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The Top Gear car review: Land Rover Discovery
For:Incredible off-road ability, great motorway cruiser. Spacious and properly luxurious inside. Much lighter than before.
Against:It's pretty big. Some suspect styling touches, and you’ll need to avoid the 2.0-litre engines and get a V6
What is it?
Land Rover’s biggest, most off-road capable machine – as much a flagship in usefulness as the Range Rover is in luxury.
Except, the Discovery is none too workmanlike this time around: it looks far sleeker than it ever has before, the cabin is nigh on indistinguishable from a Rangie’s, apart from the seven seat configuration, and it’s by far and away the best-mannered Discovery ever on the road. This is an extremely complete car, appropriate for every occasion, a jack of all trades and a master of most of them.
Compared to the old Disco 3 (and the Disco 4, which was really just a mild facelift), the fifth-gen car is a very different animal. No longer does a unibody chassis live on a separate frame, resulting in an obese kerbweight and predictably agricultural dynamics. The new Discovery is based on an all-aluminium platform it shares with the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which, Land Rover claims, means it’s up to 480kg lighter than the obscenely heavy outgoing model.
So much so, for the first time you can actually get a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder model, which helpfully lowers the entry price to £43,995. That said, the V6 diesel remains the far more appealing and appropriate choice, despite its entry sticker falling on the wrong side of £50k. Trust us, the Disco is now a fully luxury item, and works best draped in money. If you’re after a less opulent offering, you’re now left looking at the likes of the Mitsubishi Shogun and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Deleting weight with the chassis has allowed Land Rover to ‘invest’ it elsewhere, so the new Disco is 141mm longer than before, and a tad narrower and lower, though it neither looks nor feels it from the lofty captain’s chair.
You can also have all seven seats motorised and foldable via a remote smart phone app. Toys like that, plus the latest JLR touchscreen and minimalist cabin button count, are what amp up the sense this is a Range Rover in wellies, rather than a Toyota Land Cruiser that went to a posher finishing school.
Meanwhile, the Discovery is happier on the road than any of its ancestors. It rides beautifully, cossetting occupants like a luxury SUV, isolating them from the road just as adeptly as it’ll smooth out the worst of Death Valley or the Amazon, should you happen to find yourself particularly off the beaten track. It responds more keenly to the throttle too – it’s no sporting 4x4, but 7.7 seconds to 62mph for the mid-range, heartland diesel is not to be sniffed at. It’ll also consistently do thirty-something to the gallon, which is a superpower the old Discovery was not often blessed with…
In fact, it’s so rounded and unfazed by modern life, it’s just a pity the Disco has become so massive. Driving one through a built-up area if a fraught experience. Parking it, despite many assistance systems, is simply too gnarly. And we ought to address the image too. The old one was a square-jawed minimalist masterpiece, but are we alone in wondering if the new Discovery has become too streamlined and smoothed out for its own good? There’s been some identity loss for sure, and around the back, where that slab-sided form, barely stepped roof and huge C-pillar meet, the car does look a tad lardy. And visibility is poor too. The less said about the offset numberplate, the better…
Yes, those are nitpicking faults. And the reason we’re getting finicky is because on the whole, this is a spectacular machine. The off-road ability – the effortlessness of it – has to be experienced to be believed. And though few will, that’s okay, because the Disco 5’s talents have also grown in every other department.