Car reviews - Land Rover - Discovery - TD6 First Edition
Land Rover models
Luxurious yet practical interior, smooth and serene V6 diesel, superb steering, tight on-road handling, terrific off-road ability
Room for improvement
Third-row demonstrably inferior to previous generation, dashboard lacks premium feel, costly options in expensive First Edition
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9 Apr 2018
IT HAS long looked like an apartment block on wheels, but designers of the Land Rover Discovery have for its fifth-generation taken to its once-proudly boxy design like a wrecking ball to a tower.
A plethora of premium large SUV models have hit the market not only since the Discovery nameplate appeared three decades ago, but even since the Discovery 3 launched in 2004 and the evolutionary Discovery 4 followed by 2009. The Discovery 5 has now joined rivals with softer styling expected to appease buyers who would never accept the ‘three box’ older models.
A square design delivered benchmark interior space and practicality with the last large Land Rover and, with a price topping out beneath $100,000 before on-roads, happened to be more affordable than this new model. The flagship Discovery 5 TD6 First Edition tested here tops out at over $130,000 plus on-road costs, and that was before further options were fitted.
So the question is, does a more rounded-looking Land Rover Discovery 5 in fact make for a better all-round premium large SUV? Or has it instead lost its uniquely practical and pragmatic flavour?
Price and equipment
Adding equipment in a Discovery 5 is like being strapped into an express elevator. The diesel four-cylinder $65,960 before on-roads TD4 S, its more powerful $71,560 SD4 S sibling, and diesel six-cylinder $78,271 TD6 S only get halogen headlights, manual air-conditioning and basic cloth trim.
The $77,050 TD4 SE, $83,450 SD4 SE and $90,161 TD6 SE retain 19-inch alloy wheels, but add a dual-range gearbox, air suspension, front parking sensors, automatic on/off LED headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, plus satellite navigation with 10-speaker audio.
The $87,150 TD4 HSE, $93,550 SD4 HSE and $100,261 TD6 HSE add 20s, front foglights, electric tailgate, auto up/down high-beam, keyless auto-entry, memory seats, electrically adjustable steering column, 10.0-inch touchscreen with 380-watt Meridian audio and tri-zone climate control.
Finally, the $100,950 TD4 HSE Luxury, $107,350 SD4 HSE Luxury and $114,061 TD6 HSE Luxury further feature a panoramic sunroof, Windsor leather including on the dashboard, heated and ventilated front seats, chilled console box, and digital television with 725-watt Meridian audio.
Actually that is not quite it, because seven seats add $3400 – even in the flagship model.
They are standard on this $131,871 TD6 First Edition however, which, for $17,810 more than the TD6 HSE Luxury, also adds 21s, Terrain Response 2 off-road software, reverse auto-park assistance, electrically adjustable second- and third-row seating, heated and ventilated second-row seats, privacy glass and even blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Even then adaptive cruise control costs a staggering $3290 more, a head-up display needs another $2370 and even a digital radio costs $920 extra.
Loaded with equipment it might be, the Discovery 5 TD6 First Edition still feels more utilitarian than premium. The ordinary switchgear, basic vents, and standard speedometer and tachometer cluster all either look and/or feel decidedly sub-$100K, not over one-third beyond that pricetag.
At least storage is superb, including large door pockets, a big centre console bin, plus twin gloveboxes.
The front seats – or perhaps more aptly, chairs – retain the commanding seating position of previous generations and even the middle row preserves the raised-up theatre-style mounting points of the last model, which provides a good view over front occupants.
Expectedly, headroom and legroom is as plentiful as the three-across shoulder room, complete with 60:40 split for both backrest-recline and bench-slide functions.
Both back rows can be electrically folded or raised via the front touchscreen, with the motors helping power hugely helpful one-touch third-row entry, too.
With the third-row in place, boot volume is reduced from an enormous 1231 litres in five-seat guise, to a still-excellent 268L with seven seats – about equivalent to a Mazda CX-3 small SUV, in fact.
Where the Disco 5 dips compared with Disco 4 is actually in the third row.
Highlighting how far ahead of the game for seating the latter was, the Land Rover is still among the roomiest in its class. However, legroom and headroom are more crimped than before.
Owing to that lower, rounded rear roofline, the sixth and seventh seats have sunk closer to the floor, with severely reduced visibility, while rearmost air-vents have been deleted, despite being standard Kia Sorento that is a quarter of the asking price.
Engine and transmission
Between $5000 and $7000 separates each engine option in the Discovery 5. The first step takes the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel from 132kW/430Nm to 177kW/500Nm thanks to the addition of a second turbocharger, with a 10.5-second 0-100km/h claim falling to 8.3s.
Upgrading to the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 tested here raises outputs to 190kW/600Nm, with an 8.1s performance claim. Claimed combined-cycle fuel usage steadily rises from 6.2 to 6.4 to 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
Although all are allied with an eight-speed automatic, this V6 – the only engine available in First Edition guise – is a real smooth operator especially on the move where it gels with the comfortable seats and suspension to deliver a properly refined and hushed driving character.
The auto’s superb S (for Sport) mode works most intuitively with an engine that must still deal with a 2298kg kerb weight, however, keeping the diesel humming in a sweet spot beyond the languid lower regions.
Significant turbo lag is still evident, especially off the line, but keep the 3.0-litre working just above idle and it is fine. It can also tow a mighty 3.5 tonnes, to be sure.
On test, which did not include towing but did feature a hard-working off-road section, the TD6 First Edition returned 9.6L/100km, which is excellent for a big bus.
As with the inside fit-out, though, this engine feels more like a sub-$100K option – and that is perhaps unsurprising given the Discovery 4 with this engine configuration topped out at $96,200 before it bowed out in 2016.
Ride and handling
Off road, the Discovery 5 is still very much true to its heritage. Standard air suspension can raise itself in a 135mm range between 60mm lower than standard to 75mm higher.
As a result of the latter, ground clearance of 283mm soundly beats that of the Toyota LandCruiser Sahara’s 220mm, while wading depth rises by 200mm to 900mm.
Angles on approach (34 degrees) and departure (30 degrees) beat the ‘Cruiser by two and five degrees respectively, while the Land Rover’s 27.5 degree ramp-over point also beats out the Toyota by 5.5 degrees.
We did not ford rivers or cross streams, but after hopping rocks and clamouring over red dirt mounds the Land Rover properly proved its effortless creepy-crawly potential beyond bitumen. Switch the Terrain Response 2 selector from road, to sand, to snow, to mud/ruts, and it goes.
Perhaps even more impressively, and unlike either that Toyota or its smaller Prado sibling, the Discovery 5 has become even more pleasurable to drive. The surprisingly quick and incisive steering of the Discovery 4 remains, but this premium large SUV now feels tauter, yet equally as soothing as before.
Some impact from the too-thin (45 aspect) and too-large (21-inch) tyres is evident particularly over corrugations and deep potholes, though the adaptive suspension avoids feeling either too soggy or overly firm.
The fact there is no Sport mode for it simply makes mockery of other car-makers’ over-enthusiasm for delivering several modes while mastering none.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with 360-degree cameras, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) were included in our test car.
The Land Rover Discovery achieved five stars and scored 34.3 out of 38 points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
The Discovery 5 features annual or 26,000km servicing intervals, however Land Rover does not offer a capped-price program.
There is no avoiding the obvious – the Land Rover Discovery 5 takes a step backwards in terms of interior packaging compared with the Discovery 4, while it also becomes more expensive.
Yet even with this TD6 First Edition at this pricetag, there are few rivals that can match its broad abilities.
It makes a LandCruiser feel even more bloated and blobby to drive on the road, while still excelling at the off-road stuff for which its nameplate is renowned. Third-row accommodation aside, it is more luxurious than before, with great seats, a lush suspension tune and relaxed diesel engine. Yet it is also subtly fun to drive, and is more nimble than its exterior dimensions would indicate.
Similarly priced SUV models such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 ultimately feel more premium inside, and are quicker and more frugal for the same money. But the take-away is these models are not necessarily any more spacious or sweet to steer than the Discovery that can actually go off road.
It is that part-Q7 on-road, part-LandCruiser off-road balancing act that means a Discovery 5 – even with its higher pricetag and exorbitant options – arguably remains worth the extra over its rivals.
Toyota LandCruiser Sahara from $120,301 plus on-road costs
It might not let you down off-road, but this diesel V8 certainly comes up short on the blacktop.
Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI R-Line from $114,990 plus on-road costs
Sportier to drive yet a towing match, but smaller inside and will not go far off-road.
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