2017 Land Rover Discovery
– Cabin trim and features
– Great ride, safe handling
– Potentially great offroader
– On the expensive side
– Some hard cabin plastics
– Looks as soft as a softroader
In the offroading world, it takes years to build a reputation. The Land Rover Discovery managed that just fine since its debut in 1989, even when it was later renamed LR3 and then LR4 in some markets (including the GCC) for no apparent reason. However, the new-for-2017 Discovery is going back to its roots, at least in terms of name, while also becoming the flagship of an entire family of Discovery-badged models, whose first member was the smaller Discovery Sport two years ago.
Unlike the Discovery Sport crossover, the big-daddy Discovery is a full-blown offroader, even if it’s now switched to a unibody platform and looks like it’s become more of a bloated minivan compared to the previous body-on-frame offroader. The longer new model straddles the line between a midsizer and a fullsizer. Our loaded “First Edition” tester had options such as LED headlights and 22-inch alloys. Unlike the boxy old model, this third-generation Discovery has a much more rounded profile, with a Range Rover-like front-end, a less-prominent stepped roof, a conventional top-hinged tailgate instead of a split-opening one, and a weird offset rear number-plate placement that’s supposed to remind you of the stepped rear-window designs of all previous Disco models. While not immediately attractive to most eyes, it may start growing on you over time, and one thing’s for sure — most other drivers mistake it for a Range Rover in their rear-view mirror, thereby giving way in traffic.
Inside, the Discovery benefits from the British carmaker’s minimalist new cabin-design philosophy, with stitched leatherette and soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard and upper door panels, although below-the-waist panels and the entire third-row seating area are hard plastic. The seat upholstery feels premium and there is good use of metallic-looking trim pieces, upping the overall ambience.
Stepping inside is made harder by the lack of side-steps (an extra-cost option), even with the air suspension at the lowest height. The interior features large throne-like front seats with adjustable armrests, although the driving position doesn’t feel as “commanding” as in the LR4 due to the higher new beltline. It is pretty spacious for second-row passengers, while the 50:50-split third row just about fits average-sized adults if the 40:20:40-split second row is slid forward. However, access to the third row is tight. All the seats can be adjusted or folded in all sorts of ways electrically in our top-spec tester (apparently even via a smartphone app, but we didn’t download it), so while there’s no muscle needed to move seats, there is a long waiting time as the motors whir into position.
Boot space is good with the third-row seats down, but the floor is not as long as many other midsize rivals. There is a motorised bench that folds down so you can sit on it, but it also takes up space. With the third row in use, there’s only space for some grocery bags. The side-walls have hooks to hang some of those bags. Inside, there are several cup-holders, door pockets and cubbies, including two large ones in the centre-console — one hidden under the covered cup-holders and one is a chiller box — as well as two gloveboxes and a hidden compartment behind the a/c controls.
There’s a barrage of technology available, provided you pay for the top-spec models. The highlight is the 10-inch capacitive touchscreen with the company’s updated interface that features good graphics, decent response and large icons to finger through, with built-in navigation, Bluetooth, wifi hotspot, apps and other things kids play with these days, but oddly enough, no Apply Carplay or Android Auto. If you pick the already-expensive base model, you get a 6-speaker stereo, while mid-range models get 10 or 12 speakers, and the top one gets a rocking 14-speaker 825W Meridian system with subwoofer. And thank goodness for small favours, as the Disco has a proper volume knob and steering-wheel buttons, instead of it all being touch-based.
Other features include the optional waterproof wristband that you can wear instead of carrying your keys on the beach, smart keyless entry and start, heads-up display, foot-waving power-tailgate opening, two rows of heated/cooled seats with “winged” headrests, surround-camera system and sensors for parking, auto-parking steering assistance, adaptive cruise control with queue assist and lane-keeping assist with drowsiness monitor, aside from the usual array of airbags and ESP/ABS nannies. The auto a/c has rear vents and controls, big temperature knobs and generally performs strongly, although it takes a while to get going in hot May weather, partly because there are two large glass panels on the roof, one oddly placed over the third-row area. And of course, the gear-selector knob slowly pops up on starting the engine.
Powered by a carryover 3.0-litre supercharged V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic, it still makes 335 hp at 6500 rpm and 450 Nm of torque from 3500 to 5000 rpm, but now has to lug around less weight, as it’s lighter by over 400 kg than the LR4. In peak summer weather during May, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 7.7 seconds, with fuel consumption averaging 14.8 litres/100 km including a bit of offroad driving. The engine sounds like a vacuum cleaner and doesn’t kick as hard as some V8 motors, but it is more than adequate, with fairly linear power delivery and good gearing. The fuel tank is not as big as some expedition-ready rivals though, at just 89 litres.
The more impressive bit is the ride quality. It is one of the smoothest vehicles we’ve ever rode in, maybe even better than a Rolls-Royce. It’s doubly amazing considering our tester rode on 22-inch wheels with 285/40 tyres. No doubt the air suspension is well-tuned for comfort, and models with smaller 19-inch or 21-inch wheels are probably even more cushy. It is also fairly quiet on most road surfaces, although not as quiet as a Range Rover, even if the Disco rides better than one. The ride height even lowers by 13mm at cruising speeds above 105 kph.
Land Rover has kept the Discovery dynamically handicapped though, otherwise it’d be a full-blown Range Rover alternative. Diving into corners produces very obvious body roll, with floatiness over undulations and on sudden steering inputs. The steering itself has no feedback whatsoever, except for the intentional vibration from the lane-departure warning system whenever you cross a lane marking without indicating. However, the steering is well-weighted on the highway, yet light enough for the city. The brakes offer fair stopping power, with a damped pedal feel. And those wide tyres offer very good grip, even as the body may be leaning. But that lean is still a fair bit less than the old LR4.
As for its offroad cred, there is a ton of computer-assisted features, such as a terrain-management system, electronically-selected low-range gearing, all-terrain crawl control, hill-descent control, gradient-release control so the brakes are released slowly on declines, and the fancy air suspension that can raise the vehicle by 40mm to 75mm depending on speed. However, the basics are compromised in that our tester had low-profile tyres and soft bumpers, so there is a certain lack of confidence when taking the Disco out into the wild, thanks to the fear of damaging something. But with ESP off and the driving mode set to “sand”, we did not get the Discovery stuck, even with the tyres fully inflated and side-sloping dunes. While ground clearance is good when raised, you have to stay on the power all the time, and you need to be experienced in reading the terrain as the steering is insulated from everything that’s going on outside. If you’re serious about taking your shiny new luxury vehicle offroad, we’d recommend getting the lower-spec one with smaller wheels and fatter rubber.
Whatever our views on its looks, there is no denying that the new Land Rover Discovery is a mightily impressive vehicle that’s capable in all sorts of ways. Truth be told, most drivers will be satisfied with one of these as much as they’d be with a Range Rover Vogue, with the bonus that the base Disco only costs as much as the tiny Evoque. Fully-loaded though, the Discovery can get pretty darn pricey, about as much as a fully-loaded Nissan Patrol Platinum. The new Land Rover has apparently been hot-weather-tested in the UAE, and if it proves to be reliable in the long run, it could potentially become much more popular around here. We’re going ahead and adding the the Discovery to our recommended list, but we’ll urge you to go for the lower-end SE model as you get the same chassis and drivetrain as the tech-heavy “First Edition” we drove here, but with many of the more useful features already included.
Current Model Introduced in:
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