Depending on your perspective the all-new Land Rover Discovery is either a faithful evolution of the models that came before it or a complete break with tradition.
You see this Discovery is designed to increase the appeal of the previous brick-shaped model and has become smoother and more, um, graceful (if you can call it that) with better on-road manners and a lighter weight to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
That’s all well and good, but it also still needs to be able to ford streams, scramble up rocky fire trails, and wade through deep mut ruts, doesn’t it? Indeed it does - and don’t be fooled by the less aggressive styling, this Discovery will get you just as far as any model before it.
Vehicle Style: Prestige large SUV
Price: $103,661 plus on-road costs, $121,411 as tested
Engine/trans: 190kW/600Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo diesel | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km | Tested: 8.7 l/100km
When it comes to the Discovery, the choice is yours: Of the available S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury trims there’s a choice of three diesel engines, a pair of four-cylinders, and a heavy-hitting V6 with the ability to mix-and match any trim to any engine.
In this instance we’re behind the wheel of the upper-mid spec HSE with the Td6 diesel V6 engine, and although it officially wears the ‘prestige’ tag according to Australia’s new car sales classification the Discovery is pitched as a down-to-earth, mainstream alternative to something wearing a Range Rover badge.
For the specification you see here, pricing starts from $103,661 plus on-road costs, which may not fit every family budget but for that you get a 600Nm torque monster just made for towing, not to mention a plush leather-lined interior full of high-tech goodies.
Land Rover also believes in options, which is great if you want to tailor a vehicle to your particular needs, but potentially bewildering with everything from an app-controlled power-folding third row of seats to custom trim finishes, a panoramic roof, or the added swagger of huge alloy wheels able to be added.
Even without the glamour of a trip through the options list, the basic Discovery HSE Td6 ticks plenty of boxes with huge space for growing families, big towing ability, and a very capable off-road escape machine at your beck and call.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, 10-way power adjustable front seats, three-zone climate control, powered tailgate, keyless entry and start, power adjustable steering column, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch touchscreen,
- Options Fitted: Fixed panoramic roof $3480, seven seats $3400, metallic paint $2010, power-folding second row seat $1940, power-folding third row seat $630 InControl Connect infotainment $2200, privacy tint $870, black headlining $830, black roof rails $920
- Cargo Volume: 268 litres to third row, 1231 litres to second row (at roof), 2500 litres to first row (to roof)
Land Rover has a way of crafting interiors that feel grand, with huge slabs of paneling that make the most of the available space, and hide a surprising degree of in-built utility. The Discovery is no different with a blend of high-tech 10.25-inch touchscreen and old-world wood and leather trims that feel right at home side-by-side.
As you can imagine for a vehicle of its size, interior accommodation is vast. Front seat occupants need never brush elbows and three adults across the rear bench will fit with ease.
A third row of seats is optional and even in the back-back the seats are large enough to comfortably seat a pair of adults without complaint. The Discovery’s stepped roof and stadium seating ensure there’s enough headroom and clear visibility for everyone.
As tested this particular vehicle includes power-folding for the second and third rows - something that sounds like a bit of a novelty, but if you expect to carry large or awkward items often (rural buyers will know exactly what I mean) then the powered seat option, with switches in the boot for easy access, will make perfect sense.
As well as simply being roomy, the Discovery is also quite well thought out. The centre console in particular is a sensible use of what might otherwise be dead-space with cup holders that slide out of the way to reveal a hidden sub-storage area, not to mention one of the largest storage areas you’ll find under the centre console armrest.
Other storage spaces that you may not notice at first glace include an upper glovebox and a hidden bin behind the climate controls, although the clunky release mechanism of this one meant it was hit-or-miss as to getting it open.
There’s also some equipment that seems to be missing off the standard features list, arguably at the circa $100k mark things like adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, heated seats, and digital radio should be standard, but all are optional on the HSE grade.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6, 190kW @4000rpm, 600Nm @1750-2250rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, dual-range 4x4
- Suspension: Four-wheel independent with air suspension
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: Electric power steering, 12.3m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
While lesser engines in the range are all-new, the Td6 carries over from the previous Discovery, but thanks to the new model’s weight loss (it’s trimmed around 250kg) it is both faster and more fuel efficient.
Peak power it rated at 190kW and maximum torque at 600Nm from a single-turbo V6 diesel, a bump of 35kW and 80Nm compared to the old TDV6 and a touch better than the previous twin-turbo SDV6 (identical torque and 7kW more power) with an official 1.6 l/100km improvement in fuel efficiency.
The result is a big SUV that can pull like a freight train, be it driver only, or a full complement of passengers and luggage the Discovery Td6 was brawny enough to haul up and down mountain roads without showing any signs of burden.
Although we didn't get the chance to hitch a load to the towbar, a 3500kg maximum towing capacity should see the Discovery able to pull caravans or horse floats with absolute ease.
What really impresses though is the absolute comfort. Yes the Td6 HSE is somewhere around $15,000 more expensive than a top-of-the-range Toyota Prado, but where Toyota’s best feels like farm equipment, the Discovery offers a five-star experience.
Engine isolation is impressive. With the windows up it is hard to pick the usual diesel sound and the way the Td6 engine builds speed doesn’t follow the usual diesel feel either.
A standard eight-speed automatic is buttery smooth with gear changes that can be hard to detect without watching the tacho and a sensible state of tune that sees it find the right gear quickly without the need to hunt around.
Air suspension gives a pillowy-soft ride in urban settings, with the ability to raise the body out of harm's way at the touch of a button in more demanding off-road terrain, or drop the rear almost to ground level for ease of leading with secondary button to do so in the side of the boot.
The range of adjustment covers 135mm, settling 60mm below standard height in its lowest mode or 75mm higher when raised. Ground clearance of 283mm adds 43mm compared to the last-generation Discovery and wading depth is a remarkable 900mm.
For all of that ability though, the big Discovery manages to drive with the accuracy of a much smaller vehicle - the steering is faster than you might expect for big 4x4 and the brakes have a stronger feel than usually associated with the segment, though the throw is long enough for careful off-road modulation.
Off-roading is as simple as it get too, thanks to push-button low range, and Terrain Response - Land Rover’s pre-set off-road system that allows you to chose the correct vehicle setup and stability control settings for conditions like mud, sand, or snow.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - the Land Rover Discovery scored the maximum five-star rating when tested in 2017 based on crash data obtained by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: Standard safety includes six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain), electronic stability and traction control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear view camera, lane departure warning, front and middle-row seatbelt pretensioners, and front and rear park sensors.
An optional Drive Pack adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and driver fatigue detection, while Drive Pack Pro goes further with active lane keeping and adaptive cruise control. A surround-view camera, self-parking assist, and tyre pressure monitoring are also on the options list.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 26,000km (whichever comes first) and Land Rover offers a prepaid service plan for the 3.0-litre diesel engine covering five years or 130,000km of maintenance for $2200. Conditions may apply, your Land Rover dealer can provide more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If off-road ruggedness is your priority then the rural-favourite, Toyota’s LandCruiser 200 is well worth a look with a tough more grunt form a 4.5-litre twin turbo V8. While the interior isn’t as modern, and some of the tech trails that of the Discovery the Cruiser has an unshakable reputation for reliability.
Buyers who aren’t as likely to venture off-road might find the Audi Q7 a perfect match. Impressive refinement, a well-stocked standard equipment list, and a choice of strong diesel engines mean the Q7 is just at home in the city as it is on the open road with a load hitched to the towbar.
The big, plush and premium BMW X5 may be getting on in years, but that doesn’t diminish its qualifications in the luxury segment. Though seven seats are available the X5 is a little less roomy in the back but the big BMW is a delight to drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Expensive certainly, but the Discovery justifies its positioning with a healthy dollop of luxury that’s sure to delight buyers that need to tow, or simply want to get away from it all without compromising on comfort.
It’s a shame that Land Rover doesn’t load the Discovery with a few more of the ‘basics’ that this price-point commands like digital radio or a 360-degree camera system but in saying that even an unoptioned Discovery hardly feels to be lacking for features.
Most reassuring though is the new Discovery’s unharmed off-road ability, despite its improved on-road manners. That’s sure to see it find favour in regional areas as much as the suburban sprawl.
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