DISCO FEVER? - Land Rover Discovery

Independent Car Review - overall score 75/100

Performance 8
Handling 7
Comfort 7
Space 9
Styling 7
Build 7
Value 7
Equipment 7
Economy 8
Depreciation 8
Insurance 7
Total 75

June Neary gets to grips with the fifth generation version of Land Rover's impressive Discovery

Will It Suit Me?

I'll start with an honest admission. I wasn't keen on the Land Rover Discovery in its first four generations. This SUV may have been able to move mountains but it handled spirited driving on twisty tarmac like a Channel ferry in a blustery gale. Discovery models were also notably unrefined - at least in luxury sector terms. If Solihull really wanted to court BMW and Mercedes customers, something better was needed - and duly provided by the MK5 Discovery we first saw late in 2016.

To be frank, the Disco5 was the first Discovery I would have countenanced buying. Previous models looked too agricultural for me. Fine if you were a school mum or a farmer but otherwise portraying a rather clunky image. This car is very different.

Structurally this time round, much has been borrowed from larger Range Rover models, along with fresh engine options and more sophisticated media connectivity. The Discovery though, continues to have its own authentic appeal.

Practicalities

You won't mistake this Discovery for anything else. Land Rover say that this was deliberate: their research suggests that the 'Disco's' shape is one of its most appealing features - at least to potential buyers. The front end is very much a development of the look we're already familiar with from the smaller Discovery Sport model. Plus there's a traditional Land Rover clamshell bonnet. And the stepped roofline and the prominent rear C-pillar are both apparently inspired by Discovery's of the past. My family were pleased to find that, as before, it's a seven-seater.

Once installed in the driver's chair, you get a commanding a view of the road ahead that locates your eyeline several inches above where it would be in a German rival. In the back, there's decent head and legroom, while the foldaway third row is very cleverly done, easy to erect and big enough for adults. As for luggage room, there's a 258-litre cargo capacity with all the seats upright. Flatten the third row chairs - easy if you've got the electric rear seat folding option fitted - and a huge 1,137-litres of carrying capacity will be freed up. That rises further to a massive 2,406-litres of total capacity if you flatten the second row.

Behind the Wheel

Technology is everywhere in the latest Discovery, at least it will be if you have the cash for a posh trim level and a trawl through the options list. The various systems are controlled via the centrally-mounted touch screen display and the driver gets a second LCD display mounted in the instrument cluster through which major functions can be accessed via the steering wheel-mounted controls.

When this fifth generation Discovery was initially launched, the biggest change was the installation of a 2.0-litre Sd4 diesel which puts out 240PS. Most though, choose the 258bhp 3.0-litre Td6 six cylinder diesel unit I tried. There's also a 340bhp 3.0-litre supercharged six cylinder Si6 petrol option if you want it. All Discovery's come with smooth 8-speed auto transmission, air suspension and a twin-speed gearbox with a low range setting for really tough off road work.

I've been lucky enough to try this MK5 model off road and have been particularly impressed by its patented Terrain Response system. This is virtually akin to having an expert sitting alongside you, helping to get the best out of the vehicle, on or off road. You choose one of five terrain settings via a rotary knob mounted on the centre console. There's a general driving programme plus one for slippery conditions (dubbed 'grass/gravel/snow') and three specialist off road modes (mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl). The system will then automatically select the optimum setup for the electronic controls and the traction aids. This encompasses ride height, torque response, hill descent control, electronic traction control and transmission settings. There's also a launch control function designed for deep sand as well as Hill Descent Control and Rock Crawl modes to ensure tricky manoeuvres are made that bit easier. Superb.

Value For Money

This level of excellence doesn't come cheap. Discovery prices start from around £45,000 but most buyers will end up paying in the £50,000-£60,000 bracket for their cars. You can pay close to £65,000 if you go for plusher versions and for that money, I'd rather have a Range Rover Sport.

Could I Live With One?

Easily. The size is not something you notice after a bit and the 'Disco' still seems more solid than its Japanese rivals. It's still the one to beat.