Last week I had the opportunity to drive the new Land Rover Discovery. I’m not much of an off-roader, but in the interest of pushing personal boundaries, I’m happy for the opportunity. The new seven-seater Disco proved it’s pretty well capable of tackling anything the environment wants to throw at it. There is a little dial in the center console that allows you to switch through different modes, including Road, Snow, Dirt, Sand, and Rock. Over the course of two days, we would cover some 500 miles and use the knob in each of its positions. It wasn’t really intended to go that way, but as luck would have it, the area around the Utah/Arizona border had a lot more precipitation than expected. Bring it on!
[Disclaimer: Land Rover put me on a flight to LA, then a chartered jet to Utah. Two nights of great hotels, great food, and great views within Zion National Park.]
We arrived in Utah, to a very small airport in the middle of nowhere, and were split two-to-a-Disco. My driving partner had been in a car accident on the way to the airport that morning, and I would be sharing with one of Land Rover’s own. He allowed me to do all of the driving, while everyone else had to split their driving duties along the way. In that way, it was possible for me to take full advantage of both days of driving, and in all driving conditions. I don’t know how I got so lucky.
The Discovery, and its smaller stablemate, the Discovery Sport, make up Land Rover’s “Versatility” line, lying somewhere between the “Refinement” of Range Rover and the “Durability” of the upcoming Defender. LR wanted to use this weekend to display the Disco’s “Enabling Technology” and “Breadth of Capability”. We certainly had the opportunity to experience that breadth, and I’m pretty damn convinced.
On the first day I was plopped into the driver’s seat of a Discovery with the optional 3-liter turbocharged diesel V6 engine. The diesel engine is a $2000 premium over the gasoline V6, and while it provides only 254 horsepower, it’s capable of 442 lb-ft of torque. Land Rover states that the Td6 is capable of 26 miles per gallon highway, and we saw real-world returns of about 24 mpg over the course of the day. Both engines are pretty quiet in this truck, but the turbo diesel was spinning about 1200 RPM at highway speeds, so that certainly factored into the noise level. Additionally, the extra torque was most welcome in the evening’s off-road section.
Immediately after leaving the airport, we headed for the mountains. It didn’t take long for us to see that the white stuff falling from the sky would be our first obstacle of the day. Winding up the mountainside with sheer drop offs on our right, the snow began to pile up and saw at least half-a-foot of the stuff by the time we reached the summit. I did pop the center console knob into snow mode, which slowed throttle response and aided traction at all four wheels. We were riding on Goodyear Eagle F1 All Terrain all-season truck tires, which surprised me with the amount of grip they provided in the snow. I never once felt like I couldn’t control the 5000 pound truck in the slick stuff. It was like this for perhaps fifty miles or so. The heater worked well, so we stayed comfortable.
Once clear of the snow, we were back on regular highways for miles and miles. This was a good opportunity to test out the laser-based cruise control. Set your speed and set the distance you want to maintain to the car in front of you, and you just let it go. There was an accident up ahead, and the truck slowed with the vehicle ahead perfectly. I’ve used systems like this before, but combined with the head-up-display it made for an all the more useful highway experience.
We *may* have found a very long very straight very empty road to test out the truck’s top speed. Land Rover claims that the diesel tops out at 124 and the gasoline engine runs up to 130. That’s been independently tested to be more or less true.
The seats in the Discovery have enough bolstering to keep you in place and comfortable, but the upper bolster was a little harsh on my sides in “hard cornering” of more than half a lateral g or so. This only came into play maybe three times, but it was a slight annoyance.
The biggest annoyance with this truck, however, was the fixed-in-place rear-seat-entertainment headrests. As this style of headrest is immobile, it was of course in the wrong position for my head to be comfortable. This is an optional feature, and Land Rover assures me that the take-rate is low, and I’d like the standard headrests better. In any case, the headrests were mounted too far forward for my taste, and I had to sit with the seat reclined farther than I would have liked to be remotely comfortable over 500 miles of driving. Likewise, the headrest has little “wings” that pop out to cradle your head, but of course, I am too tall for these and they poked into my shoulder blades.
The rest of the interior, meanwhile, was excellent. Buttons were where I expected them to be, the steering wheel was nice to hold, the armrests were great, and there were storage and charging points nearly everywhere. Tune the Sirius/XM to “Chill” and hit the road. The touchscreen in the center stack was a little finicky, but I’ve experienced far worse, so I can’t fault them too much for that.
As dusk fell, we moved into an off-road section that began as simple sandy dirt off-roading on two-track lanes. The two-track led us straight to a dry river bed that was very deep sand. The river bed then ended at the base of a set of rock stairs to climb. Land Rover had set out some spotters to make sure we didn’t completely screw up and drop our cars 20 feet or so. It was relatively easy going in these big beasts. The very last obstacle was a tipover section that first saw the back offside wheel lift, and then as the nearside rear moved into the dip the front offside went sky-high. The air suspension handled things pretty well. It’s clear that this truck is a compromise between on-road comfort and off-road capability, but it never felt like it was going to leave us stranded. I certainly don’t know of any other seven-seat luxury SUVs that can do this.
We stayed overnight at the wonderfully luxurious Amangiri resort. A fabulous place that is literally in the middle of nowhere. A concrete bunker in the desert straight out of a James Bond film. Land Rover had this wonderful Disco display set out for us when we arrived. I do wish we’d had time in each of them, but alas…
The following day I was given the keys to a silver Gasoline model. This truck has 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 3-liter V6. It’s quite a good motor, but this one is only capable of 21 mpg highway, and we saw combined average of about 17 mpg for the day. The new Discovery has allegedly dropped over 1000 pounds from the old LR4 thanks to a bunch of aluminum, and the new base price of $49,990 is about a grand less than the LR4 as well.
The second day was a lot more off-road than the first. I woke up, got in the truck, and headed off road straight out of the resort’s driveway.
It is important to note here that I am a monster idiot and thought I’d lost my prescription sunglasses. While mostly reserved on the outside, I was panicking on the inside. I tore apart my backpack and camera bag to find them. Before we’d taken off that morning I tried out the third row seats, which are said to be for ‘full sized adults’ of which I am one, quite full sized indeed. I did fit, surprisingly, with room to spare. Anyway, I thought I’d dropped my sunglasses while trying to climb into that seat. Of course, I’d lowered the third row and clipped the cargo net into place in the meantime. When I tried to raise the third row again to check for my glasses, I ripped the cargo net right off of its hook. Sorry Land Rover!
The morning off-road was a bit more of the same from the prior day with some dry river bed (now getting wet again with rain), then a bit of rock crawling. This time we plugged in a speed on the car’s computer, namely 3 miles per hour, and kept our feet off of the pedals, letting the car decide how best to apply throttle to get up the rock face. We steered, the Discovery did everything else. From there it was about 15-20 miles of scrubby two-tracking to get back to the main roads. We were warned that there would be cows but didn’t see any.
Back on the straight and narrow, I saw a lot of really comfortable pavement and a lot of cruise control. There were gorgeous vistas in every direction. It was almost like we were driving across a dining table laid out with giant slices of peanut butter cake. There were crumb-boulders strewn across the floor, and then a giant flat-faced stone cake slice towering up from nowhere. Phenomenal, and yet disconcerting at the same time.
After a couple hundred miles, we arrived at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes state park for a dozen or so miles of sand dune riding. I’d never been on dunes before, so it’s difficult to compare it to anything, but the truck never got bogged down in the sand. To be fair, we did air down the tires a bit on this part of the adventure. There was some pretty intense dune riding, with sheer drops and pretty steep climbs, but we handled it with relative ease and a whole lot of throttle. We were running a bit behind schedule so we had to cut lunch a bit short, as soon as our tires had been aired back up, we were back on the road. Still plenty of time for a full stomach, though.
The road leading out of the sand dune park was a big muddy rutty one from the steady downpour of the day. I may have had a little too much fun in the mud, finding every hole and sloppy track, powersliding through them to get the side fully muddy. This is what stuff like this is built for, and it was phenomenal. At the end of the muddy road, Land Rover had posted a crew to clear out our wheels of mud and dirt to prevent the wheels being imbalanced for the remainder of our 80 mile highway trek back to the airport. Alas, ours was a bit too muddy and dirty for their cleaning to have made a difference and we were set to suffer teeth-chattering boppity-boppity-bop all the way there.
Luckily Land Rover had told me that the fording depth of the Discovery was over 33 inches, so we were intent on seeking out some water to wade through. We found a small two-track path that led down the side of the road across a creek. It’s likely that the creek was usually dry, but since it’d been raining so much it was flowing a good 12 inches of water at a leisurely pace. Wading down through that water was intended to clear out wheels out, but it was also the last bit of terrain that we hadn’t covered on the trip yet. You can’t go Land Rover-ing without getting your rocker panels wet, right?
The water did clear out some of that mud from the wheels, but it had also lodged a rock in between the brake rotor and the backing plate, so from then onward the truck was squealing in unholy pain as the rock vibrated the dust shield. I stopped at a car was to try to get rid of the rest of the mud, and a buck fifty later the truck was clean again, but the rock had not budged. When I pulled into the airport parking lot, Land Rover employees were cringing at the sound. It was unpleasant but did no permanent damage. Sorry Land Rover!
My final verdict is that this is a quite capable truck that is as good on the road as it is off the road. It’s the biggest thing I’ve driven in quite some time, but it drives much smaller than it actually is. The new, more conventionally handsome, rounded corners design will appeal to a wider customer base, and they’re sure to sell boatloads of these things. While most Discovery sales will go to suburban families with 3.4 children, it’s good to know that if the shit really hits the fan, you can head for the hills and not get stuck. I would imagine that with even more off-road-worthy tires, this truck would be nigh-unstoppable. At a starting point of fifty-grand, this is an expensive rig, but when you consider what other seven-seaters can cost, it’s not all that bad. Hell, that’s right about the same starting price as a Chevy Suburban, and I can tell you for sure which one I’d rather have.
[All photos copyright Bradley C. Brownell/Hooniverse.com, unless otherwise noted]
2017 Land Rover Discovery: The 'All Around The Dial' Review
5 responses to “2017 Land Rover Discovery: The 'All Around The Dial' Review”
This is brilliant. Love the photos. THAT’S how a Land Rover review should look and read.Loading…
Looks like a fun trip!
Can’t say I appreciate the style of the new model, it is less distinct and certainly the odd one out of the line of past models. Given the stylistic break, the vestigial cues that have been kept (roof, offset registration plate) seem pretty forced.Loading…
Is this an invite only experience from Land Rover? From the area and I see these Discoverys on a daily base the last while.Loading…
Yes, it was a press launch of the new car. They’ve run a few different waves, there is currently a wave happening today that should be the final one.Loading…
Thanks for the reply, that’s interesting to know. I was thinking it may have been a new driving experience Land Rover was putting together. Glad they picked the area, beautiful country:)Loading…