The all-new 2017 Land Rover Discovery takes the brand’s most recognised model to new heights of refinement, off-roading ability and interior practicality, but is that enough to entice buyers away from its European rivals when it lands in Australia come July?
The Discovery starts from $65,960 for the base model TD4 S and goes all the way up to the $132,160 for the First Edition. For full specification and pricing of the 2017 Land Rover Discovery click here.
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Discovery is the design. Sporting a face that is very much in line with the Discovery Sport, the new Disco 5 may seem like an upsized version of its smaller sibling, but photos don’t do it enough justice, as it’s an imposing car in person.
If you can forgive the odd placement of the rear number plate (which is meant as a nod to the brand’s historic spare wheel positioning on the split tailgate, which is now gone), it looks pretty decent.
Yes, it is a huge departure from its predecessor’s more rugged looks, but it’s meant to appeal to a much wider audience this time around and the success of the Discovery Sport has proven that Land Rover’s utilitarian designs of old are perhaps best left to the next-generation Defender.
Jump inside and Land Rover seems to have forgotten that it’s not Range Rover. The quality of the materials and fit and finish of the new Discovery is, well, Range Rover in nature. The tactile sensation of the surfaces and the cabin ambience is top notch and will certainly give Audi a run for its money.
Even the brand’s head designer, Gerry McGovern, admitted to us that his new Discovery is now closer than ever before to Range Rover product and this change was due to customer demand. It’s great if you’re buying a Discovery, probably a bit annoying if you own a Range Rover - though it’s a big indication of where Range Rover must be heading if it feels comfortable for its more utilitarian brand to move so close.
Once you get over the Range Rover cabin, the new Discovery impresses further with its almost over-the-top practicality. There are 21 stowage options in the cabin (45L of volume), so, for example, you can fit and store four iPads in the centre console and the infotainment system pops open with a small storage area hidden behind for more important valuables like wallets and if you need some charge for the kids’ power hungry devices, there are up to nine USB ports available across all three rows for the seven-seater variants.
Speaking of seven seats, the Discovery is an actual seven-seater, not a 5+2. We sat in both the second and third row and indeed, an adult can survive in the very back so children will have no issues what so ever. There are also five ISOFIX points so if you happen to have five kids under eight, you’ll be fine, but it also means you can place the child seats anywhere. What your kids will love most is the use of stadium-style seating, so rear passengers can better see out of the vehicle.
With the seven-seat configuration option ticked, there are a bunch of buttons in the boot that allow for full control over every seat position, which is powered and done completely automatically. Land Rover says the seats can be positioned in 21 different ways and with both the second and third row seats folded flat, there is a massive 2500L of volume in the boot, which is about all of Ikea’s warehouse in just one trip.
But even without the seats folded flat, there is an insane amount of room in the boot. We couldn’t think of any everyday item that wouldn’t fit. The move away from a split tailgate makes it far more practical in everyday situations. And while the new boot bench, or drop down table (which can take 300kg of weight) is great for helping the dog jump in or feeding in luggage without damaging the rear bumper (the car can lower itself for this purpose also), it does seem to be a bit of a hindrance.
It doesn’t open automatically when the boot opens (by pressing the boot button under the ‘V’ in the Discovery badge on the rear) and requires a further button inside the boot itself to fully open. This got annoying really fast. In saying that, it does auto open completely if you use the key.
All models come with the brand’s InControl media screen, measuring 8.0 inches in the S and SE while the HSE, HSE Luxury and First Edition have the 10.0-inch screen. The screen can be used for navigation, media playback, apps and even allows you to control the seat functions, which you can also do remotely using Land Rover’s iPhone app that can further unlock and lock the Disco or even force it to beep and flash its headlights if you lose it in a car park.
We did find the infotainment system to be a little clumsy though, and in one of our test cars the system completely crashed and needed to be hard reset before it would consider working again. As a previous owner of a Disco Sport and current owner of a Jaguar F-Pace, these little gremlins can be part of the Jaguar Land Rover ownership experience.
We started our discovery of outback Utah in the new high output 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. The biggest change to the dynamics and engineering of the new Discovery comes from its aluminium space frame borrowed (again) from Range Rover, which has helped shave around 20 per cent weight from the large SUV, or around 480kg, compared to the old one. This has many benefits, least of which is improved fuel economy and, for the first time, the ability for Land Rover to use a four-cylinder turbocharged diesel for an SUV this big.
The 2.0-litre high output twin-turbo diesel engine produces 177kW of power and 500Nm of torque (from 1500-2500rpm). Its claimed fuel use is 6.4L/100km and its 0-100km/h claim is 8.3sec. Australia will see a lower spec version of the engine around the end of the year with a single turbo that will output 132kW of power at 4000rpm and 430Nm of torque at 1750rpm. That engine uses a claimed average of just 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres, and Land Rover claims its 0-100km/h time is 10.5 seconds.
All of the test cars were optioned with air suspension and as such, the ride quality was very smooth both on and off-road. In saying that, the Disco is a big car and even though it has lost a fair bit of weight, there is no denying that it exhibits a great deal of body roll when pushed into a bend. To be fair though, the benefit of its super plush ride is that it eats up poorly surfaced roads like nothing else in its class.
We also found the steering system to be very well weighted with great feedback. Which is not what we would say about its closest rivals, the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90. There are sensors all around and you can also option up auto parking if you must, though we found the rear-view camera to be more than enough for parking in tight spots.
Initially we found the 2.0-litre high output diesel a little underwhelming, particularly when climbing up hills, however after more than 500km behind the wheel and time spent driving through a few towns, we felt it was more than fitting for its intended purpose and we would advise buyers will be better off putting that $7000 difference (to go from the smaller to the larger engine) into some must-have options, of which there are just too many, one of the downsides of buying a new Disco.
Nonetheless, the hero of the range is indeed the 3.0-litre TD6, a six-cylinder turbo diesel unit pumping out 190kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm (from 1750-2250rpm), with a claimed 7.2L/100km fuel economy figure and a 0-100km/h time of 8.1 seconds.
The torquey six is a far better fit for a car this size and makes meals of other cars on the highway. Like all other Discovery models, it makes use of a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which is so seemless that it almost doesn't warrant a mention. However, as good as it is, it’s not necessary unless you plan on having six or seven occupants on-board frequently and spend long periods of time on highways or off the bitumen.
Which brings us to what impressed us most about the new Land Rover Discovery – its off-roading ability. Look, let’s be honest, the only dirt the great majority of these SUVs will ever see will be from dirty kids’ shoes jumping on board. But if the need ever arose, the Discovery is ridiculously good in the wild.
To prove that point, we spent hours and hours driving through muddy waters, sand dunes, rock climbing and off-road tracks in the middle of nowhere in Utah, places that felt abandoned. Land Rover makes a big deal about how every vehicle it makes needs to have a certain level of off-roading ability. Well, the Disco has too much.
With 283mm of ground clearance, 500mm wheel articulation and 900mm wading depth, it’s actually just unnecessary. We did things in our test car that we would never, ever, subject our own cars to, yet it came through the other side unscathed. Okay, it was covered in mud. And probably scratched a bit, but other than that…
So, the new Land Rover Discovery is super practical, very spacious inside with plenty of room for seven occupants, rides beautifully on the road and can go basically anywhere off-road.
But it has too many features listed as options rather than being standard and you’ll probably find a few little annoying bugs here and there with the electrics and infotainment system, but overall, we feel that the new Discovery has a great deal of potential to topple the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 for the class leader in this segment.