Land Rover Discovery — A well-rounded SUV

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The all-new Land Rover Discovery is the personification of a modern sport utility vehicle, the primary vehicle for handling suburban family chores with a quiet, refined interior, the latest in automotive technology, confident and predictable handling, and satisfying performance — while at the same time possessing class-leading off-road capability.

To demonstrate its off-road prowess, earlier in the year we drove a route of more than 300 miles in rugged dry river beds, muddy undulating trails, the deep powder sand of Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park, and even on icy roads in Jacob Lake, Ariz., near the north entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, putting the Discovery to the test during Land Rover's preview of the new vehicle.

Not surprisingly, the Discovery performed in an awe-inspiring display, unstoppable on all surfaces no matter terrain or weather conditions, utilizing Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, All-Terrain Progress Control and a suspension that’s adjustable up to 13-inches of ground clearance. On numerous occasions, our Discovery was rock climbing at angles that left it with one of its wheels more than a foot off the ground. It can also ford water up to 35.4 inches deep.

The new Discovery is a complete remake of the outgoing LR4, reshaping the boxy design into a more shapely and attractive vehicle. The first-generation Discovery (affectionately referred to as the Disco) dates back to 1989. The Discovery was redesigned in 2005 and became the LR3, and then evolved into the LR4 with the introduction of the fourth generation in 2010.

The fifth-generation Discovery comes in three trim levels — SE, HSE and HSE Lux — and with two engine choices, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel making 258 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive with a starting price of $50,985.

We found the supercharged gas engine the perfect companion for the Discovery's on-road chores whether it be moving quickly from a stoplight, passing on a two-lane road, safely merging into interstate traffic, or hauling a full complement of passengers and cargo. Power is directed effectively through the eight-speed transmission, and when demanded the transmission is quick to downshift. For comparison purposes, the V-6 is good for 6.9 seconds from 0-to-60 according to the manufacturer. The V-6 mileage is not stellar, however, measured at 18-mpg city, 21-highway and 18-overall on premium gas. If mileage is important to you, consider the diesel engine rated at 21/26/23.

The vehicle actually drives smaller than it looks, and we discovered that it handles as well as most compact-to-mid-sized crossovers we've driven in recent times. We encountered only minimal body roll on our usual back-road "test track," and found the steering relatively responsive with good on-center feel.

Inside, the Discovery strongly reflects the look, feel and quality of Range Rover models, giving it a much stronger sense of luxury than before. Elegant touches of supple hand-stitched leather surfaces, brushed metals and natural charcoal oak veneer enhance the upscale feel.

The new Discovery still has seating for seven full-size adults in three rows of heated seats, with the new model introducing the world’s first Intelligent Seat Folding technology. It allows the seven seats to be configured using vehicle’s touchscreen controls or remotely from anywhere in the world using a smartphone enabled InControl Remote application.

There is ample head and legroom for second-row passengers, and enough room in the third row to squeeze in two adults for short stints. When the third row is not in use, the Discovery opens into to a very respectable cargo hauler with 45 cubic feet behind the second row and 82.7 cubic feet with all seats folded. And the huge rear hatch allows easy access to the cargo area.

While the starting price is in the neighborhood of 50 grand, to get some very good things you will have to move up to mid-level or top trim. For instance our top trim HSE Lux edition came with air suspension, a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing, the power-folding seats, heated front and second-row seats and power sliding and reclining second row seats, tri-zone climate control, power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane departure intervention, and a 14-speaker Meridian premium surround-sound system.

The starting price of the mid-trim HSE is $57,945 and the HSE Lux with the gas engine begins at $64,945. With a handful of options the bottom line of our test truck was $67,920. You want diesel and the extra fuel mileage — figure about $2,000 more.

Base price: $50,985; as driven, $67,920
Engine: Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6
Horsepower: 340 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 foot-pounds @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Drive: four-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Length: 195.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,835 pounds
Turning circle: 40.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 45 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 82.7 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 8,201 pounds
Fuel capacity: 23.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 16 city, 21 highway, 18 overall
0-60: 6.9 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Lexus GX 460

The Good
• Excellent on-road manners
• Extremely capable off road
• Luxurious interior

The Bad
• Infotainment controls can be distracting

The Ugly
• Anemic gas mileage on premium fuel