Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 29, 2021
The Land Rover Discovery is a handsome, seven-seater SUV that we like to think of as a budget Range Rover. It’s got the looks, the presence, and the spacious interior of its premium counterpart, but with less of the garnish and dressings that make the Range a celebrity favourite. Does it need it? Not at all. The Discovery matches its charming demeanor with upscale amenities, a buttery new powertrain, and a gentle, isolated ride. If you’re not one to dabble over brand prestige, the Discovery is easily the most road-trip worthy Land Rover in their entire lineup.
It’s also the most awkward looking. We won’t comment too heavily on the appearance as much of it is subjective, but the tapered, curved, and asymmetrical rear end seems to draw the most criticism. It’s not our favourite angle of the Discovery but it certainly makes it unique. On a positive note, the front end looks mega, sporting redesigned LED lights and bumpers front and back, and a new R-Dynamic trim that offers a more aggressive look that falls in line with the Velar and Evoque.
The interior receives a few goodies for 2021. The center console remains spacious, a bit bare, and pretty much follows the same layout as the new Jaguar F-PACE and XF, replete with the same 11.4-inch touchscreen, HVAC dials, and gear shifter. The 12.3-inch driver’s display is also carried over, and is fully digital and customizable with multiple views and even a full screen navigation map like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
The infotainment unit is heavily improved over previous iterations, and is arguably one the best and the most seamless systems out there. It doesn’t utilize rotary dials or hard buttons, but the touch interface is quick, responsive, and lag-free. The menus are clear and concise, the fonts are large, and they really take advantage of its bright and high-definition visuals. The steering wheel is brand new and lifted straight from the Discovery, but there are chunky metal paddle shifters flanking from behind. Oddly enough, they offer more tactile feel and better positive feedback than the paddle shifters on many six-figure supercars, and while we didn’t find much use for them, we certainly admired their upscale quality.
Unique to the Discovery is the hidden cubby beneath the cupholders, accessed by sliding the console forward. In fact, there’s a whole army of contraband cubbies (yeah that’s what we’re calling them now), including one behind the HVAC panel that reminds us of when GMC and Cadillac used to have one behind their touchscreens. However, the Discovery’s is manually operated via a button that unhinges the latch, but it constantly gets stuck, and we had to manually pull the panel out for it to unhinge. Furthermore, pushing the panel back into place makes a horrendously plastic squeak, and greatly subtracts from the otherwise pleasant interior - acceptable in a $30,000 Ford, not so much in an $90,000 Land Rover that some owners might park next to their two-door Bentley or Porsche.
Instead, the Discovery seems to prioritize practicality and cargo hauling over everything else. Each of the three rows are spacious enough to accommodate the 80th percentile. I stand six-feet tall and am able to sit comfortably in the third row with extra headroom and legroom to spare. There’s even a second sunroof back there, which creates the illusion of a bigger and more spacious interior. The second row seats have also been redesigned for 2021 with better lateral support and thicker cushions.
Accessing the third row isn’t as easy as a minivan, though. Ingress is hampered by a high step-in, even though the air suspension lowers the vehicle when parked, and limited movement of the second row seat. You can hit a button to electronically fold the seat but seat bottom movement needs a manual push. Even with the second row seat out of the way, the entry portal is tight. On a positive note, drivers can actually adjust every seat’s position via the central touchscreen, keeping you conveniently glued to your throne.
Our Discovery P360 came equipped with a new 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six engine mated to a 48-volt mild hybrid system that serves to harvest energy during deceleration, and use it to supplement acceleration and efficiency. It’s a smooth operator, and though the gas pedal can feel a little abrupt and sensitive on the initial push, the learning curve is easy to overcome. Furthermore, its output of 355 hp and 369 lb-ft may not seem like much but the mild hybrid fills in the void left by the turbo lag, and ensures a seamless and gentle ride up to speed.
The P360 motor is not as eager as the supercharged V6 that it replaces, and 0-100 km/h comes in 6.5 seconds, but it doesn’t feel lethargic at all when accelerating from a stop. We still miss a V8 with any SUV of this size, but the tradeoff of better fuel consumption might just be worth it. Land Rover also offers a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 296 hp and while we haven’t tested that pairing, we can only imagine it huffing and puffing while towing this sizable SUV. The six-cylinder might be the better companion.
The Discovery drives with as much grace and body control as the more expensive Range Rover, coming to about eight-tenths of its road comfort with the help of an adaptive air suspension on all four corners. Off-roading aside, road comfort and suspension tuning seem to be the areas where every Land Rover consistently excels, including the new Defender. Bumps are melted into mere shudders through the chassis, and compliance over deep bumps and rugged tarmac is excellent. We noticed slightly more wind noise seeping into the cabin than the Range Rover, possibly due to the single-paned windows instead of the dual-paned in the latter, but we’re really just splitting hairs at this point.
The Land Rover Discovery continues to excel in the areas that matter: road comfort, cargo hauling, and functionality. Updated with a seamless touchscreen interface, a buttery smooth powertrain, improved efficiency thanks to a mild hybrid system, and generous second and third row seats, it continues to rank high up on our list of seven-seater premium SUVs. If you can overlook its asymmetric rear end and cabin quality quibbles, then the Discovery truly is a budget Range Rover for those who aren’t worried about brand prestige, and even that compliment is selling it short. Besides, who doesn’t love contraband cubbies?
Model: 2021 Land Rover Discovery P360 R-Dynamic S
Paint Type: Namib Orange
Base Price: $76,100
Price as Tested: $90,755
Curb weight (kg): 2,341
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder with 48V mild hybrid
Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,750 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.4