The Land Rover Discovery is all-new for 2017, supplanting the previous-generation LR4. In the relatively recent history of the British Land Rover company, the Discovery occupied a prominent, indeed iconic, position. Last called Discovery in the U.S. for 2004, it was renamed LR3 then LR4. Now, for the 2017 model year, the Discovery nameplate has re-emerged.
Following the same basic design as the Discovery Sport that debuted for 2015, the larger Discovery is built upon a totally different platform. Longer and wider, it presents a more imposing stance. Sharp angles and flat body panels of previous models are gone. Instead, the 2017 Discovery exhibits a softer profile, more crossover than SUV in character. The Discovery is in fact a close relative of the big, aluminum-bodied Range Rover.
In addition to providing seating comfort for up to seven passengers, the Discovery stands ready to deliver impeccable behavior. Whether off-road or on pavement, drivers can expect the sort of experience for which the brand has long been heralded.
Three trim levels are offered: SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury. Early-production models may be fitted with a First Edition package.
Buyers can select either a gasoline or diesel engine. The gas version is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6, seen in previous models, rated at 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard, coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
For HSE or HSE Luxury models, an additional $2,000 buys a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, ready to generate 254 horsepower and a 443 pound-feet wallop of torque. With its resounding low-end vigor, the diesel performs especially well. SE and First Editions come only with the gasoline V6.
Available safety features include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. One optional system can nudge the vehicle into its proper lane, in case drifting is detected. Another system can read speed-limit signs.
All models can be equipped with a surround-view camera system. Off-road, it can alert the driver to rocks and boulders ahead. We recommend getting it.
Land Rover Discovery Supercharged SE ($49,990) comes with leather-upholstered 12-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, parking sensors, 19-inch wheels, and a fixed glass roof. A Capability group with two-speed transfer case, air suspension, and Terrain Response 2 system costs $1,500 extra. Seven-passenger seating, with air suspension and two-speed transfer case, adds $2,150. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $995 destination charge.)
Discovery Supercharged HSE ($56,950) adds 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, 380-watt Meridian audio, navigation with 10-inch screen, three-zone climate control, and a panoramic moonroof. Land Rover’s turbodiesel engine adds $2,000.
Discovery Supercharged HSE Luxury ($63,950) includes a two-speed transfer case, air suspension, i825-watt Meridian audio, seven-passenger seating, and leather-trimmed dashboard. The turbodiesel V6 adds $2,000.
Discovery Supercharged First Edition ($73,950), painted orange with black accents, includes just about all available features, plus 21-inch wheels.
Discovery has abandoned the boxy, angular look and distinctive roofline of its predecessor, but Land Rover design cues remain. Stretched-rearward LED headlights flank a sweptback mesh grille.
Toward the rear, the roof contains a hump, but it’s considerably smaller than before. Available painted in contrasting silver or black, the roof promises a little more head clearance for third-row occupants. Unlike the split tailgate of LR3/LR4 models, the Discovery version is a single unit.
Overall, the redesigned model comes across as a sizable crossover rather than a utilitarian SUV. While handsome and upscale in appearance, flaunting fender vents, the revived Discovery doesn’t stand out as forcefully from the crossover/SUV crowd.
The power tailgate opens with a kick of the foot.
Not many vehicles approach the melding of practical nature and luxury detailing found within a Land Rover product. In refinement and flexibility, the Discovery echoes its predecessors. Soft-touch materials include a padded dashboard top, though door panels contain hard plastics.
A Discovery may be ordered with five or seven seats. The second row is roomy for three, though seating is lower than expected. The 40/20/40 split-folding bench can be moved forward to expand third-row room. Two adults can ride in comfort out back, without suffering snug head or leg room.
Cargo volume totals 82.7 cubic feet behind the front seats, 45 cubic feet behind the second row, but little space if all seatbacks are upright.
Few traditional switches and knobs occupy the boxy dashboard, except for climate and Terrain Response off-roading controls. A rotary knob selects the transmission gear. The outstanding infotainment system features a colorful interface and wide touchscreen. A wireless hotspot is available, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is not.
Both engines and the ZF-supplied transmission perform brilliantly. The gasoline engine provides smooth acceleration and bountiful passing power, but rumbles even more than the diesel when idling. Passengers probably won’t hear the diesel engine, but its clatter is noticeable when outside. Diesel torque output peaks at low engine speed, and the driver can feel a refined power burst.
Whether on-pavement or off-road, handling can most accurately be described as phenomenal, made possible by accurate electronic power steering. Few vehicles approach the Discovery’s masterful balance of on- and off-road capabilities. Ride comfort ranks as glorious. The air suspension (if installed) simply smothers modest pavement flaws, while subduing sizable potholes with minimal notice to passengers.
Land Rover offers a number of valuable off-road features, but most of them cost extra. That height-adjustable air suspension is best for serious off-roading. Touching a button increases the regular 11.1-inch ground clearance to 12.8 inches. Water-fording depth reaches 35.4 inches. Approach and departure angles also expand.
Discovery SE and HSE models have a single-speed transfer case. A two-speed unit is available for more severe duties. Choosing Terrain Response 2 adds a batch of traction-control modes, including a helpful automatic setting.
For a vehicle that can approach 5,000 pounds, the Discovery is almost thrifty, especially with diesel power. Partial credit goes to switching from a boxy body, losing nearly 1,000 pounds in the process. The gasoline V6 is EPA-rated at 16/21 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. The turbodiesel is rated at 21/26 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. A start/stop system shuts the engine off at stoplights.
Searching for a better-balanced SUV or crossover would be a futile effort. A substantial price must be paid for such capabilities, but the cachet of the Land Rover brand should ease the pain of paying more. Still, adding some of that worthy but optional off-road technology raises the total price quickly.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.