Review: Land Rover Discovery

Review: Land Rover Discovery
Review: Land Rover Discovery

So here it is. After teasers, taster sessions and plenty of hype the new Land Rover Discovery is with us.

Nearly 30 years after the first generation helped create the full-sized SUV segment, the latest model is out to prove it’s still the most versatile, family-friendly vehicle out there and to win over new buyers as well as keeping loyal customers happy. Not necessarily an easy ask…

It’s fair to say the new look of the Discovery has been divisive since its unveiling. For some the sleeker styling with that recognisable Land Rover family “face” gives the car a more upmarket appearance. For others it’s an abandonment of the recognisable boxy shape that marked the Discovery out as a rugged do-anything car.

Personally, I liked the child-like simplicity of the previous generation but the latest model is a handsome beast. There’s a neatly sculpted form with curves and creases where before there were only straight lines and it still has a commanding, serious look. It’s a look likely to appeal to the buyers Land Rover is hoping to steal from Audi and Mercedes.

Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury

Price: £76,400
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, diesel
Power: 254bhp
Torque: 443lb/ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels
Top speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 7.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 39.2mpg
combined
CO2 emissions: 189g/km

The irony is that while people complain the new model looks less capable than its predecessor it’s actually even more able when the going gets tough.

Through the boggy, slippery trails around Eastnor Castle proving ground the Discovery shows why Land Rover claim it’s their most versatile car yet. Steep climbs and precipitous drops covered in deep mud are dispatched with ease, as are near-metre deep wading pools.

The latest version of Terrain Response packs all terrain progress control – a low-speed off-road cruise control – leaving you free to concentrate on pointing the car in the right direction. Even without that, the six-mode drive system and air suspension will get even the most lead-footed and cack-handed driver out of pretty much any situation.

So Land Rover have kept their word on maintaining the Discovery’s off-road prowess but another aim of the upgrade was to make it a more appealing prospect on the road.

The standard air suspension certainly made light work of the worst Welsh roads could throw at us, smoothing out bumps like a Range Rover would. But such refinement isn’t at the expense of a wobbly ride. Body control is much improved over the outgoing model and while there’s still a touch of lean it’s not bad for such a large and tall car.

The interior, too, has leapt ahead. Stepping from a Discovery 4 into the new model is a revelation in just how far Land Rover have moved the game on. Admittedly we were in high-end HSE Luxury versions, but these are expected to be the big-sellers. This is now a car that so closely resembles a Range Rover that’s it’s hard to spot the differences.

From the very front right back to the two full-sized seats in row three all the surfaces, materials and switches look and feel top-end. Refinement too, is near Range Rover levels, with wind and road noise a faint murmur.

What is suppose to set the Discovery apart from its expensive Range Rover brethren is a more versatile approach to motoring. From space and seating to the little practicalities, this is a car aimed at families with active lifestyles.

The Discovery is packed with storage cubbies that’ll hold everything from a mobile phone to a brace of iPads or 2.0-litre drinks bottle. There are also 12V sockets and USB points galore to keep mobile devices charged, and the latest InControl Touch Pro system offers web access and a wifi hotspot alongside a high-end audio system sat nav, television and more – at a price, naturally.

One of the Discovery’s biggest selling points has always been its seven full-sized seats so Land Rover weren’t going to mess with that. They’re still present and even the rearmost seats are usable for your average adult. They also offer Isofix fittings as standard and can be specced with heating. The only slight letdown is that the rear two rows feel flatter and less cushioned than the super-comfortable front seats.

Fold the rear row of seats into the floor (at the touch of a button or via the mobile phone app) and you’re left with 1,137 litres of luggage space and still enough passenger space for five. If you don’t need the second row of seats another button press will stow them away, leaving more than 2,400 litres of room for whatever kit your active lifestyle demands.

Along with that versatile seating arrangement, carried over from the previous model is the 254bhp/443lb/ft 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine. In the new model it continues its sterling work shifting the car with smooth, quiet ease that barely hints at its oil-burning properties. Paired with a standard eight-speed auto box, it’s an ideal companion for smooth, refined long-range cruising.

Joining it in the line-up are a V6 petrol with 335bhp and, a 2.0-litre diesel. Despite my initial misgivings about this four-cylinder unit I was impressed. Its output has been boosted over other applications – from 178bhp to 237bhp and 369lb/ft. At very low revs it feels less potent than the V6 but that quickly passes and its smooth, quiet and capable in everyday driving conditions. Still, if you’re going to take advantage of the Discovery’s 3,500kg towing capacity, you should probably stick with the bigger diesel.

The new Discovery faced a tough task replacing a much-loved and hugely capable vehicle. While its looks might divide opinion anyone who drives one has to agree that it has more than achieved its aim. It is staggeringly capable off road; refined and easy to drive on road; luxurious, comfortable and as spacious and versatile as ever.

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