We get behind the wheel of Land Rover's all-new Discovery and see if it cuts the mustard compared with its closest rivals
What is it?
Land Rover's latest Discovery has pushed upmarket in its fifth generation. Its past has been dictated by its go-anywhere ability, but this utilitarian image has been camouflaged in favour of luxury. The new Discovery is just as handsome as it is imposing, although the awkward off-centre rear number plate has caused much controversy. The Discovery feels delightfully expensive inside, as you would hope against rivals such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.
What's under the bonnet?
The Discovery benefits from a range of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) four- and six-cylinder engines. JLR's new 'Ingenium' powerplant are of the most significance in the Discovery. The 238bhp SD4 2.0-litre diesel engine we tested has the ideal amount of pace, never feeling sluggish. The engine produces a huge 500Nm of torque, propelling it to 60mph in eight seconds. Unsurprisingly for such a large SUV, the Discovery is not cheap to run. The claimed figures for this engine are 43.5mpg with emissions of 189g/km, although after hundreds of miles of town and city driving, we averaged around 37mpg, which was a bit disappointing.
What's it like to drive?
The Discovery is a huge car, being particularly tall. When cornering, it certainly feels its size, although it is a significant improvement over the disappointing dynamics of the old generation model. It does have to be said that rivals such as the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 do hide their size much better when on the road. Although for long journeys, few cars can rival the Discovery. It has a sterling ability to munch up motorway miles and is effortless to drive. The high driving position gives you a perfect view of the road ahead, while the ride is superb. The only gripe about the Discovery is the gearbox. It is slow for such a modern unit, particularly at lower revs. When the power does eventually come, you get an irritating surge of power. While it is annoying, it is just one of those things you have to adjust to, otherwise the drive of the Discovery can't be faulted.
How does it look?
The Discovery is a handsome vehicle from nearly all angles - only the awkward off-centre rear number plate position which looks odd. The positioning is a nod from Land Rover to Discoverys of past generations, but because the number plates are no longer square – rather the standard rectangular shape – it just doesn't look quite right. However, this aside, in a segment which is dominated by luxury badges, the Discovery is more than able to hold its own against rivals such as those from Porsche and Audi.
What's it like inside?
While the exterior is huge, you won't be complaining once inside. The Discovery's interior is vast, easily having enough room for seven adults, with handy features such as electric folding seats on our test car taking any effort out of these simple tasks. The dashboard is fantastically designed, with a simple clutter-free design, it is also very comfortable and has luxurious leather seats. Surprisingly, base spec models get rather out-of-place cloth seats, although most buyers will choose the specs which include leather, or pay extra for the privilege. The interior is incredibly spacious, with large windows only adding to the capacious feel of the cabin.
What's the spec like?
Our test car was an HSE-spec, which is one of the more premium trim levels. S and SE levels sit below the HSE, while the HSE-Luxury is the range-topping model. The HSE starts from £56,995 and comes as standard with a list of impressive features. A Meridian 10-speaker sound system, powered third row of seats and a fixed panoramic roof are all standard. Our test car came with a few optional extras, such as £385 ebony headlining – somewhat unnecessary – and £1,555 21-inch wheels. It also had the £110 option of two 12V sockets for second row passengers - while this is not a lot, you can't but feel it should be included as standard.
The Discovery is an incredibly talented vehicle. It is hugely impressive on long journeys, mainly thanks to the incredible ride which absorbs even the harshest of road bumps. You also have the added benefit of knowing the Discovery really can go anywhere thanks to its impeccable off-roading ability. The automatic gearbox does let the side down unfortunately, but it is hard to look past just how impressive the Discovery is as a family wagon, capable of any task you are prepared to throw at it.