Long-Term Test: 2018 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury-Third Report

    Third report: Discovering the middle ground

    Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

    It reminded us of a schoolyard fight—the two biggest kids on the playground stubbornly standing toe-to-toe, wildly pummeling each other with haymakers, neither willing to concede defeat. That was our second long-term report on our 2018 SUV of the Year–winning Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury. A slew of mechanical and electrical problems left us bleeding from the proverbial nose, but after several repeat visits to our local Land Rover dealership and six weeks with it out of our custody, we have met in the middle of the ring to call a draw. Now that we’ve been back in the saddle for several months, we’re glad to report that, for the most part, it’s been business as usual.

    Add fuel, start engine, drive, and repeat: That’s what you’re looking for in any modern mode of simple transportation. And simple transportation has been what we’re using the Disco for this time around. Doing the Groundhog Day ritual of commuting, school carpool, and sports shuttling, with no sexy off-roading adventures, heroic tales of trailering right up to the weight limit, or exciting long-range drives. But it’s in repetition where you often find the truth of a vehicle. In town the Disco feels agile, thanks to its tight turning radius, ability to snake into cramped parking spots, and the way it parallel parks with ease. The camera systems are super helpful, not only the standard backup camera, but also the 360-degree display that points out objects the high beltline may otherwise obscure. It just feels smaller than it really is. One gripe that has arisen from middle- and high-school–sized kids that frequent the third-row seat, however, is the rather tight entry access to the “wayback” seats. The rear door opening is slanted at a 45-degree angle and the second-row seat doesn’t flip forward, so you’ve got to awkwardly climb over the folded seatback and squeeze in sideways. It’s fine for the smaller kids, but it poses an obstacle once they get bigger. Once seated, however, the complaints stop. Decent legroom, cupholders, power ports, seat heaters, and onboard Wi-Fi shuts ’em up pretty quick. Though, with the third row in use, cargo capacity is quite cramped. A standard airport carry-on–sized suitcase will not fit, and even with smaller bags the tailgate may not want to close. Think roof rack if you’re planning on hauling seven passengers and anything more than a couple backpacks.

    Going down the highway we’ve taken to driving with the Lane Keep Assist feature off. Considering the crowded nature of SoCal’s highway system, it’s not often we find ourselves getting lulled into a state of inattentiveness. There’s always some goober pumping the brakes or pulling into your lane 3 feet in front of you, so the Lane Keep Assist feature only serves to provide an unwanted pull against the steering wheel in certain situations (admittedly when changing lanes without the directional). However, one feature we’ve been taking full advantage of since it was reflashed is the infotainment system. The sound system in the Discovery is great, with clarity and separation despite the tremendous (when you want it) volume. It’s been working seamlessly for most of the test period, not suffering any of the lockup issues that plagued the system before the reflash with the exception of two times when we were playing music off our personal device platforms. In one case the vehicle required a full restart to get back to the home screen, but in the other we were able to monkey around with the controls and get it jump-started again. Perhaps there’s another flash in the works, but for the most part, we’re happy.

    Mechanically, we’re seeing a steady increase in overall mpg. Most of our driving has been longer stretches of highway this quarter, with a best tank of 17.7 mpg earned at a nominal speed of 65-70 mph with only light stop-and-go commuting traffic, which, given the peppy little 340hp supercharged V-6, is nothing to sneeze at. Our worst was a mixed tank of in-town errands and some highway driving, sucking 91-octane Premium fuel at a rate of 13.5 mpg. We still find the throttle response when trying to get the vehicle to move from a dead stop severely annoying. You step on the accelerator smoothly, expecting the vehicle to roll forward, and there’s very little motion until the rpms get to a certain point, and then—bam—it takes off. It’s very much like setting your e-brake halfway and then releasing the brake after you’ve tried to pull away from a stop. We’ve driven turbocharged, supercharged, and all sorts of other vehicles with high-performance engines, and we’re still convinced the issue is in the throttle calibration, not in any mechanical lag created by the forced-induction system. It’s a shame, because the quirk makes in-town driving an otherwise very good vehicle highly annoying.

    The suspension bushings, which had been squeaking quite noticeably, have quieted down and haven’t made a peep in several thousand miles. The rotary transmission shift knob, which we initially thought we would despise, has proven quite nice after getting used to it. We almost never select the wrong gear, and we really don’t find ourselves missing a conventional vertical shift lever. The transmission holds gears when we want, shifts readily when we select the steering wheel paddles, and lays down unobtrusively when we just leave it in Drive.

    A neat feature some like to play with is the ambient lighting, the color of which can be chosen from a wide palette. That, coupled with the front and rear roof shades that can be opened, give the Discovery a light, airy feel, even at night. And now that our California winter is getting colder, we’re finally able to utilize many of the winter-weather options in our Discovery outside of the heated steering wheel and seating (which work phenomenally, by the way). The $285 heated windshield option is a bargain if you live anywhere that fog, frost, or ice is common. One press of a button and a network of wires inside the windshield glass heat up and almost instantaneously eradicate fog, thaw frost, and start melting away ice. The wires are spaced quite a bit closer than standard rear-defrost elements, so they work quite a bit better than those systems of old. But spring is just around the corner, and so too our final time with the ’18 Discovery. We’ll be putting it through some more off-road paces for our final installment, so check back in a few months to see how it fleshes out.

    Report: 3 of 4

    Previous reports: Dec. ’18, Mar. ’19
    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: 20,268
    Miles since last report: 6,186
    Average mpg (this report): 15.8
    Test best tank (mpg): 17.7 (highway @ 65 mph, no traffic)
    Test worst tank (mpg): 13.5 (in town mixed with highway)

    This period: Scheduled oil change
    Problem areas: Throttle tip-in still inelegant—lags then hits hard; door seals squeaking as chassis flexes; continued infotainment freezing and interface quirks

    What’s Hot, What’s Not
    Hot: Seat configuration and tailgate system very handy
    Not: Reliability disappointing this installment

    Logbook Quotes
    “Oh please, electrical system, just work consistently for one single month.”
    “The winter amenities are really dialed in.”

    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).