“Make sure you’re in low-range and rock mode,” instructed our British guide. “Right-oh, we answered,” and, after depressing a button and rotating a dial, we began to use gentle throttle inputs and a light touch of the brake to inch the all-new ’17 Land Rover Discovery along an arduous climb, on the precipitous edge of a wind-and-weather-carved sedimentary rock plateau in the Utah desert. The Discovery’s plentiful torque and grippy tires quickly gained our confidence and, as we experienced nary a slip, we removed our left foot from the brake to let the Disco’s technical wizardry do its job.
What is it?
The fifth-generation Discovery is the latest full-sized Land Rover SUV and has been engineered and designed to bring higher levels of capability and technology to the British marque’s reinterpretation of the 27-year heritage of the Discovery family. The nameplate’s lineage began in 1989; the first model was built in England and sold internationally as both a three-door, five-seater and then followed by a five-door version, with the option of two jump seats in the rear.
The new model gets the monocoque aluminum body and steel subframe of its stablemates, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Like its siblings, it’s penned with more curvaceous lines; it keeps a softened version of the clamshell hood, rooftop, and back end, and yet, it still bears a strong resemblance to its iconic predecessors. It can seat up to seven in three rows of seats that can be raised and lowered using an app on your phone. Headroom for rear riders comes via the slightly raised roofline, while good visibility is enhanced by the cabin’s stadium-seating design.
The ’17 Land Rover Discovery starts at $49,990 and comes in three trims (SE, HSE and HSE Luxury), two powertrains (gas and diesel-a $2,000 upcharge), and a First Edition commemorative version. It’s available in 18 exterior colors and 12 unique wheel designs ranging from 19 to 22 inches, plus off-road and towing accessories, roof racks, and add-ons and upgrades.
Under the Hood
The Discovery’s gasoline or diesel powertrain is mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel mounted shift paddles. The 3.0L supercharged V-6 gas engine gets 340 horsepower with 332 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0L turbocharged V-6 diesel produces 254hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 16 city/21 highway/18 combined mpg for the gasoline and 21/26/23 for the diesel.
The new Disco has a maximum towing capacity of 8,201 pounds with the gasoline engine and 7,716 pounds with the diesel. Towing aids include Advanced Tow Assist that uses the rotary Terrain Response 2 controller and guidelines that are overlaid on the rear-facing camera and the center touchscreen, while Hitch Assist uses surround cameras and the touchscreen display for easy hookup. Rear Height Assist matches the height of the vehicle and trailer tongue. Trailer Stability Assist manages trailer sway with the aid of engine and brake adjustment.
The new Discovery’s fully independent suspension is comprised of a wide-spaced double-wishbone setup in front and an advanced multi-link layout with an integral link at the back. New architecture optimizes the mounting points on the steel front and rear subframes, boosting stiffness and improving steering and chassis performance.
Available Four-Corner Air Suspension enhances the ride both on-road and off, with up to 11.4 inches of ground clearance. A two-stage, off-road mode lets the automatic system switch between two ride heights: an added 1.57 inches at higher speeds and an added 2.95 inches under 31 mph. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhances fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height by half an inch at cruising speeds above 65 mph. With Auto Access Height, the Discovery lowers 1.6 inches from its automatic road stance to aid getting in and out.
The Drive and Our Takeaways
We drove the ’17 Discovery over a course of approximately 450 miles in southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, motoring through some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes. The Discovery took us to the breathtaking vistas and natural beauty of Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon’s Canyon Point, and the Coral Pink Sand Dune. The route was selected to replicate the type of road trip that a Discovery owner might take, although our route included an assortment of backcountry tracks ranging from dirt trails and sand washes to highly technical four-wheeling, staged to highlight the SUVs upgrades.
Land Rover says the new Discovery is the most all-terrain capable ever thanks to a combination of excellent off-road drivetrain mechanics, available air suspension, vehicle geometry, and advanced driver assistance technologies. We agree.