Back in 2017, I got behind the wheel of the all-new Land Rover Discovery at Millbrook Proving Ground. I started off driving the 2.0 SD4 engine up the Alpine Route and if I’m being completely honest, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I had driven down there in a 2.7 TDV6 D3 and the SD4 just felt underpowered and you could hear the engine strain as it pulled its way up the hills. I know that the 2-litre engine will provide more than enough oomph for the average owner dropping the kids off at school or doing the weekly big shop, but for me, it just didn’t seem to have the legs I’d want from a car of this size, especially as I would want to use it for longer drives and a bit of off-roading! Fortunately, I then got to put the larger, more powerful 3.0 SD6 through its paces on the challenging and demanding off-road test course and this is where the Discovery really came into its own.
Fast forward 2 years, and I finally have the keys to a Discovery for a whole week to really get an idea of what this car is like to live with. The model Land Rover so very kindly lent me was the Discovery SD6 306PS HSE. Finished in Carpathian Grey with an Ebony interior and massive 22″ satin dark grey wheels, the car looks as aggressive as it does imposing. It looked brilliant. Inside there are all the standard “HSE” extras like Keyless go, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and a wonderful fixed front and rear panoramic roof that filled the cabin with light. Everything in the cabin has tactile yet luxury feel to it and all the right buttons and dials are exactly where they should be. The one thing the Discovery has that puts it above Range Rover Sport and full-fat Range Rover for me is a proper center console with proper dials. I think the 2-screen setup in the Range Rovers is fantastic to look at and it gives the car a great futuristic feel, but I’m old-fashioned and I just found that the proper dials are easier to use and definitely less distracting for the driver. I probably shouldn’t get too attached though, as these will probably be replaced in the future by the newer touch screens. Nevermind, they would be far from a deal-breaker for me and probably preferential to a lot of buyers.
The infotainment system in the new Discovery is so much better than nearly everything else I’ve driven this year. The huge 10″ InControl Touch Pro screen is clear and easy to navigate and the customisable dash screen lets you choose exactly what you want to see in front of you as you’re driving along. I tended to flick between the 2-dial setup with media in the middle and the single-dial view with nav and media on display. It’s so simple to use and managed through the touch-sensitive steering wheel controls. Normally, when getting into a new car, I opt to plug my iPhone in and just use Apple CarPlay as it’s so much quicker to use, but I actually found myself sticking with the InControl system instead as it is so well designed.
The view from the driver’s seat is very familiar, you’re nice and high up with full visibility of the road around you and then you have this long dipping bonnet in front that makes the car feel 100ft long. As I said before, everything is to hand and you never feel like you need to take your eyes off the road to adjust things like the air conditioning or the infotainment. There is also more storage than any will ever need within reach of the driver. There is a huge chilled armrest that easily held my 1-litre water bottle in along with all my usual junk like charger cables and dog bits. There is also a sliding cup holder in the centre console that, when slid open, can probably house an average-sized cat. Then there is my favourite piece of storage, the area I lost my wallet in 3 times in a week in… As you look head-on at the climate controls, you will notice a little button labeled “open”, press this and the whole panel opens forward to special “hidden” secret storage compartment that is perfect for keeping things like your phone out of sight when you’re out and about. The only issue I found was I kept forgetting I had put my wallet in there – normally until I was at a checkout! There are also 2 front glove compartments and plenty of door-bin storage. I think if I had the car another week, I could have probably moved in.
It goes without saying that the Discovery is a big, spacious, all-accommodating vehicle and the twin glass panoramic roof gives the cabin an even more spacious feel as the light floods in. With this being a 7-seater car, the middle row is adjustable with reclining seat-backs and also a moving bench for when you need to open up the third row of seats. All this is completely electric, too. No more pulling the 6th and 7th seats up from the floor and then running around the back doors to slide the middle bench forward – now you have a simple button panel in the boot that controls it all. Just press the buttons and the seats arrange themselves accordingly. Brilliant if you’re hands are full of children and dogs, if not a little slow…
On the road, the Discovery feels as refined and confident as its more expensive brother, the Range Rover Sport. The big 6-cylinder engine provides plenty of power with an output of 306hp / 700nm to make acceleration feel effortless and the automatic gearbox is one of the smoothest on the market today. If you were to wear earplugs whilst driving off from a stand-still, you’d struggle to feel the changes as the car moves up the gears. It is wonderfully civilised on the road and despite its size and weight, it doesn’t feel half as big as it is. Discovery’s of old always felt cumbersome and boxy and they always had a slightly agricultural feel to them, whereas this feels smooth and calm. Like a swan on a pond, gliding along the water from above while the engine provides all the power below the surface.
The original plan for this article was to take the Discovery on a proper British weekend getaway and load it up with camping gear and some cameras and set off into the countryside, unfortunately, due to a mixture of setbacks including some poor health, we had to abandon the plan and instead Well Driven’s go-to photographer, Rick of Sprite Photography, came up with the plan to take the car to a quarry and get some shots both on the ground, and up in the air! This meant taking the Land Rover to its natural habitat. It always makes me a little bit sad knowing that a huge percentage of these vehicles will never be put through their paces in the environment they were designed to excel in. The big USP for me with Land Rovers is where other SUVs and 4x4s are designed for the road and then developed to also work off-road, cars like the Discovery are born the other way round. When I tried the Discovery out on the off-road course at Millbrook, I was blown away by how confident it was and how it pulled itself up steel hills with complete ease. There are cars that are good off-road, and then there are Land Rovers. With this in mind, we put the truck in its top suspension setting and adjusted the Terrain Response system to the sand setting and set off into Bedfordshire countryside.
Now, even though this was more “soft-roading” than proper off-roading, it still gives me a strong idea of how easy the Discovery is to drive on any surface, in any conditions, at any time. As the Discovery has evolved, it has become more and more capable and also useable. Cars like the Mercedes G-Wagen are equally as maneuverable in hostile conditions, but none of them are as driver-friendly as the Land Rover. I genuinely think you would struggle to get this car stuck. Fortunately for me, not only was it a hot and dry evening so there were no potential muddy areas to prove myself wrong in, but Rick was following me in his L322 Range Rover, so I knew we were all going to be just fine as we drove on in search for a perfect location to get shooting.
My week in the Discovery was probably the best week I’ve had in a test car for a while. Nearly everything about it made me smile. I felt so at home in the driver’s seat and I genuinely did not want to give it back at the end. I don’t think there is another car out there that ticks so many boxes across so many areas like the Discovery does. I know a lot of people aren’t 100% sure on the looks, but to me, I think it’s beautiful. I love the huge front bumper and bonnet and the side profile is sleek but strong and if I’m being completely honest, like I suspected back in 2017, the rear has grown on me a lot! The smaller number plate is a huge improvement and I still think it works well keeping in the spirit of the original Discovery. I think if I was signing on the dotted line for one of these, I would opt for the smaller standard HSE-spec 20″ wheels as I would want to take it greenlaning and off-roading a bit and the thought of dinging one of those 22″ wheels on a rock would make me feel a little bit sick inside. Other than that, it’s pretty much perfect for me. I’d add optional roof rails and the activity key and maybe a few other protection-based bits and be on my way!
The Discovery is the perfect blend of everyday usability, long-distance luxury and comfort, and unmatched off-road confidence. I really am struggling to think of another car in this category that I would rather have. The Volvo XC90 may be more comfortable on the road and the Porsche Cayenne may be sportier, but neither of them could shine a light on the Disco off-road. With the new Defender being announced earlier this week, it seems that yet again, the only real competitor for the Discovery when it comes to all-round ability will most likely be from Land Rover themselves… Only time will tell!
I’d like to say a big thank you to Land Rover UK for the use of this car – you can spec up your own Land Rover Discovery, as well as all the other Land Rover vehicles HERE. Also, a big thanks to Rick at Sprite Photography for the amazing shots. Rick’s Sprite Photography Instagram page is HERE and he also has some drone shots that can be found on the Sprite Drone social media page HERE. And of course, don’t forget to follow Well Driven right HERE!