2017 Land Rover Discovery First Test: Civilized Beast

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In a field of SUVs, the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery can literally crawl up and over the hoods of the rest of the field. It might have abandoned the body-on-frame construction of its LR4 predecessor, but don’t for a minute underestimate the capability of its new aluminum unibody construction atop a steel frame.

And the buyer has an intriguing choice. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6 HSE has a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 putting out 254 horsepower, and the icing is the 443 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. The Discovery Si6 HSE also has a 3.0-liter, but it is a supercharged gasoline V-6, and it generates more horsepower at 340 but less torque at 332 lb-ft. Both have an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Which is quicker? The gas engine is quicker off the line, beating the diesel at all points to 60 mph, which it reaches in 6.1 seconds—the diesel takes a sluggish 8.7 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph.

Will more runway help? No. The gas-engine Discovery does the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 89.7 mph, and the turbodiesel reaches the finish line in 16.6 seconds at 83.6 mph.

The turbodiesel has a stopping distance from 60 mph in 133 feet, and the gas engine needs 137 feet.

Both variants feel powerful, and there is a sensation of sitting on a throne with the ride height and what seem to be miles of glass for viewing your subjects.

The diesel acceleration is more seamless. The transmission shifts more smoothly, whereas the Si6 had a tendency to lurch after a stop sign. The turbodiesel is also quieter, and it even feels like the SUV rides better. Steering is precise and responsive.

In terms of handling on the figure eight, the two performed similarly. The turbodiesel completes the lap in 29.0 seconds with average lateral acceleration of 0.59 g, and the gas engine is a tenth of a second faster.

The consensus is the Discovery handles well for a vehicle of its size and weight, but road test editor Chris Walton felt it would tip over around tight corners.

The Td6 is heavier, weighing in at 5,582 pounds, which is 109 more than the Si6. But keep in mind this generation has dropped more than 1,000 pounds over its predecessor.

Despite its diesel grunt, the Td6 tows 7,716 pounds, and the Si6 can tow 8,201 pounds.

Walton was not alone in his concern for the loud shakes and shudders on uneven pavement on a road loop in the Si6, which rode on larger tires. Others applauded the air suspension for floating over rough roads and treating a jump like a speed bump and a railroad crossing like a ripple in the pavement.

A nice feature is that the lane keeping assist is selectable, separate from lane warning, and remains on even if cruise control is not active. But it is hard to find—you use the steering wheel controls to scroll through to safety features and select it. And it is not the best system; it allows the wheels to cross the line.

Off-road, the Discovery has few peers. The auto terrain response automatically adjusts to the terrain; it recognized it had moved to deep sand, and it was like it got a second wind, features editor Christian Seabaugh noted.

Inside, the cabin feels premium. “I really like the material choices in here,” technical director Frank Markus said. “The graining and textures are sort of nontraditional. There is a pebble grain on a soft-touch leatherette type material. On the top there is what looks like a wire mesh under a gold tent varnish, which is an interesting replacement for wood, and then there is brushed metal trim surrounding the center console.”

There are three rows of quite comfortable seats, 21 seating configurations, and a number of motors to make the power adjustments. But moving seats and headrests can seem to take an interminable amount of time. The third-row seats cannot be raised without removing the privacy shade, which is bit tricky, and even then it is not easy to climb into the very back.

There are a lot of clever storage areas, the best being the hidden compartment behind the HVAC controls.

The infotainment system is much improved, but the volume button is situated on the passenger side, making it hard to reach—handy for the right-hand-drive Discos in the U.K. but not so much for the rest of the world.

The base price for the Discovery with a diesel is $66,945, but our tester stickered for $80,150. The Si6 has a base price of $64,945, and ours was sufficiently loaded to bring it to $82,850. We were divided on whether the base diesel is worth the extra cost. And we are divided on whether this premium Land Rover is a grand idea or a misstep for the brand. With its white leather chairs and orange piping, Markus noted it is hard to draw the line back to the SUV’s Born Free safari-ready roots. With so many models that appeal to the luxury SUV buyer, why does this one have to go in that direction?

The answer will come soon enough when the new Defender family makes its much anticipated return.

Because the test surface we used for this review is a mere month old (and still curing), our braking and handling results show longer stopping distances and less grip than we typically record and report. With that in mind, this vehicle’s numbers are not necessarily comparable with previous or future test results.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Si6 HSE (Luxury) 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6 HSE (Luxury)
BASE PRICE $64,945 $66,945
PRICE AS TESTED $82,850 $80,150
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/340-hp/332-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6 3.0L/254-hp/443-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,473 lb (47/53%) 5,582 lb (47/53%)
WHEELBASE 115.1 in 115.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 195.7 x 81.6 x 71.1-75.6 in 195.7 x 81.6 x 71.1-75.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.1 sec 8.7 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 89.7 mph 16.6 sec @ 83.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 137 ft 133 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.69 g (avg) 0.72 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.9 sec @ 0.58 g (avg) 29.0 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 16/21/18 mpg 21/26/23 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 211/160 kW-hrs/100 miles 180/145 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.08 lb/mile 0.97 lb/mile

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