King of the off-road: Land Rover Discovery is the SUV to beat
The Land Rover Discovery is a large and supremely capable family SUV, emerging two years ago in a completely new format. With a new variant launched for 2019, we check it out.
The whole car is new, well sort of, since it's only been around in this fifth generation for three years.
However, for 2019, the 30th anniversary of the launch of the original Discovery Series 1, a new variant was launched.
Called the Discovery Landmark Edition, it has a range of new features aimed at both marking the anniversary and enhancing its allure (more of this later).
What is it?
The Land Rover Discovery is a luxury medium sized SUV that is the reborn version of the original 'Disco' which was originally launched in 1989 and spawned four generations (although the Disco 4 was largely a reworking of the very competent Disco 3).
It's not to be mistaken for the Discovery Sport, which is essentially a smaller - and less expensive - version of the Discovery, that replaced the Land Rover Freelander in 2014.
The main Discovery was launched towards the end of 2016, although the Sport did an excellent job of coat-trailing what the Discovery would look like and drive like.
Why was it so different?
The shape changed radically, that's why. Out went the old Disco's famous boxy shape, and in came a lovely rounded form, plus seven seats.
That angular form was much loved by the horse-box brigade for around a quarter of a century (although many thought it too square and top heavy for the modern world), so there was bound to be a certain amount of trepidation at JLR headquarters.
No need to worry, though, as the design went down so well the angular shape of old has all but been forgotten. The new rounded silhouette was very much in the mould of the Evoque, launched in 2011, and the Discovery Sport.
The car was also incredibly good in terrain, as Land Rovers should be, of course, and a great tower.
Land Rover marketed the new Disco as "the best family SUV in the world" and "unstoppable on all surfaces, all terrains and in all weathers".
Another big boast was that the new car contains "the Seven Wonders of Discovery".
These are worth listing:
• The Magnificent Seven seats: every one adult-sized and instantly configurable from your smartphone using the "world-first" remote Intelligent Seat Fold technology (well, only the second row, not the third).
• A much-loved member of the family - packed with advanced semi-autonomous safety to keep the occupants safe and a premium interior.
• King of the hill: an accomplished tower that can haul up to 3,500kg despite shedding 480kg over the previous model thanks to a lightweight aluminium construction
• Storage addiction: up to 2,406 litres of luggage space and more cubby holes than you can shake a leather-topped gear stick at
• Connects every generation: up to nine USB ports, four 12-volt charging points and an in-car 3G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices
• After the roads end: reaching threatened habitats and vulnerable people. The new Discovery continued Land Rover's work in humanitarian aid and conservation projects around the world.
So, three years on, has it lived up to all of these promises? Pretty much yes, is the answer.
What's under the bonnet?
At launch the new Disco was powered by Jaguar Land Rover's range of four and six cylinder petrol and diesel engines, all paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Powerplants included a twin-turbo Sd4 Ingenium four-cylinder diesel that produces 240PS with 500Nm of torque and an official fuel economy of 43.5mpg.
There was also a 340PS supercharged petrol 3.0-litre V6, the Si6, which provides 450Nm of torque.
Not much has changed since then - the range includes the manufacturer's latest generation, efficient 3.0 litre diesel engine and the Si4 300HP Ingenium petrol engine.
None in the engine range has been found wanting so far and indeed the Discovery is arguably the best Land Rover/Range Rover off road (although this may change with the advent of the new Defender).
All cars have permanent four-wheel drive with Land Rover's brilliant Terrain Response set-up included as standard, with the more sophisticated Terrain Response 2 as an option.
Ground clearance is rated at 283mm (up 43mm over the older model) while there's a maximum wading depth of 900mm (an increase of 200mm).
What's it like inside?
The cabin is a quality place to spend time, and spacious too. Customers will expect Land Rover/Range Rover's incredibly high standards of tech, materials and ergonomics - and they aren't disappointed.
Living up to that 'stowage addiction' boast, there is actually place to put stuff almost everywhere.
There's a hidden cubby stowage in the central console capable of holding four iPads or a pair of two-litre drinks bottles, and in the central armrest there's space to hide five iPad minis in a holder with a lid that hinges through 180 degrees to function as an armrest even when open.
There's a handy hidden small-item stowage behind the fold-down Climate Control panel for items you want nobody else to see, and a flush-fitting push-operated 'curry hook' in the front passenger footwell capable of securing carrier bags - to stop your shopping or takeaway from slopping around.
Head and legroom is first class, as is luggage space. It provides up to 2,406 litres of load capacity, or up to 1,137 litres behind row two - accessed via a powered tailgate.
Trim and spec
There are currently six models to choose from. The entry-level is the Discovery S, priced from £47,745. After that it's quite a step up to the Discovery SE at £54,425 followed by the HSE at £62,675. Building on this is the flagship Discovery HSE Luxury, priced from £67,925.
Since launch, there have been two innovations to the fleet. First came the Land Rover Discovery Commercial, with different loading and excellent towing capacity, priced from £49,485.
What about the latest edition?
Last but not least was the Landmark Edition, launched in April of this year, priced from £57,530.
Taking SE trim as a starting point, the Landmark Edition adds the Dynamic Exterior Pack, which includes a more purposeful front bumper design and Narvik Black mesh grille and fender vents.
Narvik Black nameplate scripting on the bonnet and tailgate is also joined by unique Landmark badging.
There's some changes to the exterior, with fixed front and rear panoramic roofs, front fog lights and signature Hi-Line tail lights, while privacy glass and 20-inch Gloss Black wheels give it a more modern and contemporary look over other models, says the manufacturer.
Inside, there's a choice of Ebony or Acorn grained leather. A Satin Brushed centre console and unique aluminium mesh finisher also set it apart, with a 380W Meridian Sound System to give your tunes an edge.
Who would buy one?
This is fundamentally a family car. It's roomy, luxurious, tough, dependable and will cope with pretty much anything a normal family will throw at it.
It will almost literally go anywhere, and it will pull you out of the most difficult of situations come ice, snow, mud and flood.
All in a premium cabin that's a relaxing and quality place to be, and the levels of technology will surprise and delight.