Land Rover Discovery SUV review
“The Land Rover Discovery is decent to drive and really spacious, but is far from the most economical SUV”
- Entry-level engine has plenty of poke
- Comfortable and relaxing to drive
- Can seat seven adults in comfort
- Some extras should be standard
- Gets expensive above base trim
- Higher CO2 emissions than rivals
The Land Rover Discovery is a large SUV that offers an incredible mix of ability; it’s a serious off-road vehicle when you need it to be, yet it’s also good to drive on-road, luxurious inside and very comfortable. All of that means it doesn’t come cheap but the Discovery is still a very versatile and appealing car.
Rivals include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90, though none of these can match the Land Rover for off-road ability. Those models do have their own benefits, particularly when it comes to electrification (the XC90 and X5 plug-in hybrids are excellent).
The current Discovery has lost the recognisable, boxy looks of the previous version but the improvements to fuel economy, technology and handling mean it’s better than ever. In 2021, the Discovery was updated with some new lights and bumpers, plus a new ‘Pivi Pro’ infotainment system that was a pretty big improvement over the previous infotainment system.
There’s plenty of safety kit in the Discovery and a luxurious interior that includes seven seats. The sixth and seventh seats aren’t just an afterthought, like they are in some seven-seat SUVs, because you can actually fit adults in there, although tall people might find it slightly cramped.
The boot is big even with all seven seats in use and with the third row folded down there’s a huge amount of space for luggage. Despite its large size, the Discovery is also good to drive - it handles well on a twisty road but is also really comfortable and smooth on the motorway and over rough country roads.
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The 3.0-litre D250 turbodiesel engine now offers enough power for the sizeable SUV, and improves its WLTP-rated fuel economy to a competitive 33.5mpg – although CO2 emissions from 220g/km mean it's still liable for the top 37% of Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax.
There isn’t a Discovery that’s sluggish; even the D250 diesel version manages a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds thanks to 246bhp.
Older V6 diesel engines have now been replaced with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder featuring mild-hybrid tech to help save fuel and reduce emissions. The D300 gets 297bhp and 650Nm of torque, and every Discovery is equipped with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Two petrol engines are also available for the Discovery: the 2.0-litre P300 and the P360. The P300 produces 296bhp and is shared with the Jaguar F-Pace, propelling the Discovery from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. The P360 is a 3.0-litre engine with 355bhp, cutting its 0-62mph time to 6.5 seconds. These engines are quite thirsty, however, with official figures of just over 25mpg. It's unlikely a plug-in hybrid will arrive either because the space taken up by the battery would spell the end for the third row of seats. This means there is no way to bring down the Discovery’s sky-high company car tax figure; a Kia Sorento has a much lower BiK rating thanks to its hybrid powertrain, yet still offers the practicality of seven seats.
While the latest Discovery is rather more agile than its lumbering predecessor, there’s no escaping its height of nearly two metres, so you’ll experience a fair bit of body lean if you try hustling it through corners. It has been made firmer and more direct as part of the facelift, and while handling is sharper, there's been a reduction in comfort too. Meanwhile, its Terrain Response system and generous ground clearance give it serious off-road credentials.
The entry-level Discovery S includes an 11.4-inch touchscreen, seven seats, air suspension and a ‘powered inner tailgate’, which gives you somewhere to sit when out and about and largely makes up for the absence of a split-folding tailgate. This entry-level model undercuts most rivals and all Discoveries have seven seats as standard – BMW X5 buyers are charged extra for a third row.
After Euro NCAP crash-testing, the Discovery was awarded the maximum five stars, while autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning are standard. Land Rover's showing in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is less encouraging, where its 22nd-place finish out of 30 manufacturers can only be seen as a disappointment. Still, the Discovery remains a fairly new model so should be given a fair chance to prove itself before any judgements are made.
Overall, the Discovery is a very desirable family SUV. Only its slightly contentious styling blots the Discovery’s report card – the front three-quarter view has a strong Range Rover resemblance, but the strangely offset number plate and imposing bulk of its rear end isn’t universally admired.
What about a used or nearly new Land Rover Discovery 5?
A large luxury SUV with generous seating for seven and a cavernous boot, the Land Rover Discovery 5 is a popular used car choice despite its rather poor record of reliability. Used prices are typically in the £30,000 to £60,000 bracket on dealer forecourts, although early, high-mileage examples for sale privately can dip into the 20s. Relaxing, comfortable and refined to drive, the Discovery 5 is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines, most of which offer spirited performance, although some of them are rather thirsty. What sets the Discovery apart from its rivals is its considerable off-road ability – few owners may ever use it, but it gives them a warm feeling to know that it’s there.
What’s its history?
Launched in 2016, the Discovery 5 was the practical and slightly cheaper alternative to Land Rover’s other big seller, the decidedly upmarket Range Rover, although most models could be described as luxurious. Able to seat seven adults comfortably, quiet and refined to drive, and with the ability to double as a van when all its seats were folded flat, the Discovery 5 quickly gained many fans. The initial engine line-up comprised two turbocharged diesel engines, a turbocharged V6 diesel and supercharged V6 petrol, and in 2018 these were joined by a twin-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine and a twin-turbo V6 diesel.
In 2020 the Discovery 5 was thoroughly revamped, gaining a new range of mild-hybrid petrol and diesel engines (conventional internal-combustion engines teamed with small electric motors to enhance fuel economy and emissions), an interior refresh with an improved infotainment system, and facelifted front and rear styling.
Used Discovery 4 (2009 to 2016)
More a heavily revised version of its predecessor than a completely new model, the Discovery 4 is ruggedly handsome, refined to drive, luxuriously appointed and extremely spacious.
Used Discovery 3 (2004 to 2009)
Blending practicality with comfort, the Discovery 3 is roomy and plush inside and drives exceptionally well. Although extremely capable off-road, it also fulfils the role of a luxury car.
Older Discovery models (1989 to 2004)
Original Discovery models are now considered modern classics and when new bridged the gap between farmyard and Fulham. The Mk2 retained the Mk1’s go-anywhere credentials, but the focus of its cabin design and marketing shifted towards premium customers.