Car Reviews

2018 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The new Land Rover Discovery looks very different to its predecessor but thankfully it’s business as usual when you get behind the wheel.

2018 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE

Pricing $96,950+ORC (seven seats) Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres (additional 12-24 months extended warranty available) Safety five-star ANCAP and Euro NCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin turbo-diesel Power 177kW at 4000rpm Torque 500Nm at 1500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive permanent four-wheel drive with standard locking centre differential Dimensions 4970mm (L); 1846mm (H); 2073mm – mirrors in (W); 2923mm (WB) Turning Circle 12.7m Ground Clearance up to 283mm Angles 34-degrees (A); 30-degrees (D); 27.5-degrees (R) Weight 2109kg Towing 3500kg maximum braked Towball Download 350kg Boot Space from 258-2406 litres Fuel Tank 77 litres depending on variant Thirst From 6.3L/100km

THE ALL-NEW LAND ROVER DISCOVERY went on-sale earlier this month and while we spent a little bit of time in it at the local launch in late July, we’ve now had one through the garage for a week. Our test car was an SD4 HSE variant which lists from $93,550+ORC for the five-seat version; ours has seven seats and lists from $96,950+ORC.

What is the Land Rover Discovery?

When the new Land Rover Discovery was revealed late last year, its swoopy lines saw the once boxy-looking Discovery fall into line with its smaller brother the Discovery Sport. Sure, it retained some key elements, like the stepped roof line but that’s about it. The split tailgate is gone, replaced by a single-door unit and electrically deployable bench that can hold up to 300kg. And, looked at in profile, the big square-shaped windows that made the thing so wonderful for driver’s vision and passenger enjoyment have been replaced by still-quite-large windows but ones that have curved casements that, on the inside, make the glasshouse feel a little smaller, especially for second-row passengers.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

But that’s enough about the design… the new Discovery looks different from its predecessors but is still a handsome looking beast that’s likely to appeal to a wider cross-section of buyers than its predecessor, the Discovery 4.

The new Discovery boasts a more luxurious and refined interior than ever before, thrifty by grunty four-cylinder engines (helped by the fact the thing is up to 480kg lighter than its predecessor depending on the variant) and Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, huge clearance and wading ability for unrivalled ability when the going gets rough.

What’s the interior of the Land Rover Discovery like?

The interior of the new Discovery is more refined and premium feeling than ever before. The dashboard is clean-looking with the right amount of shortcut buttons; and everything is clearly marked and easy to reach on the fly.There are nine USB ports, six 12-volt charging outlets and you can connect up to eight devices to the in-car WiFi.

The large touchscreen dominates the centre stack which allows you to connect your phone and deep dive through a range of functionality, which we’ll touch on in more detail shortly. Just about everything you touch inside the Discovery is soft-touch and feels fantastic as you run your hand over the different surfaces. While there are plenty of buttons, switches and wands familiar to anyone who’s driven a new Jaguar or Land Rover in the last few years, it doesn’t feel like it’s been put together with bits out of a parts bin… it feels very Range Rover.

Overall, the quality of the fit and finish is first rate, but I did notice a few items around the car, like the un-seamed cut-outs for the head rest posts into the seat shoulders (see the picture below). And, when no-one’s travelling in the back seats, they rattle. A lot. And, when you’re on a rough road it’s even worse; but then I remember the seat backs on the second-row seats rattling on the first-generation Discovery my parent’s owned, so, maybe it’s just a Discovery thing.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

What’s the infotainment system like?

The Discovery gets a 10-inch touchscreen which dominates the centre stack and offers what Land Rover calls InControl Touch Pro. There’s a lot to like about this system and deep-diving into it reveals a bunch of functionality, like ‘commute mode’ that learns the route you take to work and can then advise the best way to get there based on real-time traffic information.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

Bluetooth is standard as is USB connectivity, WiFi connectivity and native sat-nav but as good as the system is, you can’t help but think that without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity the system misses a trick to be truly useful in our increasingly connected lives. Indeed, I found streaming audio from my phone to be a bit of a convoluted approach and constantly had to access my phone to play things like podcasts… first-world problem, I know.

What’s the passenger space of the Land Rover Discovery like?

The Discovery 4 is widely considered to be the best seven-seat 4×4 wagon on the planet and so this new one has big shoes to fill when it comes to being able to accommodate a full-size adult in the third-row. And maintain a feeling of airiness in the cabin.

So, let’s start right at the back of the new Discovery because there’s plenty of stuff to unpack about this new wagon, we’ll explore the boot space shortly, so, for now, let’s stick to the seats.

The third-row seats fold flat into the floor when not needed, but they don’t lock in place and then, if you fold down the second-row seats you’ll get a gap and a not-totally-flat load space, which is a disappointment compared with the old car which offered a totally flat load space. But, back to the third-row…

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

If you haven’t paid extra for electric folding seats, you’ll need to manually raise the third-row seats out of the floor via the pull straps on the backs of them. The seats are split so you can raise one and not the other. There are small storage bins on each side in the back with USB charging outlets in them.

Once you’ve raised the seats from the back, you need to walk around to the rear door, fold the second-row forwards, and these are 60:40 split-fold now, instead of the 40:20:40 on the Discovery 4. To do this, you’ve got to slide the seats as far forward as it’ll go and then tilt the seat back forwards and squeeze through the gap. To be honest, it’s a pain to clamber through this space and does require a little bit of effort to avoid twisting your ankle as you climb inside. The Discovery 4’s second-row seats tumbled forwards leaving a much bigger space to walk through easily.

So, once in the back, there’s enough room for a six-footer to sit comfortably (the seat shape and feel is excellent), but that’s only if you push the second-row seats all the way forwards and then that means those sat in the second-row will be cramped. See, unlike the Discovery 4, there’s not the same amount of foot room for third-row passengers and that means that while an adult can sit in the third-row, there’s just not enough foot room for a six-footer to be comfortable in the back.

However, a very feature for the third-row of the Discovery is the fitment of ISOFIX mounts and top tether anchors.

Land Rover claims the Discovery offers the same stadium-style seating where each row behind is elevated slightly higher than the one ahead of it, and while that’s the case with this new car, you don’t get the same amount of foot room in each row as before. And, unless you’ve paid extra for the twin panoramic glass panels in the roof the very back seats will feel quite dark. In the old car, the rear side windows were square in shape, the new ones are trapezoidal and the c-pillar wraps around at the back.

In the end, while I’d say this is still one of the best third-row seats on the market, it’s not as good as the Discovery 4.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

Into the second row and there’s plenty of room across the back for three adults with good head, leg and shoulder room. There’s very little intrusion from the transmission tunnel and this means someone sitting in the middle seat in the back won’t have to share foot space with those on either side. On the topic of foot space, there’s very little toe room under the front seats; another change from the old Discovery. To get more foot and toe room you’ll need to ask those in the front to raise their seats which isn’t an issue as there’s plenty of headroom in the front and the seats themselves sit quite low to begin with.

There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tether anchors across all three positions. There are also climate controls and charging points for those in the back seats.

Into the front seats and when the Discovery lowers into access height it’s a cinch to climb inside. The front seats are broad but comfortable and the leather in the HSE variant was beautiful and felt both soft and hard-wearing at the same time. There’s plenty of adjustment on the front seats and the steering wheel too with good vision across the bonnet to the edges which makes placing the thing when you’re off-road a snap.

The dash layout is very clean with the Discovery looking more and more Range Rover with every iteration. What I liked most, although, to be honest, I’m not sure what I’d use them for were the two hidden storage spaces in the front of the cabin; press a button on the climate control panel and it drops down to reveal a storage area for keeping your… iPad or phone, or whatever. And there’s another beneath the cupholders; simply slide the cupholders forwards and there’s a cavernous drop-in space that will swallow an iPad but, once in use, you’ll lose the use of the cupholders.

Indeed, stashed around the cabin are numerous hidey holes with an upper and lower storage area on the passenger side of the dash, door bins that’ll hold 500ml water bottles easily. There’s also a deep centre console bin with a multitude of charging outlets at the front of it. On the backs of the front seats are two sets of hard-backed pockets.

It’s worth noting that for kids, the Discovery’s doors are quite heavy, but I do like the fact that, like the Discovery Sport, the doors wrap underneath the sill. This means that when you climb out of the car after driving through the mud you won’t get the back of your pants dirty.

What’s the Land Rover Discovery’s boot space like?

Well, it ranges from 258 litres to 2406 litres depending on how seat rows are folded down; there’s 1137 litres of storage space with the third-row seats folded down (five-seat variants offer 1231 litres). Make no mistake it’s a huge boot space, but the floor isn’t totally flat when the second-row is folded down. And, unless the second-row is pushed back as far as it will go when the seats are folded, you’ll end up with a gap that smaller items could fall into.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

There’s no load lip and the folding ledge that will hold 300kg is electrically deployable which means it can be left up to ensure that items to fall out when the tailgate is raised. As you can see from the photos, it’s a good boot space but the fact it doesn’t fold flat as it did in the Discovery 4 is a disappointment.

In general, storage space is very impressive in the Discovery, there are upper and lower instrument panel storage bins, upper and lower gloveboxes, heaps of centre console storage, door stowage bins and row three cubby boxes.

What’s the Land Rover Discovery like to drive?

Our test car was the Discovery SD4 HSE and that means it gets a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. It makes 177kW and 500Nm of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic (gear ratios are the same from SD4 to TDV6 and Si6). Discovery diesels have an 18-litre AdBlue tank.

While this engine just about matches the old TDV6 in Discovery 4 and will get to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds, there’s a sponginess to its response from a standing start thanks to the inherent turbo lag of the sequential twin-turbocharger set-up.

When moving off from a standing start you find yourself applying more throttle than you think you’ll need and then suddenly having to back off once up and running. Once you’re above, say, 20km/h, though, the engine and transmission are as smooth as silk. Indeed, once you’re up to around-town speeds and above that at highways speed there’s an effortlessness to the thrust this engine provides that you don’t expect when you consider it’s a four-cylinder powering a seven-seat luxury off-roader.

Our week with the Discovery saw us drive it to and from Sydney to test out its commuter legs, around town on the school run and groceries, and off the beaten track to test out its bushcraft. Now, don’t think I went rock-hopping in it because I didn’t. Rather I tested the Discovery out on the sorts of tracks that I’d expect more determined owners to drive on but not the sort of tracks you need a recovery crew before attempting.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

On the highway, the steering offers good feel in the on-centre position and so eating up miles is easy. The engine and transmission are smooth and with 500Nm of torque on offer the Discovery only needs to drop out of the higher gears when you hit the hills and then only initially before it settles back on that 500Nm.

There’s a familiarity to the way the new Discovery rides and handles and indeed steers, and that’s because the old car was so accomplished across a variety of terrain. This new car, obviously feels lighter and more agile, because in some trims is around 400kg lighter than the old car. It feels keener and more willing to be pressed harder in corners than its predecessor, but don’t think I’m suggesting this is a Range Rover Sport in a Discovery’s coat because there’s a clear distinction between Sport and the Discovery, indeed the Discovery will still roll in corners but not so much as the old car and the steering is heavy compared to the wheel action you might get in something from BMW or Audi, but at the same time there’s a precision to its action that allows you to comfortably steer the thing and place it in even the tightest of spaces on an overgrown track.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

On twisting roads, the Discovery’s Dynamic Stabilty Control helps to keep understeer and oversteer in check, but this isn’t a vehicle you’ll ever want to hustle down up a winding pass… it’s just not that sort of vehicle. The Discovery is all about enjoying the scenery.

Where the Discovery is unmatched is in the insulation its air springs provide to occupants, both in terms of ride comfort and noise suppression. Don’t misread me, it won’t disconnect occupants from what’s taking place underneath but it will keep them cossetted from the worst of the road. And, slow down, when you’re on a rough and broken track and the Discovery will crawl its way up or down, around or over just about anything in its path with a suppleness that’s unmatched in its competitors.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

With its two-stage off-road mode the air springs are able to vary between two ride heights of +40mm and +75mm. At speeds below 50km/h the +75mm setting is available and for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 50-80km/h, the vehicle will operate at +40mm. In addition, the new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhances fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height by 13mm at cruising speeds above 105km/h.

And, off-road not a single one of the Discovery’s competitors can get close to it. It gets a 900mm wading depth, ground clearance of up to 283mm when it’s at the top of its off-road ride height (rock crawl), an approach angle of up to 34 degrees, a rampover of up to 27.5 and a departure angle of 30 degrees make this a supremely competent package away from the bitumen. Throw in Land Rover’s clever latest-generation Terrain Response 2 system, and the brand’s all-terrain progress control, which is basically a low-speed cruise control for off-roading (you can set the speed between 2-30km/h), and the fact that when you cost-opt low-range you get a 50:50 drive split from front to rear and there’s very few places the Discovery can’t go.

2017 Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE Review

In my time with it, I sought out tracks that usually have other 4x4s I test lifting wheels and scrabbling for grip but in the Disco every obstacle and track I drove along just seemed dull and boring… in a good way. The electronic systems grabbed a spinning wheel moments after it started to spin and sent more drive to the wheel with grip; the cut in and out was seamless and could only be noticed from outside the vehicle. Even when I did lift a wheel progress and momentum was unhindered as the electronics simply kept the car driving forwards.

While we might all like looking at pictures of 4x4s lifting wheels and scrabbling in the gravel for grip and bumping around, good four-wheel driving shouldn’t look difficult… if you’re driving the right lines and you’ve got the right vehicle and you’re driving at the right speed then you should just tootle over whatever obstacle you’re attempting with a minimum of fuss. Always drive as slow as possible but as fast as necessary.

What safety features does the Land Rover Discovery have?

The new Discovery gets a five-star ANCAP score following on from its five-star EuroNCAP score earlier in the year. Standard safety features include cornering brake control, electric park brake, stability and traction controls, four-wheel drive, gradient acceleration control, hill launch assist, roll stability control, speed limiter, trailer stability assist as long as you have a Land Rover towbar fitted, full-size spare, auto high beam assist, ISOFIX points in row two and three, seat belt warnings for all three rows (audible), configurable auto-lock on driveaway, seatbelt pre-tensioners on outboard seatbelts in the rear and third row, airbags covering the third row when you have the third row fitted, front and rear parking sensors with visual display, and autonomous emergency braking.

There are a number of cost-optional packs to beef up the safety package to include things like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and reverse traffic detection, adaptive cruise control and much more.

So, what do we think of the Land Rover SD4 HSE?

The new Land Rover Discovery is an impressive machine and in many ways far superior to its predecessor. It’s better to drive, more comfortable, more fuel efficient, better equipped, but the passenger space isn’t quite as practical. That said, it’s practical enough.

In the end, the Land Rover Discovery is still the benchmark when it comes to being able to go from the black top to the outback. Sure, what we want from SUVs has changed since the original Discovery was launched, but the new one, when all is said and done, is a better car than before and while the 99% of owners will likely never ever take it off-road, the 1% who do will realise just how brilliant and unrivalled the Discovery is when you leave the bitumen behind.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's the passenger space like?
What's the infotainment system like?
What's the boot space like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: The new Discovery, despite carrying a few styling cues forwards, looks almost nothing like its predecessor. But a quick drive around the block is enough to tell you that Land Rover has kept all the good bits of the driving experience from the Discovery 4 and tweaked things slightly to make it more agile and engaging than before. It’s still just as comfortable and quiet inside the cabin as ever, maybe even more so. Indeed, the new Discovery feels so comfortable and confidence inspiring that it feels like you could easily drive it wherever your mood took you. The engine and transmission are smooth, there’s plenty of room inside and this thing’s breadth of talent mean that it can take you from the highway to the back of beyond in supreme comfort. And for that reason, we’ll go so far as to say the new Discovery is the new benchmark large SUV.


  • Jeff

    Land Cruiser is still king of off-road

    • Thanks Jeff. Have you driven the new Discovery? Our Robert P will put it through its paces off-road soon and settle the argument once and for all… but I’m tipping the Disco is the undisputed Boss off the road now… it’s ability to keep finding clearance and traction is unbelievable. – Isaac

      • Vicki Bieler

        The trouble with die hard Toyota Landcruiser people is they don’t like being told how to drive their 4X4 the computer system is unbelievable! Im a disco 2016 owner I’m just a bit bias most women will want the Landrover believe it’s about comfort as well and the Landcruiser has none
        Vicki

    • John Pitcher

      The Land Cruiser is undoubtably excellent off road and it’s simple reliability make it the default choice for crossing the Simpson Desert or similar outback expeditions. However that rugged simplicity means it’s drivetrain is woefully inadequate on tarmac with barge-like handling. The much lauded V8 diesel is slower and thirstier than the 4 cylinder Disco diesel but has a similar tow rating. The 3rd row is unsuitable for adults so despite its gargantuan external proportions it’s still compromised. The Disco set the benchmark with the 3 and 4 and has simply increased the lead with the 5.

  • John Archer

    I’ve got a disco 2 and was thinking of finally upgrading, but I find the rear (middle row) seat quite uncomfortable – too flat and squab too low so no thigh support – disco sport rear seat is actually more comfortable.

  • Jack

    I was wondering if the new 6 cylinder New Discovery looses its lag from a standing start, now that’s its a single turbo, whereas the D4 was Twin Turbo and from a standing start was quite annoying when pulling into traffic from a complete stop

  • Benn0

    That sponginess off the line seems to be a common complaint with a number of cars with the zf 8 speed. My jeep has the same problem, slow to get moving so you give it some more then all of a sudden you are launching through the intersection. Yet slower japanese diesel SUVs move off the line no problem, they just don’t get up and go through the rev range. I’ve read the same thing about the new alfa, feels more to me like the trans lets things slip early on, get enough torque into it and it will bind up.

  • Keato58

    A lot of people buy Disco’s to tow with but you haven’t gone over it’s towing capacity at all and will it be ok to tow a heavy caravan with such a small motor?

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.