By on March 14, 2017

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

2017 Land Rover Discovery

3.0-liter V6, supercharged (340 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 3,500–5,000 rpm)

3.0-liter V6, turbodiesel (254 hp @ 3,750 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 1,750–2,250 rpm)

Eight-speed ZF-supplied automatic, four-wheel drive

16 city / 21 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, MPG, Supercharged Gas)

21 city / 26 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG, Turbodiesel)

17 mpg (Observed, Supercharged Gas)

20 mpg (Observed, Turbodiesel)

Base Price: $50,985 (Gas), $59,945 (Diesel) (U.S.)

As Tested: $73,240 (Gas), $76,690 (Diesel) (U.S.)

Prices include $995 destination charge

The Land Rover Discovery has, up until now, always been so veddy, veddy British. Since 1989, Land Rover mixed the Discovery’s bolt-upright styling with mountain goat off-road capability — not to mention a few features only people from the UK or its former colonies would understand.

For 2017, the curry hook and other British quirks remain, but the purveyor of British SUVs has finally straightened the Disco’s teeth in search of wider appeal.

Utah, with its stern landscape alternating between soft sand dunes and swerving shoulders of rock, proved a superb environ to sample the two variations of Land Rover’s new Discovery — both packing 3.0-liter of displacement but with very disparate personalities. At full chat up the side of a sand dune tinted an otherworldly shade of pink, the 340-horsepower supercharged V6 emits a delicious metallic whir, while the basso ruminations of the torquey turbodiesel satisfy the aural palate by way of its refinement and lack of traditional compression-ignition clatter.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk about those glorious sand dunes in a minute. First, let’s address the elephant in the room: the new Discovery’s styling.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

On first blush, it seems Land Rover has softened, declawed, and mollified the new Disco into a competitor of luxurious lightweights such as the Audi Q5. Sure, the Audi can bust a few snowdrifts on the school run, but it’s ill-equipped in terms of true off-road capability compared to the old mountain-goat Discovery.

Fans of the Green Oval, then, will be relieved to hear engineers behind the 2017 Land Rover Discovery didn’t misplace their adventure handbook, seeing fit to equip the new Disco with all manner of rock crawling and sand-busting capability. Despite its fancy new clothes, this Brit can still get dirty.

The Discovery will offer two engines in North America when it goes on sale in May. Buyers can choose between a supercharged gas unit or turbocharged diesel mill, both displacing 3.0 liters. The petrol gasoline engine is good for 340 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and nearly the same measure of torque, while the oil burner makes 254 hp at 3,750 rpm with a torque peak of 443 lb-ft arriving at a lowly 1,750 rpm. Both are equipped with ZF’s spectacular eight-speed transmission.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

All models get Land Rover’s permanent four-wheel drive system with a standard locking centre differential. A rear locker is optional should buyers choose to select the $1,250 Capability Plus Package, which is available only on the most costly HSE Luxury trim. Buyers who want off-road cred should proceed directly to this trim level — do not pass Go, do not collect £164.32 ($200 USD).

Properly equipped, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery has nearly a foot of ground clearance and an approach angle nearing 30 degrees. With wheel articulation reaching just a shade under 20 inches, the Discovery is adept at clambering over the gnarliest of off-road obstacles. Despite its new Rodeo Drive styling, the 2017 model will safely ford through 35 inches of water, over 7 inches more than the last year’s box-it-came-in model.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Center Console, Shifter Knob and Off-road Controls, Image: Jaguar Land Rover

Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is now found in the Discovery, offering a bevy of different settings for various sans-pavement situations, such as rock, sand, and mud. Left to its own devices in Auto mode (and let’s be honest, most buyers will leave it in this mode), computers independently read what’s happening at all four wheels at a rate of 100 times per second.

Land Rover’s planned route through the Utah desert took us through a series of dry riverbeds packed with silt, which Discovery laughed off as if it were a puddle at the mall. Later, we were instructed to jack the air suspension to its highest setting and put the 4×4 system in low range once we’d arrived at a series of rock crawling exercises. No manly yanks of heavy levers here; a few button pushes completed the tasks.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

With the Terrain Response system in Rock Crawl mode, the Discovery inched its way up a steep rock face guided by my own measured steering inputs and modest prods of the accelerator. Terrain Response did all the hard work, meting out power to whatever wheel or wheels it deemed to have the most traction, and culminated with the Discovery resting at a steep angle with its right-front Goodyear Eagle F1 All-Terrain dangling about two feet off terra firma. JLR reps opened and closed the Discovery’s doors while the truck remained perched at this jaunty angle to prove the structure wasn’t enduring excessive flex despite its reach-for-the-moon stance.

On a different set of rocks, we chose to engage the Discovery’s All-Terrain Progress Control. JLR’s boffins kept referring to it as ATPC, but they could’ve easily called it off-road cruise control, which is essentially its function. Similar to a hill descent system, ATPC keeps the Discovery to a maximum pre-set crawl speed, halting and resuming forward motion as it sees fit given the trail conditions. With the driver’s feet nowhere near the pedals, we scampered up and over a series of knobby Utah rocks.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

Hitting the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southern Utah, so named for the color of the Navajo sandstone grains that create them, 4,000 acres of undulating dunes were laid out before us. Swirling winds bite their way through the nearby rocky cliffs, shredding sand from their surfaces and deposit it in the form of rolling dunes. It’s a desert within a desert at an altitude of 6,000 feet.

Weaving our way through the alien dunes, drivers piloting a Disco equipped with the supercharged gasoline engine often found themselves at an advantage given its more rev-happy nature. This is not a knock on the diesel, a powertrain quieter on road than many gasoline mills, but a reinforcement that customers should simply choose the most appropriate engine for their expected adventures. Shod with nothing but its standard Goodyear tires, the Discovery blasted through grit (which had the consistency of icing sugar); its four wheels sending sand skyward in quantities sufficient to satisfy the personal hygiene needs of six Persian cats.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your seats are? The new Discovery does. Armed with low-level artificial intelligence (I’m using AI in a broad sense), the Disco’s seats incorporate 23,000 lines of software code for all sorts of trickery. Essentially, the seats know where they are at any given time. At a rest stop on the Utah/Arizona border, I pressed the button to fold one half of the split middle row. Recognizing the front passenger seat was too far astern to allow for fully folding of the middle row, the Discovery paused the middle-row seat’s folding cycle, automatically scooted the front passenger seat forward like a dutiful English butler, then resumed folding the middle row. Thirteen different systems work in tandem to carry out this task.

Make all the fun you want about this level of British electronic wizardry going haywire once the warranty runs out, but the reality is this: by incorporating gee-whiz technology into a slick-looking, off-road capable package, JLR has suddenly opened up the Disco’s potential market to include wealthy soccer parents and folks who want a machine to crawl over the loam to go fox-hunting. Packing all this tech and looking for all the world like a junior Range Rover, it’s easy to predict JLR selling a ton of these to folks who never would’ve considered the old, boxy Disco.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Cargo, Image: Jaguar Land Rover

Thanks to a wheelbase spanning a vast 115 inches, seven adults actually fit in the three-row Discovery. It wouldn’t take them across country in the laps of luxury comfort. But across town? Sure. The perception of space, light, and vision certainly help, as does the research JLR invested in how families actually use their vehicles. The Disco has always been known for its second-row stadium seating and vomit-inducing third-row jump seats. Now, youngsters in a booster seat sitting astern in row three can actually see the dashboard all the way up front, which helps to prevent a repeat appearance of their lunch from Chuck E. Cheese.

There are a few ergonomic excrescences in the new Discovery, mostly thanks to details getting lost in translation before its migration across the pond. The volume knob is a long reach for the driver, residing exactly where the release for the behind-the-HVAC hideaway should be, which is far closer to the passenger than to the driver. Swap the steering wheel to its British location, though, and the positioning makes sense.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Interior, Image: Jaguar Land Rover

So, too, does the placement of the joystick controlling the power tilt/telescope steering wheel. Generally located on the outer edge of the steering column, towards the driver’s door, the Discovery’s placement of this control faces the passenger and leads to unnecessary fumbling. Again, placing the steering column in the right side of the cabin erases this complaint.

Elsewhere, when the Utah sun hits the chrome trim framing the shifter for Disco’s eight-speed automatic, the glare in the driver’s eyes is apocalyptic. Burnished metal, similar to the stuff surrounding the air vents, would be a better choice in this spot.

If I’m bringing up these points, though, you know I’m stretching for something to carp about.

The interior of the Discovery is hewn in fine style surrounding user-friendly gauges and an easily operable centre stack. There’s an interesting texture to the dashboard and A-pillar coverings. Its soft-touch surface is almost like a Gore-Tex cloth, and I freely admit to caressing it unnecessarily. This material will produce no glare — or fingerprints for that matter. Twin gloveboxes face the passenger, the upper of which completely disappears until summoned to open by way of a penny-sized button. Pointing to JLR’s desire for the Discovery to broaden its appeal, no fewer than nine USB ports pepper the interior.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Rear Seating, Image: Jaguar Land Rover

Traditional British cues pop up from time to time, such as the deep tick-tock turn signal indicator that emanates from somewhere deep within the dash and sounding for all the world like a reassuring grandfather clock. The curry hook remains in the passenger foot well, ready to accept a bag of takeaway. And the rear license plate is still offset to the left. Longtime Land Rover owners will find a comforting mix of the familiar, while new customers will find a great deal of modernity.

Upper-crust Range Rovers always had a split tailgate, a point of prestige for many Brits who like somewhere to sit and don their wellies while the dogs have a run. Now the Discovery has one as well … kind of. A powered inner load floor, configured to either automatically deploy or drop with the touch of a button, folds out and can bear over 600 pounds of pork pies or two well-fed Americans. Another button in the rear cargo compartment allows Discovery owners to fiddle with the optional air suspension, lowering the vehicle to help with loading heavy items or hooking up to a trailer. Left to its own devices, the air suspension will lower the vehicle 0.6 of an inch when the driver selects Park and unbuckles their belt, then kneel another inch towards terra firma when they open the door.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

Speaking of towing, a gasoline powered 2017 Land Rover Discovery is rated to haul 8,201 pounds, a remarkable achievement for a machine whose silhouette apes many namby-pamby crossovers. That tow rating far outstrips brawnier looking machinery, such as a Pentastar-equipped Ram 1500. Optional Advanced Towing Assist works and feels like the trick Pro Trailer Backup Assist on F-150 trucks.

A yaffle of electronic nannies keep drivers in their designated lanes and can stop the car before it runs over any peasants. Features like park assist and the aforementioned reversing-the-trailer assist is made possible by electric steering cribbed from the Range Rover.

Three trim levels will be available in the U.S., with the entry-level SE variant starting at $49,990 — about a grand less than a comparable LR4. It’s a $7,000 walk to the gasoline-powered HSE variant. A top-of-the-line, diesel-powered HSE Luxury model will set you back around $66,000.

Purists may screech bloody murder about the Discovery’s newfound sense of style, but its off-road capability hasn’t been diminished not one whit. In the past, the Disco was styled with practicality and a heavy dose of tradition in mind. Phil Simmons, Studio Director of Exterior Design, told me at dinner that off-road capability is still at the fore of Discovery’s mission. However, designers were now free to justify a design cue’s existence based solely on it looking right. To me, that puts the exclamation point on Land Rover’s shifting attention to design and not just utilitarian function. It’s possible for something to be pretty and functional at the same time. Look at IKEA furniture, for example, or anything from Pagani.

2017 Land Rover Discovery, Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy

It’s for this reason I think Land Rover has a winner on its hands, as the new Discovery will appeal to new buyers on Wilshire Boulevard while continuing to placate the scattered purist who wants to ford through 3 feet of water on their way to the English countryside. Features like intelligent folding seats and a FitBit-esque wristband to supplement the key fob (yes, that’s an option) may not matter to the rich Brummies who’ve had a Disco since 1989, but they will matter a great deal to the California set looking to keep up with the Kardashians.

It’s a shrewd gamble, but one which will pay off handsomely on JLR’s balance sheet. This Englishman got his teeth fixed, but he still knows how to don his wellies and go fox-hunting.


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35 Comments on “2017 Land Rover Discovery First Drive Review – An Englishman with Great Teeth...”

  • avatar

    Englishman? Land Rover is an Indian automaker.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    How much different is this from the Discovery Sport? The vehicle that Automobile determined was less worthy offroad than a Macan, GLC, or X4?

    • 0 avatar

      The Discovery Sport is a front wheel drive transverse engine CUV with what is essentially a rear wheel assist system like all transverse CUVs. Its not 4WD and the system is light duty. It’s based on the Range Rover Evoque. It is a mall cruiser, not an off roader despite its Land Rover name.

      THIS on the other hand, is a fully modern unibody SUV with a true 4WD (low range and locking diffs) that operates full time. This will compete with truck based SUVs such as the Lexus GX, Nissan/Infiniti Armada/QX, Toyota 4Runner.

      It is too bad that the names are so similar.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        It’s not BOF, so how are you figuring that it will compete with BOF SUVs like the 4Runner? If anything, it seems like it would compete against the Grand Cherokee. Except the price is so much higher. I’d buy two Grand Cherokees over this new Discovery.

        • 0 avatar

          Simply because it is an offroad capable SUV with a rather substantial towing capacity. If it can do the job, than the construction method may not matter to the US buyer. Will the ladder frame and live axle articulation of the 4Runner lead to better ruggedness than the unibody construction of this Land Rover that is totally dependant on electronics for its offroad abilities? Probably. In the US market will it matter? I doubt it. If you’re speaking internationally then I would rather have a 4Runner to drive across Australia or Siberia.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Sure, but everything you just said about this new Discovery matches the current Grand Cherokee exactly, right down to the unibody (even though GC uses what Jeep calls a “uniframe”) chassis. How could a 4Runner be a more direct competitor than the GC?

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for clearing this up. I have an LR4 but was still confused as to whether this was it’s replacement or not. I was thinking it was a redesign of the small discovery but was apparently wrong (name similarities as you mentioned). Cool to see them bring the Discover name back though.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve never been a fan of automakers applying the same name (or variations on a name) to entirely different models. (Something like the Pathfinder Armada was particularly bad but even the Santa Fe Sport is different enough from the Santa Fe that it should have a different name.) For years, Land Rover has been able to get away with the distinct Range Rover and Range Rover Sport without causing too much confusion. But I suspect (and the comments here indicate) that the Discovery and Discovery Sport will cause more confusion in the marketplace…they are just too different and share nothing but the ability to carry 7 people. I prefer a real name to LR_ but that doesn’t mean they need to recycle the same name across the lineup.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis


    For a Discovery?

    I can’t.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    *Looks at photo of suspension adjustment and terrain panel.*

    -James May enters mind.-

    “That’s just something to break.”

    • 0 avatar

      “Gee Marge – do I pick the snowflakes, tree, or cactus?”

      • 0 avatar

        As mentioned in the article – everyone just leaves it in auto. While I’m not an off roader kind of guy I’d love to know what the difference between those settings are deep inside the software. Like if I pick the wrong one am I hopeless stuck? But if I switch to the right mode does the vehicle suddenly free itself as if by magic? If auto mode can just figure it out then why bother with the silly icons at all?

  • avatar

    “not to mention a few features only people from the UK or its former colonies would understand.”

    Well, a “bag holding hook” is something my F250 had from the factory.

    Pretty sure Americans understand “a thing that holds a bag”.

    (Mmm, curry.)

  • avatar

    Miss the raised second row roof.

  • avatar

    A “yaffle” of electronic nannies?

    According to Urban Dictionary that’s “English slang from the Westcountry where it means to eat noisily, greedily and rapidly without paying any attention to table manners, the quality of the food or the effect on other diners. The process is usually interspersed with grunts, belches and slobbering and would put a starving hyena to shame.”

    Do these uncouth electronic nannies come with a mute button?

    Other than that, the Yaffle is a European Green Woodpecker.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Impressive machine in many ways. I want to criticize the price, the reliance on air suspension, and the arsenal of electronic components and aids that are more likely to break in expensive ways if Land Rover’s reputation holds, but I’m not in the market for this type of vehicle so I won’t, and LR’s ability to blend luxury with true offroad performance is somewhat unique.

    I’ll just say that I’m happy that my off-road capable SUV is simpler and doesn’t rely on pillows to achieve ground clearance, because if there is any place where a vehicle’s reliability becomes important it is 20 miles out into the sandstone backcountry. You pay for it with archaic onroad dynamics compared to this LR, but no one is making a rig that is good on road, good off road, and long-term reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      “No one is making a rig that is good on road, good off road, and long-term reliable.” See: Land Cruiser. Yes, it’s $80k+, but if that bothers you, see: 4Runner or GX460, depending on how much you want to spend, and how buttery you need your leather to be.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I have a current 4Runner and it really isn’t that good on road. I like it and it’s comfortable, but it really leans, it dives and squats, the steering is numb and slow, and it doesn’t sound like the Lexus and Land Cruiser are really any better. More refined, but still anachronistic BOF bumblers.

        I’d opt for the Lexus (poor approach angle now though), as I poked around a Land Cruiser on the showroom recently and I was pretty disgusted at the interior quality for an $80K vehicle. Plastic interior door pulls straight out of the Tundra. Highly scratchable plastics on the doors and lower dashboard straight out of the 4Runner. A “wood” steering wheel with visible mold lines on the “wood”. Buttery leather though.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        He said good on road. 4Runner is crap on road. The older 4th generation (see 2003 model year) had better driving dynamics than the current version. That’s what made me choose a Grand Cherokee this time around. Oh, and the terrible styling of the 5th gen 4Runner.

  • avatar

    Does the diesel variant have the same tow rating as the gas? What’s the price of entry for the diesel? The info panel appears to indicate you tested the gasoline version from the pricing, but you list observed MPG for both. The review comments on both versions, recommends choosing between them based on expectations, but doesn’t elaborate as to what expectations are best met by which powertrain. Nor does the review indicate what conditions yielded the observed fuel economy. There was much talk of fancy off-road stuff which would make the observed economy look phenomenal, therefore there must have been considerable on-road testing that appears missing from the review.

    I hate to nit-pick this article because I’m far from the target market for this vehicle and I’d never consider one because it’s bound to be unreliable junk. I do admit to being enticed by the (just) south of $50k price with north of 8k lbs towing, and maybe that’s why I write the comment. It was an OK review, but had to read it twice to make sure I didn’t skim past the missing information. No, it’s just missing.

    edit: I did notice diesel base price is in the info panel. You also didn’t note the $50k+ pricing in the info panel must include something (shipping, PDI?) the $49,900 in the article body does not.

  • avatar

    While I truly appreciate knowing that Land Rover still sells vehicles capable of crossing a continent with a jerry can strapped to the back (truly! no sarcasm), I’d have appreciated a note or two about the on-road experience, which is where most of these things will spend most of their time.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    “So, too, does the placement of the joystick controlling the power tilt/telescope steering wheel. Generally located on the outer edge of the steering column, towards the driver’s door, the Discovery’s placement of this control faces the passenger and leads to unnecessary fumbling. Again, placing the steering column in the right side of the cabin erases this complaint.”

    Jaguar and Land Rover seem to have moved the steering column adjustments to the right on all of their products developed post-Ford, which are the 2013 Range Rover and everything after it. You will also see right-mounted steering column adjustments on some VW Group vehicles, like the Porsche Cayenne (optional feature) and the Bentley Mulsanne.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The price really isn’t bad. It’s priced a lot like vehicles (X5, M/GLE-Class) that can’t do nearly as much.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. But on the internet every car is judged by its maximum possible price (unless it’s a pickup).

      Even if you add some typical options and get one for 60k it seems like a lot of truck for the money. Can’t think of anything else that is this functional and looks as good doing it.

  • avatar

    If this looked like the original Discovery, I’d be interested. That was the best of the bunch.

  • avatar

    That slightly off-center license plate is the worst.

    It made sense on the original Discovery because of the spare tire, but here it just looks crooked, and unnecessary. It needs to be all the way to the left, not a couple inches off-center. It might be minor, but it would bother my OCD to no end.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    A couple of quick corrections to this review; Discos have had terrain response systems and split tailgates since 2005. These haven’t been RR exclusives in a dozen years…

    In response to various posters (and a few thoughts of my own);

    In terms of long term reliability – I’ve been using a LR3 for the last 10 years, without any warranty – statistically relevant? Maybe not, but I’d have no hesitation doing so again. It hasn’t been perfectly reliable (electrical and air suspension gremlins, mainly), however it also hasn’t left us stranded anywhere – just with reduced capabilities. Given that these are capabilities that aren’t available in other vehicles, I was never very concerned (probably a bit of research about the relative severity of various warning messages helps as well – no need to panic if your air suspension is stuck at ride height, and when a failed light-bulb gives you a transmission failure warning… well, sometimes the British like to shock you a bit – yes, piss pour programming on someone’s part!). However, this is also the same reason I would probably be leery of taking one for an extended off-road trip. For regular road trips, these are great vehicles if you can stomach the gas prices (insert comments about purchase price here making gas prices irrelevant), and for shorter off-road trips they outperform just about anything at a stock level with comparable tires.

    For those posters that like to bring up the Disco Sport comparo – I think some attention needs to be made to that very specific article and what the writers were doing with the Disco Sport vs the other vehicles; it’s a bit generous to say that either of the others outperformed the Disco when they subjected them to different lines through their trails. That being said, I have zero interest in buying a Disco Sport, and even the loss of the squared angles in the regular Disco has me questioning whether or not it will be a reliable replacement.

    However, if the rest of the world would jump on and buy the new one, then decide to get rid of it after a few months or year, I would probably be eternally grateful to pick up a used version… Or at least drive down the price of the remaining LR4s… ! One of my favorite parts of LR ownership is the rapid depreciation of certain models.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendon from Canada

      Edit – should probably add that “jump seats” fall into the same category. The current set of 3rd row seats appear to be the same from the LR3/LR4 – which can actually hold adults for longer trips, not just jaunts across town…

  • avatar

    (Read the commenting rules. No personal attacks. You’ve been warned. -Mod)

  • avatar

    I know commenting rules. How about you do not propagate hate in your articles and I won’t attack the author for doing that? Deal?

  • avatar

    The thing that made old Discos cool were those rear roof windows wrapping around the sides and that tall, upright stance. They looked serious.

    This looks like a toy. For the money you could buy a used 4Runner and Cayenne and have better road manners and better off-roadiness. Plus the 4Runner would work through hell and back.

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  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Seth Parks, United States
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