Land Rover Discovery review
Luxurious Land Rover Discovery is fantastic all-rounder that's big, bold and brilliant to drive on and off-road
It’s clear that the Land Rover Discovery sticks to a tried-and-tested formula. The current car can trace its roots back to the Discovery 3, which was launched in 2004, but constant development has kept the 7-seater at the top of its game. The 2014 model drops the 4 from its name (it was called the Land Rover Discovery 4) and gets a series of minor tweaks to its appearance in a bid to keep it at the front of the full-size SUV class.
The fourth-generation Land Rover Discovery may well be the ultimate all-rounder. It mixes a relaxing driving experience with a pair of punchy diesel engines and a cabin that boasts luxury car quality with lots of space and seven seats.
Oh, and it's also one of the most capable off-roaders on the planet. It isn't cheap and not sporty to drive like a BMW X5, plus there are doubts over reliability, but this is the Swiss Army knife of cars.
Our choice: Discovery 4 3.0 SDV6 XS
Constant evolution has kept the Land Rover Discovery looking fresh, although it’s helped no end by the distinctive, simple lines that give it a timeless appearance.
The clamshell bonnet, stepped roof, large rear windows and tall, vertical tailgate mean it looks like no other 4x4 on the road, and over the past few years it’s just been given minor tweaks. For 2014, the ring-shaped LED running lights are ditched in favour of Range Rover-style lamps, while the Land Rover script on the leading edge of the bonnet is replaced by Discovery lettering.
Elsewhere, there’s gloss black trim on the grille, while the tail-lights also get a black finish – although this gives them a bit of an aftermarket feel. The engine badging has moved from the tailgate to the side of the car, just behind the trademark air vents.
Inside, you get simple, rotary dials and chunky buttons, while the Terrain Response system’s controls are set into a gloss black panel just ahead of the gearlever. In fact, the biggest change inside is to the Discovery’s stereo, as all models from XS above boast a Meridian set-up as standard.
The car feels more upmarket than the Toyota Land Cruiser and has a more modern design, while the fit and finish are first-class. There’s a premium feel to all of the switchgear and comfortable seats in all three rows.
All the panels have tight gaps, and with its chunky, angular proportions has the feeling of a very expensive Tonka toy that makes it more appealing than an Audi Q7.
The Land Rover Discovery has a single 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbodiesel on offer, with a healthy 252bhp on tap. This makes the Discovery good for 0-60mph in just 8.8 seconds.
The standard eight-speed auto is a big help to the car's on-road performance. Shift paddles allow you to take manual control of the box, but these seem surplus to requirements as the electronics do a good job of keeping you in the right ratio most of the time.
As you’d expect the Discovery suffers from body roll in corners, but hard cornering isn’t something it's designed for. If you take it easy instead, you’ll find that the Land Rover is very refined, both in stop-start city traffic or when cruising on the motorway, but that square shape makes for plenty of wind noise.
Venture off the beaten track, and the Discovery demonstrates another level of ability; it’s fantastic. Simply raise the air-suspension to off-road mode and switch the Terrain Response system to the relevant conditions, and the electronics optimise the 4WD system to suit the terrain. There are centre and rear diff locks, low-range gears and plenty of hi-tech electronics designed to keep you going. You’re likely to lose your nerve before the Discovery gets stuck.
If you do head off-tarmac, then there are some options available that are designed to help you on your way. Wade Sensing checks the depth of water you’re fording, while the surround camera system relays images from four cameras, whether you’re on or off the road.
Land Rover doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, but as the Discovery has seen constant development over the years, it should be more durable than previous models.
Current owners seem pretty happy with their cars, as the model finished eighth in our Driver Power 2013 Top 100. They were full of praise for its ride quality, ease of driving and practicality. The Discovery features six airbags, plus electronic stability control that works with the Terrain Response system to optimise its effectiveness depending upon the surface on which you’re driving.
You get a fantastic raised seating position and a first-class cabin. The dashboard has a luxurious mix of leather, wood and soft-touch plastics, plus big chunky air vents. There's lots of room for driver and passengers while hi-tech gizmos like the dual-view centre console screen are desirable. Other options include a set of five cameras that can help you negotiate tight spaces, whether you're in the middle of nowhere or a multi-storey car park.
The two-part tailgate opens to reveal a 543-litre boot, while the lower section doubles up as a handy seat. It also creates a flat boot lip to help loading. The manual seat-folding mechanism is clearly labelled and simple to use, although the rearmost seats are a bit heavy. Once up there’s lots of room, despite tight shoulder space, and two adults could easily sit in the back for a long journey.
Passenger space in all three rows is superb, with lots of headroom and storage, while the large glass area and three sunroofs give an airy feel. Getting in and out is easy, thanks to the Access suspension mode, which lowers the car by 5cm from normal driving height.
With a kerbweight of around 2,500kg and permanent four-wheel drive, there is only so much a diesel engine can do. Land Rover claims 32.1mpg, and even with gentle motorway runs we reckon most drivers could manage that.
It posts emissions of 213g/km, which when compared with the likes of the BMW X5 3.0d, is quite disappointing. The BMW manages much better figures - 38mpg and just 195g/km of CO2. Tyres will be expensive to replace and servicing will also be pricey.
For private buyers, depreciation of 58.3 per cent is excellent for such an expensive car, although this is offset by higher servicing costs than for the Toyota Land Cruiser.