First Report: Long-Term 2018 Land Rover Discovery

    Long-Term Report

    Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

    Historically, Land Rovers were working-class vehicles bred more for work than for play. Then, in 1970, British Leyland launched the more luxurious Range Rover SUV into the lineup, and so began a transition from no-frills, farm-based function to posh-posh, white-collar flash. As the years progressed, new vehicles were added that followed Range Rover’s swoopy shape and impressive cadre of amenities. First there was Evoque, waltzing into the Land Rover offices like it owned the joint, turning heads at every cubicle. Next was the new kid in the mail room, the Discovery Sport, which if going by the body shape, was no doubt the beneficiary of a bit of nepotism. Then in sauntered the Velar, with its stunning looks and high-end sophistication. And all the while, there was Discovery, just standing there stiff and upright in its farm overalls and muddy work boots. One could imagine an anthropomorphic encounter at the company water cooler going something like this: “I say, Discovery, don’t know if you saw the corporate memo, but henceforth it’s office-formal attire, what. There’s a good chap. Leave those farm clothes at home would you? Pip pip, cheerio, clotted cream, and Yorkshire pudding.” Okay, admittedly our British parlance is a bit stretched on this side of the Atlantic, but irrespective of the motivation, the ’18 Discovery is now sporting a much swoopier, sophisticated exterior rooted firmly in the Range Rover DNA. And the interior is every bit as luxurious as the exterior is curvy.

    Our test model is the HSE Luxury edition, which heaps mounds and mounds of options inside the Discovery. And there’s about a bazillion little storage spots stashed throughout the interior, including a compartment behind the HVAC controls, dual gloveboxes, several center console areas, rear-seat storage pockets, and even latching bins for the third-row passengers. And of course, for the modern-day gadgeteer, there are both USB and 12V power ports hidden within almost every crevice. Interior passenger and cargo room is good. The fact that the third-row seats can be dropped individually allows you to carry six passengers and enough luggage and gear for a weeklong getaway—or seven passengers and virtually no gear. Take your pick. The third-row seats in our test model feature heaters, and the first- and second-row seats have both heated and air-conditioned features.

    The second- and third-row seats can be electronically folded or opened by several means. There’s a control panel on the driver-side interior of the cargo area within easy reach from the tailgate to raise or lower the second- and third-row seats. There’s also a control panel inside the rear doorjambs to operate the third row. The touchscreen infotainment system can operate any of the rear seats on the fly, and it can drop the headrests to increase rearward visibility. And finally, you can use your smartphone with the vehicle’s app to access seat functions. Pretty crazy, huh?

    For this first installment, we’ve been using the Discovery as anybody would—daily commuting, errands, dropping off and picking up kids from school, and the occasional weekend foray, including bumping down moderately maintained dirt roads. While the fuel economy of the 340hp, 332 lb-ft supercharged 3.0L V-6 isn’t atrocious, the fact that it likes to sip on 91-octane premium fuel does make you a tad sore in the wallet department. However, there’s more than ample power on tap, and it easily keeps the big SUV rolling up any mountain grade—especially given there’s an eight-speed auto with paddle shifters at your command. The handling is comfortable, but not entirely uncompromised. In the corners, the Discovery sometimes feels spongy and almost wallowy. We know from driving Range Rover and Range Rover Sport on this chassis that more on-road cornering performance is possible, but this is more a family wagon, so we’ll forgive and forget.

    What definitely isn’t a compromise is the Discovery’s Terrain Response 2 four-wheel-drive system. With a host of terrain response settings, a true rear locker, unobtrusive traction control system, electric air suspension (that’s blazingly fast, we might add), and a true two-speed T-case with a stellar 2.93:1 low-range ratio, the Discovery can drag itself just about anywhere off-road. Add some steel rocker panels and chunky tires, and the Rubicon would be a breeze in this thing—and much more comfortable than most other 4x4s, we might add. Normally adjustable air suspensions ride like frozen dog snot in their highest settings, providing a jarring ride on compression and annoying clunking on rebound as the suspension tops out. Not so with the Discovery. True, you do periodically feel the air struts topping out on rebound, but it’s not violent or super-clunky. And the ride quality bombing down washes and up unimproved semi-graded dirt roads is phenomenal, even at max suspension height. There’s plenty of wheel travel to keep all four tires on the ground, and the traction control doesn’t overtly apply the ABS to correct yaw in the corners. It’s a truly enjoyable off-road driving experience.

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    Our test Discovery is so highly appointed that it’s tough to find one standout among the sea of optional equipment, but one item we thought we’d never wind up mentioning is the $105 Cabin Air Ionization option, which is something normally found in home air purifiers. Ionization is simply infusing an electric charge to the air particulate as it moves through the HVAC system. Once charged, the particulate attracts itself to the inside of the HVAC system or interior surface of the vehicle. The point is that you’re not breathing a ton of dust and debris while you’re off-roading, and during a summertime trip to Sacramento, California, while the whole state was seemingly on fire, the Discovery cabin provided a welcome respite from the unhealthy smoke-filled air outside.

    We’ll keep racking up the miles for our next report. If there’s something you want to know more about, be sure to email us at editor@fourwheeler.com. We’ll do our best to address it in subsequent installments.

    Report: 1 of 4

    Previous reports: N/A
    Base price: $65,490
    Price as tested: $74,875
    Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically controlled, two-speed

    Long-Term Numbers
    Miles to date: 8,475
    Miles since last report: N/A
    Average mpg (this report): 15.77
    Test best tank (mpg): 18.58 (all highway, light traffic)
    Test worst tank (mpg): 13.75 (around town only, no highway)

    Maintenance
    This period: None
    Problem areas: Small rock chip turned into a big windshield crack

    What’s Hot, What’s Not
    Hot: Terrain Response 2 system is an off-road rock star
    Not: Mushy on-road cornering performance

    Logbook Quotes
    “The massage feature in the front seats is addictive. Can’t this drive be longer?”
    “The electric air suspension is lighting fast—raises or lowers very quickly.”

    Options as Tested

    Vision Assist Package ($1,020); Auto High Beam Assist, Surround Camera System, Auto-Dimming Exterior Mirrors. Drive Pro Package ($2,400); Driver Condition Monitor, Intelligent Speed Limiter & TSR, Adaptive Cruise with Queue Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Reverse Traffic Detection. 360 Parking Aid with Visual Display ($285). Advance Tow Assist ($410). Head-Up Display, Gen 2 ($970). Capability Plus Pack ($1,275); Twin-Speed Transfer Case, Terrain Response 2, Electric Air Suspension. Activity Key ($410). Trailer Hitch with Electric Connector ($665). Heated Windshield ($285). Cabin Air Ionization ($105). Loadspace Cover ($155). Black Contrast Roof (NCO). Full Length Black Roof Rails ($410).