A whole lot more refined than its predecessor – but has it lost its go-anywhere appeal?
- It's bigger, lighter and a lot more economical
- Seven forward-facing seats, electrically operated
- Good off-road, great to drive on it
- Prices have risen over outgoing models
- It's grown uglier, too…
- Will its softer looks lose Land Rover sales?
The rejuvenation and expansion of the Land Rover range continues apace with one of its most important models – the all-new Discovery. This fifth-generation Discovery has to replace the much-loved, if flawed, previous model but also compete against many capable rival offerings with seven seats in the large SUV class.
It will undoubtedly find itself on the same shopping lists as other upscale off-roaders, such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, which can't hope to keep up with the Land Rover off-road. But in terms of on-road appeal, they were ahead of the old Discovery, which is the main reason why Land Rover has taken pretty much all of what came before, and given it a comprehensive reboot.
It now feels much more like a luxury vehicle but without sacrificing practicality. Refreshingly the more modestly-priced versions are arguably the best in the range – the Sd4 engine is the pick of the bunch, while both money and weight can be saved by choosing the manual seat folding mechanism. It is the most practical car in the class, and by virtue of this and its even stronger image it will be first choice for many buyers.
Improved efficiency, more powerful engines
Depending on the model, the weight saving is as much as 450kg, although it remains a large and relatively heavy model at 2.1 tonnes even in its lightest form. It's moved upmarket in terms of pricing (see specifications to see how much), but a top-of-the-range 2.0 HSE Luxury weighed in at £62,995 at launch.
The UK range starts with a the twin-turbo four-cylinder British-made and designed Ingenium engine, developing 240hp at 4000rpm. Land Rover claims that even with this smaller engine, the Discovery can cover the 0-62mph run in 8.0 seconds.
Likely to sell less, but be better to drive, will be the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel (260hp) and the impressive supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol, developing 340hp.
All the four-wheel drive hardware
Its permanent four-wheel drive system drives through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with the now-ubiquitous (to Jaguar Land Rover) cylindrical selector. To ensure it's as impressive off-road as its predecessors, it comes with a low ratio transfer case for the ultimate in mud-plugging ability.
In addition, the Discovery receives all of Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response systems. There is a selection of off-road driving modes, which as well as making the most of its four-wheel drive system, uses clever electronics to keep it from spinning its wheels when the going gets tough.
Land Rover says the Discovery is the most capable off-roader it has ever made. It has a 900mm wading figure, and its maximum ground clearance is 283mm. Not only that, but it has half a metre of axle articulation, which means it can deal with huge potholes and obstacles that get in the way of one side.
Butch SVX package from 2018
Concerns that the Discovery looked a bit soft saw a rugged SVX package of modifications debut at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, with the intention of injecting some of the toughness that made its predecessor so successful.
The makeover includes beefier bumpers with silver-coloured skidplates, a raised ride height, roof rails, protruding towing eyes and lots of orange detailing, Underneath is Hydraulic-Active Roll Control (H-ARC) designed to make the SVX even more capable off-road, while reducing body-roll when cornering on asphalt sufaces.
Powering the Discovery SVX is a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine producing 525hp and 625Nm of torque. Not only will it prove to be quick, but also thirsty. Official figures have yet to be revealed but don't expect it to reach 25mpg in the real world.
That smart new suit
So, despite its sophisticated new looks, which ape those of the smaller Discovery Sport, it's hugely capable off road. The smoother look will take some getting used to for older Discovery owners, though.
Some details such as the stepped side windows and lop-sided tailgate are a brave attempt to link it with the past, this is clearly a car that takes its maker upmarket to fight the Germans head-on.
The Parkers Verdict
The Land Rover Discovery is outstanding in many areas – as a car for large families, it's near unbeatable. Thanks to its sheer size and usefulness, and as long as you're limited by parking space, there are many compelling reasons to buy one. Assuming you can stomach its looks.
Sure, it's not as economical or as green as its rivals, but then it makes a much better fist of going off-road when the going gets tough. It's arguable just how often buyers will choose to do this – but in our books, in order to be a good SUV, it needs to excel off- and on-road. The Discovery is a great achievement – and one that you can buy with confidence, especially considering its super-strong residuals.
Just don't expect to be light on your wallet.