Hello Land Rover Discovery


One of the vehicle brands I've always liked the idea of owning is Land Rover. Despite being a big fan of the Jeep Wrangler, in particular the TJ generation that I had many years ago, I have always been attracted to the iconic adventure/exploration image of Land Rover worldwide, something not shared by any other brand. What has always put me off is their other reputation, that of reliability or rather a lack of it. However some research suggested that all may not be what it seems when comparing the current vehicles to those even 10 years ago, despite what Internet commenters may think.

We ended up at the Land Rover dealership after initially trying out both a Volvo and an Audi. For various reasons we didn't pull the trigger on either and as we would be passing the Land Rover dealership on the way home it seemed reasonable to stop by.

Given these are expensive vehicles we initially tried out a Range Rover Evoque, the smallest vehicle they make but still a $60k purchase if you go crazy with the options list. I'd always liked the styling of the Evoque which looked like something from the future wen it initially launched, and with the 2nd generation now being available we decided to take one for a drive. I was however a little disappointed in the experience for a vehicle wearing the Range Rover badge, the ride quality was poor and the 4 cylinder turbocharged engine had significant lag off the line and sounded unrefined, characteristics shared by all such engines in my experience. The cargo space was also poor for the price, barely better than the Kia Soul we already had.

The salesman suggested we may want to try the Range Rover Velar as it would solve the space problem, but given it is simply a longer version of the Evoque the other issues remain. Being a larger vehicle the price also increases accordingly pushing over $65k easily so I passed on that.

I then noticed the current generation Land Rover Discovery, previous iterations of which I've always liked. This 5th incarnation is very different to the ones that came before it however. Gone were the flat surfaces and in came the curves, looking to all the world like most other SUV's out on the market. But I fell in love with the look of the front with its wide arches, wrap around lights and air intakes. It looks seriously wide and imposing. The rear is quite controversial featuring an offset licence plate, but I rather liked it. I wasn't so sure that the styling flowed correctly from the front to the back, it was almost like it was designed by different teams, but the only questionable part was the rear 3/4's which looked somewhat bulbous. You soon forget about this when you look inside however where the changes are even more drastic. Gone is the plasticky and square interior of the old model and in is an interior that wouldn't look out of place in any high end luxury car. The designers had clearly raided the Range Rover parts bin for practically everything they could get their hands on. Leather all over the dash and door cards, real metal accents, piano black finishes, ventilated and massaging seats, a screen instead of dash gauges, it just doesn't end. The Discovery has moved upmarket in a big way, it's practically a cut price Range Rover.

Opening the rear liftgate and you're faced with a cavernous cargo area, electrically folding seats (with even a third row) that all fold properly flat. And there is plenty of thoughtful storage throughout the cabin with an upper as well as lower glovebox, deep center console storage (optionally refrigerated), an additional hidden  and deep storage area under the cupholders, a hidden area behind the dashboard HVAC controls, massive door bins for large bottles. You also get large door bins in the second row which can also make use of an upper and lower storage pocket on the back of the front seats, and even the third row gets hidden storage areas at shoulder height. There are bag hooks everywhere and additional net storage pockets plus the usual items like a sunglasses holder and visible storage cubby's in the dash.

 Technology wise the dash gauges are gone replaced with a screen that can display whatever you like, including being an Audi style giant map if that is what you prefer, plus there's an available heads up display. There are voice controls, blind spot monitoring, front collision warning and automatic braking, radar adaptive cruise control, lane keep warning and assist, and even lane centering (so we are approaching Tesla autopilot here) as well as cross traffic monitoring (for backing out of spaces). Speaking of parking you get sensors all around, cameras in every direction and a 360degree view camera giving a top down view. If you still can't park with all that the vehicle can even do it for you whether into a perpendicular space or parallel parking. And it can get itself out too. As mentioned the seats can be folded or raised electrically by buttons in the back on the trunk, on the front touchscreen, from buttons on the c-pillar or by an app on your phone. That same app can remote start the vehicle, lock and unlock as well as open and close windows to name just a few things. No matter which seat you're sitting in you're guaranteed at least 1 USB port to yourself even with all 7 passengers. The sound system, with multiple speakers and a sub woofer is only average at best compared to the likes of the B&W system you can optionally spec in a Volvo, but while that sounds amazing it does cost over $4,000 vs $800 for the Meridian Surround system in the Land Rover. The navigation system gets live traffic updates over the internet and can display Google maps style satellite imagery and speaking of Google, Android Auto is also present and so is Apple CarPlay. Naturally the usual features such as electric folding mirrors and powered lift gate are present but the Discovery allows you to open said lift gate with a wave of your foot if your hands are full, and the mirrors are heated as is the windshield and washer nozzles.

Comfort is delivered in spades with excellent sound deadening, sound and UV filtering glass as well as air ride suspension, electrically adjustable seats in the first two rows, heated seats in all 3 rows with cooling seats in the first two. All three rows also get their own air vents with the second row getting independent adjustment for each side (so 4-zone climate). The front row also gets massaging and memory options. Almost everything can be electrically adjusted on the front seats, even the headrests and how tightly the bolsters grip you. The only missing adjustment I'd like to see is an extending front cushion. The airline style adjustable wings on the headrests are a nice additional touch though. There are some additional convenience features like a rear inner tailgate that folds down and is carpeted so a nice seat for tailgating, plus the vehicle will lower itself automatically to make getting in and out easier (often a problem with SUV's) as well as for loading cargo easier.

A diesel engine is available but we opted for the gas which is a 3.0L V6 with a supercharger generating 340HP and 332lbft of torque. Fuel economy is only 16 city, 21 highway but anecdotally we were seeing figures 2-3mpg better than that. In return for this thirst for (premium) fuel you can get to 60mpg in 6.9 seconds on your way to a top speed of 130mph. Those numbers are not amazing but that wasn't Land Rover's target for this vehicle, unlike its competitors though you can tow up to 8,200lbs which is better than anything other than a pickup truck (or pickup truck based SUV) and it comes with trailer stability control amongst other helpful towing features.

 Where Land Rovers really shine though is in off-road ability, something not prioritized by most of their competitors. With the exception of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Mercedes G-Wagon, no other vehicle can go where the Discovery can go. The computerized traction system called Terrain Response 2 is about two generations ahead of anyone other brand and with a standard center locking differential and optional rear looking diff added into that mix if you can't get traction in the Discovery you're not getting it in anything else either. Care has been taken to maximize the approach/breakover/departure angles via the air suspension which lifts the vehicle even higher off road for better ground clearance and unlike similar systems from other manufacturers does not make the suspension rock hard when it does so. The air suspension which helps make the vehicle so good off-road is also what makes it so good on road, whereas the same can't be said the Wrangler and G-Wagon which use solid axles and regular steel springs that are tuned for off road use and give a poor ride on the road. In addition, the Discovery can wade through 900mm (~3 feet) of water, something no other SUV can do. Not even close in fact.

When you take everything into account, the luxury, the practicality, the technology and the off-road capability, this must be one of the absolute best overall SUV's money can buy. The base price is in the mid $50k's but you don't get much for that and you can easily reach the $75k ours cost as configured above. At first it may seem expensive but when you look at the rest of the market can you find anything else that offers all the things we've discovered for less? I couldn't, and that's why we bought it.


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