Test Drive: 2017 Land Rover Discovery

The brand's most capable SUV is designed to deliver suburban delight

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The impressive fifth generation Land Rover Discovery is a ground-up redesign of the brand’s most capable (and likely most popular) vehicle—an all-purpose, family-friendly SUV with brand-defining off-road capabilities and suburban appeal. Sitting above the Discovery Sport stablemate, the two start to round out the brand’s Discovery vehicle offerings, which are centered on utility. The Range Rover family, which is focused on refinement and luxury offerings, includes the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, the new Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque. The beloved Defender family, known for its highly capable off-road vehicles, is gearing up for a refresh, with no models likely in production until the 2019 model year.

Gone is the much admired boxy shape of the Discovery’s previous generations (whose aerodynamics have fondly been referred to as making “flying bricks feel better about their career choice.” In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find much commonality between the 2016 LR4 and the all-new Discovery, delivering a softer look, more luxurious feel and unrivaled utility. There are nods to its heritage—the familiar clamshell hood and angled roof that provides adult-friendly (optional) third row seating. While substantially more capable in every way, the Discovery’s new shape and lines move it further from the hulking brutalism of its past and within kissing distance of the brand’s more seductive Range Rover family. This incredibly practical and capable family hauler features an upscale look and feel with LED headlights, wheels up to 22”, a single piece tailgate that can shield you and two other adults from the elements while you clean off your Wellies as you sit on the trunk’s shelf, which folds out into a sturdy bench.

Nearly every new vehicle we encounter ups the interior game—the evolution we’ve seen in just the last few years represents extremely noticeable progress—and the Discovery is no exception. Taking cues from its more luxurious siblings you’ll find cleaner lines, more refined materials, simpler layout and huge step up from the LR4. With so much competition in the space it’s a matter of keeping up appearances. Where the interior shines is in the thoughtfulness of the design along with its top-notch execution. Land Rover recognizes that the majority of the SUV’s owners will be people with kids, pets, lots of gear and endless carpools for them and their stuff. That stuff today includes a lot of phones, tablets and connectivity, and the Discovery serves it up family-style with a WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices, nine USB ports and six 12-volt power outlets. An optional chilled center console keeps your green juice or a child’s juice box ready to drink. The much improved (though still not our favorite) InControl tech system offers a 10” touchscreen. Comfortably seating seven (with the optional third row), the two rows of rear seats are easily moved up and down using the display, the switches in the boot, or the InControl app on your smartphone.

While the Discovery is new, it does share some of the brand’s best, including the mostly recycled aluminum unibody (aka Premium Lightweight Architecture) that also supports the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Here it has dropped around 1,000 lbs from the SUV’s previous body, which shows in its much-improved handling (due in part to its new 50/50 weight distribution). It also leverages the brand’s very capable 340 hp Supercharged V6 engine and, our preferred option, the 3l Turbocharged diesel with its 443 lb-ft of Torque. Able to handle nearly any situation and terrain—from helping you back up when towing to easily climbing rocky terrain, managing steep descents, mud, snow and even forging in up to three feet of water—the Discovery makes it easy to truly feel like an off-road expert. It offers small conveniences as well, like the (optional) Activity Key bracelet, which opens the SUV with a tap to the letter “D” on car’s rear door so you can leave your bulky keys behind.

While classicists may dread the SUV’s iconic design, the all-new Discovery is not only improved in nearly every way, it’s a nearly perfect family mobile with well-considered design and industry-leading off-road chops. Starting at $50,000 for the well-appointed SE to $74,000 for the luxuriously appointed First Edition, it’s easy to find a trim level and set of options that makes it your own. Visit Land Rover USA or Land Rover global to learn more.

Exterior images by Evan Orensten, interior images courtesy of Land Rover