Dare to be different. Everyone is unique. These are life’s clichés that did not stack up with the designers of the 2017 Land Rover Discovery 5 First Edition.
The previous quartet of Discovery generations were unashamedly boxy to the great benefit of cabin packaging, however this new fifth-generation model trades its distinctive apartment-block styling for a more rounded, generic large SUV shape.
Land Rover admits the Discovery 5 is destined to broaden its appeal compared with older models, while becoming more premium than ever. Yet in other ways it remains true to its roots, promising stronger off-road capability and still-significant practicality.
The challenge ahead of this new model, then, really seems to be in balancing all the latest trends with a swag of established traditions.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $131,871 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 190kW/600Nm 3.0 turbo-diesel V6 | eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 L/100km | Tested: 9.6 L/100km
The limited-run First Edition costs $14,400 more than the regular-run Discovery 5 HSE Luxury with the equivalent seven seats and a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine. However, it also packs in $23,605 worth of equipment optional on that model grade.
That includes orange, black or silver paint ($4060 – all HSE Luxury option pricing in brackets), 21-inch alloy wheels ($2395), Terrain Response 2 off-road software ($2060), reverse-auto-park assistance ($2050), electrically adjustable middle ($1940) and rear ($630) seats, heated and ventilated middle seats ($1540), privacy glass ($870) and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert ($500).
The Discovery 5 First Edition is fully loaded, then, although even a digital radio and rear-seat entertainment remain optional at $920 and $5160 respectively.
It is also worth noting that there are five-seat and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder models available for between $65,960 and $107,350 (plus orc).
- Standard Equipment: Cruise control, leather trim, electrically adjustable seats, heated and ventilated front and middle seats, keyless auto-entry, electric tailgate, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, tri-zone climate control, auto on/off wipers and LED headlights, and panoramic sunroof.
- Infotainment: 10.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, seven USB ports, satellite navigation, Wi-Fi hot-spot, vehicle tracking and remote services, and 14-speaker Meridian audio system.
- Options Fitted: Digital radio ($920).
- Cargo Volume: 268 litres (seven seats), 1231L (five seat), 2500L (two seat).
Up-front the Discovery 5 immediately feels familiar. The ‘command’ driving position is retained, while there is a utilitarian look to the cabin that is emphasised by twin gloveboxes, a cubby behind the climate controls, plus enormous console storage.
There isn’t, however, quite the premium feel of an Audi Q7 or BMW X5 inside – even if the crisp graphics and easy intuition of the 10.0-inch centre touchscreen, and the high-grade leather that cloaks all seats and upper-door trims narrow the gap.
No head-up display, voice control for navigation, or adaptive cruise control are all conspicuous by their absence, while some switchgear operates with a clickiness that serves as a reminder that the Discovery 5 starts at half the price of this model.
That said, the flagship’s Meridian 14-speaker audio system sounds as good as the seats feel in terms of support, adjustability, cooling and heating.
Interestingly, away from the devilish detail of switchgear, the Discovery 5 First Edition best balances a premium feel with pragmatic function further back in the cabin.
With the exception of the middle-row being positioned too low to the floor, which can crimp the knees of taller occupants, there is excellent space for three riders.
With a panoramic dual-pane sunroof, separate climate controls with B-pillar-mounted air vents, twin fast-charge USB ports, and twin map pockets behind the front seats, passengers three, four and five should complain little.
Where this fifth Discovery takes a step back from the fourth generation is with its third-row accommodation. The higher roofline of the old model meant riders six and seven were placed on a lofty perch with surplus headroom, legroom and visibility.
The Land Rover is still among the roomiest SUVs out back, with ‘good’ headroom, legroom and visibility eclipsing a Q7 or X5, if not a Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. Particularly for a more expensive, and supposedly more ‘premium’ model, though, deleting the previously-standard third-row air vents is disappointing.
At 258 litres with all seats in place, luggage volume is also only decent. The most inspired feature is the all-electric-fold seating. With buttons in the boot, or functions accessed via the touchscreen, both the centre and back row can automatically fold into the floor or raise again within seconds.
ON AND OFF ROAD
- Engine: 190kW/600Nm 3.0 turbo-diesel V6
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
In the modern era new models are expected to lose weight, increase performance and reduce fuel consumption when switching to a new-generation model, but the Land Rover Discovery’s movements in these areas are astonishing.
Although still portly at 2298kg, this diesel V6 has shed 250kg compared with the old model. Its 3.0-litre is now a single- rather than twin-turbo unit, yet torque stays pegged at 600Nm and power rises 7kW to 190kW. The eight-speed automatic helps deliver an 8.1-second 0-100km/h claim, 1.3sec faster than before, while combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres is now 1.6L/100km thriftier.
Meanwhile, standard air suspension – optional on lower model grades – can move in a 135mm range from 60mm lower than normal to aid passenger entry and egress, to 75mm upwards for tentacle-like crawling ability.
The upshot is ground clearance of 283mm, 43mm more than previously. Wading depth of 900mm is also up 200mm. Approach angle? 34 degrees. Ramp-over? 27.5deg. Departure angle? 30deg.
Forget the Q7 and X5, because even a Toyota LandCruiser Sahara has ground clearance of only 220mm, with 32deg, 22deg and 25deg as the above trio of angles.
On the road the Discovery 5 feels like a fitter, tauter Discovery 4. The steering is brilliant, proving that lightness and sharpness can work in a large SUV. The driver’s hands are able to be kept at nine-and-three without getting crossed up navigating down right-angle urban laneways, yet the system is also assured on the open road.
Probably due to the 45-aspect 21-inch tyres, the suspension can thump – but it never crashes – over potholes at low speed, while on corrugated dirt it fails to deliver the plushness of a Toyota Prado Kakadu previously tested over the same surface.
However, these are minor imperfections in what is otherwise a fantastic suspension setup. Unlike Audi and BMW, there aren’t any Comfort or Sport modes to choose from. Land Rover has instead delivered a self-assured single setting suspension that wafts beautifully yet also maintains terrific control over body movements.
The 5’s handling is surprisingly tight, but this is one large SUV that thankfully avoids being set-up for razor-sharp dynamics – and yet it’s pleasurable to drive because it doesn’t feel soggy nor rattle the teeth of occupants.
Off the road the Discovery also continues to perform effortlessly. Its wheel articulation over rocks is excellent, and the Terrain Response 2’s ability to feed torque to the wheel with the most traction is inspired. It can also tow 3500kg.
The only downside is the engine. It suffers from significant lag off the line, despite maximum torque being fed in at 1750rpm. On the move it is smooth, creamy and refined, but the eight-speed auto really needs to be left in ‘S’ mode where it subtly holds a lower gear and assists with engine braking, yet is still usable around town.
At this level, it’s adequate but in need of further power and torque upgrades.
ANCAP rating: 5-stars when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with surround-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Annual or 26,000km servicing intervals are impressive, however Land Rover does not offer capped-price servicing packages.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The dashboard and drivetrain of a Q7 and X5 soundly eclipse the Discovery 5, but neither are as well packaged, they struggle off-road and don’t ride as well on-road.
Meanwhile a GLS350d is more affordable and roomier inside, while sharing the stately ride quality of this Land Rover. But it can’t go as far off-road either.
The big off-bitumen gun is the LandCruiser Sahara, but it’s also an oversized burden on the road, despite likely matching this Brit off-road.
- Audi Q7 3.0 TDI
- BMW X5 xDrive40d
- Mercedes-Benz GLS350d
- Toyota LandCruiser Sahara
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Land Rover Discovery 5 First Edition is not a perfect step-change from the brilliantly unique fourth-generation model, however compared with any current competitor it also remains a highly impressive large SUV.
It takes its traditional lush suspension and supreme off-road capability, then raises the bar with more car-like control.
Its generic shape also sadly means forfeiting some of the third-row packaging excellence of old, however the cabin still remains roomier than most rivals.
And indeed it’s that tension between the practical and premium, and the pragmatic and the pampering, that best defines this Land Rover. Those who were turned away by the old styling can consider this new Discovery 5 with confidence.
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