They say it never rains in L.A., but I’m not going to buy that. On February 17, Mother Nature dropped over 7 inches of water on the city within the span of a few hours, sending the metropolitan area into bedlam and destroying numerous vehicles. It was a tempest the likes of which Los Angeles natives had not seen in 20 years. And Land Rover was hell-bent on getting us out of town before the storm made landfall.
Fortunately, we escaped the squall just in time. Upon touching down in Utah we immediately set about doing what all of us had been sent there to do: test driving and learning about the all-new Land Rover Discovery. It was to be of one of the wildest drive events in recent memory, and over the course of the next two days we would put the seven-seat British SUV through an array of environments and elements.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this SUV, the Discovery has been a crucial cog in the Land Rover machine since it first launched in 1989. From its humble beginnings as a vehicle that favored 4×4 prowess over luxurious amenities, to the outgoing model, which appeals to both wealthy soccer moms and safari enthusiasts, alike, the capability and practicality found within any generation cannot be ignored.
After covering over 500 miles in the span of two days in the new Discovery, it was apparent Land Rover has something special on its hands with this latest generation of kid-friendly seven-seater. It’s a family car of the year front-runner like no other. And in order to prove this point, here are 10 reasons why SUV shoppers should seriously consider one when they go on sale later this year.
1. Power to the people
The latest Land Rover Discovery can be outfitted with either a supercharged V6 gasoline engine or a turbo-diesel alternative for an additional $2,000. Both powerplants come paired to a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, which buyers will find to be both snappy and smooth. Gasoline models offer horsepower that peaks at the 340 mark, with 332 pound-feet of torque directly below, and Td6 diesel versions harness 254 ponies while delivering 443 pound-feet of twist from 1,750 RPM onward.
This means towing capabilities now reach 8,201 pounds. And with the help of “Advanced Tow Assist,” drivers can now easily tackle trailer reversing via the rotary controller on the Terrain Response 2 system. As far as fuel efficiency ratings go, buyers can expect to see around 23 mile per gallon averages from the supercharged V6, and about 32 in the diesel.
2. There’s not a bad seat in the house
One of the most unique attributes on the latest Discovery is its available Intelligent Seat Fold technology. This allows the reconfiguration of both second- and third-row seats by toggling switches in the rear cargo hold, from within the center touchscreen or remotely via a smartphone app, an industry first. All three rows can also be fit with heating elements, with ventilated options cooling passengers in both first and second row seats. Massaging options are also available for both drivers and front passengers, and air suspension permits easy access thanks to a 1.57-inch drop that’s automatically engaged when the vehicle is placed in park.
Another nice touch is the Windsor leather upholstery, which rewards buyers with stylish and supple seating surfaces, complete with color accents and contrast stitching. There’s also a lot of leg and headroom, and even the raised third row can comfortably accommodate 6-foot-framed individuals thanks to its stadium seating design. For owners that require full cargo capacity, both rear benches can be electronically folded flat within 14 seconds.
3. It’s still filthy-minded …
The Land Rover team has long been revered for its ability to create some of the most capable all-terrain vehicles on the planet. In the latest Discovery, this translates to ground clearance ratings that peak at 11.1 inches (an increase of 1.7 inches over the outgoing LR4 ), which allows maximum wading depths to reach 35.4 inches, an increase of 7.9 inches over the old model.
This latest generation also features some of the most comprehensive off-road driving features available on the market today. Land Rover’s new Terrain Response 2 system sports a wide range of settings, with adjustability for everything from throttle sensitivity to gear changes being easily optimized with the turn of a knob. There’s also an All-Terrain Progress Control setup that can be programmed to hold various crawl speeds, thus leaving steering to the driver. With both throttle and brake pedals set aside, jumping from a standstill in the snow or climbing a muddy mountain has never been easier.
4. … While upholding strong family values
The new Discovery shows its affinity for family life by featuring up to six 12V charging points, nine optional USB sockets, dual rear entertainment screens, and that raised third row for ample viewing of the open road in order to reduce car sickness. There’s also four ISOFIX mounting points for clipping child safety seats in either rear bench. And because the third row has been designed to accommodate the 95th percentile of adults, there’s plenty of space in the far back for the average teenager.
Within the rear you’ll find a fold-down panel toward the back of the load area that operates as both a restraint to keep items from falling out of the 11-inch tailgate once it is electronically lowered. Dropping the panel down transforms it into a bench that can hold up to three adults, a features that mimics the horizontally split tailgate in old Land Rovers, but with a much smaller, smarter footprint.
5. Tech nerds unite
Land Rover has installed the all-new InControl Touch Pro on the latest Discovery, which can be outfitted with an optional infotainment system. By opting for the Touch Pro upgrade buyers get things, such as a larger 10-inch touchscreen, a setup that drastically reduces the amount of switches on the center console by a third. This system features crisp graphics, sharply illustrated menus, the latest navigation and entertainment technologies, and smartphone shareable directions for when one must complete their journey on foot. There’s also both iOS and Android connectivity, a 17-speaker Meridian digital surround sound system, and optional on-board Wi-Fi.
But one of the neatest tech features is the Activity Key wristband, which first made its debut on the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace and allows customers to enjoy outdoor activities without the need for keys. By merely holding the waterproof wristband up to the letter D on the liftgate, owners can lock or unlock their Discovery, leaving them free to do as they please completely key fob-free.
6. Small stuff adds up in a big way
There are a lot of small touches that warrant mentioning, starting with Land Rover’s dedication to incorporating beautiful natural oak trim pieces throughout the cabin. This isn’t that high-gloss, super smooth linoleum-looking stained stuff either, but more of the rustic and imperfection-riddled farmhouse stock, which contrasts beautifully with the soft touch Oxford leather padding beside it.
Other small but significant notables include the contrast leather piping along leather seams, massaging seat functions, Land Rover placards within door moldings, and metal paddle shifters that match various control knobs. Speaking of switches, we found the deployable trailer hitch to be a brilliant design, as well as the climate controls, which can be accessed either via the touchscreen or with dial knobs, which also have their own digital read-outs and touch interfaces.
7. Quality and value meet safety and practicality
In total, Land Rover has sold over 1.2 million Discoveries since its introduction in 1989, and a key contributing factor to this success has been the brand’s ability to seamlessly blend quality, value, safety, and practicality into a single package. The all-new Discovery builds on these core values by utilizing the kinds of materials typically reserved for royalty and then offering them in a 4×4 machine with a starting price of $49,990.
Land Rover has ditched the old LR4’s steel ladder construction in favor of a much stronger and lighter aluminum architecture, which once paired with a few crucial magnesium components, cuts more than 1,000 pounds from the vehicle’s curb weight. Coupled with an advanced integral link rear suspension, the lighter and stronger chassis offers improved handling, safety, ride comfort, and echelon levels of off-road prowess.
8. Give us some space
According to Land Rover, the brand’s design team has “an addiction to storage,” which is emphasized by all of the secret 007-like stow spots found within the Discovery. The cooled center console can now hold a duo of 2-liter beverages, and a hidden cubby beneath the front cup holders is large enough to hold five tablets and features a lid that doubles as a functional armrest.
There’s also a hidden storage space behind the fold-down climate control panel, as well as a spring-loaded bag hook on the passenger’s side of the center stack footwell for hanging purses and shopping bags. It also offers 82.7 cubic-feet of load capacity, or 45 cubic-feet of space behind the second row, as well as pockets and hooks to house additional goods.
9. British creativity encourages sexy styling
Land Rover will be unleashing 529 limited-run “First Edition” models in the United States, which will sport exclusive etched map detailing on the aluminum trim along the doors and dashboard, unique badges, and custom color choices. There will also be a Dynamic Design Pack upgrade, which gives the fifth generation Discovery a contrasting roof, more aggressive bumpers, unique leather upholstery, and a race-inspired steering wheel and pedals.
But with the normal HSE model looking spectacular right out of the gate as is, with its finely sculpted proportions and 21-inch alloy wheels, there’s little to dislike about the average Discovery’s appearance. The iconic stepped roofline is still there, too, and so are things, such as undercarriage shields and tucked exhaust components, reminding buyers this isn’t just a luxury SUV, but a purpose-built off-road animal with manners.
10. Going above and beyond all expectations
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from our two-day stint with the latest Discovery was how smoothly it handled every condition it encountered. From driving in the pounding rain on city streets and climbing mountain passes amidst blizzard-like conditions, to rock-crawling, sand dune adventuring, water-fording, and mud-slinging, this SUV pushed onward without complaint.
It’s also worth noting all of these adventures were undertaken with stock 21-inch wheels and all-season Goodyear Eagle tires, a compound that is more known for ride comfort than off-road control. Even in the bumpiest, harshest environments this vehicle delivered a ride that was equal parts comfortable and rattle-free, a testament to what the ideal balance between capability and quality feels like. Land Rover truly has proven that this time around it really has gone above and beyond.