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2018 Land Rover Discovery Review

2018 Land Rover Discovery Review
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The 2018 Land Rover Discovery is a spacious three-row crossover with more capability than anything that doesn’t ride on tank tracks.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery is a full-size luxury SUV that's an old name on new ideas.

It's better at cheating the wind and carrying families.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery is a full-size luxury SUV that transports tough families over tough mountains.

It carries over essentially unchanged from last year’s new model, and earns an impressive 7.4 overall. Fuel economy is always going to hold back a 5,000-pound SUV, but it excels in comfort and performance.

The Discovery’s profile will be foreign to people familiar with the nameplate. Land Rover ditched the brick-in-the-wind shape of earlier generations for a smoother shape that cuts a cleaner hole through the air. It reads nearly bulbous in photos, but in person, nose-to-nose, the Disco is still as big as it’s ever been. We bemoan the lost “alpine” windows and tail-mounted spares of yesteryear, but will willingly trade both for this vehicle's impressive off-road prowess.

One historical note: The Discovery name disappeared here in the U.S. after the 2004 model year, when it was replaced by the LR3 and subsequently the LR4. But those two boxy 'utes were badged as Discoverys elsewhere, so the name only took a vacation from us.

Under the hoods of most new Discovery models will be a capable and powerful 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that asks for premium unleaded. It smoothly delivers 340 horsepower, which is enough for highway passing, but requires more attention and a little heavier feet off-road than we were expecting.

An optional turbodiesel V-6 solves that dilemma for us. It’s prolific 443 pound-feet of pull comes on song much earlier in the rev range, and it returns marginally better fuel economy. It’s $2,000 dearer than the gas engine, but we’d recommend most buyers consider the oil-burner: it’s quieter, stronger, and smarter.

Like anything with a Land Rover badge, the new Discovery comes at a premium. Base models start at around $51,000, but HSE Luxury-trimmed Discovery SUVs can summit $80,000 almost as easily as they can ascend the nearest mountain.

Set course for the grocery store via Mount Denali. The Discovery almost demands it.

The Land Rover Discovery used to be kryptonite for aerodynamics. Now, not so much.

To our eyes, the Land Rover Discovery’s new looks are a significant departure from the old versions. Every angle has been smoothed over to better cheat the wind and improve fuel economy. It’s a more contemporary shape, and it’s a far friendlier look on the streets. Or, briefly: Out with the box, in with the blend.

That’s good and bad, but we’ll say it’s good. We miss our boxy Discos in the same way we miss a warming glow from old TVs, times change.

Thankfully, inside is just as boxy as we’d hope with a mix of classy materials and high-tech screens in most places.

The Discovery’s shape manages to hide its heft fairly well. In photos, the Discovery could be confused with the smaller, unrelated Discovery Sport. (The Land Rover Discovery is much closer underneath to the Range Rover.) In person, the impressive size of the SUV is apparent quickly. The corporate grille pronounces the Discovery’s arrival, but it’s quickly swept back into the fenders via headlights that have been pulled back. The grille is relatively smaller than the Disco’s large chin, wide lower opening and upright ducting.

From the sides, we think the Discovery is somewhat anonymous. Not much beyond a rising window line and chunky pillars help distinguish the Discovery from some SUV on the road.

The tail may be the biggest departure for brand loyalists. The Disco drops the mounted spare in the rear, but retains the same kickdown found in LR3 and LR4 models.

Inside, the cabin is plusher, albeit more upright than the exterior would suggest. The horizontally themed dash is punctuated by a widescreen-ratio touchscreen for infotainment and a similarly wide center console. The instrument cluster lacks any of the panache; it retains the same small LCD display with a utilitarian, but outdated, look.

Thanks to some clever window framing, a dual-pane sunroof (fixed in standard models), and a deceptively low beltline, the Discovery’s interior is bathed in natural light. It’s doubly impressive in light-colored interiors that effectively turn the Disco into a gymnasium between the doors.

There are no bad picks for powertrain in the Land Rover Discovery, but for our money, the diesel and air suspension setup unlock a world of terrain to explore.

The Land Rover Discovery has refined its on-road behavior in ways that belie the SUV’s prowess off road.

The standard gas V-6 and optional turbodiesel V-6 are both impressive. Same goes for its 8-speed automatic and ride, which is improved by an optional air suspension that we don’t think should be optional at all—it’s bundled with the Discovery’s third row and low-speed transfer case that make the Discovery a formidable off-roader. We give the Disco an 8 for performance.

The base engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that makes 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a smooth 8-speed automatic that’s effortless and smart, one of the better transmissions that we’re appreciating in every application.

The gas engine makes good use of its power, and can propel the Discovery to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, but outright speed isn’t its forte. The gas engine makes most of its torque between 3,500 and 4,000 rpm—unusually high for a turbocharged engine—and needs more revs to lug the lumbering 4,900-pound SUV up boulders and trails. It’s just as capable as ever, but with a little more attention to the throttle than you might expect.

The optional turbodiesel V-6 makes its power much lower in the rev range (1,750 rpm), runs up to 60 mph faster (6.9 seconds), sips less fuel, and is quieter than the gas version. We admit that some might hesitate opting for the diesel engine, which costs roughly $2,000 more, but we consider it to be a worthwhile investment.

The diesel engine is mated to the same 8-speed automatic and powers all four wheels. We haven’t yet driven a Discovery with a base suspension, which is a traditional coil-spring setup. So far, our experiences have been with the air suspension that’s bundled with the third-row seats and off-roading gear.

The air suspension douses fussy roads and adds adjustability to add 1.7 inches to the Disco’s impressive 11 inches of ground clearance. The adjustable suspension also improves the Discovery’s approach, departure, and breakover angles and its wading depth, wheel articulation, you get the point. It’s worth serious consideration.

Note: Opting for the base suspension considerably lowers the Discovery’s ground clearance to 8.7 inches, which is roughly the same as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Neither vehicle will be confused with a sedan anytime soon, but it changes the Discovery’s profile significantly.

Comfort & Quality
The Land Rover Discovery is a marvel of comfort and capability. We’ll stop short of saying it’s more comfortable than its bigger brother Range Rover, but it’s nearly there now.

The Land Rover Discovery as, at first, an off-road machine. It’s been smoothed over—literally and figuratively—to be a comfortable family vehicle for most drivers—like its predecessors.

We give the Discovery a point above average for its good front seats, and comfortable back seats. It earns another for a spacious cargo area, and another for being a go-anywhere-with-anyone SUV. The Land Rover Discovery is remarkably capable and comfortable—like its predecessors. We give it a 9 for comfort. 

Up front, the Land Rover Discovery is poles apart from its lineal predecessor, the Discovery Series II from the late 1990s. The new Discovery is much softer and rounded with a plush dashboard accented with wood and deeply black plastic trims. (We’re curious about scratches over the long-term, however.)
The seats are all-day comfortable with plenty of adjustability in base versions, and even more in HSE Luxury-trimmed Discovery models. The overall stance is much more upright than the outside appearance would indicate. Designers have cut down on the boxy stance of outgoing models, but you wouldn’t really know from the inside.

The second-row seats don’t sit higher than the front seats, unlike older generations. That lack of “stadium seating” can be disorienting for adult passengers in the back seats, but a bright cabin makes up for the down-low seating position. Rear seat riders get 38 inches of rear leg room, according to the spec sheet, but it feels like more than that. The upright benches, which can recline in some models, work wonders for good posture.

The third row is optional in the Discovery, but there’s a catch. The Discovery’s good off-roading bits require the third row, and we strongly suggest making good use of the Land Rover’s legendary capability, which means that third row shouldn’t be much of an option for most buyers.

The wayback will be cramped for adults, but adequate for children and pre-teens. With the third row in place, the cargo area shrinks to 9.1 cubic feet. With the third row folded (or not included at all) the cargo space swells to 45 cubes, or 82.7 cubes in max cargo capacity configuration with the second and third rows out of the way.

The Discovery boasts plenty of small cubbies and storage trays inside, including a refrigerated center console to keep drinks cold. A folding climate control panel opens to reveal a hidden compartment that would work to keep phones or wallets hidden from view, but it creates a smaller, awkward shelf underneath it that will likely be a magnet for lint and lost items as the Discovery does its dirty work.

Without official data, we can’t predict how the Discovery will act in a crash.

Federal and independent testers don’t have a wall big enough to throw a Land Rover Discovery at, so we’re not sure yet how it’ll act in a crash—or if the wall would survive.

Until we see more, we’re withholding our official safety rating.

The Land Rover Discovery comes with all the mandated safety gear: airbags, traction and stability control systems, active headrests, and rearview camera.

Active safety equipment including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are all optional extras, but reasonably priced. A surround-view camera system is helpful in maneuvering the big SUV, adds a few hundred dollars to the bottom line, and we wouldn’t order a Discovery without it.

The Land Rover Discovery is surprisingly affordable for a luxury off-roader, but pricey extras can add up quickly.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery is available in three trim levels with two engine options and two drivetrains—you can order a Discovery without a low-range transfer case, and you can order a scotch and water without the scotch. Are you getting all that you paid for?

Gas-powered versions are available in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trim, while diesel-powered Discovery models are available in only HSE and HSE Luxury trim.

All Discovery models are equipped with 19-inch wheels, power adjustable front seats, dual-pane fixed sunroofs, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, two rows of seats, keyless ignition, a rearview camera, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment.

That’s good base equipment, a very good touchscreen, and the Discovery bundles a healthy set of optional equipment—for an equally healthy price. We rate the Discovery’s features at an 8 out of 10, with an important note: Most of those good options are spider-webbed with other prerequisite packages that the order sheet feels like a college upper-division course catalog. Asking for a small upgrade can require thousands of dollars in additional extras. 

Stepping up to HSE models with the gas or diesel engine adds 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, power tailgate that can hold 660 pounds, premium audio, navigation, and a 10-inch touchscreen for infotainment.

Conquering mountains in HSE Luxury Discovery models are fine, fine ways to assert dominance over nature. In addition to the big wheels, the HSE Luxury adds air suspension, a standard low-range transfer case, heated rear seats, three rows of seats, upgraded leather interior bits, three-zone climate control, power folding third-row seats, and a 14-speaker audio system.

We think options worth considering will be the third-row seating package for SE and HSE models that not only adds the small third row, but also the air suspension, and low-range transfer case for roughly $2,000. An added Capability Plus Package adds Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 off-road package with an active locking rear differential and selectable modes for sand, snow, rocks, fire, brimstone, the works.

Additional packages include safety systems that we wish were standard, but are relatively reasonably priced. Blind-spot monitors and traffic sign recognition add about $500 to the bottom line (provided you opt for a $1,000 vision package first) and adaptive cruise control with active lane control adds roughly $1,800 more.

Rear seat entertainment packages are slick, and mimic the main infotainment screen, but require swallowing a baseball-sized lump of a price tag: more than $2,200. A head-up display is almost $1,000, and frankly, it’s not worth it.

A slick tow assist feature helps loading and unloading by controlling the trailer via a rotary knob on the center console. It’s reasonably priced at $400, provided you have the right prerequisite features down.

Fuel Economy
The turbodiesel helps, but moving the mountainous Land Rover Discovery requires mega natural resources.

Frugality may not be in many Land Rover owners’ vocabularies. Opting for a go-anywhere, bring-anything SUV asks for something in return.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery tries its best with a V-6, returning 16 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined. That’s good enough for a 5 on our fuel-efficiency scale and while it’s better than other slab-sided competitors, it’s still thirsty.

Opting for the turbodiesel V-6 helps but it adds roughly $2,000 to the bottom line, which may take several years to recoup at the pump. The turbodiesel is rated at 21/26/23 mpg.

Among three-row family haulers, the Discovery is far less efficient than, say, a hybrid minivan. Among SUVs, the Discovery is very competitive—most in its class average combined economy in the low-20s.


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