Car Reviews

2018 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

Robert Pepper’s 2018 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review and off-road test with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The new Land Rover Discovery remains the premium off-road wagon to beat.

2018 Land Rover Discovery 

Pricing from $65,690+ORC (five-seat S) – $117,461.40+ORC (seven-seat HSE Luxury) and $131,871.40+ORC (First Edition) Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres (additional 12-24 months extended warranty available) Safety five-star ANCAP and Euro NCAP Engines 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel power, 132kW @ 4000rpm, torque 430Nm @ 1500rpm; 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel power, 177kW @ 4000rpm, torque 500Nm @ 1500rpm; 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel power, 190kW @ 3750rpm, torque 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic with command shift Drive permanent four-wheel drive with computer-controlled centre clutch, Terrain Response adaptive terrain system, low range (some variants), optional rear locking differential Dimensions 4974mm (L); 1846mm (H); 2073mm – mirrors in (W); wheelbase 2923mm Turning Circle 12.7m (wall to wall) Ground Clearance Normal height: 210mm. Off-road 2 height: approx 250mm. Off-road 1 height: 284mm. Up to 70mm beyond 284 through Extended and Super Extended modes. Angles Normal height: approach angle 26, ramp 21.2, departure 25.5 degrees; Off-road 1 height: approach angle 34, ramp 27.5, departure 30 degrees Wading depth 900mm Towing 2.0L Td4 3000kg as tested, rest of range 3500kg Max towball mass 350kg Fuel Tank 77 litres (2.0L), 85L (3.0L)

FIRST OFF, this is not the Discovery 5. It’s the “All-New Discovery” and will be for a few more months, then it’ll likely become known simply as, “Discovery”. Naturally, this causes a problem for us enthusiasts who need to differentiate between the various versions of Discovery, so we’ll call this one after its chassis code of L462, as compared to the previous model which was the L319. More on that here.

What is the all-new Land Rover Discovery?

Whatever you call it, this vehicle is indeed the fifth-generation of Discovery. It is all-new, the first really new Discovery since the Discovery 2 was replaced by the Discovery 3 in 2005. That was when the Discovery moved from dual live axles with coils to fully-independent air suspension, and relied entirely on highly sophisticated electronics, a complete change of direction that had the Land Rover faithful spitting their tobacco through their beards all over their anoraks and muttering about how they’d just got used to power steering.

This new L462 isn’t anything like the step change from Discovery 2 to 3. I usually avoid cliches like the plague, but it’s more evolution than revolution, certainly on the mechanical front. The new car retains the fully-independent air suspension, has the Terrain Response adaptive terrain system and an 8-speed torque-convertor automatic. Perhaps the biggest change is one you can’t see but you can feel, and it’s very welcome – weight. The L462 weighs up to 480kg less than L319, but in reality usually 200-300kg less, and its one of the first serious off-roaders to reduce significant amounts of weight. Let’s hope it’s not the last.

The previous L319 model had an asymmetric tailgate so its offset numberplate made sense. On the current L462 model there’s no reason for the offset. But you can see here how clean the underbody is. The vehicle is in Offroad 1 height, +75mm higher than normal height.

The L319 Discovery occupied a small but important niche in the 4×4 landscape in Australia. Land Rover’s clear goal for many years has been to create cool, sexy and technologically advanced premium-grade off-road vehicles, and it’s the clear leader when it comes to off-road tech. As such, the Discovery L319 is a highly capable off-roader, makes a great base as a tourer with lots of aftermarket gear, and is a premium vehicle. Whether the new Discovery L462 can continue in this niche is the question this review has to answer.

To begin, here’s how the Discovery’s length in mm compares to its predecessors and some competitor vehicles:

  • Pajero Sport 4785mm;
  • Fortuner 4795;
  • MU-X 4825;
  • Discovery L319 4838;
  • Everest 4892;
  • Pajero 4900*;
  • Prado 4930*;
  • Discovery L462 4974;
  • LC200 4990; and
  • Nissan Patrol Y62 5140.

 * includes rear-mounted spare, allowance made for actual body length.

So while people think of the LC200 and Patrol as big, the Discovery L319 was as big and as capable, and this new L462 is 136mm longer. Notably, the turning circle has also increased, from 11.8 to 12.7m, probably due to the wheelbase change from 2885mm to 2923mm.

There are now five specifications of Discovery and three engines, excluding the top-spec SVX. There’s the Td4 132kW / 430Nm, Sd4 177kw / 500Nm , and the Td6 V6 190kW / 600Nm. Our tester was a 2018 Discovery 2.0 Td4 HSE on loan for a week, and in that time we did some dirt-road work, off-road and the usual bitumen runs. Here’s out test car details:

 

We also took the car out with a group of L319 owners, and an owner of a L462 with the locking rear differential tagged along too. This review reflects the views of that group.

What’s the interior like?

The front of the Discovery is a lovely place to be. The seats are plenty adjustable, the interior is stylish and one great feature is the storage options, at least in the HSE model.

You’ve got two gloveboxes, a hidden compartment behind the infotainment unit, and a big centre console which has a sub-lid that moves with the top lid, as distinct from a removeable one which can get lost or knocked over. There’s two door sidepockets, but they could be a bit bigger. Nevertheless, the Discovery’s storage design up front is first class. And another great design point is the plethora of 12v sockets and USB ports, 5V versions for fast charging, and with proper lids too. Good work by Land Rover, and the only thing missing is a 220v outlet.

Really good to see three separate compartments, all practical.

Moving into the second row we have spacious seats in a 40:60 split with a centre seat fold-down – have a look at the interior gallery below. On our tester the seat back angles are electrically adjustable, and the seats can be slid fore and aft manually. There is no tumble-forward option, and the seats don’t fold completely flat. 

There are useful heat/cool controls for the rear, two USB sockets – yay – and a little centre storage compartment. There are also two pockets on the back of the front seats. Happily, the centre seat seatbelt is anchored on the seat, not in the ceiling so it doesn’t get in the way when you fill the boot.

The third row is a 50:50 split, again electrically operated on our test car. Each rear seat occupant gets a small storage compartment and, of course a 5V USB outlet. If Land Rover can get this right, why is it so hard for the others? There’s sufficient space for an adult, provided the second row occupants are prepared to sacrifice a bit of space through the seat-back angle or by sliding the seat forwards a touch, although it isn’t as spacious as the previous model, mostly due to the lower roofline.

With the rear seats folded down there’s what looks to be a spacious boot, and it is, on the floor. But you look up and discover that the sloping roof and narrowing sides create a rear-body taper that significantly restricts storage space compared to what it could be, and compared to the shape of the boot in the L319. However, it’s not a small boot and still sufficiently large for touring.

On the positive side, again Land Rover has managed to do something simple very well and that is the tie-down points. There are four, all of which are recessed, extremely strong, fold down flat and positioned right at the corners. 

Then we come to the tail-gate. Here we have something unique. The electric tailgate is one-piece lift up, and there is an ‘inner powered tailgate’ which folds up vertically and down horizontally. If you open the boot by gesture control it’ll fold down as the tailgate goes up, but if you use the tailgate button it stays up.

Is the this new design good or bad? The answer is both, in my opinion. There are many different styles of tail-gate, each of which has pros and cons, and there’s a fair bit of personal preference too. This new design offers a handy micro-table or seat, and also means that things don’t fall out of the back as soon as the tail-gate is lifted.

We asked our panel of touring off-roaders and consensus was it’d certainly work, with a general feeling that it was an improvement over a pure single-tailgate setup.

With both the second- and third-row seats folded down there’s around 2000mm of loadspace up to the back of the front-row seats, although it’s not completely level. You can change the height of the rear using the air suspension controls at the back of the car too,which is useful for loading and unloading gear into the back. 

It is notable that everything on our test car is electrically operated from the second-row backwards except for the fore-aft second-row slide. This approach has pros and cons. On the pro side, it’s easy for anyone to operate the seats with minimal effort, and there’s even an app for that. Elderly people, ill people and small children often have difficulty changing seats around, as do adults with their one or more hands full. On the con side, the electrics are slow, add extra weight, and in the case of the Discovery there’s odd refusals to operate for no apparent reason. Several times we’d press a button and nothing would happen, press it again or wait and the car reacted. So while there are definite advantages to an electric interior for a suburban family, for a touring off-roader we’d prefer to ditch the electric motors and do it all manually. As you’ll see from the range walkthrough below, the electric seats are an option.

So that’s the tour of the Discovery’s interior, and now for the verdict. There are several strong points such as the power outlets, front storage and rear tie-down points, plus some rare innovation for a car interior with the inner tailgate. There are no real deal breakers either, everything is average or above average. It’d work well as a 7-seater, albeit not as the best in class any more, the XC90 takes that crown.

Click any image to start the Discovery interior photo gallery.

What’s the infotainment like?

Land Rover is now running a new generation of infotainment on its vehicles but it’s still a way off the best on the market. There’s no genuinely useful innovations or anything to make it stand out, other than the 4×4 information display which is interesting but not all that useful in practice.

There are too many taps required to select things such as different audio sources; some icons are too small, and the navigation requires you to know the postcode first… everyone is used to the autofill intelligence of Google Maps now, so car-based nav systems seem antiquated in comparison.

There’s a lot to be said for simple, quick-access buttons and dials than can be operated by touch rather than touchscreens which need a glance or more, and particularly so in off-road vehicles bouncing along rough roads. There is also the usual single-screen problem of being able to only really do one task at a time such as phone or navigation. There’s no split-screen option.

The map quality is good, detailed and retains some context when zoomed out.

What does it get?

Read our explanation of 4×4 electronic traction systems

The L462 has fully-independent suspension with several operating heights which gives it a huge advantage as a true multi-purpose, all-terrain vehicle. Modern 4x4s have to tread an uncomfortable balance between allowing enough ride height for off-road use, and being low enough not to compromise on-road handling. The usual result is a height that not ideal for either on-road or off-road, and further ruined for off-road use with cheap and nasty alloy sidesteps which look bad to begin with and even worse when inevitably bent. And then soon as you put a decent load in the car it loses half its ride height and wallows around like a drunken sailor, one reason why aftermarket suspension is so popular.

Land Rover fix all that with height-adjustable, self-levelling air suspension. From the normal running height you can drop it by 40mm for easy entry (or sneaking under fallen trees), or raise it for off-road work. There’s now two off-road heights, 1 and 2. Height 1 is 75mm over stock, and works up until 40km/h when it drops to Off-road 2, which is 40mm over stock and good for 80km/h. This addresses a long-standing issue for Australians and other countries with long, rough roads.

Discovery at access (lowest) and offroad 1 (+75mm) heights.

Land Rover’s design is done in England, where your off-roading is done on something called ‘green lanes’ which are narrow strips of mud lined with hedges winding their way between farm paddocks. These green lanes are a few kilometres long at best, ending at an ancient pub with Arms or King somewhere in the name. That means there’s no need to travel at any significant speed with a raised ride height.

Not so in Australia, where we have roads rough enough to warrant a raised ride height yet we can and do travel at well over 50km/h. And there are many occasions where we might well exceed 50km/h in between rough sections, for example between dry creek crossings on outback roads, then need the extra height as we cross before speeding up again. So it’s good to see there’s more flexibility with suspension heights now.

At normal height ground clearance is 210mm, about 15-20mm too low by off-roader standards, but in Off-road 1 that goes to 284mm, and that’s higher than anything else on the market except for the Y62 Patrol which is the same, give or take a millimetre. Say what you like about independent suspension (and I look forwards to the comments), but you cannot argue that sort of clearance is anything other than a big advantage off-road. The Discovery also has Land Rover’s clever diagonal cross-link system for extra flex. Compare it to say the Jeep Grand Cherokee and you will see the difference.

The Discovery also has Terrain Response, which was the first and is still the best adaptive terrain system on the market by quite a margin. There’s the now-familiar modes of Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. All but Rock are available in high and low range. Some Discoverys are available with Terrain Response 2 and its Automatic setting where the car detects the mode for you.

From left; electronic parkbrake, ESC off switch, air suspension up/down controls (showing suspension raised), speed limiter and idle/stop/start off switch. The dial is Terrain Response with Hill Descent Control (HDC) to the left and low range engagement on the right. HDC is enabled or disabled automatically with some Terrain Responses modes, as are stability control settings.

Hill Descent Control (HDC) has been updated and works down to 1.8km/h forward and reverse. There are associated sub-systems such as Gradient Release Control and hill-hold assist to smooth the operation. The HDC system speed is changed with the cruise controls and a dash display shows current and target speed.

HDC engaged. The green triangle shows the target speed, the green arc shows the range of speeds HDC operates over. The system shows it is activated by turning those parts of the display green.

The transmission is all-wheel drive with a computer-controlled centre clutch which cannot be manually locked. There is low range which can be changed from low to high on the move, but you need to be stopped for high to low. Torque split is 50:50 front/rear for low range Discoverys, and the mode does not change this. For single-range Discoverys it is 42:58, front:rear.

There are a few options our HSE tester didn’t have – the rear locking differential, wade sensing, auto Terrain Response and All-terrain Progress Control. However, we did line up another L462 with the rear locker – more on that later.

Wade sensing we’ve used before and is something of a gimmick as by the time it tells you the water is deep you’re in it. All-terrain Progress Control keeps the vehicle travelling at a set speed up or downhill, and because it doesn’t have to react to driver inputs it can use a more effective traction control calibration. We saw exactly this with Toyota’s Crawl Control equivalent. 

The minimum factory rim size is 19-inch, but the tyre diameter has happily increased about 25mm from 255/55/19 (about 763mm or 30 inches) to 255/60/19 (about 788mm or 31 inches), allowing a precious few more millimetres of sidewall and another inherent 12mm or so of ground clearance. It is not known if aftermarket 18-inch rims fit.

What’s it like to drive?

The seating position is great, up high with excellent visibility all round and commendably thin A-pillars. The steering is light and easy, and the all-wheel drive system means you’re never going to lose grip… despite the best efforts of the transmission in our Td4 tester. The problem is that gearshifts in the lower gears are jerky, surging the vehicle unnecessarily when the engine has sufficient torque to move along nicely without jumping through the gears.

Given the premium nature of the car that’s a bit disappointing, as is the fact the engine likes to spin up to near redline for even relatively unhurried departures. More of a sense of relaxed wafting would be nice. The larger turning circle compared to the previous model is a disadvantage, you can no longer pull the trick of starting a u-turn and your passenger saying “you’re never going to make that….ohhh!” Still, it’s tight enough not to be a problem.

The reversing camera is very good with decent resolution and guidelines, but there’s no zoom and it is offset from the centre a little. A handy feature is that you can set the vehicle to automatically lower to access height when you park… little things like that make it very usable if you’ve got a small kid in tow. There’s just one usability annoyance – the boot release is tucked down nearly out of sight on the right hand side, next to the lane departure system.

On high-speed roads the Discovery is well up there with the best in the class for easy handling if not sportiness. Compared to its peers it has a few advantages – a very good all-wheel drive system, not a front-biased version like, say, the XC90, a relatively low ride height thanks to the air suspension, and relatively low weight which starts a virtuous circle of handling goodness. The result is a relaxed, comfortable drive and it’s easy to make rapid but unflustered progress across country. You can’t underestimate this sort of capability as off-road tourers will often drive for 10-12 hours a day across all terrain, and you don’t want to be fighting the vehicle. Ride is comfortable, and wind noise is minimal. The electronic driving aids do not get in the way at all.

Oddly, I felt there wasn’t much of a lack of power on country roads, whereas I would have liked more power in the suburbs from lower speed. I think that’s perhaps the eight-speed gearbox working the gears better at speed. 

The Discovery is not a sports SUV. Not only does it not have the power, it doesn’t have that sharpness of handling or driver involvement. If you want that sort of performance then you need to look at the likes of the Range Rover Sport or Velar, or the F-PACE.

You’d expect the Discovery to be pretty good on dirt roads and it is, thanks to that extremely effective all-wheel drive system and well-sorted handling. Ride is quite acceptable too, something that isn’t always the case with air-sprung vehicles.

You can select the Grass/Gravel/Snow mode if you want a deadened accelerator pedal, but frankly that’s far too frustrating so I think the car is best left in its Normal mode. The electronic driving aids are well calibrated for slip, never getting in the way at high speed and indeed the car will accept a slight four-wheel drift without complaint. But you do feel power restrictions out of slower corners as, again, Land Rover’s somewhat over-zealous throttle restrictions (engine traction control) are apparent. Doesn’t stop you making decent progress though, and as ever with these things it’s less of an issue with a smooth driving style.

Discovery is well balanced and assured on dirt roads, but out of tight corners the gearshift is a bit slow. Manual changes fix that.

The air suspension height settings are now far more useful for dirt-road driving. Here’s a scenario – you’re driving along a bitumen road at 100km/h and up comes a dirt road. You can continue at Normal height with 210mm of ground clearance which is slightly low compared to the ideal of 220mm, but you could work with it for high-speed dirt roads. I’m thinking here of the random rock in the road we’ve all seen which you want to be able to drive over. Or, you could drop the speed back to 70 and select Off-road Height, which will put you into Off-road Height 1 (OR1) which is 40mm above standard height, and that’s a very useful 250mm or so of clearance. Once at OR1 you can go to 80km/h before the car chimes and lowers. 

Fast, smooth dirt roads with lots of loose stones are where you want very precise and predictable handling, plus a good all-wheel-drive system. Discovery does not disappoint.

One criticism is that it’s hard to see which height you’re in when – not helped by no warning from Off-road 1 to Off-road 2. The only way I found to see whether you’re in OR1 or OR2 (+75mm) is to select the 4x4i screen and squint at the tiny icon. This is far from ideal given the car can and will change its height without driver command, and it’s nice to know which mode you’re in. A consistent theme with the Discovery is that Land Rover have prioritised form over function, just like they did with the tapered rear end, and not bothered overmuch with usability. For the sake of safety and usability there should be bigger icons so you know what mode you’re in.

Anyway, finally we have a modern Land Rover with an air suspension system that is pragmatically usable on dirt roads. Just needs better display instrumentation.

Land Rovers have always been superb off-road vehicles, and the L319 proved against much scepticism that the combination of sophisticated electronics and height-adjustable air suspension was a winner. Some twelve years later and the L462 Discovery proves it again. 

I wrote of the Discovery 3 that it was a traction bloodhound, able to conjure grip where other cars simply slide and slip, but this new model is on another level, demonstrably better than even the L319 which itself was right up with the best even in 2017, some 12 years after the Discovery 3. 

The L462’s brake traction control is phenomenal, barely allowing a wheel to spin, distributing torque front and rear effectively. And I’m going to get solid axles thrown through my window for this, but when you see the L462 work off-road without cross-axle lockers, relying on traction control alone then you realise that the days of locking differentials are drawing to an end.

Discovery on our Hill of Truth. It turned in a better performance than any other vehicle so far. The only ones to equal it have twin cross-axle lockers. This model had none, but we did run another L462 on the hill with the rear locker and that was even better.

The Terrain Management adaptive terrain system remains the standard for all others to follow, and unlike many of the rest, it really does work in practice. The modes are noticeably different, are effective, and work in high and low range except for Rock which is low range only. 

The hill descent control system works very well, functioning in forward and reverse. It is still controlled by the cruise control system which is old-school, modern systems should simply be set a target speed by brake and accelerator and then maintain that given speed.

It is possible to drive through the brakes – hold the car on the brake pedal with left foot, and accelerate with the right to move. While modern cars have less need for this technique than older ones, it’s still useful for terrain like rock crawling, and indeed the Rock Crawl mode itself includes a variant of this technique.

You can pull away in second-gear high or low, and generally when you select a gear the car lets you have it, not something that can be said of all vehicles. However, Land Rover has persisted with paddle shifts that rotate with the steering wheel. This is fine for racetrack oriented Jaguars where you will use fixed-input steering with not more than about 100 degrees of steering rotation and certainly not be changing gear at that steering angle, but it doesn’t work off-road. That’s because you’d use shuffle-steer (push-pull) and may well need to change gear at any steering angle…and if the steering wheel is turned 180 degrees it’s hard to remember which paddle does what. It is notable that the more off-road-oriented SVX Discovery also had a conventional stick gear selector which solves this problem nicely. We’re not yet at the stage where you can simply leave the Discovery in Drive and expect it to select the optimal gear for every situation.

Full lock lining up for a downhill. The car is being driven very slowly in first low, slower than the minimum HDC speed of 1.8km/h. If the hill required from this point a quick acceleration in second then it’d be hard to change gears due to the paddles rotating with the steering wheel.

The switch to and from low range was faultless and never needed coaxing or a second command. It’s surprising how many vehicles need swear words for this simple operation, but not the Discovery. You can even shift from low-range to high-range without stopping, up to around 40km/h. However, it is annoying that you need to come to a halt to go from high- to low-range, unlike the Discovery 3. I suspect this is nanny-state design on behalf of Land Rover as that change came in during L319’s lifecycle. 

The Discovery’s centre clutch cannot be manually locked. Instead, computers decide how and when it should lock up and distribute torque front/rear. The job the computers do when the car is moving cannot be faulted, and not locking the centre means that the turning circle is tighter in off-road situations compared to vehicles that have a manually lockable centre.

Clearance is very good once you’re in the +75mm off-road height 1 mode, and there’s very little to get hung up with a nice clean underbody. Suspension flex is quite acceptable too. As with previous air-suspension Land Rovers, if the vehicle detects that it is hung up it’ll automatically go into an Extended mode above off-road height 1, and if that’s not enough, you can manually go into a super-extended mode.

Nevertheless, it’s a very useful feature and can, and has saved many a car from needing to be recovered. The more you think about it, the more air suspension makes sense for off-roaders. And good news…the silly location of the L319’s air compressor has been fixed, relocated from the underbody to under the boot where it is far less vulnerable to damage or being used accidentally as a jacking point. 

Good – great clearance. Not so good – it was a real struggle to get the back wheels over this ledge, and it was due to the engine restricting power. Clearance was fine, we just needed a tiny, tiny bit more momentum but the electronics refused to allow it no matter what mode we chose and even with stability control turned off.

However, it’s not all good news. The parkbrake still works only on the rear wheels, and at rest the centre clutch disconnects. This means that the vehicle cannot be safely parked on steep hills as the parkbrake has no effect on the front wheels – you stop on a hill, apply the parkbrake, release the footbrake to let the car settle on the parkbrake before shifting the transmission into park, and the car slides down the hill with the rears locked. If the centre clutch could be locked then immobilising the rear wheels would in effect also immobilse the front wheels, and all would be well. This problem isn’t unique to the Discovery, as most computer-controlled centre clutch cars suffer from it, notably Everest (see video) and all-wheel drive Amarok. However, that doesn’t make it right.

Land Rover’s engine traction control has always been a bit nanny-state and that continues with the L462, restricting power in tough offroad situations. For example, we wanted to get up and over a rock ledge – front wheels made it, but rears couldn’t get over the lip. The solution is to back up until the front wheels are on the lip edge, and then use judicious amounts of momentum to get the rears up and over. But the car won’t let you have enough power control to do that, like other modern Land Rovers, and unlike some others. The car is protecting itself nicely, but the owner should be permitted to have more control. We have seen the same sort of restrictions in heavy mud and sand in previous models.

Another restriction is the large minimum wheel diameter of 19 inches. This is less of a problem than in than in the past as the profile has gone from 255/55/19 in the L319 to 255/60/19 for the L462, and there are more offroad tyres available in low-profile sizes. But that said, the Discovery is capable in spite of its wheels, not because of them.

The 4×4 information display. Shows the vehicle is at maximum suspension flex, and all four wheels are spinning. Rear diff is locked, centre clutch also locked. Red arrows are a lot of wheelsping, yellow arrows less wheelspin. Interesting but not all that useful in practice. The view also resets after you switch to and from reverse which is irritating.

Fundamentally, off-roading is about clearance and traction. The Discovery offers great clearance thanks to its air suspension, and has the advantage of that incredible Land Rover traction control system, not to mention the relatively low weight and 900mm wading depth. Overall, the Discovery is a better off-roader than before, and that means it is still the best off-road wagon on the market. 

What’s it like at towing?

Read our explanation of towing terms : All You Need to Know about Towing Heavy Trailers

Land Rovers and Discoverys have always been great towcars and this one looks set to continue the tradition. There’s a good all-wheel drive system, the wheelbase is quite long at 2923mm and the overhang is short, with the towbar mount built into the vehicle already. There is an eight-speed automatic transmission and trailer stability control, plus air suspension to keep things level and change ride heights.

Short overhang, easily accessible hitch and chain points, electrics tucked up out of the way. A huge improvement on the L319’s plough.

Land Rover also offer Tow Assist which it says, “allows drivers to complete potentially difficult reversing manoeuvres when towing trailers, caravans and horseboxes with ease. Even absolute novices will be able to park using the clever system as it takes care of the tricky counter-steering required to position trailers accurately when reversing”. We did not get a chance to test this, but it sounds like it will make reversing a trailer easier. We can say the reversing camera is pretty good.

Now to the weights. Disappointingly, not every Discovery can tow 3500kg. The Td4 132kW versions are limited to 3000kg, albeit all variants have a 350kg TBM. That said, you don’t want to be using anything the size of the Discovery to tow 3500kg, but it’s good to have the flexibility. Most manufacturers set a single GVM and GCM across the range, but Land Rover have changed it for every combination of engine and 5/7 seat option. That’s a bit of a pain for journalists when working out what’s what, but it’s great for the buyer as it means the luxury versions don’t lose out on payload. In fact, the 3.0L 7-seater has a massive 940kg payload, more than even some utes, and even the Td4 5-seater isn’t bad at 765kg.  

It is also good that the GCM is equal to the GVM plus maximum braked tow, so provided you don’t exceed the rear axle limits you’ll be okay to tow the max trailer weight when the vehicle is fully loaded – try that with any of the utes, or even most other wagons! And there’s more good news on axle weights; the sum of the axle weights is between 225 and 405kg more than the GVM, so you’ve got some load flexibility. Here’s a table of all the weights:

EngineSeatsTareGVMPayloadGCMMax braked towDiff max tow + GVM to GCMMax front axle loadMax rear axle loadDiff axle load sum to GVMMax TBM
2.0L diesel 132kW Td452105287076558703000015001775405350
 72115305093560503000015001900350350
2.0L diesel 177kW Sd452115294082564403500015001775335350
 72115310098566003500015001900300350
3.0L diesel 190kW52230305082065503500015001775225350
 72230317094066703500015001900230350

As with the L319 weight distributions hitches are not permitted, and neither should they be. There is self-levelling suspension.

Does it still work as a touring off-roader?

The Discovery has a 77L fuel tank for the 2.0L models, and 85L for the V6. Fuel consumption is down to about 6.3L/100km for the 2.0Ls and 7.2L/100km for the 3.0, so range would be well over 1000km for each. 

There are recovery points front and rear, and the offroad performance is first-class. The vehicle has the makings of a good tourer, but there are a few concerns.

What appears to be a recovery point is hidden under a plastic guard. Rest of vehicle is well protected with nothing to catch.

First, wheels. The minimum rim size is 19-inch, but it is probable the aftermarket 18-inch Green Oval wheels will fit. Ideally, you want 17-inch wheels for off-roading at the sort of diameter the Discovery runs, but the 18s would work. At least there is a full-size spare, and a slightly taller wheel than the L462 model. Happily, the release point for the spare no longer requires the third row to be raised to access it, fixing a horrendous design issue that plagued the L319.

The Discovery also runs a DPF and SCR (AdBlue), so you’ll need to ensure the latter is filled before longer trips. Total capacity is 18L, but Land Rover won’t give a usage figure. Based on other experience it is likely to be between 5000 and 20,000km, very much dependent on fuel consumption rates and style of driving.

The DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) filler point is under the bonnet, not next to the fuel filler as it is in say the Jaguar F-PACE.

The battery is located in the rear, not easy to access but there are jumpstart points under the bonnet which can also be used for running things like air compressors.

While the Discovery is a large vehicle, the rear cargo capacity is compromised relative to the previous L319 model and the likes of the Y62 Patrol and the LC200. This is because Land Rover have prioritsed form over function, sloping the roof downwards and the sides of the car inwards. That translates to 700mm of cargo height compared to 800mm at the same measurement point in the previous vehicle. There’s still sufficient space for a fit-out, but it’s a shame that on what is meant to be a practical vehicle Land Rover destroyed useful cargo space.

The roof load is only 80kg including the racks, compared to 200kg for some competitors, but there is good news on the payload front with payloads of up to 985kg. Refer to the towing section for more detail.

Aftermarket support is at present almost non-existent – no bullbars, snorkels, rear carriers or long-range tanks.  I’m not sure this will change any time soon, as back in 2005 the aftermarket took a while to develop gear for the Discovery 3 and some major players never did support it. It’s a catch-22; there won’t be aftermarket support unless buyers demand, but there won’t be many offroading buyers investing in the car without the promise of accessories. The Discovery is also a very complex vehicle so developing equipment for it is unlikely to be a simple exercise, and there’s no near equivalent vehicle as there was in say the case of Everest and Ranger.

Someone did suggest that with a 900mm wading depth there is no need for a snorkel. That view indicates a lack of 4×4 touring experience. Even for the Discovery a snorkel is required, as river crossings have a nasty habit of being deeper than expected – water over bonnet lapping at windscreen – and replacement engines aren’t cheap. However, the headlights are brilliant so there’s less need for driving lights than would normally be the case, and you won’t need to replace the suspension either as your lift is available at the touch of a button, it is self-levelling and if the L319 is anything to go by, more than robust enough for off-road work.

What the Discovery doesn’t need is any help in the off-road capability department. It’s very good the way it is and in stock-standard form anything else will need modifications to keep up. If you fitted smaller rims with decent tyres then it’d make a capable tourer, but don’t expect to be able to turn it into a mega-tourer with raft of touring accessories any time soon. 

What about safety features?

The 2017 Discovery has a 5-star ANCAP rating, unlike the L319 which only managed 4 stars. Beyond that there’s not much in the way of advanced safety features although commendably, AEB is standard as are rear seatbelt pre-tensionsers. Oddly, the front seatbelts are not height-adjustable, a strange omission for a family vehicle. The standard lane departure system isn’t particularly effective at picking up when you’re drifting over lines, and it doesn’t have much of a warning either.  

Blind spot monitoring is an option but only for SE and above, but you need to pay extra for blind spot assist and reverse traffic detection except on the top-spec, limited-run First Edition.

The vehicle can be brought to an emergency stop using the parkbrake alone, a fairly common feature on vehicles with electronic parkbrakes. There are child seat tethers for second and third row, including ISOFIX.

Overall, while the Discovery scores 5-star the advanced safety aids are a bit sparse, and there is nothing that stands out on the safety front.

Good quality camera with wheel guides, side guides and overall guide (seen to the left).

Range and pricing

There are five models of Discovery with three engines, excluding the soon-to-arrive, special-edition SVX. The engines and fuel consumption figures are :

  • 2.0Td4 – 132kW /  6.3L/100km;
  • 2.0Sd4 – 177kW / 6.5L/100km; and
  • 3.0Td6 – 190kW / 7.2L/100km.

The fuel consumption figures are for the 5 seater. The 7-seaters add 0.1L/100km for all trims except for the 3.0. 

As usual with European marques the options and packs are bewildering, so below we have listed some of the significant changes from trim level to trim level, excluding things like cosmetic garnishes and detail on convenience features. All prices exclude onroad and dealer costs.

Discovery S selected features 

5 seats: Td4 $65,960 / Sd4 $71,560 / Td6 $78,560 | 7 seats:  Td4 $71,500 / Sd4 $77,960 / Td6 $84,960 

  • 8 speed automatic 
  • Terrain Response
  • Single-speed transfer case
  • Coil suspension
  • Trailer stability control
  • Full-size spare wheel.
  • 19″ wheels
  • Cloth seats, manual adjustment
  • 2-zone climate control
  • Cruise control
  • AEB
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Reversing camera
  • Key entry
  • Manual tailgate
  • 8″ touchscreen

 Options for the S model

  • Low range – $920
  • Air suspension – $2060
  • Active rear locking differential – $1080
  • Rain sensing wipers – $200
  • Power-fold heated door mirrors with lights – $400
  • Trailer electrics – $980 (not brake controller)
  • Centre console cooler – $830
  • Adaptive cruise control – $3290
  • Powered inner tailgate – $560
  • Satnav – $1610

Discovery SE selected features 

5 seats: Td4 $77,050 / Sd4 $83,450 / Td6 $90,450 | 7 seats:  Td4 $81,590 / Sd4 $87,990 / Td6 $94,990 

  • Air suspension
  • Twin-speed transfer case (low range)
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Power-fold heated door mirrors with lights
  • Trailer electrics (not brake controller)
  • LED headlights
  • Leather seats, electric adjustment
  • Secondary (upper) glovebox
  • 2-zone automatic climate control
  • Satnav

 Options for the SE model

  • Terrain Response 2 (with Auto mode) – $2060
  • All Terrain Progress Control (part of a Pack)
  • Sunroof – $4280
  • Adaptive LED headlights – $930
  • Keyless entry – $1850

Discovery HSE selected features 

5 seats: Td4 $81,150 / Sd4 $93,550 / Td6 $100,550 | 7 seats:  Td4 $90,550 / Sd4 $96,950 / Td6 $103,950 

  • 20″ wheels
  • Leather seats, electric adjustment with memory
  • Electronically adjustable steering column 3-zone climate control
  • Keyless entry
  • Power tailgate
  • Powered inner tailgate
  • 10″ touchscreen Nav Pro (low traction launch, offroad nav etc.)

 Options for the HSE model

  • Powered second row seats (except fore/aft slide) – $1940
  • Powered third row seats – $630

HSE Luxury

5 seats: Td4 $100,950 / Sd4 $107,360 / Td6 $114,360 | 7 seats:  Td4 $104,350 / Sd4 $110,750 / Td6 $117,750

  • Sunroof
  • Leather seats, more electric adjustment
  • Climate front seats
  • Centre console cooler
  • Surround camera

First Edition

Td6 7 seats $132,160

  • 21″ wheels
  • Powered second row seats (except fore/aft slide)
  • Powered third row seats 
  • Blind spot monitor

 Options

  • Heated windcreen – $470

 

Notes

  • All engines are available in all trim levels except the First Edition which is 3.0L Td6 only.  
  • The standard colour is white. Every other colour is $2010 or $4020. 
  • Each model is available as a 5 or 7 seater except for First Edition which is 7 seat only. 
  • Wade Sensor is part of a pack for HSE and HSE Luxury only.
  • Gesture tailgate is a $260 option for HSE only.
  • InControl includes SOS calls, remote control etc. Option across most versions except for First Editions where it is standard.

Packs 

  • Drive Pack – driver condition monitor, blind spot, reverse traffic detection – $500 
  • Drive Pro Pack – as above plus adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist – $3800 
  • 7 seat Pack – 7 seats, high/low range, air suspension, powered tailgate – $5600
  • Capability Plus Pack – rear locking differential, Terrain Response 2, All-Terrain Progress Control – $3200
  • Cold Climate Pack – heated windscreen, steering wheel, front and rear seats – $1100

So out of all that, what’s the advice if you want a Discovery for offroading? As ever, you want to start at the base model and work your way upwards, and we’re looking at a car starting at $65,960 rising up to $132,160 (plus onroads for both), a difference of $66,200. 

If you’re a touring offroader I think your first look is at the S Td4 model 5-seater, and add the air suspension and low range for $960 and $2060 to make $68,980, a healthy $8070 cheaper than the SE Td4 5-seater. Maybe also consider the inner tailgate for $560 too. It must be mentioned that not having keyless entry on a car of this price is a real omission, that’s not standard til you get to the HSE although it is an option for SE. Bear in mind that adding options will increase weight slightly and cut into valuable payload.

It may well be worth looking at the 7-seater even if you only need 5 seats. That’s because the 7-seaters offer an extra 120-170kg of payload via a higher GVM compared to the 5-seater models. You could always remove the third row of seats if needs be, and let your road authority know although most are relaxed about 5 to 7-seater third row removals.

Looking through the rest of the options and specs the only features that stand out for offroading are the LED lights available on the SE and above, and the secondary glovebox which annoyingly is not available on the S, and neither is keyless entry. One of the higher-spec features is an offroad navigation system, but no carmarker has ever produced one worth using so don’t bother with it, just run something like Oziexplorer or Hema’s Mapping app on a 6-7″ Android instead.

 

Now for the engines. As a recap, they’re the Td4 132kW / 430Nm, Sd4 177kw / 500Nm, and the Td6 V6 190kW / 600Nm. You might consider Td4 a bit underpowered, especially if towing and is limited to 3000kg, but I drove a 140kW / 440Nm Discovery 3 for a long time modified with offroad gear weighing in at 2750kg and it worked well enough, even with six speeds as opposed to the eight in these cars.

The Sd4 offers another 45kW more power, but more importantly 70Nm of torque with another 160kg of payload and it weighs the same as the Td4. Then you have the Td6, and would the extra two cylinders and 13kW from the Td6 be worth it even if 600Nm of torque is lovely? For many owners the answer will be no.

While the 3.0L has a 85L fuel tank compared to 77 for the 2.0L, the extra fuel consumption means that the 2.0Ls should get further on their 77L tank than the 3.0L on its 85. All L462s would easily beat the L319 for range, as its fuel consumption was around 9.4L/100km for an 80L tank.

 

Do you need…

Low range?

Definitely yes, if you intend to drive in low-speed offroad terrains, especially when loaded. While low range is on the way out, and today’s vehicles are more capable than ever, you wait til you’re loaded up on an offroad trip and slogging up and down steep hills, or ploughing through twisty, soft-sand tracks. Having driven two Range Rovers back to back offroad, one with and one without low range, the low range car did everything that much easier and was less likely to have its throttle restricted in difficult situations. And those very long, steep descents when fully loaded will test your brakes without low range. 

The rear active differential (cross-axle locker)?

Highly recommended if you intend to drive in low-speed offroad terrains, especially when loaded. For $1080 it’s a no-brainer really, it can turn difficult tracks into medium, and medium into easy. It has greatest value in steep, rutted ascents. Our back-to-back testing (see forthcoming video) shows that the car with the e-diff has noticeably less wheelspin than the one without.

Terrain Response 2

This is the self-configuring Terrain Response adaptive terrain system. It’s a convenience aid, and it’s not that hard to twist the dial from say Normal to Mud/Ruts. Most useful for people that have no knowledge of or interest in offroading and yet might have to drive offroad.

All Terrain Progress Control

Same sort of deal as Terrain Response 2, doesn’t offer anything a halfway skilled driver couldn’t do. However, the special calibration of the electronics in this mode may be worth having in extremes as it appears even more effective than under driver control.

So, what do we think?

The Discovery is clearly a premium vehicle in every way, and what makes it truly special is that its breadth of capability is unmatched by its rivals. The likes of the BMWs, Mercedes, Volvos and Audis match or exceed it as a premium vehicle, but none come close off-road. At the lower end of the market the likes of Pajero Sport, MU-X, LC200, Prado and Everest are all off-road-capable, yet not only do none of them come close to the Discovery’s comfort, style, sophistication or on-road dynamics, but only the Toyotas approach the Discovery’s off-road capability and even then I’d put money on the Land Rover to win. Land Rovers have always towed well, and there’s every indication this new model will be as good as the others. The case for a Discovery is clear, your money buys capability.

 

 

 

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's the infotainment like?
What's it like on the road?
What's it like off the road?
What about safety features?
The Discovery has long occupied the niche of being the best all-rounder on the market - offroader, luxury car, towcar and 7-seater - and this new model looks set to continue the tradition. It does not badly, most things very well and perhaps the only shortcoming is features for the price...but your money goes on engineering capability, not convenience features.


  • Biff

    That is a comprehensive review, thanks Robert.

  • Callitasitis

    Very comprehensive and informing read. It provides a lot of confidence going forward to select Discovery as a towing and off-roading vehicle.

  • Erik

    Thanks for such a detailed review!

    There is one point where I am confused, did you drive the td4 with a low range gearbox? The Australian Landrover website says low range (or a rear locker) are unavailable with the td4 engine (only available with sd4 or v6).

    • You’re right, Erik. It was a typo… it has been corrected. It was the SD4 HSE that Robert tested. Thanks Isaac

  • Rye an

    I guess they’ll be thick on the ground in Victoria’s High County tracks…….right?.

  • Rye an

    It’d be nice to see ‘as tested’ on road prices (for a representative comfortable Sydney suburb) instead of the impossible to calculate $101,000 price range.

  • Mr.Ed

    It would appear that the same narrative has been used for two reviews, the first addressing the Td4, and the second the Sd4. Why? The second review would have been a more informing read if it spoke to and highlighted the differences between the Sd4 (particularly the engine and any kit variances) and the Td4. Can we expect a more tailored review for the assessment of the Td6 engine et al.?

    • Hi Mr Ed, there was a typo in the original review suggesting it was about the Td4, it was actually the Sd4 that Robert tested – this has now been corrected. – Isaac

  • Nathan

    Great review as usual Robert. Thanks. Do you have any insights into the next Defender and how much of this new Discovery might be carried over into a more utilitarian context?

  • Arapiles

    There appear to be two rear air temperature controls – did this car have 4 zone aircon?

  • Moheng Cao

    Will be interesting how it compare to Toyota in traction related technology, like brake traction,crawl control….where it shows the greatest smartness of off-road ability.

  • Charita Ratnatunga

    Very impressive vehicle. I do hope the reliability and maintenance costs are not like the past.

  • floob

    Where’s the video?

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/