good to drive as some German alternatives.
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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.
Unlike the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE, the Land Rover Discovery doesn’t try and look like a high-riding sportscar. 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 turn heads on the school run, the futuristic Lexus RX is a better bet.
It’s a similar story with the Land Rover Discovery’s interior. Sure, you get plenty of soft plastics and brushed metal trims as standard, but it lacks the pizzazz of the Lexus’ bonkers cabin. You don’t get satellite navigation or leather seats in entry-level cars which seems a bit mean – especially when you consider these things come as standard in an Audi Q7.
The Audi’s infotainment system is easier to use, too. But the Land Rover Discovery’s roomier interior means it’s better at carrying lots of passengers. 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.
It’s also quite a bit more comfortable than most big off-roaders. You can thank the standard – and very cushy – air-suspension for that. It 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 never feels 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.
It doesn’t feel as spritely as the German alternatives, either – especially with the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel – but you can always get a more powerful 3.0-litre unit if you need something a bit gutsier.
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.
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 – that said, your middle-row passengers will feel like they’re squatting rather than sitting
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 S 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 12-way adjustment. HSE models get 16-way adjustable front seats with heating for the front and rear passengers, while HSE luxury models’ front pews are also ventilated to cool your backside on boiling summer days.
The middle row of seats are also pretty spacious, although the low seats almost make it feel like you’re squatting rather than sitting. Nevertheless, 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 (only one in S models) 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 – although it’s only available on HSE and HSE Luxury models. 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 and HSE Luxury 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 Luxury 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 isn’t much fun and it feels like a very big car to drive around town
The four-cylinder diesel gets running costs lower than they have ever been in a Discovery
You can get the Land Rover Discovery with a choice of two diesels and one petrol engine. All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts gears extremely smoothly.
The best engine to choose is the 306hp 3.0-litre diesel. It might not sound much more powerful than the 240hp basic diesel, but in the real world it has substantially more get-up-and-go, pulling from 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds – not bad for a car weighing more than two tonnes. Fuel economy isn’t that great, although that’s par for the course with a car like this. Land Rover reckons 37mpg should be possible, but in the real world it’s not that hard to drop to the mid-20s.
For the best fuel economy, the 240hp 2.0-litre diesel is the one you should go for even if it doesn’t feel quite as quick as the 3.0-litre model. It has claimed official fuel economy of 37.7mpg, although you would be well advised to take that with a pinch of salt.
For the ultimate in scary fuel bills, though, stick your name down for the 2.0-litre petrol. According to Land Rover it’ll return just 28.8mpg but expect that to be worse in normal driving. It’s only a tad slower than the 3.0-litre diesel – 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds, but speed isn’t really what the Discovery is all about.
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 imperfections 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 cruising velocity and stop and start the car in traffic, is an option even on HSE Luxury models. Safety is a strong point, though – the Discovery scored five points when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP under 2017’s extremely tough regime and all models come with automatic emergency braking.
The new Discovery is up to 450kg lighter than the old model so, for a big old car, it handles pretty well, helped by steering that doesn’t feel as vague as the old car’s. It might not be as sharp as a BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne or even an Audi Q7, but unless you’re going after lap records it’ll be absolutely fine.
In town, the Discovery is a bit of a mixed bag. 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 a rear view camera as standard on every Discovery to help you out.
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. 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 (so long as you avoid basic cars) but plastics feel cheaper than you’ll get in alternatives and the infotainment system isn’t brilliant