Its shape might not have changed much since 2004, but the Land Rover Discovery has been freshly updated for 2015. New headlights, improved infotainment and a simpler range means the top diesel engine now comes as standard.
What hasn’t altered is the Disco’s ability to conquer almost any terrain, seat seven people and tow a 3,500kg braked trailer.
The Discovery is now sold exclusively with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel boasting 245bhp, a wise decision by Land Rover as it suits this 4x4 to a tee and there’s no real market for a thirsty petrol Discovery in Britain. It also changes this car’s character, because despite it being one of the more workmanlike models in the range, it now has pretty much the same powertrain as the Range Rover and Jaguar XJ, making it feel significantly more upmarket than before.
Its eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and quick to respond to the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel (should you decide to use them). Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 9.3 seconds, with a top speed of 112mph, but the Discovery feels quicker than these figures suggest on the move, because getting its prodigious kerb weight of 2,570kg off the line blunts its initial sprint. Overtaking slower traffic isn't a problem.
Ride and Handling
This is one seriously capable off-roader, with most never coming close to experiencing its full abilities
We expected the Discovery to be difficult to drive in town, but its raised seating position, huge windows and reversing camera actually make it easy to position in traffic, while its reasonable turning circle also helps. Out on the open road the Discovery is planted through long corners and can keep up a reasonable pace. It’s less comfortable tackling a series of sharp bends, where its weight and slow steering means you need to put in some effort twirling the steering wheel and expect some body roll. The air suspension system helps soak up bumps and can lift the Discovery further off the ground to aid serious off-roading. There’s also an ‘Access’ mode which drops the car to aid loading and getting in and out. This is one seriously capable off-roader, with most never coming close to experiencing its full abilities. Suffice to say, it can automatically detect different types of terrain and adjust the four-wheel drive system to help you get across it.
Interior and Equipment
In 2014 a team of drivers and Discovery’s crossed the USA using as few tarmac roads as possible. The 4,000-mile route took 27 days to complete and over 85 per cent was travelled on unpaved terrain.
The Discovery’s interior is both luxurious and utilitarian, which is a tough combination to pull off. Materials in the upper cabin are expensive and the leather steering wheel, gauges and infotainment system all look very plush. But, there’s a chunkiness to most of the controls, making them easy to use, even when wearing gloves. Materials lower in the cabin are less attractive, but should be tough enough to cope with wear and tear. Every version comes with seven seats, with even the third row being large enough for most adults. The huge boot is accessed by a split tailgate, which doubles up as a great impromptu picnic table. In five-seat configuration the boot measures 1,124 litres, while folding the middle row flat gives just under 2,000 litres of space. Trim levels are SE, SE Tech, HSE and HSE Luxury, with even the SE model getting Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, a heated front windscreen and air suspension. Upgrading to SE Tech adds an enhanced sound system, leather seats, sat-nav and front parking sensors, while HSE ups the ambience with heated seats, wooden trim, keyless entry and twin sunroofs. The HSE Luxury should keep kids happy with two DVD screens mounted in the headrests.
In terms of running costs, the Discovery is quite expensive, returning just 35mpg and emitting 213g/km of CO2
The Discovery costs from between £41k for the SE and just under £60k for the range-topper, so it’s no longer quite the working vehicle it once was. However, rivals including the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 are just as pricey, with the latter starting from around £46k. In terms of running costs, the Discovery is quite expensive, returning just 35mpg and emitting 213g/km of CO2. The X5 25d is able to return 50mpg and emits 149g/km, and has better acceleration. Thanks to affordable servicing plans the X5 should also be cheaper to maintain than the Land Rover.
Despite its hefty weight and resultant stiff running costs, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Discovery. Its striking design, huge seven-seat cabin and awesome off-roading abilities make you feel like joining an expedition. The Audi Q7 and BMW X5 might be better road cars (and cheaper to run), but they don’t boast the character or breadth of abilities of the Disco.