2017 Land Rover Discovery – A Little More Civilized

Land Rover has finally modernized the last of the remaining off-road machines in its lineup and transformed it by adding civility and style to what was otherwise a pure workhorse tuck.

The 2017 Discovery replaces the LR4 which was a box on wheels more suited for an African safari than city life. It was overdue for a replacement, with the pre-facelift LR3 model having been introduced back in 2004. All of the other Land Rover and Range Rover models have adopted the brand’s new sleek design language and now it’s the Discovery’s turn.

Do not confuse the Discovery with the Discovery Sport which is a completely different model. They’ve also used this naming scheme with the more upscale Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models but I really have to emphasize how awkward it can be in a conversation.

“I drive a Range Rover.”

“Which One?”

“It’s just a Range Rover…non-Sport”.

One way or another you’ll have to specify non-Sport when referring to your vehicle if you own a Range Rover or Discovery and it diminishes the fact that you have the more upscale model.

Naming aside, the new Discovery’s exterior is now stylish, trendy and upscale. It shares many elements from the Range Rover family and won’t look out of place next to any other luxury SUV. The purists might frown on this a little but the truck will certainly garner much more appeal from the public with these looks. That being said you can still identify cues to the past particularly from the rear where the boxy silhouette still persists. The license plate is offset from the middle of the rear tailgate likely for nostalgic purposes as there is no spare tire mounted on the tailgate any longer. The shape is still boxy but the edges and taillights have been rounded off for a nice contrast that doesn’t resemble anything else on the road.

The interior of the Discovery is adorned with all the bells and whistles you’d expect to find for an SUV at this price point. The high quality craftsmanship is beyond reproach and very similar to what is offered in most Range Rovers and Jaguars (remember the company is Jaguar Land Rover). The infotainment system is easy enough to use though not too visually appealing. The turn dial gear selection device has made its way into the discovery and while I much prefer something more traditional it works quite well. When the vehicle is off it glides into the console to create a smooth surface.

The boxy proportions mean there is plenty of space in all seating positions. The Discovery seats up to seven people with the third row being an option on the lower end SE and HSE trims and standard on the high end HSE Luxury trim. What’s nice is that the third row can be folded electronically either from inside the car or via smartphone.

Land Rover has kept the same motor used in the LR4 for the Discovery and all trims come standard with the 340 horsepower 3.0-litre supercharged V6 mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The test vehicle came with the optional 254 horsepower 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 which is also found in the Range Rover. This motor is ideal for extra towing or off-roading duties thought it’s obviously not as quick for city driving. Fuel economy was a respectable 11.5 L/100 km with lots of highway.

Land Rovers are renowned for their off-road ability and the new Discovery is no different. When the vehicle was launched earlier this year, the company flew journalists out to a desert ranch in Utah to put the truck through grueling off-road challenges. My colleague Miranda Lightstone was on the trip and you can read her review here.

The Discovery’s excellent ground clearance coupled with amazing technology allows it to adapt to almost any terrain. There is a system called Auto Terrain Response where you tell it what type of terrain lies ahead and the vehicle will actually drive it for you.  You’ll still need to steer left and right but the computer detects what’s underneath and will throttle accordingly to get you over the obstacle. It’s pretty ingenious if you ask me. There are also drive modes for every type of terrain short of the lunar surface.

While I didn’t get to test the Discovery in its natural habitat, I did drive it around the city for a week – a place where many of them are most likely to spend the majority of their lives. The vehicle is a bit more…uptight shall we say than a BMW X5 for example. It’s hard to put it into words. It drives smooth and has all the creature comforts of any modern luxury SUV but the effort level to operate it is slightly above average. It’s a small price to pay to be able to literally go anywhere with the truck and Land Rover should be commended for making a best of both worlds product.

Starting at $61,500 for the gasoline version and $70,500 for the diesel, the Discovery is more than the outgoing LR4 but still very reasonably priced for what it offers. This is a classy, high end luxury truck that can get down and dirty in the mud when it has to. There is simply nothing else like it.