Land Rover Discovery SUV review
“The Land Rover Discovery is a premium SUV offering lots of space, ability and surprising fuel-economy, but it doesn’t come cheap”
- 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 latest Land Rover Discovery replaced a model that was around for 14 years and proved a big hit with customers. Versatilite, practical and with a luxurious interior, the Discovery was also renowned for its towing and off-roading abilities. Those selling points never faded, but against the newest versions of the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90, its technology and running costs were looking rather outclassed.
It incorporates the virtues of the old model but features improved fuel economy, updated technology, and it now weighs less. As a result, it has gone on to feature in several of our Best lists. It’s still a seven-seater, with an unmistakable design and the ability to take you over almost any terrain, but it should use much less fuel and is brimming with the latest safety kit.
Updates for 2021 were mild as far as the design was concerned, amounting to new lights and bumpers, but there were also changes under the skin and inside, where a more modern Pivi Pro infotainment system was introduced.
Third-row passengers will find plenty of space for their knees, unless they're very tall, and there’s more headroom too. Land Rover is keen to point out that the Discovery is a full seven-seater, not a five-plus-two like the Defender and Discovery Sport. Even when all seven seats are in use, there's still as much boot space as a typical family hatchback, and when the third row is folded out of use, the boot outclasses that of most estate cars.
With a more car-like structure than its predecessor, the latest Discovery is a staggering 450kg lighter. This means it's more car-like to drive and 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 33.9mpg – although CO2 emissions from 218g/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 20mpg. 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.
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 20th-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.