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Land Rover Discovery Review

Find out more about the Land Rover Discovery in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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8
Out of 10
Average Price £33,529
Model review

The Discovery became Land Rover's third ever vehicle, after the Land Rover Series I/Defender and the Range Rover, when first introduced in 1989.

In fact, thanks to the brand's slightly complicated history, the Discovery was the first new vehicle ever officially released by the Land Rover company, coming shortly after the break up of the British Leyland group and Rover's subsequent independence.

The original Discovery was based on the original Range Rover, using the same chassis and drivetrain, but with a novel exterior and an interior designed by Terence Conran. Originally available with a 2.5-litre diesel and the classic 3.5-litre Rover V8, it provided a far more cultured experience than the Defender, but at a much lower price than the Range Rover. It was updated to a 'Series II' model in 1998, but this was largely a facelift aimed at gentrifying the car somewhat.

A true second generation, named the Discovery 3, arrived in 2004. This adopted a more modern monocoque body in order to civilise the road manners even further, but this was mated to a traditional ladder chassis to preserve the off-road capabilities. This was also updated, to the Discovery 4, in 2009. An all-new third generation arrived in 2017.

The mixture of utilitarianism and luxury offered by the Discovery was unusual and genuine rivals were few and far between. The Nissan Patrol and first generation of X-Trail, and the Toyota Land Cruiser were the most likely alternatives, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee was another popular choice, along with the Volvo XC90.

Latest model

The most recent version of the Discovery was introduced as an all-new car, based on the modern Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, in 2017. Compared to the older versions of the car, the current Discovery is more cultured and far more like a modern crossover SUV than the more truck-like originals. It retains some of the styling touches, such as the stepped roof, but it fits far more into the softer modern image of Land Rover than the older wheeled wardrobes.

The Discovery comes in a single bodystyle only. Coming in at nearly five metres long, the Discovery is a seven-seat large SUV. The step in the roof allows for 'stadium seating', whereby each row of seats is mounted slightly higher than the last to allow for a better view, without encroaching on the headroom for the third-row passengers.

Trim levels are the usual Land Rover fare of SE, HSE and HSE Luxury, with the addition of an S model at the base of the range with cloth seats and manual air-conditioning. Power comes from a 2.0-litre or a 3.0-litre diesel, with a 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine derived from the Jaguar F-Type. All engines drive an 8-speed automatic, with no manual option, and a four-wheel drive system, and every Discovery is rated to tow a 3.5 tonne trailer.

Rivals for the modern Discovery include the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, and prices start at £43,995.

 

Value for money

Considering the amount of car you get, £43,995 doesn't seem like a steep ask. The Discovery is huge on the outside and the inside, and is a genuine seven-seater with enough additional room to carry a decent amount of luggage – broadly the same as a supermini. Standard kit is, on the face of it, reasonable.

You get an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity, a powered tailgate, air suspension, autonomous emergency braking and eight-way adjustable front seats.

Look a little closer and it's not quite as simple. The seats may be adjustable, but it's manual rather than electric and the seats are cloth. The entry-level car also sports halogen headlights instead of modern LED units and you have regular air conditioning rather than climate control. The Discovery may be large, but these sort of things don't befit a £44,000 car.

The S trim is also lumbered with the base engine. This SD4 diesel is a decent unit and is the most economical, cheapest to tax and cheapest to insure – and not appreciably slower than the V6 diesel – but if you have need of the V6 for the 20% extra torque it provides, you have to take a higher specification car and this immediately puts the Discovery into £50,000+ territory.

Exercise caution with the specifications too, as they get very expensive, very quickly. The next step up from the SD4-engined S is the SE, and that's £49,995 with the same engine. This does bring all the toys you'd expect – leather, LED headlights, climate control – so it may be the best-value choice. The next grade up starts at £57,495. The one after starts at £63,195.

Running costs are not terrific either. The entry diesel sits at 43.5mpg and the first year VED is £800 – and £450 every year after due to the extra payment for cars over £40,000. The supercharged petrol car is £1,700 in the first year and returns 26mpg on paper. Insurance groups start at 33 for the S and immediately leap to 37 for the SE, so it's not a cheap car to run day-to-day.

 

Looks and image

Land Rover is on a high at the moment, with new products like the Discovery Sport and Freelander, and the Range Rover line-up winning awards, for styling, technology and even a few Car of the Year awards from various publications. The Discovery itself looks like it's going to continue the rich vein of form.

However, the Discovery was always an unashamed picture of working glamour. At the private school gates, it was the car owned by the parents who ran country estates rather than the doctors and lawyers. It was a big, chunky truck on the outside (and underneath) but a gentleman's club on the inside, and this latest car deviates from that recipe in a huge way.

It no longer stands out from the soft-roader crowd, and from most angles you'll find it difficult to tell apart from the other cars in the range. It's quite obvious around the back, where Land Rover has seen fit to offset the rear registration plate in a very curious and not altogether appealing fashion.

Space and practicality

The Discovery majors on family friendliness. Unlike most seven-seat cars it has seven proper seats, all of which can be used by adults. There's loads of legroom, and the step in the roof that the Discovery retains from its predecessors helps preserve headroom. It's not especially adept at carrying luggage in this form though, but the 258 litre space on offer is about equal to an ordinary supermini.

Use it as a five seat car – and you can fold the third row seats down with the touchscreen or a mobile phone app – to see just how spacious it is. As well as sitting five adults comfortably, there's a 1,137-litre boot, which is plenty of room for a couple of reasonable-sized dogs and some luggage. Fold everything flat and the Discovery will hold 2,406 litres. The powered tailgate which is standard on all models helps with access too.

The Discovery was tested by EuroNCAP very recently, and received a five star rating. Some areas of the new tests did result in some marginal results, particularly rear seat whiplash, but it achieved 90% in the adult occupant safety category.

 

Engines

There are three engine options on the Discovery, with petrol and diesel both available. All are exclusively paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.

The entry engine is the 'SD4' 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder, and although it's available on all specifications, if you choose a base-level S model it's the only engine on offer. This 237hp unit gives the Discovery a 0-60mph time of 8.0 seconds, with a top speed of 121mph. The combined fuel economy sits at 43.5mpg, equivalent to 171g/km CO2.

Sitting above this is the 'TD6', a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel. It's not significantly more powerful, with 254hp, so 0-60mph falls to 7.7 seconds while the top speed rises to 130mph. It's rated to 189g/km CO2, while the fuel economy is 39.2mpg.

The only petrol engine is a supercharged 3.0-litre V6, badged 'Si6'. It's the performance option of the range, with its 335hp good enough to get the Discovery to 60mph in 6.9 seconds, but the top speed remains at 130mph. However, the combined fuel economy is 26mpg and the CO2 rating is up at 254g/km. It does sound rather good though!

 

Running costs

Whichever Discovery you opt for, running costs will be the fly in the ointment. It's tempting to just plump straight for the SD4 diesel, but even this car only returns an on-paper best fuel economy of 43.5mpg. At 171g/km CO2 it also just misses out on a lower VED bracket, so your first year payment is a sobering £800, and £450 for the next five years due to the car's value. The TD6 is marginally quicker and due for the same VED payments, but 39.2mpg is the price you pay for the fractional improvement in performance.

The most expensive of the lot is the supercharged petrol V6 though. 26mpg on paper is worse than a 600hp supercar and the first year VED payment is £1,700. Land Rover doesn't make a note of any differences between the variances in emissions and fuel economy for the various trim levels and wheel sizes, but typically you'll find it harder to match the on-paper figures with the larger wheels you'll find on higher-spec cars.

Insuring your Discovery might sting a little too. The entry-level S model is in group 33. Everything else is group 37 to 43 – even a sensible V6 diesel in SE trim is in group 40.

Maintenance won't be too problematic though. There's nothing on the Discovery that isn't used elsewhere in the Jaguar Land Rover group, and this sharing of technologies means decent parts availability and correspondingly lower prices.

Things to look out for

Land Rover has often been in the doldrums when it comes to reliability, consistently performing at or near the bottom of all manufacturer brands while sister brand Jaguar been at the top more often than not.

You could point the finger for this squarely in the direction of the very elderly Defender, the original Discovery based on the 1970 Range Rover and the rather ropey original Freelander – but even as recently as last year, Land Rover's 1-3 year old cars were ranked as the least dependable.

The Discovery is too new for any obvious problems to have surfaced, but keep an eye out for anything that affects the engines as used in other vehicles in the brand family. It's a little soon to be picking up secondhand cars, but the usual caveats about their typical family use, signs of off-roading and the general condition of the diesel particulate filter for the TD6 model all apply.

 

Rivals

The first Discovery was a response to some foreign manufacturers bringing Range Rover rivals to the market for far less money – the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Nissan Patrol and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The modern Discovery has a rather different target market.

These days it's up against a raft of premium seven-seat SUVs. Volvo's XC90 is one of the key alternatives, but there's also a trio of Germans, with the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5. All offer the same SUV styling, high-quality interior and seven seats.

 

Depreciation warning

It's generally held that big cars and luxury cars are not the best performers for depreciation. The fact that few people want or can afford to buy or run them is often a death knell for second-hand values. The Discovery is too new to tell if this is going to be the case or not, but Land Rover's history is on its side. Aside from the more disposable Freelander, Land Rover and Range Rover models have been rather good at keeping their value.

The old Discovery was a solid buy – even now, three-year-old examples are available for £40,000 – however, some of that rested on the fact that you couldn't tell how old the car was, as a Discovery bought in 2016 looked almost identical to one bought in 2009, and not far from one bought in 2004.

The new car has changed dramatically and it remains to be seen how much of an effect this will have. It's unlikely that a Discovery will lose more than 50% of its value over three years though.

Which Discovery to Pick

Trims Explained

There are four trim levels on the Discovery, although which you pick may be dictated by your preferred body style.

S

The entry-level S is limited to the 2.0-litre SD4 engine and perhaps a little under-equipped, coming with halogen headlights, cloth seats and basic air conditioning instead of climate control. You do get eight-way adjustment on the seats in the front, albeit manually, an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB and Bluetooth, the powered tailgate and autonomous emergency braking. Air suspension is standard fit too.

Prices start from £43,995

SE

Upgrading to SE brings the Discovery more into line with expectations. You get LED headlights, climate control, satellite navigation, grained leather seats with 10-way electric adjustment, a rear parking aid, a 10-speaker audio system, and powered and heated door mirrors.

Prices start £49,995

HSE

The HSE model adds a rear-view camera, keyless entry and a panoramic roof with powered blind. The touchscreen is upgraded to a 10-inch unit and houses an upgraded audio system and the Touch Pro navigation system.

Prices start from £57,495

HSE Luxury

The HSE Luxury model adds a tilt and slide glass sunroof over the fixed glass rear, a 14-speaker audio system with subwoofer, a surround camera system, rear seat entertainment package and automatic high-beam assist.

What to look out for

  1. No manual option - 8-speed auto only
  2. No navigation or leather on entry model
  3. All models have seven proper seats
  4. Air suspension as standard
  5. Depreciation likely to be low
  6. Petrol model is expensive to run
  7. High insurance groups
  8. Four-wheel drive is standard
  9. Five-star EuroNCAP rating

Review Rating

"The rejuvenation and expansion of the Land Rover range continues apace with one of its most important models – the all-new Discovery.... Read More"