When someone mentions Land Rover, most people first think of the Range Rover or the Evoque. Some will remember that they debuted a brand-new model called the Velar, but very few will actually think of the Discovery. And that really confuses us. We recently got a chance to drive the new Discovery on some harsh terrain in Qatar, and as you’re about to read, it should actually be high on the priority list of most potential Land Rover buyers.
Introduction The fifth-gen Discovery made its official debut back in 2016, at the Paris International Auto Show. Although it was still undeniably a Discovery, Land Rover had thoroughly reworked the interior and a large portion of the exterior as well. The V6 engine and the eight-speed auto are the only two components carried over from the last Disco with minor modifications. Everything else is either brand new or massively tweaked. The biggest change is the new aluminum-intensive unibody design in favor of the old-school ladder frame and steel-body construction. The switch to the more modern layout resulted in weight savings of just over 450KG (1,000 pounds). Needless to say, this improved both performance and efficiency massively.
The example we drove was of the HSE-spec variety. It’s a step above the base S and SE, with larger 20-inch 5-split alloy wheels, an Atlas silver grille, power sunroof with tilt/slide features, a powered gesture tailgate and LED headlights with the signature LED strips. HSE stands for High Specifications Equipment, so our Disco was practically equipped with almost everything Land Rover can cram into it. The only way to make it more unique is to go for the First Edition model, which boasts several styling upgrades to make it stand out.
Exterior It’s immediately apparent the new Discovery is, well, new. The squared off, boxy look of the last-gen model is gone for good. The new Disco borrows most of its styling cues from the larger Range Rover and now even the Velar. The body lines are a lot smoother and the entire design just sort of ‘flows’. Land Rover nailed the proportions right on the head. It manages to look modern and sophisticated but still pay tribute to the original 1989 Discovery thanks to that stepped roof at the back as well as the offset rear license plate.
There’s not a lot to talk about up front. It gets the Range Rover’s headlights as well as the front grille, albeit they’ve been scaled down to fit the smaller Discovery. The side profile shows how truly gorgeous the Discovery’s proportions are. Although the doors have a massive surface area, the black rocker panels break up the monotony beautifully. You’ll notice the C-pillar boasts a somewhat weird design, but that’s to add more rigidity into the chassis. We like the clear lenses out back, especially since the narrow taillights complement the tall silhouette nicely. Lastly, you’ll be pleased to know that the tailgate still offers the same split-design as the one on the old car. It makes loading cargo easier, but gives you somewhere to sit as well.
Interior If you thought the cabin took on from the larger Range Rover, wait until you see the interior. Unless you have the two SUVs side by side, you’ll have a hard time telling one apart from the other. There’s less space in the Discovery, but not by a lot. Headroom is the same, and so is legroom. The only thing which seems to suffer is width, but it’s not an issue at all. In fact, it’s barely noticeable.
Being a large seven-seater, you’d expect to find massive comfort in the second and third row seats. And you do. We wouldn’t recommend you place full-sized adults in the rear-most row, but for shorter journeys it isn’t an issue. That being said, the second row is spoiled in terms of comfort and luxury. There are a total of nine USB ports and six 12-volt power outlets in the cabin.
Technologically, the Discovery is up there with the Range Rover. The massive 10-inch touchscreen is operated by the InControl infotainment system. It’s fast and intuitive, probably the best system on the market at the moment. It offers 3G Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity and nav. Land Rover is even kind enough to provide you with something called an Activity Key wristband as well. Think of it as a remote key incorporated into the waterproof wristband. This means you don’t have to wear the bulky keys and fill up your pockets or worry about soaking them up in water.
Engine and Performance The Discovery HSE comes with one engine option alone. It’s the well-known 3.0-liter Si6 petrol unit, and it really suits the character of the SUV. With 340 horsepower and 450 Nm of torque it’s more than plenty powerful for the light Disco. The sprint to 100 km/h is dealt with in 7.1 second and it will top out at 215 km/h. Let’s be real though, no one cares about that in a Land Rover. What we care about is off-road performance and terrain capabilities. Luckily, that’s where the Discovery really comes into its own.
The Terrain Response 2 system boasts computerized control over the sophisticated 4WD system, maximizing the already impressive off-road capabilities. The system offers five settings: Normal, Snow, Mud, Sand and Rock. Leaving it in Auto is ideal, as we found the computer always knows what to do and it never gets the mode wrong. It comes with downhill descent control and low-range gears as well. In its tallest setting, the Discovery boasts impressive 28cm of ground clearance and fording (wading) capabilities in water up to 90cm deep.
Conclusion If you want a full-size SUV capable of seating seven comfortably, you’d have to really hate Land Rover to avoid getting the new Discovery. It’s more capable than you can imagine, and because it’s lost a lot of weight now, it’s a lot more efficient as well. The updated interior makes it a great daily driver too. We’d highly recommend it to anyone.
By: Tarek Hawchar | Photos: Natali Leonova