How does today’s refined Land Rover Discovery live up to the reputation of the great British trekker brand? One known for rugged adventure over all terrain in exotic places? The Land Rover brand has become synonymous with sophisticated luxury and has become an aspirational luxury car for many suburbanites, and it can tow and explore like the Royal leader it is.
The first thing that I heard as I got into the 2018 Land Rover Discovery parked on my suburban Washington DC Street, was how envious the local Moms will be as this is the SUV to aspire too. Moms are one tough demographic to make happy, so the Disco has a tough job on its hands. I asked a local Mom who owns one to go for a spin with me. The first question was: “What model is this?” My response was, “You drive one of these, and I hear this is the car that all the Mom’s in the ‘hood want.” “No, this one is much nicer than mine, Mine is very basic.” Indeed, they turned out to be very similar, just a year and a trim line apart.
A local Dad, the owner of a five-year-old Ford Explorer, commented on the similarities of touch feel and operation of this model to the upline classic American SUV. Finding out that much of the drive controls were similar showed me that though Ford’s ownership was a number of years past, the influence is still strong today, and in many ways timeless. Which is good for a brand that had the reputation of being in the shop more than it was on the road.
Driving the Discovery around town as well as taking it on an extended highway trip shows this is one comfortable cruiser, even for its large size. Did I mention that this test model was powered by a turbo diesel engine?
Diesel Driver Envy
Almost as soon as I pulled into a country fueling station, and the first thing I heard when I got out to pump, “Is that a diesel?” from a bearded, big pickup driving local. “That is the quietest diesel I have ever heard.” Which generated a long discussion of what diesels he had owned. “I used to have that,” he said proudly, though with a sense of sadness in his voice as a Ford Power Stroke® pulled in behind us, loudly clattering away. I shared with him that the Land Rover was at one time owned by Ford. That made him smile, as he jumped back into his mud covered burly pickup.
While here in the USA, diesel engines are thought to be for trucks and the oddball who wants one in a luxury car has only a few options. Land Rover has put this bad-boy of automotive engines to work in its line up including the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The diesel-powered Discovery Td6 achieves 21 mpg city 26 highway with a combined 22.5 combined fuel economy for the powerful 254HP 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine. And this diesel is tow-ready with the Rover® Tow Package, 7,716 lbs maximum permissible towing capacity. class two hitch and all the connections
Pristine and Refined
No doubt Land Rovers have seen their share of muck boots, Wellies, and fine leather, as this is the brand of choice for the equestrian crowd. And with the towing capacity of this diesel-powered Landy, it could easily have been towing a horse trailer to field trails, fox hunts, and horse shows. Though back at the stable any number of farm pickups would be keeping the barn’s field operation in motion.
What we liked
What is not to like about the elegance of Land Rover’s line of vehicles? A British Icon that was granted a Royal Warrant in 1951 and has been providing rugged off-road capable vehicles since. Today the brand is part of Jaguar Land Rover with that added luxury, an air of elegance, on top of the proven Land Rover toughness, Rovers attract owners of an income level who are less concerned about the cost of ownership and more about the sense of luxurious style the brand offers.
Classic Landy’s as they are called from the original British Leyland era are quite collectible and still on the road due to their aluminum bodies and determined mechanics who keep them running. You even see models from the years they were thought to be mechanical nightmares because Land Rover owners love them so much, and do not want to part with one.
Overall Fit and Finish
We were quite impressed with this vehicle. The fit and finish, as well as the quality of materials, are top notch. While we heard from other auto journalists that the slab rear loins of the vehicle were a bit chunky, it did not appear out of proportion to our eye, considering that it covered a large well-appointed interior that had a very good use of space.
We liked the design of both the exterior and interior and especially the feel of the dash material. And impressed with the thought that went into the storage areas and power outlets throughout the vehicle. Heated and cooled seats are available in the front, middle and the third row. Up front, seats with a massage function and 16-way adjustment are also available. Since this is a family vehicle, a total of four ISOFIX mounting points make it possible to fit child safety seats in the rearmost row. And for those who do not require the added versatility of folding third-row seats, Discovery comes standard in a five-seat, 2-row configuration.
With three rows of seats, the second row slides forward and backward allowing access to the Discovery’s distinctive high roof and trademark stadium seating in the third row. This allows for even for 74.8” tall passengers to sit comfortably with visibility as well as leg and shoulder room.
Driveability of the vehicle
While this vehicle is roomy on the inside and large on the outside, 195.7 in. long, 87.4 in. wide (mirrors out) and 72.7 in. tall. The Discovery rides capably on large 21-inch tires. We found driveability and highway handling excellent, tracking well and holding the road, and very maneuverable with a tight 40.4-foot turning radius. Visibility is very good on the vehicle in tight spaces or out on the open road, with plenty of glass space, and the added modern safety feature of cameras and sensors.
A taut suspension is quite comfortable even on rough roads, and the Four-Corner Air Suspension adjustable advanced integral-link rear suspension system suspension makes it easy to get in and out of and provides adjustable ride height for on and off-road conditions.
Air suspension is designed to improve on-road ride quality and greater capability when off-roading. The automatic system is able to vary between two ride heights of +1.57 in. and +2.95 in. At speeds below 31mph the +2.95 in. the setting is available; for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 31- 50mph the vehicle will operate at +1.57 in. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhanced fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height at cruising speeds above 65mph. Other functions include enhanced tuning to prevent the suspension from lowering in deep wading conditions, as well as preventing belly-out situations where the center of the vehicle rests on the ground.
Permanent four-wheel drive with standard locking center differential and Terrain Response™, optional locking rear differential provided traction no matter the weather or terrain.
Front seats were extremely comfortable, while the 2nd and 3rd were hard and plank-like. The third row is not easy to crawl into, though with its raised stadium style seating once back there you have a commanding view of the cabin, being higher, over the rear axle than the 2nd or 1st row. This is the reason for the trademark Land Rover stepped up Roofline, giving 3rd-row passengers headroom. Both rear seating rows had access to power and to HVAC controls, as well as plenty of storage, and heated seats. Nice Touch!
What we found odd and irritating
The unintuitive controls, and very in-depth on-screen menus. This is not a vehicle that you want to try and figure out what the different controls do while driving, as they can distracting as they are long and involved. The start-stop button is large, just that it is hidden behind the right side of the steering wheel, and a smaller button that opens a cubby button behind the center dash is visible, we found ourselves opening that cubby when thinking it was the start-stop button.
The unpredictability of turning the engine off after putting the vehicle into park, sometimes, it would just decide on its owns to shut the engine off beyond just pushing the ignition start-stop button, and do it without rhyme or reason. Maybe it was because we had done something else that told the vehicle to shut down, never quite figured that out. Speaking of random, recognition of the key fob was intermittent. Sometimes the key would be behind a phone in a pocket, and by pulling would be enough for the car to recognize it. It could have needed a new fob battery.
Land Rover Dealers have been focused on the brand through thick and thin, and through a number of corporate owners. Now Land Rover/Range Rover is owned by Tata along with Jaguar, a very focused group who are making the brand better with each vehicle they produce.
Let us not forget the Royal Land Rover
launched in 1948 and simply called Land Rover, the design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks with early choices limited to various shades of light green colour as dictated by supplies of military surplus aircraft cockpit paint. Land Rover was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI. Since then you often see the brand being used by Royalty the world over.
The essence of the brand, you have to like what you drive, and driving a Land Rover has some cache to it, a brand that has contoured and explored the world. We found ourselves at home in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery. For $68K, you get a powerful and attractive vehicle that has a timeless design, and with the diesel powerplant, a great tow vehicle. Take it to the stable, off road, the concert hall, or to the school carpool line, sign us up, we will be glad to drive this one again.
Words and Images(except where noted) by William West Hopper.
Land Rover USA provided us the opportunity to test drive this vehicle for a week-long evaluation to produce this report. We were not compensated for this article.