Land Rover Discovery review

Category: 7-seater

The Land Rover Discovery seven-seat SUV is hugely capable on and off road

Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery rear driving
  • Land Rover Discovery interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Discovery boot open
  • Land Rover Discovery interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Discovery right driving
  • Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery front driving
  • Land Rover Discovery rear left driving
  • Land Rover Discovery grille detail
  • Land Rover Discovery alloy wheel detail
  • Land Rover Discovery badge detail
  • Land Rover Discovery interior front seats
  • Land Rover Discovery interior back seats
  • Land Rover Discovery interior gearshift detail
  • Land Rover Discovery boot open
  • Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery rear driving
  • Land Rover Discovery interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Discovery boot open
  • Land Rover Discovery interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Discovery right driving
  • Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery front driving
  • Land Rover Discovery rear left driving
  • Land Rover Discovery grille detail
  • Land Rover Discovery alloy wheel detail
  • Land Rover Discovery badge detail
  • Land Rover Discovery interior front seats
  • Land Rover Discovery interior back seats
  • Land Rover Discovery interior gearshift detail
  • Land Rover Discovery boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Land Rover Discovery is the Swiss Army knife of the car world. It can do pretty much any job you ask of it – from ferrying around seven people to pulling a caravan out of a muddy field.

Looking for an upmarket chariot to impress the neighbours? The Discovery can do that too. It'll even take you to places a mountain goat would think twice about visiting.

In the British 4x4 brand's line-up, the Discovery sits above the smaller Land Rover Discovery Sport and the more rugged Land Rover Defender but below the bigger Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

The Discovery aka 'the Disco' has plenty going for it, but so do other premium brand seven-seat SUVs – including the main rivals, the Audi Q7, the BMW X7, the Mercedes GLE and the Volvo XC90.

It has them beaten for off-roading ability, but given that the most discovering many Disco owners do involves searching for a parking space, other factors are likely to be more important to most buyers. Let's find out how the Land Rover Discovery squares up to the competition...

Overview

The Land Rover Discovery has a number of important strengths. It's desirable, practical, great off road and available more cheaply than some rivals. Reliability is a real weak point though, and the Discovery isn't as sophisticated on the road or as plush inside as an Audi Q7 or BMW X7. We recommend the D300 diesel engine with entry-level S trim.

  • Brilliant off road
  • Roomy third row seats
  • Attractive PCP deals
  • Rivals are quieter
  • Wallowy handling
  • Terrible reliability
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The Land Rover Discovery engine range kicks off with the 3.0-litre D250 diesel, which managed 0-60mph in a more-than-adequate 7.7 seconds in our tests, and always has plenty of low-rev pulling power. Most rival seven-seat SUVs are quicker, but you never feel as though you need nippier acceleration.

We reckon it's worth stepping up to the D300 diesel (also a 3.0-litre). When you put your foot down hard and let the engine rev, it can officially hit 60mph in 6.5 seconds.

The only petrol option is the 3.0-litre P360. It offers fractionally quicker acceleration than the D300, but needs to be worked pretty hard to feel as fast as its official 6.2 seconds 0-60mph time.

All the engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s pretty responsive, and can pull a braked trailer weighing up to 3500kg.

Suspension and ride comfort

The Discovery's standard air suspension delivers a smooth ride at motorway speeds, wafting over undulations like a jumbo jet running into some very mild turbulence.

It's not as comfortable around town as the Audi Q7 though. The Discovery stumbles over imperfections a bit like a tottering toddler, with every impact sending subtle but noticeable shudders through the body.

To minimise the intrusions, we recommend sticking with the 20in wheels of S trim. Bigger rims, like the 22in wheels that come with R-Dynamic HSE, make the ride worse.

Land Rover Discovery image
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Land Rover Discovery rear driving

Handling

The Discovery isn't geared towards sporty handling. Yes, you can steer it through corners with confidence at moderate speeds but it's nowhere near as eager to change direction as the Audi Q7 or the Volvo XC90. It leans more dramatically and feels somewhat cumbersome through tighter twists and turns.

The steering is slow, so getting round corners in town requires a lot of arm work. It's not an ideal city car, then, but it is one of the best SUVs at tackling rough terrain. It will confidently explore places where rivals fear to tread with the help of an excellent 28.3cm of ground clearance, a wading depth of 90cm and a multitude of clever electronics.

All-Terrain Progress Control is available as part of the Advanced Off-road Capability Pack, which is an option on all trims. In effect, it acts as a cruise control for off-roading, working at up to 19mph. You can also alter the speed of the hill-descent control to match how brave you feel.

Noise and vibration

The D250 and D300 diesels are impressively serene, working away quietly in the background and remaining smooth even when pushed hard. In fact, they're even more hushed than the Q7’s diesel engines.

The P360 petrol is even more refined at low revs, but because you have to work it harder than the diesels, you’re more aware of it when you accelerate harder.

Previous incarnations of the Discovery sliced through the air about as efficiently as a double-decker bus. This latest version is hardly a masterclass in streamlining either, so there's more wind and also road noise than in the Audi Q7 and the BMW X7. It's hardly rowdy, though.

Driving overview

Strengths D250 and D300 have plenty of low-down grunt; steering is slow but well-weighted; incredible off-road ability

Weaknesses Audi Q7 and BMW X7 have plusher rides; more wind noise than in a Q7 or X7

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

SUV fans will love the Land Rover Discovery's lofty driving position, which feels significantly higher than most of its rivals'.

The driver's seat is very comfortable and easy to set up, with standard 14-way powered adjustment. If you opt for R-Dynamic SE, you’ll get 18-way seats with a memory function, while HSE and Metropolitan versions have 20-way seats.

Whichever trim you choose, there's lots of up, down and in and out adjustment for the steering wheel. You have to make those adjustments manually on S and R-Dynamic S models, while the posher trims come with electric steering wheel adjustment.

The dashboard is mostly user-friendly, with clear dials and chunky rotary controls for the heating that are designed to be used when you are wearing gloves.

All trims get a configurable digital driver display (in place of analogue instrument dials). It's clear and shows lots of information, but isn’t as customisable as the Virtual Cockpit arrangement in the Audi Q7.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

You get a great view out in all directions because the Discovery has large windows and that lofty driving position also helps. Forward visibility is particularly good, making it surprisingly easy to thread the Discovery along narrow streets or between tight hedgerows.

To help you see where you're going at night, all models get LED headlights as standard. They are upgraded with automatic main beams and automatic levelling on R-Dynamic SE. Jump up to R-Dynamic HSE and they become adaptive headlights, which can stay on main beams without dazzling oncoming cars, allowing you to see further ahead.

The Discovery is a long car, so to help with parking, all models have front and rear parking sensors. They also come with a surround-view camera, which gives you a 360-degree, bird’s eye view of the car. That’s something you have to add as an optional extra on the Q7 and other rivals.

Land Rover Discovery interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every trim level gets an 11.4in touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. When you step up from S to R-Dynamic SE trim, you gain a more powerful, 400-watt Meridian stereo, and on R-Dynamic HSE  you get 700 watts.

The touchscreen display looks respectably sharp and is responsive. The operating system doesn't exactly offer Apple levels of intuitiveness, but the menus are easy enough to fathom. Overall, we think it's better than the system in the Volvo XC90.

As with most touchscreens, though, the icons prove impossible to hit without diverting your gaze from the road. That's one reason we favour the iDrive system in the BMW X5 and BMW X7 – it can be operated using its less distracting rotary controller and well-placed shortcut buttons.

Quality

The Discovery’s interior feels reasonably upmarket. There are a few more hard plastics and rough edges than you’ll find in other premium seven-seat SUVs but the areas your hands come into contact with regularly feel solid enough.

There are plenty of ways to personalise the interior, too. Even entry-level S trim models are available with a choice of seat and headlining colours, plus various dashboard finisher strips.

Interior overview

Strengths Commanding driving position; great visibility despite its size; decent infotainment

Weaknesses Digital dials are not the most configurable; interior quality could be better

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

It doesn’t matter what size and shape you are, you’ll have head room to spare in the front of the Land Rover Discovery – although, that's the case in most SUV seven-seaters.

If you're well over six feet tall, you might notice that the seats don't slide back quite as far as those in the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90. The Discovery does have one of the widest interiors in the class, though, so you'll have plenty of room between you and your front passenger.

The Discovery also soundly thrashes its rivals when it comes to interior storage space. You can fit a one-litre bottle in each front door pocket and up to four iPads in the deep pocket between the front seats.

There's also an ingenious 'secret' compartment in the middle of the dashboard: when you push a button, the climate-control panel folds down to reveal a hiding place for a phone, purse or wallet.

Rear space

The sheer width of the Discovery makes sitting three abreast in the second row pretty comfortable for all concerned, and there's no central floor tunnel to rob passengers of foot space. There's lots of head room, although leg room isn’t as generous as it is in the Q7 or XC90, let alone the Mercedes GLE.

The opposite is true for passengers in the third row. The two fold-out seats in the boot are roomier than any of the Discovery's seven-seat rivals, except the BMW X7. Even two tall adults will be quite comfortable, and there are soft pads just under the rear windows for them to rest their elbows on.

Each door bin in the second row can hold a half-litre bottle of water, and there are small stowage areas for passengers in the third row.

Land Rover Discovery boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

The second-row seat backs in all versions of the Discovery can be folded down electrically. That sounds great, but the process isn't exactly quick – and you still need to haul the seats forward on their runners to allow passengers into the third row.

It's also a shame that the second row of seats splits 60/40 rather than the more adaptable 40/20/40 arrangement offered in many of the Discovery's rivals.

The third-row seats have to be pulled up manually on the cheaper trims, although that's actually quicker than doing it electrically, as you can if you go for the R-Dynamic HSE or Metropolitan (or if you pay extra).

Boot space

The size of the boot depends on how many passengers you're carrying, but whichever of the 21 possible seating configurations you choose, there'll be some room left for luggage.

In five-seat mode, there’s more than enough space for camping holiday gear or nine carry-on suitcases below the load cover. That's not bad, but the Audi Q7 managed to swallow 10 cases and the giant BMW X7 took 11 cases. With all seven seats in use, the Discovery boot has room for a few small shopping bags.

There’s no split tailgate, as there was on earlier Discos. Instead, the boot floor folds out, overhanging the rear bumper and offering a handy perch for taking off your wellies. All versions now have a powered tailgate.

Practicality overview

Strengths Plenty of space in the third row; plenty of storage; no split tailgate, but you do get a boot floor that folds out

Weaknesses Leg room could be better in the second row; electric folding seats could be more responsive

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Land Rover Discovery undercuts premium seven-seat SUV rivals, and the D300 in S trim makes sense if you're looking for a big, very capable off-roader and don't care about having lots of luxury kit. If you go higher up the range – to the D300 R-Dynamic SE, for example – the price creeps into Audi Q7 50TDI S line territory.

PCP finance deals are usually competitive, so the Discovery could cost you less per month than its key rivals, but this is not a cheap car to run. Officially, the D250 and D300 can return around 35mpg, but we managed little more than 30mpg in real-world tests. Don't expect more than 25mpg out of the P360 petrol.

All versions of the Discovery sit in the top company car tax bracket, so it’s not the best choice for business users. If you're looking to pay as little benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax as possible, consider a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) such as the BMW X5 45e.

Equipment, options and extras

No Discovery is badly equipped, and even S trim gets you leather seats, two-zone climate control, keyless entry and 20in wheels, plus lots of other goodies. We’d argue that it gives you all you really need and is the pick of the range. R-Dynamic S just adds a few sporty styling touches.

Moving up to R-Dynamic SE gets you 21in wheels, scrolling indicators, twin (fixed) panoramic roofs and 18-way seats with a memory function.

Further up the tree is R-Dynamic HSE, with 22in wheels, fancier ambient LED lighting inside, ventilated seats and a better stereo. The range-topping Metropolitan trim offers a similar amount of creature comforts to the R-Dynamic HSE, but with bespoke styling.

Land Rover Discovery interior infotainment

Reliability

The Discovery didn't perform particularly strongly in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing in sixth position out of nine family SUVs rated. If you're looking for a dependable SUV, it's probably best to avoid Land Rover altogether – the brand finished 28th out of the 32 manufacturers ranked.

A three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty – which also includes UK and European roadside assistance – provides some peace of mind. The three-year term is standard for the class, although the unlimited mileage aspect beats many rivals, including the Q7.

Safety and security

In terms of safety technology, all trim levels come with eight airbags and lane-keeping assistance, as well as an automatic emergency braking system (AEB) that will slow you down automatically if it senses an imminent collision. It can even recognise pedestrians. 

If you upgrade your Discovery to R-Dynamic SE trim, you get a blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, which warns you of approaching vehicles when you’re backing out on to a road. 

The second and third rows of seats have Isofix child-seat mounting points, a feature noted by Euro NCAP when it awarded the Discovery the maximum five stars in its safety appraisal. If you look at the individual categories, the Discovery doesn't score as highly as the Q7 or Volvo XC90 for adult or child protection, but it does outscore them for pedestrian safety.

Costs overview

Strengths Entry-level models look like great value compared with rivals such as the BMW X7; PCP deals are competitive; great standard equipment

Weaknesses Terrible reliability

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FAQs

  • The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a completely different (and considerably smaller) SUV to the full-size Rover Discovery.

  • Yes, it's a seven-seater as standard (except in Commercial form).

  • The Discovery had the lowest reliability score of any car in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. If you're looking from a dependable SUV, it's probably best to avoid Land Rover altogether.

  • It depends on your priorities. The Range Rover has a more upmarket interior and offers superior ride comfort. However, the Land Rover Discovery is considerably cheaper and has seven full-size seats as standard.

  • The Discovery 5 is the latest version of the Land Rover Discovery. A smaller number at the end (Discovery 4, for example) would indicate an earlier version that's no longer on sale.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £2,671
Target Price from £60,816
Save up to £2,671
or from £605pm
Swipe to see used car deals
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From £50,980
RRP price range £62,960 - £79,990
Number of trims (see all)5
Number of engines (see all)1
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel
MPG range across all versions 33.8 - 34.8
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £4,533 / £5,793
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £9,066 / £11,586
Available colours