Rock-a-bye Baby

It’s been 30 years since the Land Rover Discovery was first launched and it is now in its fifth generation. The Discovery offers families a luxury seven seat SUV with some serious off-road abilities.

The Discovery SE I drove had a 2.0 litre SD4 Ingenium Diesel engine, but there are also petrol engine models available, including the 5.0 litre supercharged SVR offering. The maximum power from my oil burner was 177kW and 500Nm of torque and even though the Discovery weighs from 2,184kg it has decent acceleration and can tow up to 3,500kg. The official combined fuel economy is 6.5L/100km and for my week with the Discovery I achieved 9.8L/100km.

The power is transmitted through a twin-speed transfer box to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Discovery rides on electric air suspension and it features roll stability control. But the roll stability control cannot overcome the suppleness of the air suspension so when I accelerated hard the Discovery sat back, when I applied the brakes hard it pitched forward and going around corners it leaned over.

On the upside for the air suspension is the Discovery rides over bumps in the road effortlessly and it can be lowered for easy entry and then reverts to its standard driving height once normal driving speeds are reached.

This is a proper 4WD, not an urban SUV pretending to have off-road cred. The Discovery has downhill assist and five drive modes to choose from or you can leave the selector in Auto and the system selects the mode for you. The modes include Comfort for standard driving conditions, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl.

Some handy 4×4 features accessed via the touchscreen include a diagrammatic view of the differential locks and suspension travel. Drive Assist features cameras that show the view ahead and down at the two front wheels for assisting you while manoeuvrering over difficult terrain. This surround camera system is an optional extra costing $1,650. The rear camera has a washer nozzle to clean it after you’ve been traversing muddy or dusty terrain.

My Discovery was fitted with the Capability Plus Pack that includes Terrain Response Two and Active Rear Locking Differentials and costs an extra $3,270. Other features to prove the Discovery is not afraid to tread where other SUVs dare not to go include a full size spare tyre, doors that are flush with the bottom of the vehicle and heavy duty rubber seals between the front and rear door.

One thing that is not lacking in the Discovery is storage cubbies. There are two glove boxes, where you would normally find just the one. The lower glove box is pretty standard and the upper glove box has a 12V outlet in it and also a light.

In the front of centre console there is a cubby and a square ‘drink’ holder for your smart phone and one 12V outlet. The armrest is covered with a matt finish textile which is nice to touch but I think if it were to get dirty it would be difficult to clean. Under the arm rest is a storage space large enough for a narrow hand bag and in here there are two USB ports, a micro sim and 12V outlet.

It may be a serious off-roader on the outside, but on the inside the Discovery is quite luxurious. The seats are soft grained leather and the fronts have 12-way electrical adjustability, but annoyingly no memory function. The Acorn coloured leather is a lovely shade, but I spent the week worrying about me or the children putting dirty marks on it.

The Discovery I drove had seven seats ($3,470 option) and the optional third row of seats comes with two ISOFIX/rear tether child restraint points. Giving a total of four ISOFIX /five rear tether restraints in the Discovery, this is very good and provides you options for where car seats can be placed. If the third row of seats isn’t required on a fulltime basis they can be folded flat and you have a very large boot space for all of those weekend off-road adventures.

I only have two children so there were too many seats for them to choose from! First they wanted to sit in the third row and after a couple of trips one wanted to sit in the second row and so the other wanted too as well, it was a bit annoying. But regardless of where they sat the vision out of the rear view mirror was poor even without any car seats in the Discovery and even with the third row of seats folded down there was improvement to the vision out of the rear view mirror.

The second row of seats has plenty of space and three adults could sit in relevant comfort in them due to width of seats and the lack of a transmission tunnel. There are two 12V outlets here and air vents are in the B-pillars only. The second row has a 60/40 folding mechanism or you can fold down the top half of the centre seat only to stow long items between the two seats. The carpet mats in the second row are easy to remove, which is great if you get them muddy.

Ample roof height is another good feature in the Discovery and it meant that stepping into third row did not require me to contort my body like an acrobat, but the Discovery did lack a large plastic step to avoid wear on the carpet from constant stepping into the third row of seats. To assist egress into the third row there are handy grab points in the C-pillar to help you pull yourself up. Even with the second row of seats fully back there was enough leg room for me to comfortably sit in the third row and the seats are also wide enough for two adults to sit back there.

Adjacent to each third row seat is a push up lid on each side at shoulder height that flips up to reveal a good sized storage pocket with a USB outlet and they also have a small drink bottle holder. But there are no air vents and this mixed with the rocky ride are a recipe for car sickness. Luckily it is easy to push the second row seat forward so you can make a quick exit if required

With the third row of seats up, there is only just enough room for school bags to be in the boot, but with the third row folded down the boot is very large and would easily accommodate a pram and the weekly shop. You also can raise and lower the height of the Discovery with buttons in the boot for easy loading and there is a 12V outlet in there and two lights for night time convenience.

One thing to note is when you open the boot with the button on the key the powered tailgate folds down automatically, but when you open with the boot with the button under the boot lip it does not fold down. This is good to remember when you have your shopping in the back and you don’t want it to fall out on the driveway at home. Yes I have done this (with another car) and yes it was the eggs that fell out!

The powered inner tailgate ($580 option) in the boot also provides a ‘Rolls Royce style’ seat for watching the children at weekend soccer. It’s also good for preventing your dog scratching the rear ledge when they jump up into the vehicle.

However, compared to other vehicles, including some that cost considerably less than the Discovery, there was a distinct lack of active driver assist features apart from lane departure warning and standard cruise control. The Discovery I drove also only had a rear view camera standard for assisting the driver while reversing and 360 degree sensors, which are an $850 option. I also found the voice control did not work that well, which is surprising as the system is similar to the one used by Jaguar and it works better.

The Discovery SE starts at $85,950 (excluding on-road costs) and as tested it was $106,980 excluding on-roads. The Discovery comes with a three year/100,000km warranty and it also has an anti-corrosion warranty for a period of six years. Visit you preferred Land Rover retailer to find out more.

The Land Rover Discovery is one of the original SUVs and it has maintained a lot of that off-road DNA over the years and on-road there is much luxury and comfort to be had. But the one thing that does let the Discovery down in my opinion is the air suspension and the rocky nature of ride.

Pros Cons
Off-road credentials Rocky ride of air suspension
Ride height Lack of active driver assist features
Roomy interior Poor rear view vision for driver

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.