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2017 Land Rover Discovery Review

An SUV or crossover that provides a better balance of capability than the 2017 Land Rover Discovery simply doesn't exist.

Land Rover has re-discovered the icon it forgot it had. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery represents a thorough re-think of the way the British brand known for conquering the Kalahari approaches buyers who want room for everything they—and their kids—do.

Based on our initial drive of the 2017 Land Rover Discovery, we've awarded it 7.6 out of 10 available points on account of its impeccable on- and off-road manners, as well as its surprising ability to seat seven passengers in comfort. 

The Disco is offered in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trim levels and its price ranges from the low-$50,000 level up to $80,000. That's an enormous spread, but even a modestly optioned model feels special enough to warrant the small premium it commands over competition like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, and Lexus GX 460. 

You'll find two Discovery models in Land Rover dealerships; this one is the flagship, while the Discovery Sport is smaller and shares little with its big brother. The head honcho Disco is actually a closer relative to the aluminum-bodied Range Rover and Range Rover Sport than it is to the smaller Discovery Sport.

Land Rover Discovery styling and performance
The new Discovery bears the same design themes as its Sport companion, but being that it's developed on a completely different architecture, it's longer and wider, with a more imposing stance. It is a radical departure from the past Discovery/LR3/LR4 machines (which were, incidentally, known as Discovery 3 and Discovery 4 overseas): the planar body panels and T-square-sharpened angles have been deposed by a softer silhouette that's almost pure crossover. We see plenty of Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer detailing, but that's not necessarily a dig at the Rover. 

The Land Rover cues that remain intact are the mesh grille, LED headlights, and a slight bump in the roofline toward the back, where it provides a bit more head room for third-row riders—though it's a much less pronounced bump than in its ancestors. The roof can be painted in a contrast color (silver or black), because the Mini Cooper shouldn't have all that fun. If you're in a sunbelt climate, beware the black roof, since all models have either a fixed or power-operated glass panel that lets in all the rays Americans (but not Brits) know so well. 

The Discovery interior marks no departures from the current state of Land Rover art. It's an austere place at first glance, with a plainly drawn intersection of horizontal and vertical dash members, plenty of gloss black trim, a rotary control to direct the transmission, and a wide, high-resolution touchscreen and colorful interface. To warm up the place, Land Rover puts oak, aluminum, and premium leather on the options list. No model is as quirky as Discos of the past, but they're also far more convincing luxury rigs. 

On the performance front, the Discovery offers a choice between gas and diesel powertrains. The former is the familiar 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, putting out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, via an 8-speed automatic and standard 4-wheel drive. The $2,000 upgrade is a unit that works exceptionally well in the Range Rovers: a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 with 254 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, with great low-end grunt, also coupled to the same 8-speed and 4-wheel drive.

With a body that weighs up to 1,000 pounds less than the prior LR4, performance stats improve greatly. Ride and handling make massive strides as well, since the new Discovery uses a strut and integral-link suspension and because while not dainty, it is much lighter. That diet pays dividends in both fuel economy—16 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined (gas) and 21/26/23 mpg (diesel)—and driving dynamics. 

As for its off-road bona fides, the new Discovery has an extra 1.7 inches of ground clearance versus the old LR4, at 11.1 inches, and fording depth is up 7.9 inches, to 35.4 inches in all. Land Rover's terrain-response and traction controls are fitted; they adapt throttle, transmission, and traction and stability-control programming to suit the conditions under the tires, everything from slick rock to mud. No shortage of off-road doo-dads are part of the picture, but you'll have to pay extra for a low range, a height-adjustable air suspension, and the brand's Terrain Response 2 traction management system. Suffice to say that if you don't want to know what those features are, you can skip that option. 

The Discovery can tow up to 8,200 pounds (with the turbodiesel V-6), and a new system takes over the challenge of parking a towed vehicle by running the steering for the driver, using cameras and sensors to ensure a better parking job.

Discovery seating, utility, and features
With three rows of seating for up to seven passengers, the Discovery promises a useful boost over the Disco Sport and its abbreviated "+2" third-row seats suitable only for small children. In the Discovery, the front passengers have the option of heated and ventilated chairs, but all models come with 12-way power thrones wrapped in leather.

In the third row, Land Rover has packaged in enough space for adults to ride in comfort, although there's precious little space behind those seats when they're up. And when cargo takes precedence, the Discovery's available power third-row seat can be reconfigured via a smartphone app. In all, the Disco has 82.7 cubic feet of space behind the front seats, and 45 cubic feet behind the second-row seat. If you don't need room for more than five, you can skip the second row option. 

A power tailgate can come with a fold-out panel that offers outward-facing bench seats for sport events, under the cover of the single-piece tailgate. An Activity Key allows owners to lock their keyfob in the car, and strap on a $400 sports-proof, Fitbit-style band that unlocks and locks the vehicle.

Other features on the Discovery include the InControl touchscreen interface, with USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming, and smartphone compatibility—though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain off the playlist. A 17-speaker Meridian sound system and in-car wireless hotspot are also offered.

The Disco hasn't yet been crash tested, but all models are equipped with a full range of airbags. An option absolutely worth selecting is the $125 automatic emergency braking system (which really should be standard). Other extra-cost goodies include lane departure warning, blind spot monitors, and a system that will nudge a drifting Discovery back into its lane. 

Styling
Discovery's soft exterior hides an interior that could have been plucked from a Range Rover.
If you liked the classic, boxy Land Rover Discovery with its terraced roof line and “alpine” glass windows…well, you’re going to be a bit confused by the latest model. There’s a certain chunkiness to it, but it lacks the hard-edged, utilitarian look of its predecessors.

Attractive and upscale, if a little generic outside, the Discovery rates a solid 8 out of 10 from us. We’ve given it an extra point for its clean exterior and two more for its exceptionally nice interior that’s full of convenient touches. 

Up front, it bears a swept-back version of the brand’s corporate grille and headlights. If not for its big “Discovery” hood badging, it could be one of any number of crossovers when seen from another car’s rearview mirror. From the side, its unique pulled back headlights add a hint of interest, as do reasonably well-integrated fender vents. There’s some unpainted trim around its wheel wells and below its doors, but the low profile tires and big wheels don’t suggest capability as much as they do on-road prowess. 

That “Discovery” badging is echoed at the rear, where things come to a rather abrupt halt. Long gone is the old tailgate-mounted spare tire from the first two Discos. Instead, there’s an unusual kick down that’s a vague reminder of a similar theme on the LR3 and LR4 where their tailgate split into top- and bottom-hinged portions. Except on the latest Disco, the tailgate opens (at the push of a button) up as one piece.

Inside, the Discovery does a nice job straddling the line between the brand’s lower-end offering—the Discovery Sport—and its full-fledged Range Rovers. A boxy dashboard features relatively few traditional switches and knobs for anything other than the climate control system and the Disco’s myriad available off-road controls.

Land Rover’s designers have done an admirable job picking upholstery patterns and trim pieces that stand out from the rather austere look offered by some German rivals. Leather seats are standard, unlike some competitors, and several wood and aluminum inlays can be specified to ensure that not all Discoverys look the same as one another. 

Performance
It's hard to imagine a vehicle that better balances on- and off-road ability than the Discovery.
For years, Land Rover has been refining its vehicles' on-road ability while attempting to retain their four-wheeling prowess. Perhaps no vehicle the British brand has ever sold better balances the two than the 2017 Discovery.

We've given it extra points for a choice of two great engines mated to a slick-shifting 8-speed automatic, a sublime ride quality, and its tremendous off-road ability. That brings it to 8 out of 10 overall. 

It may be badged Discovery, but this latest Land Rover is more like a reshaped Range Rover underneath. It shares its underpinnings with the Range Rover Sport, as well as that model's extensive aluminum structure. All told, the Discovery can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds less than its LR4 predecessor, even though it still tips the scales at a hefty 4,900 pounds with a few options selected. Man, that LR4 was porky. 
The Discovery uses the same 3.0-liter engines as its predecessor, a choice of supercharged gas and turbodiesel units. The gasser checks in with 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, while the diesel is rated at 254 hp and 443 pound-feet. Both engines supply power to all four wheels via a ZF-supplied 8-speed automatic, the same gearbox that comes in several rivals like the BMW X5. 

Here, both the transmission and engines work brilliantly. The gas engine provides smooth acceleration and terrific passing power, but it rumbles a bit more at idle than the diesel. That was as much of a surprise to us as it may be to you. The diesel is essentially silent inside the Discovery, although its clatter is noticeable from outside the vehicle. The diesel's mountain of torque comes on early, but its throttle has been tuned to deliver a refined rush of power and not neck-snapping acceleration.

At $2,000 above the gas engine, the diesel seems worthwhile, even if its 7,700 pound towing rating is a hair below the 8,200 offered by the gas engine.

Pavement or no pavement

So far, we've only driven Discos with the optional air suspension. SEs and HSEs come standard with a coil-spring setup. The air setup smothers out minor road imperfections and can even swallow big pot holes with minimal drama. Though the latest Disco's center of gravity is considerably lower than its predecessor, there's a hint of lean into corners. A narrow-rimmed steering wheel serves as an accurate tiller, even if the electronic power steering setup filters out most road feel. 

If you want to tap into the Discovery's ample baked-in off-road ability, you'll wind up with the height-adjustable air setup. At the press of a button, it adds 1.7 inches to the already impressive 11.1 inches of ground clearance. The air suspension also improve approach and departure angles to 29.5 and 28 degrees, respectively, to reduce the risk of scraping a front bumper on nature's worst.

Base Discovery SE and HSEs have a simple single-speed transfer case that allows for forget it all-weather traction; a low range is optional for more severe duty use and for low-speed towing. Opt for the available Terrain Response 2 system and a host of traction control modes are available at the press of a button. But this latest system includes a handy automatic mode that uses high-tech sensors to adapt to any kind of terrain. Except in deep snow and sand, automatic outsmarts even the most seasoned off-roaders. 

The Discovery can also be ordered with All Terrain Progress Control, which is basically an intelligent off-road cruise control. Instead of simply maintaining a slow speed like Toyota's Crawl Control, ATPC works with Terrain Response 2 to modify traction control parameters without any driver intervention on the throttle or brake pedal. Drivers still need to steer, but Land Rover has suggested that a fully self-driving off-road mode is on the horizon.

The future is here for off-roaders. 

Comfort & Quality
With a usable third row, the Discovery is supremely practical and well-finished.
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery apes its predecessors in interior refinement and flexibility—and it's better than most direct rivals, too.

It earns points above average for its comfortable front seats, a third row capable of seating two full-size humans, and its luxurious inner trappings. We've given it an 8 out of 10 for comfort and quality. 

The Discovery can be ordered with five or seven seats, although the second row doesn't have quite the "stadium seating" effect of the outgoing Discovery. Front seat passengers are treated to 12-way power adjustable thrones on all models (with memory for the driver's seat on HSEs). The second row has good room for three, but it sits surprisingly low to the ground. High-spec models feature a power-adjustable backrest for the second row and the entire 40/20/40 split-folding bench can be moved forward to allow for more third-row room if needed.

That third row is a particular standout. Although it's definitely steerage class, there is room for two adults to sit side-by-side with decent head and leg room. An optional package folds these seats at the press of a button. Admittedly, there's not much cargo room behind the third row when it's up, however, but that's not unexpected for this class of crossover or SUV.

All models boast plenty of small item storage spots including a center console bin below the cup holders that can store several iPads or books. The climate control panel folds down at the press of a button for small item storage and numerous small bins are scattered throughout the rest of the cabin. 

We've not yet experienced a Discovery SE, but the HSEs we've sampled with the optional full leather package surround drivers in an upscale, hide-lined interior. Soft touch materials, including a padded and textured dash top, all feel price appropriate, although some hard plastics exist low on the door panels where most hands are unlikely to venture. 

Safety
No facts and figures are in yet from crash testers, but the Disco should have come standard with automatic emergency braking.
The latest Land Rover hasn’t yet been crash tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA—and, frankly, we’re not holding our breath since the last one wasn't evaluated either.

With that in mind, we can’t assign it a score, but there’s still plenty of standard and optional safety tech on board to prevent accidents or protect occupants should one occur.

The 2017 Discovery comes fitted from the factory with the expected (and federally mandated) safety items like anti-lock brakes and airbags, but some important collision avoidance tech is optional. Automatic emergency braking that applies the brakes when it detects an impending collision with the intention of either avoiding a wreck entirely or mitigating its severity, is a reasonable $125 option on SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury models. We're a little surprised that Land Rover didn't see fit to make this important feature standard. 

Further, HSE and HSE Luxury variants can be fitted with blind spot monitors and a system that reads traffic signs (like speed limits) and presents what it finds in the instrument panel for $550. A Driver Pro Package adds those features plus adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist for a somewhat hefty $2,350.

All models are also available with a surround-view camera system that shows a birdseye view of the Discovery. It’s helpful not just for parking lots. Since the Discovery was designed for off-road use, the cameras can alert drivers to rocks and boulders far from civilization.

Features
The Discovery wants for little, but its off-road tech is costly and options can add up quickly
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery is offered in three basic configurations with numerous options, which makes finding one that doesn’t look like your neighbor’s an easy task.

We’ve awarded it 9 out of 10 points on account of its lengthy optional equipment list, its solid standard spec, its terrific infotainment system, and all of its off-road doo-dads. Equip your Disco just right and you’ll spend days pushing buttons and trying features on for size.

The build walk

The Discovery SE serves as the gateway to the lineup. At around $51,000, it comes with 12-way power front seats wrapped in leather, dual zone automatic climate control, parking sensors, automatic wipers, 19-inch wheels, a fixed glass roof, and a power tailgate that can be opened with the kick of a foot under the rear bumper.

SEs offer a few packages and options. Among the more notable are a $2,050 pack with navigation, LED headlights, and front park assist; $550 for a surround-view camera system; $1,500 for a two-speed transfer case, air suspension, and Terrain Response 2—the brand’s off-road traction control system. Order a Disco without that last package and it’s basically an all-wheel drive station wagon with a high seating position.

A second row of seats runs $2,150 on SEs and HSEs and includes air suspension and the two-speed transfer case but not Terrain Response 2. There’s no way to build a seven-seat Discovery SE with Terrain Response 2, but buyers can do so on an HSE.

Speaking of the HSE, that roughly $58,000 model builds on the SE with 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, 380 watts of Meridian-branded audio, an upsized 10-inch infotainment screen with navigation, three-zone climate control, wood trim inside, and a power panoramic moonroof. It also includes a power flop-down “tailgate” in the rear that is carpeted and can support 660 pounds. It makes the perfect place to tie up your hiking boots—or, in Land Rover tradition, to load a hunting rifle worth as much as an island nation’s GDP. 

The HSE can be ordered with a few packages of its own that include features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors, and automatic emergency braking. Upgraded leather seating surfaces that are heated and ventilated are part of a $2,250 luxury package. A rear-seat entertainment system runs a hefty $2,270, while several wheel style upgrades are on offer for $500 to $1,700.

From there, the HSE Luxury at about $65,000 is essentially the flagship. It’s basically an HSE with most of its available options applied plus leather trim on the dashboard and door panels, an 825 watt Meridian stereo, and its own wheel designs.

A number of appearance packages are also available, but they are pricey—$800 for one that includes different wheels and black touches up to nearly $6,000 for another with unique bumpers. 

The first handful of Discovery SUVs to make their way to the U.S. will be outfitted with a full-boat First Edition package. They’re all orange and feature every option plus some special black styling accents inside and out.

HSE and HSE Luxury models are available with either the gas or turbodiesel V-6 engines, with the latter running an extra $2,000. SE and First Editions can only be outfitted with the gas engine. 

Fuel Economy
For a nearly 5,000 pound vehicle, the Disco is thrifty—but there's that qualifier to worry about.
Given that the 2017 Land Rover Discovery weighs as much as 1,000 pounds less than its LR4 predecessor, we aren’t surprised to see a noticeable reduction in fuel consumption—to the point where the turbodiesel is surprisingly thrifty.

Most Discos will feature the gas engine, so we’ve rated it accordingly—a 5 out of 10.

The gas V-6 scores 16 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined, while the turbodiesel comes in with 21/26/23 mpg. Those figures don't lead the class, but they're improvements over the LR4 that mustered 16 mpg combined with its supercharged V-6 gas engine. 

Those figures are the same for all trim levels, although it’s worth noting that those with the air suspension hunker down at highway speeds to become a little more aerodynamic. All Discovery SUVs are considerably slicker than their LR4 big brothers; that boxy model checked in with a coefficient of drag of 0.40, while the new model is a much sleeker 0.33.

Both engines include a start/stop system that cuts the motor at stop lights but keeps the climate control system running. The diesel is a bit more noticeable on startup than the gas engine, but both are fairly unobtrusive. 

Moreover, one aero trick has a secondary benefit: the rear spoiler helps air pass over the Discovery and it manages to effectively convince dust swirls to stay off of the rear window. It’s the little things that add up. 



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