Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Does history equal pedigree? An interesting question to ponder when it comes to cars. The longer a model has been on the market the better we expect it to be.
There’s an expectation that improvement comes with each new generation and the subsequent yearly updates. The Land Rover Discovery has just entered its fifth-generation, drawing on 27 years of history. With the advantage of so much history, the new Discovery needs to impress.
Some readers will remember, not that long ago Land Rover was the brand of choice for the family wanting to go anywhere. In recent decades, Toyota has taken control of this area of the new car market.
The all-new Discovery stakes its claim for respect in the space owned by Toyota’s popular LandCruiser 200. Most key measurements and specifications support this statement.
There are some 13 different variants that make up the new Discovery range, with power coming from either a four or six-cylinder diesel engine.
On test here is the 2017 Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE, this model is towards the pointy end of the range. For a family transporter, it’s not cheap, our tester has a list price of $103,661 plus on-road costs.
Initially, the Discovery is hard to categorise. There are some identity issues that blur the lines between premium family SUV and hardcore off-roader.
All too often new models follow an evolutionary design philosophy, a slow process of subtle changes over time in an effort not to alienate fans of the outgoing model. The new Discovery takes the revolutionary approach, the old sketch pad has been retired.
The new Discovery does away with the utilitarian styling of yesteryear. It’s a much better looking car, the hard edges have been softened and the boxy shape has been significantly refined without depriving the car of its character.
Unfortunately for those responsible for sculpting the new exterior, it’s the interior that steals the show. The cabin processing is impressive. There’s an obvious attention to detail that looks to maximise practicality by taking full advantage of the space available.
It’s a colossal interior, there is a wealth of space making it ideal for large families with tall teenagers. The second row will accommodate larger adults without issue, both leg and headroom are outstanding. The rear floor is virtually flat meaning the Discovery can easily carry three on the middle bench. 
For buyers requiring seven seats, space carries into the third row. The rearmost pews are not just for young kids. The new Discovery is one of the few cars that deliver genuine seven-seat usability.
Cargo capacity is massive, in a five-seat configuration 1231 litres of luggage space is available. This can increase to a whopping 2500 litres with the second row folded flat.
What we found really exciting was the number of storage solutions incorporated into the Discovery’s cabin. There’s a dual glove box, a large centre armrest storage bin with a hidden cubby to store valuables and a concealed area to stow smaller items behind the fold-down climate control panel.
To keep the peace on long trips, there are USB charging points strategically positioned throughout the cabin. We would now argue any car targeted at family buyers needs multiple charging points to keep everybody happily charged.
In the HSE trim level, the Discovery is equipped with the Navigation Pro System. It’s reasonably straightforward to operate and reaction times are prompt. Jaguar Land Rover are yet to warm to smartphone mirroring software, however, to offset this a 10GB hard drive is on hand to store your preferred tunes.
The Range Rover influence is strong with the deployment of premium materials. Surface choices are aesthetically pleasing and lovely to touch. The highlight has to be the gorgeous open pore wood, there are lots of different names for this amongst car manufactures, essentially it’s an unvarnished wood that retains a natural appearance. Without varnish, the Natural Shadow Oak in our tester was immune to fingerprints and dust.
It’s a brilliantly executed interior that delivers a premium package with unrivalled versatility and practicality.
For a car chasing astute family buyers, it’s slightly mystifying why the latest safety tech isn’t standard in a model at this price point. The Drive Pro Pack and auto-dimming exterior mirrors need to be optioned to add Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Condition Monitor, Blind Spot Assist, Blind Spot Monitor and Reverse Traffic Detection. This adds a hefty $5200 to the bill.
From behind the wheel, drivers will feel high up. The air-suspension lowers the Discovery by 40mm to allow easier entry and exit. Even at the lowest height, Land Rover’s Command Driving Position does offer a comprehensive view of what lies ahead.
After only a few kilometres of driving the effect of the new lightweight aluminium architecture becomes apparent. The new platform saves some 480kg of weight and this translates to a tangible improvement to the driving experience. The Discovery doesn’t feel like a large cumbersome SUV.
It’s a pleasant car to drive through town. Some credit has to go to the engineers responsible for the steering and chassis calibration, they have employed a setup that disguises the Discovery’s proportions. This is where the new Discovery outshines mainstream Japanese rivals.
The brakes are a bit sensitive, even a very delicate touch of the right foot will have the car brought to an immediate stop. This is an aspect of the driving experience that requires a little getting used to. If the brakes are hit with a modest amount of force, the Discovery has a tendency to lurch forward.
Get the Discovery out on country roads and the electronic air suspension can simply be described as sublime. The car will happily glide along absorbing the undulations in the road.
At highway speeds, the Discovery exhibits the high level of refinement and passenger comfort buyers should expect from a premium brand.
With 190kW of power and 600Nm of torque available, the 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine effortlessly moves the Discovery's mass. Peak torque is available from a lowly 1750rpm. Power is put down through a silky smooth 8-speed ZF automatic.
It’s the delivery of the available power that impresses. There is plenty of low down grunt to get you moving.
To justify spending this sort of coin, adventure seeking must enter the equation. We wanted to test Land Rover’s claim that the new Discovery offered class-leading all-terrain capability. To find a definitive answer the Discovery was subjected to the same off-road tests that we used for the LandCruiser 200.
Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system is very clever. In fact, this off-road technology is so simple to use – it’s virtually foolproof. Turning a dial and a little common sense is all that is needed to cover the majority of off-road driving scenarios.
Bush bashing credentials are strengthened by a two-speed transfer box that provides low range gears. With the additional benefit of the height-adjustable air suspension, there isn’t much the Discovery can’t handle.
We put the Discovery through a challenging off-road course in bushland that surrounds Victoria’s Goulburn River. Slippery tracks along with steep climbs and descents on loose surfaces were conquered without fuss.
The Discovery’s ability to climb makes you question the laws of physics. With an approach angle of 35 degrees and wheel articulation of 500mm, drivers need only to aim for the sun.
In the end, the off-road portion of the test was somewhat anticlimactic. Many of the conditions we subjected the car to would generally be reserved for vehicles modified for off-road use. We expected the Discovery to do well, but even difficult terrain was dispatched in a very methodical manner. It could have been wrapped in a sign that said ‘nothing to see here.'
Our off-road test did make one fact crystal clear, Toyota doesn’t have a mortgage on off-road performance.
During our test week, we were approached by a few punters wanting to inquire about the Discovery’s build quality. Simply put, it’s well screwed together and feels made to take the chocolates in any disagreement with Mother Nature about the best place to pitch a tent.
Another area where the Discovery is on the money is towing. The big wagon can pull up to 3500kg, which lines it up with the best in the business.
This was an extensive test that covered 1321 kilometres across just about every driving condition imaginable. Remarkably, the average fuel consumption figure came in at 8.3L/100km. This is above the ADR claimed figure of 7.2-litres, however for the size and weight of the car and the driving situations we subjected it to it’s an impressive result.
Land Rover supports the new Discovery with a three year/100,000km warranty. To tempt big spenders away from Japanese off-roaders, Land Rover need to bolster this package with at least two more years of coverage. It’s interesting to note American owners enjoy four years but the kilometre limit is reduced to 80,000km.
An area where Land Rover outdoes their premium rivals is maintenance costs. Buyers can purchase a service plan for $2200 that covers the Discovery TD6 HSE for five years/130,000km. With fresh oil required at very convenient 12 months/26,000km intervals, costs average out to a very competitive $440 for each visit back to the dealer.
It is very unlikely any buyer will complete the sales process without selecting few items from the extensive options list. There are a plethora of possibilities to individualise the Discovery. Just ticking a few luxury additions along with the service plan can see the price climb quickly.
Essentially, careful consideration is needed during purchasing. It would be very easy to get carried away. For context, the top-spec Toyota LandCruiser Sahara is listed at $120,590 plus on-road costs. At that price, the Toyota is fully loaded. Now before anyone gets carried away, we are aware Toyota isn’t competing in the premium segment, however, straight out of the wrapper the 200 Series is the Discovery’s primary competitor.
The new Discovery easily outshines the four generations that preceded it. In many ways, this fifth-generation Discovery is now the benchmark. In terms of blending on-road comfort and off-road prowess, the Discovery is a trendsetter. It brings together practicality, comfort and capability to be one of the market’s standout cars. So our initial question has been answered, this is a genuine example of history leading to pedigree.
2017 Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE Specifications
Price from $103,661 plus on-road costs Engine 3.0-litre Td6 diesel Power 190kW @ 3750rpm Torque 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.2L/100km Tank Capacity 85L Length 4970mm Width 2220mm Height 1888mm Wheelbase 2923mm Performance 0-100km 8.1 seconds Turning Circle 12.3m Ground Clearance 283mm Wading Depth 900mm Kerb Weight 2298kg Service Intervals 12 months/26,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre