2017 Land Rover Discovery First Drive
“Make sure you’re in low-range and rock mode,” instructed our British guide. “Right-oh, we answered,” and, after depressing a button and rotating a dial, we began to use gentle throttle inputs and a light touch of the brake to inch the all-new ’17 Land Rover Discovery along an arduous climb, on the precipitous edge of a wind-and-weather-carved sedimentary rock plateau in the Utah desert. The Discovery’s plentiful torque and grippy tires quickly gained our confidence and, as we experienced nary a slip, we removed our left foot from the brake to let the Disco’s technical wizardry do its job. Even during the steepest, feet-to-the-sky sections of the course and the wheel-high-in-the-air off-camber track, the all-new sport-ute showed its motoring prowess; it required little-to-no driver input, other than pointing its direction. And, that’s actually the perfect direction for Land Rover, as few Discovery buyers will take this new, highly-competent model on forays of this sort.
What is it?
The fifth-generation Discovery is the latest full-sized Land Rover SUV and has been engineered and designed to bring higher levels of capability and technology to the British marque’s reinterpretation of the 27-year heritage of the Discovery family. The nameplate’s lineage began in 1989; the first model was built in England and sold internationally as both a three-door, five-seater and then followed by a five-door version, with the option of two jump seats in the rear. It was initially powered by a four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission and didn’t come to America until 1994, where it was fit with a 3.9L V-8 that was soon upgraded to a 4.0L. Other models included the Discovery II, the LR3, and the LR4, ancestors that kept the boxy look,s body-on-frame platform, clamshell hood, stepped roof, and asymmetrical rear door design.
The new model gets the monocoque aluminum body and steel subframe of its stablemates, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Like its siblings, it’s penned with more curvaceous lines; it keeps a softened version of the clamshell hood, rooftop, and back end, and yet, it still bears a strong resemblance to its iconic predecessors. It can seat up to seven in three rows of seats that can be raised and lowered using an app on your phone. Headroom for rear riders comes via the slightly raised roofline, while good visibility is enhanced by the cabin’s stadium-seating design.
Joining the distinctive sculpted surfaces and raked windshield are jewel-like headlamps and new daytime running lights that create a striking light signature. At the back, new horizontal LED rear lamps add a sportier appearance, along with the one-piece tailgate that has a larger opening for loading/unloading and the full hatch that provides shelter from the elements when open; a new rear spoiler brings improved aerodynamics.
The lux-laden, tech-savvy interior is available in a wide selection of materials and finishes that include Windsor Leather and Natural Oak veneers in five interior color palettes—Nimbus, Acorn, Ebony, Vintage Tan, and Glacier. Inside is an impressive collection of premium features and options. Many are the price of entry for a vehicle of this class; some go above-and-beyond. Of note are the center console that can hold five laptops or iPads; the center power cooler to keep beverages and other goods cold; the largest panoramic sunroof ever in a Landie, with both powered and fixed panels, along with configurable ambient lighting for night; and a world-first Intelligent Seat Fold technology that reconfigures second- and third-row seats using controls in the cargo area, on the touchscreen, and in a smartphone app; three rows of seats that are available with heat, plus cooling in rows one and two; and massage functions for the driver and front passenger. There are up to six 12V charging points and nine USB sockets available across the three rows for powering smart phones and tablets simultaneously. Unique and clever is a waterproof Activity Key wristband that lets owners enjoy sports and active pursuits without having to carry a standard key fob. The key locks the vehicle and disables the traditional key that can be left safely inside.
The list of smart technology features that enhance convenience and connectivity is long. Of note is the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen positioned high on the center console with easy-to-navigate menus for NAV and entertainment technologies including door-to-door navigation that can share directions to a paired smartphone to help owners complete a journey on foot. In addition, Discovery owners get iOS and Android connectivity combined with an available 17-speaker Meridian digital surround system and 3G Wi-Fi that stream songs online or play music directly from a connected device.
Safety features include Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control with Intelligent Emergency Braking, Hill Start Assist, Park Assist with Parallel Park, Parking Exit and Perpendicular Park functions, Blind Spot Monitoring with Closing Vehicle Sensing, and Blind Spot Assist. Other driver assistance programs include Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Driver Condition Monitor, Surround Camera System, and Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist.
The ’17 Land Rover Discovery starts at $49,990 and comes in three trims (SE, HSE and HSE Luxury), two powertrains (gas and diesel-a $2,000 upcharge), and a First Edition commemorative version. It’s available in 18 exterior colors and 12 unique wheel designs ranging from 19 to 22 inches, plus off-road and towing accessories, roof racks, and add-ons and upgrades.
Under the Hood
The Discovery’s gasoline or diesel powertrain is mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel mounted shift paddles. The 3.0L supercharged V-6 gas engine gets 340 horsepower with 332 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0L turbocharged V-6 diesel produces 254hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 16 city/21 highway/18 combined mpg for the gasoline and 21/26/23 for the diesel.
Two systems provide traction. An available two-speed transfer case brings high and low range gears, The intelligent system allows a standard 50/50 torque split between the front and rear axles, with sensors that distribute torque between the wheels depending on the conditions. The fully synchronized ‘shift on the move’ system allows the change of gear ratios without having to stop- at speeds of up to 37mph. The other system uses full-time 4WD and provides a torque split of 42/58, automatically redistributing torque to the axle with the most grip, sending up to 62 percent to the front axle and up to 78 percent to the rear.
Terrain Response 2 improves upon Land Rover’s previous generation of programmed settings for general off-road driving, including landscapes with soft ground, mud, and uneven surfaces, as well as more technical terrain with rocks and obstacles. Additionally, All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) can be programmed to maintain a crawl speed selected by the driver and can enhance starting from a standstill on slippery or low traction terrain. Other off-road technologies include Hill Descent Control, Electronic Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, and Gradient Release Control.
The new Disco has a maximum towing capacity of 8,201 pounds with the gasoline engine and 7,716 pounds with the diesel. Towing aids include Advanced Tow Assist that uses the rotary Terrain Response 2 controller and guidelines that are overlaid on the rear-facing camera and the center touchscreen, while Hitch Assist uses surround cameras and the touchscreen display for easy hookup. Rear Height Assist matches the height of the vehicle and trailer tongue. Trailer Stability Assist manages trailer sway with the aid of engine and brake adjustment.
The new Discovery’s fully independent suspension is comprised of a wide-spaced double-wishbone setup in front and an advanced multi-link layout with an integral link at the back. New architecture optimizes the mounting points on the steel front and rear subframes, boosting stiffness and improving steering and chassis performance.
Available Four-Corner Air Suspension enhances the ride both on-road and off, with up to 11.4 inches of ground clearance. A two-stage, off-road mode lets the automatic system switch between two ride heights: an added 1.57 inches at higher speeds and an added 2.95 inches under 31 mph. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhances fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height by half an inch at cruising speeds above 65 mph. With Auto Access Height, the Discovery lowers 1.6 inches from its automatic road stance to aid getting in and out.
The Drive and Our Takeaways
We drove the ’17 Discovery over a course of approximately 450 miles in southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, motoring through some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes. The Discovery took us to the breathtaking vistas and natural beauty of Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon’s Canyon Point, and the Coral Pink Sand Dune. The route was selected to replicate the type of road trip that a Discovery owner might take, although our route included an assortment of backcountry tracks ranging from dirt trails and sand washes to highly technical four-wheeling, staged to highlight the SUVs upgrades.
The new model drives lighter and tighter, and it should. The Discovery’s diet of 85 percent high-strength aluminum and other lightening tricks have reduced its weight by more than 1,000 pounds over the outgoing LR4, although it’s slightly longer and wider. Lighter chassis components, a simplified exhaust and driveline system, more efficient seat designs, and revised wheel and tire sizes make the new model more lithe and stronger, with an improved crash structure and structural integrity.
We were impressed with both powerplants. We enjoyed the peppiness of the gas engine, the quietness of the diesel that only made us aware of its presence at start up and under quick hard acceleration, the smooth-shifting transmission, and the “sport” mode for more spirited driving. The Discovery’s urbane looks bely its exceptional off-road competency that carried us over hill and dale across extreme terrains—all the while passing the white-glove-test for those who want to stay clean and unperturbed while simply pushing buttons and knobs and levers to call upon the high-tech suite of off-road features within the vehicle’s computer code; of interest to the “unwashed”, the multi-mode Terrain Response 2 system will even select the optimum setting automatically for inexperienced drivers. The Disco’s numbers are laudable: 11.14 inches of ground clearance; 34-degree approach, 30-degree departure, and 27.5-degree breakover angles; 19.7-inches of wheel articulation; and 35.4 inches of wading depth.
Land Rover says the new Discovery is the most all-terrain capable ever thanks to a combination of excellent off-road drivetrain mechanics, available air suspension, vehicle geometry, and advanced driver assistance technologies. We agree.
2017 Land Rover DiscoveryVehicle type: Fullsize, seven passenger, SUV
Base price: $49,990
Price as tested: N/A
Engine: 3.0L V-6 gas / 3.0L V-6 diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 340 @ 6,500 rpm / 254 @ 3,750 rpm
Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm / 443 @ 1,750 rpm
Curb weight: 4,751 / 4,916 lbs
Towing capacity: 8,201 / 7,716 lbs
EPA mileage rating: 16/21/18 (city/hwy/comb) / 21/26/23 (city/hwy/comb)