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Does the new Land Rover Discovery Live Up to the Name?

Posted in News on March 20, 2017
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Photographers: Courtesy of Land Rover

The name Land Rover Discovery conjures up images of the Camel Trophy and mustachioed men and rugged ladies driving through waist-deep mud. In 2005, Land Rover dropped the name Discovery in the U.S. market in favor of the nondescript LR3 moniker. That vehicle was sold around the world as a Discovery, though, and certainly retained the Discovery DNA with the distinctive boxy shape and bumped roof line to accommodate the third row of passengers.

Land Rover revived the name in the United States for the fifth iteration of the model, now a curvy SUV that matches the lines of the other vehicles in the Rover lineup but is visually unrecognizable from the original Discovery. We recently had the opportunity to find out of there is still some mud from the Camel Trophy stuck under the sheetmetal of the 2017 Land Rover Discovery.

The 2017 Discovery is jam-packed with luxury, sporting dual sunroofs, a 10-inch touchscreen, power rear folding seats, and so much more. The vehicle even has six 12V charging outlets and seven USB ports spread throughout the three rows of seating. We assume you are reading Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road to learn about the vehicle’s capabilities though, and we don’t want to disappoint you. Spoiler: The new Discovery is pretty darn capable.

While the original Discovery used solid axles and coil springs (at a time when Jeeps were still riding on leaf springs), the new model has independent suspension at both ends with air springs at each corner. This allows the suspension nearly 3 inches of user-controlled adjustment, for increased ground clearance off-road but a low step-in height and improved mileage and handling when the vehicle is lower to the ground. The Discovery can be set to automatically lower when the driver takes off his or her seatbelt, and again when the door is opened.

Power from either the 3.0L supercharged V-6 gas engine or the optional 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 engine is light years ahead of the original Discovery’s Buick-sourced aluminum V-8 in terms of power and efficiency. The diesel engine is only available on the HSE and higher trim packages (not the entry SE model) but is only a $2,000 option, making it a no-brainer in our book. With a combined EPA estimate of 23 mpg (versus 18 for the gas engine) and a wide, smooth powerband, we found no downsides to choosing the diesel engine. Given our experience behind the wheel of a 3.0L diesel–equipped Range Rover Sport, expect an easy 30 mpg on the highway.

The previously mentioned air suspension contributes to the surprisingly good fuel economy, as does the aluminum unibody construction that drops a whopping 1,000 pounds compared to the outgoing LR4. Rover has a long history of using aluminum, so the precedent here dates back even earlier than the Camel Trophy. Other efficiencies include electronic steering and a smooth eight-speed ZF automatic transmission that is used behind both engine options to keep them in the optimum power curve.

Behind the transmission, the two-speed transfer case is optional, so don’t accidently order a Discovery without one. The 2.93 low range provides a 51.5:1 crawl ratio when combined with the 4.7 First gear in the ZF tranny, allowing the Discovery to creep along anywhere the vehicle physically fits. The rear locking differential of the optional Terrain Response 2 system, the All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), and the Off-Road Cruise Control combine to allow the Discovery to move forward under nearly any conditions.

If we have a complaint with the new Discovery, it is with the amount of automation. This is more of a criticism of the auto industry as a whole, but adaptive cruise control, lane departure notification, park assist, and even the Discovery’s ability to back a trailer all seem to minimize the connection between the driver and the vehicle. Like the Off-Road Cruise Control, these systems are effective, even if we don’t necessarily appreciate them.

Detractors will undoubtedly claim that the Rover is overpriced and that the majority of them will never leave the pavement. Closer inspection of the pricing reveals that the 2017 Discovery starts at $49,990. Considering that the Chevy Tahoe starts at $47,215, we consider the Rover a bargain. As for a life of soccer fields and mall parking lots, that is out of our hands (and Land Rover’s). We can say with certainty, though, that if the owners of the new Discovery decide to take the road less travelled, they won’t get stuck along the way.

Land Rover Discovery Strengths

Affordable diesel engine
Terrain Response 2 system
Off-Road Cruise Control
Adjustable ride height
Excellent crawl ratio

Land Rover Discovery Weaknesses

Vulnerable rockers
Independent front and rear suspension
21-inch wheels with low-profile tires

Tech Specs

2017 Land Rover Discovery
Base Price: $49,990
Price as Tested (HSE): $33,730

Engine

TypeSupercharged V-6Turbocharged V-6 Diesel, Optional
Displacement (cc)2,9932,995
Bore & Stroke (mm)84.5x89.084.0x90.0
Compression Ratio10.5:116.1:1
Fuel Req. (octane)Regular/87ULSD
Capacity (gal):23.522.5
SAE Horsepower340 @ 6,500 rpm254 @ 3,750 rpm
SAE Torque (lb-ft)332 @ 3,500-5,000 rpm443 @ 1,750-2,250 rpm

The new Discovery has two 3.0L V-6 engine options, both shrouded in plastic. These include a supercharged gas engine making 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, and a turbocharged diesel (shown) making 254 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Waiter, we’ll take the diesel, please.

Transmission
Type: 8-speed ZF auto
Ratios: First: 4.714:1; Second: 3.143:1; Third: 2.106:1; Fourth: 1.667:1; Fifth: 1.285:1;
Sixth: 1.00:1; Seventh: 0.839:1; Eight: 0.667:1; Reverse: 3.295:1

Transfer Case
Type: 2-speed, full time with locking center differential
Low-Range Ratio: 2.93:1

Axles
Front Diff: Open
Rear Diff: Optional locking differential
Hubs: None
Ratio: 3.73:1 (3.23:1 diesel)

Suspension
Front: Independent with twin lower links and coil springs (air springs optional)
Rear: Independent with integrated links and coil springs (air springs optional)

Steering
Type: Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) rack and pinion
Lock-to-Lock/Ratio: 2.7/17.6
Turning Circle (ft): 40.4

Tires & Wheels
P275/45R21 Goodyear Eagles on 21-inch aluminum Dyna Vipers

Brakes
Front: 14.17-inch ventilated disc
Rear: 13.78-inch ventilated disc

Weight (lb)
Curb Weight: 4,751 (4,916 diesel)
Tow Capacity: 8,201 (7,716 diesel)

Mileage (mpg)
Supercharged V-6: EPA est. 16 city, 21 hwy, 18 combined
Turbocharged V-6 Diesel: EPA est. 21 city, 26 hwy, 23 combined

Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase: 115
Overall Width: 81.6
Overall Height: 73.5
Front/Rear Track: 66.5/66.3
Front Ground Clearance: 8.6 coil, 11.4 air

The original Discovery offered in the U.S. market was powered by a 3.9L V-8 making 182 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. The later 4.0L (shown) with Bosch injection made 190 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Both are a far cry from the forced-induction V-6 offering of the new Discovery, which makes more power while delivering better mileage.
The interior of the new Discovery is sleek and modern, with plenty of charging ports and a touch screen to control the stereo, navigation, and HVAC controls. We found the instrumentation to be straightforward with the exception of the window controls. Rather than being on the armrest with the door locks, they are up high at the beltline of the door.
The Discovery has always been an upscale model, and the interior of the original version has aged quite gracefully. To put things in perspective, consider that this vehicle was on the market at the same time as the YJ Wrangler and the ZJ Grand Cherokee.
New for the 2017 Discovery is Land Rover’s Off-Road Cruise Control, which is akin to Toyota’s Crawl Control. It is just as effective too, turning situations like this into a point-and-shoot affair where you just turn the steering wheel with no pedal input. We also found the Rover system to be considerably quieter and less invasive than Toyota’s.
The suspension design on the original Discovery was definitely one of the best features. Solid axles were used front and rear with coil springs. The front used radius arms, and the rear suspension used a triangulated three-link arrangement that provided ample articulation.
The new Discovery could not be more different from the original in terms of the axles and suspension. Since the LR3, independent suspension has been used at each end with airbags and adjustable ride height. The configuration provides an impressive 11 inches of ground clearance.
Think that you cannot modify the new Discovery? The support rigs on our trip were equipped with more aggressive Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires and Warn Zeon winches tucked tightly behind the front bumpers.
Land Rover was one of the first to offer the selectable terrain settings that have become the standard on new Toyotas, Jeeps, and more. First available on the LR3 over 10 years ago, the newest iteration works seamlessly and is as quiet as it is effective.
Most seven-seat SUVs need to be docked in a harbor when you aren’t driving them. The new Discovery comfortably seats seven with stadium seating that places the rear passengers higher than the second seat passengers. Land Rover managed make room for fullsize adults in the third row in a vehicle that is still nimble on the trail and easy to park.
The second and third row seats both fold completely flat at the push of a button. This creates enough room to carry quite a bit of gear, or even to sleep in during a downpour when camping.
We had the opportunity to test the new Discovery in a situation where many potential owners could likely find themselves: heavy snow. The vehicle performed admirably, and we appreciated the electronic steering’s quick ratio (2.7 turns lock to lock) for any sudden maneuvers.
Despite the lack of rocker guards, Land Rover guided us through some fairly technical rocks during our test. We appreciate the confidence the company has in its product, as illustrated by the representative’s willingness to hand over the keys to a bunch of ham-fisted journalists. Still, with this much off-road capability, a heavy-duty aluminum rocker guard option would be really nice. Are you listening, aftermarket?
Part of our trip involved putting the new Discovery through its paces at the Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park. Rain diminished the challenge of the sand, but it gave us an opportunity to put the supercharged gas and turbocharged diesel engines to the test. The eight-speed automatic transmission kept both engines right in the fat part of the powerband at all times.
Not all terrain selection systems are created equal. In our experience Land Rover’s system is one of the best, doing exactly what it is supposed to do. The last thing you want in the sand dunes is a computer that pulls power when you need the tires to spin. Indeed, the electronic interfaces of all Jaguar Land Rover products we’ve tested have been as seamless as could be expected, working away in the background without calling undue attention to their function.
The independent suspension boasts over 19 inches of articulation at each corner. This doesn’t match the solid axles and coil suspension of the original Discovery, but those were equipped with open differentials. When a tire came off the ground in the 2017 Discovery, the rear locker and Terrain Response 2 traction control kept us moving without issue.

Sources

Land Rover North America
lanham, MD 20706
landroverusa.com

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