Used Land Rover Discovery review: 2016 to 2020 (Mk5)
Spacious, refined and versatile, the fifth generation Land Rover Discovery is at home on road and off it
- Seats seven adults
- Vast boot
- Driving refinement
- Expensive to run
- Dubious reliability
- Rubbish infotainment system
What sets the Land Rover Discovery 5 apart from its prestigious rivals – the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90 key among them – is the fact that it’s a genuine and talented off-roader. For most buyers that’s not a quality upon which they’ll ever have much call, but Land Rover’s reputation has long been founded on the ability of its vehicles to venture forth into lands without tarmac, and that romantic ideal continues to sell cars. No matter that 99.9% of Discovery 5s will never be taken on adventures more daring than a trip across a muddy country car park, it’s important to the Land Rover myth that if one day you decide to journey across the Serengeti, you can.
Realistically, though, you’re buying a used Discovery 5 because you want a stylish, spacious, comfortable, refined and swift SUV. You might also buy one because you need to transport seven adults from time to time, or have a horsebox or caravan or trailer to tow long distances. In all these duties the Discovery 5 excels. It may not appear so from some angles, but the Discovery 5 is a big vehicle (in length, width and height), which pays dividends for interior space – it comfortably seats three across on its second row of seats, while the third-row chairs, which fold flat into boot floor until you need them, are adult-sized.
Even with the third row seats in use, you’re left with modest boot space, and when you return the cabin to five-seat configuration there’s a massive amount of room for luggage: with all the rear seats folded flat the Discovery 5 could double as a removal van.
For all its versatility the Discovery 5 is no utilitarian vehicle, although the entry-level S trim with its fabric seats would serve that purpose better (say for farmers) than the plusher models that sit about it in the range hierarchy. All models feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox, air suspension, advanced four-wheel drive and air-conditioning, and most have leather upholstery, sat-nav, parking sensors, and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. The top grade HSE Luxury also features heated and ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control, rear seat entertainment screens and even a heated steering wheel.
No matter which of the Discovery 5’s petrol and diesel engines you pick you’re assured of brisk progress and an abundance of the sort of real-world pulling power that takes the potential stress out of overtaking and of carrying heavy loads. Good refinement is common to all of them and noise levels inside the car are low.
A generally rosy picture of the Discovery 5 must be tempered with the fact that reliability is sketchy. Some owners report that they’ve never had a problem and that every mile in their car has been golden, whereas others have had the engine replaced three times. Mostly the glitches are related to the Discovery 5’s electrical systems and can be troublesome to get to the root cause of – the great shame of it is that when it’s running properly, this Land Rover is one of the best all-round cars in the world.
What’s the history of the Land Rover Discovery 5?
The Discovery 5’s immediate predecessors – Discoverys 3 and 4 – shared boxy yet attractive styling that spoke of classy practicality: owners and potential owners admired that look and knew what it stood for. When the Discovery 5 launched in mid-2016 it broke that mould. The Range Rover-esque front end styling was quickly accepted, but the slightly bulbous rear end with its strangely off-centre rectangular number plate proved contentious. Make up your own mind.
Missing from the fifth generation Discovery was the split tailgate which had become an endearing and enduring feature of the model – the lower section hinged at the bottom so that it opened into a handy bench for picnics or for sitting on and watching the world go by. The Discovery 5 has a slide-out shelf but it’s not the same. A popular feature of earlier Discovery models was carried over and welcomed, though – a third row of seats that pop up out of the boot floor. For the Discovery 5, however, the rearmost seats are genuinely adult-sized and offer best-in-class space and comfort.
The Discovery 5 was launched with three turbocharged diesel engines – a couple of 2.0-litre four-cylinder units and a 3.0-litre V6 – and a single 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol. In 2018 a twin-turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine was introduced as well as a twin-turbo V6 diesel. Several minor engine revisions followed until in late-2020 the Discovery 5 underwent a major revamp, at which stage eco-focused mild-hybrid petrol and diesel engines (conventional internal-combustion engines teamed with small electric motors for improved economy and emissions) took over motive responsibilities.
Until the 2020 revamp the Discovery 5’s engine range of trim grades remained constant, although there have been several special editions along the way. An eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive and air suspension are standard throughout the range which starts with the S and then progresses through SE, HSE and HSE Luxury.
Which is the best Discovery 5?
Unless you have a particular aversion to diesel engines then seek out Discovery 5 models badged as either Sd4 (a twin-turbo four-cylinder 2.0-litre) or Td6 (a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6). There’s nothing much wrong with the remaining two diesels in the engine line-up, but the less powerful version of the 2.0-litre provides only average performance, while the brawnier version of the V6 has higher fuel consumption and emissions.
If you don’t regularly fill your car with passengers and luggage or haul caravans and trailers the length and breadth of the country, then the 238bhp Sd4, which you may see referred to as an Ingenium diesel, will satisfy the needs of most drivers. Its power output might seem modest in the context of a vehicle the size of the Discovery 5, but it will keep up with the cut and thrust of urban traffic. More importantly, it has an impressive amount of easy-going urge at A-road and motorway speeds, a great help for overtaking and allowing you to travel at a brisk pace in a very relaxed manner. Good soundproofing inside the Discovery 5 adds to the Sd4’s sense of refinement.
However, if you can financially stretch to a Td6, do so. Against the clock it’s only fractionally faster than the SD4 – 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds against 8.3 seconds – but its fuel economy is the same (roughly 27mpg using the latest WLTP means of measuring fuel economy) and it has even more real-world pulling power, making light work of towing and propelling a fully-loaded Discovery 5 without fuss. It sounds good, too.
Those who prefer petrol engines will enjoy the strong performance of the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 (badged Si6) but may be less enamoured with its claimed (WLTP) 16mpg fuel consumption. The twin-turbo 2.0-litre (Si4) is barely less thirsty, but does produce less CO2, 219g/km against 254g/km; both, however, sit in the same £490 bracket for annual Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), further eroding the case for the Si4.
In terms of trim levels, the SE represents the best value of the Discovery 5 range: its standard leather upholstery lends it the same luxury ambience you find in the more expensive models, and it has as much equipment as anyone really needs in a car. Included on its specification list are air-conditioning, electrically adjustable front seats, sat-nav, DAB radio, powered tailgate, automatic LED headlights and windscreen wipers, parking sensors, powered folding door mirrors and even a heated windscreen.
What are the alternatives?
Land Rover might argue that because of the Discovery 5’s formidable off-road capabilities it has no real rivals. However, since most owners confine their driving to tarmac roads, there are other large, prestige SUVs for you to consider.
Not all of them offer seven seats as standard, but the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90 are able to accommodate the driver and six passengers, although third-row riders will enjoy most space in the back of the Discovery 5. In common with the Land Rover, each of these rivals has punchy diesel and petrol engines for you to choose from, and each also has a plug-in hybrid option available. What they also share is higher equipment levels than the Discovery 5, at least in their entry-level offerings, as well as better build quality. The Discovery 5 beats them all for space and versatility, however.
Should you just want a large SUV and you’re less concerned about what badge it wears, also take a look at the Kia Sorento, Peugeot 5008, SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Kodiaq. All will have lower running costs than the Discovery 5.