The fifth-generation Discovery is nearly half a tonne lighter than its predecessor, offers seven seats suitable for adults and inaugurates a more fuel-efficient 2-litre diesel. Sounds like a certain Swedish SUV is going to have to defend its territory.
Jaguar Land Rover has the wind in its sails. 2016 was a record year for the group, with remarkably good results for Jaguar – mostly thanks to the F-Pace. At Land Rover, especially the Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque maintained the brand’s sales momentum. Now that the new Discovery steps into the modern age, chances are that the group will continue its uphill evolution.
Change for the better
Compared to the “Disco IV”, the new model loses a bit of character according to some, but its advanced aluminium structure and Ingenium four-cylinder diesel translate into a vehicle that consumes less and is much more attractive TCO-wise, with CO2 emissions starting at 159 g/km. One of its strongest assets is the fact that it offers the longest interior length of all SUVs in its category, meaning that adult occupants don’t feel punished when they take a seat in the (optional) third row.
Regardless of its dramatic metamorphosis, the Discovery still occupies a rather unique position in the automotive landscape. Considering its dimensions, engine specifications, price, equipment, sophistication and interior space, there is one competitor on which Land Rover seems to have set its sights: the Volvo XC90. Contrary to the latter, the Discovery is not available with front-wheel drive – that would be a bridge too far and sheer blasphemy for the die-hard Discovery fans.
Engine, transmission, fuel economy
We feared that fitting a two-litre four-cylinder engine in a big car would result in sluggish acceleration and an unagreeable thirst for fuel. During our four-hour test drive on Catalonian winding roads, we were reassured. The 180 hp Ingenium TD4 unit has enough torque (430 Nm at 1,500 rpm) to push this 5-metre 2.1-tonne vehicle along in a swift manner, obviously without pushing the passengers into their seats like a Tesla Model X does.
The Discovery comes with its maker’s impressively intelligent all-wheel drive and 8-speed automatic transmission as standard. Bearing that in mind, a NEDC fuel consumption of 6.0 l/100 km (equalling 159 grams of CO2 per km) for the TD4 is quite low – and disappointingly unrealistic in the real world. Important remark: this NEDC figure only applies for versions equipped with Aero rims and low rolling resistance tyres – the other models emit between 162 and 166 grams.
Ride and handling
Land Rover had prepared an off-road tour through some terrifyingly inhospitable territory littered with steep gradients, impossibly sharp corners, deep tracks and rocks the size of garden leprechauns. Incredible how this Discovery displays its capability to devour almost anything its wheels encounter along the way. 99 per cent of Discovery owners will never torture their precious vehicle like this, but the live demonstration of its AWD-heritage remains impressive nonetheless.
During the on-road test part, we were impressed by the smoothness of the ride. Contrary to some other JLR products, the Discovery can pride itself on an excellent engine soundproofing. Apparently, the transverse position of the Ingenium diesel makes it more discrete than when it’s positioned longitudinally (like in the Jaguar XE, XF and F-Pace). The automatic transmission reacts a bit slow, though, and the steering is anything but direct, so if it’s BMW X6 or Range Rover Evoque dynamics you expect, you should look elsewhere.
Practicality, comfort and convenience
When you take a seat, you cannot help but notice the attention to detail JLR has put into the assembly and material choice of its most family-friendly product. The atmosphere is that of a cosy, luxurious, protective cocoon with a good panoramic view. The rear seats can be folded down remotely by using the central touch screen interface or even by smartphone operation. All seats except for the central one are available with heating, incidentally.
The front seats offer enough support – at least in their HSE livery. Compared to its rivals, the Discovery’s second seat row sits much lower, to increase the forward view for the extra passengers in the boot. That is not without consequence: your upper legs are less supported than in the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, which during longer drives could become uncomfortable. On the bright side, those who occupy the third row enjoy a better view and more legroom than average.
Active safety starts with grip. As the Discovery comes with an on-demand all-wheel drive with various drive modes and assistance systems as standard, it sticks to the road like a magnet – as long as you respect its considerable constitution. On the flip side, the AWD and standard tyres in size 235/65 R 19 increase the running costs – you can’t have your cookie and eat it, too.
The Discovery was rated 5 stars by independent safety assessment organisation Euro NCAP – a result that reflects both its impact absorption capabilities and the effectiveness of its driver assistance systems. Cruise control with active speed limiter, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are standard. We would strongly recommend the adaptive cruise control with queue assist (option): not only does it increase safety; it makes heavy traffic far less stressful.
Equipment and connectivity
The list of optional equipment is almost as long as that of the Range Rover, meaning that you can nearly double the price of the basic model if you let yourself go. Items that merit your attention are the InControl Touch Pro SSD navigation system with destination synchronisation and predictive routing, but you have to take the HSE trim to gain access to it. The S and SE models can be ordered with a Business Pack including the standard navigation unit. An interesting app is InControl Remote Premium, which allows you to lock and unlock the vehicle, check its location and operate the climate control remotely.
New to the Land Rover range is the electrically operated tow bar: push a button, and it appears from underneath the bumper. Push it again, and it returns to its hideout. Equally appealing is the fold-down panel in the tailgate, which can support three adults (or 300 kilo). The tailgate itself can be operated by waving your foot under the bumper.
The bottom line
The Land Rover Discovery closes the gap with the Range Rover Sport in terms of design, equipment possibilities, trim and driving dynamics, but it remains more practical, offering 2 extra seats in the back as an interesting option. Its 180-hp 2-litre TD4 diesel makes it more accessible, too. Given the standard 4x4 system and 8-speed automatic transmission, 159 grams of CO2 for such a big SUV is not a bad outcome. Looking at the lease rates, the new Discovery is going to be wanted on the used car market.
|Key specs TD4||
|Most interesting fleet model (EU5 region)||TD4 S equipped with Business Pack and Aero rims on low-rolling resistance tyres|