The Car Connection Land Rover Discovery Overview
The Land Rover Discovery is a full-size luxury SUV. Its name comes from a long line of iconic, boxy off-roaders, but the new Disco is a smoother shape—with just as much off-road cred.
With the Discovery, Land Rover has a family-oriented SUV that can compete against the Mercedes-Benz GLE Class, BMW X5, Audi Q7, and even the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. (None of the competitors can be called a "Disco," however.)
In style, the new vehicle shares much with the Discovery Sport. It has a slim mesh grille flanked by LED headlights, a long roof that bumps up slightly over the third-row seat for improved head room, and an interior with a straightforward vertical stack, a wide touchscreen interface, a rotary shift controller, and lots of gloss-black trim.
MORE: Read our 2020 Land Rover Discovery review
For performance, the new Discovery offers a choice between gas and diesel engines. The gas-powered Disco has a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with 340 hp; while the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 has 254 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque; both are shared with other Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. Both are teamed to an 8-speed automatic and standard four-wheel drive.
The Discovery weighs 1,000 pounds less than the LR4 it replaces; it shares an aluminum body with the Range Rover Sport, as well as an integral-link rear suspension.
As for off-roading, the Discovery has up to 11.1 inches of ground clearance, a fording depth of 35.4 inches, and Terrain Response and All-Terrain Progress Control, both of which help the vehicle navigate over a variety of surfaces, from slick rock to mud and snow. The new Discovery can tow up to 8,201 pounds.
In the seven-seat cabin, Land Rover offers heated and cooled seats in the first two rows. Up to 82.7 cubic feet of storage space is available behind the front two rows of seats.
On the infotainment front, the new Discovery offers the InControl Touch Pro interface, operated from a 10-inch touchscreen or by voice commands. Audio systems include a 17-speaker surround-sound setup.
The new Discovery went on sale in mid-2017, priced from about $50,000. For the 2019 model year, it gained Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and standard LED headlights.
For 2020, it comes standard with more active safety features, including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control.
Land Rover Discovery history
The Land Rover Discovery was a five-door sport-utility vehicle that became the second mainstream offering in Land Rover's U.S. lineup (discounting the military-grade Defender). It joined the Range Rover in showrooms in the 1994 model year, and has occupied that niche for 20 years—if you count the successor LR3 and LR4 models.
Equipped with an automatic transmission, a 3.9-liter V-8, and four-wheel drive, the rugged-looking Discovery quickly gained a reputation for hardcore off-roading, which Land Rover encouraged through events that put the vehicle through extraordinary terrain and circumstances—events like the Camel Trophy and jungle expeditions in Belize. Outfitted with a locking differential and proper tires, the Discovery proved to be an agile off-roader—and at about $35,000 base, a much less expensive vehicle to bash around in versus its regal Range Rover sibling.
The Discovery had been sold in other markets prior to 1994, but because of U.S. safety regulations, it couldn't be offered until after a mid-cycle revamp that incorporated dual airbags.
The SUV was updated extensively for the 1999 model year, with the goal of reducing its complexity and increasing its reliability, which had been a sore point with the first generation. At the same time, Land Rover was transitioning from ownership by BMW to ownership by the Ford Motor Company. With the new model came a longer body (by 6.5 inches) on an unchanged wheelbase, and a long list of new technology features including traction control and hill-descent control. A new suspension design helped the top-heavy Discovery behave more stably, and a new 4.0-liter version of the old Rover V-8 (which had its origins at Buick, of all places) was rated at 188 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque.
Gradually, the Discovery was adapted for better on-road behavior, losing its locking center differential in 2001, and going through yet another reskin in the 2003 model year. That model year brought a new front-end look and an upgrade to the Range Rover's powertrain—a swap of the Buick-derived V-8 for a BMW-engineered 4.4-liter V-8 producing 300 hp. Land Rover also added free maintenance for the first four years or 50,000 miles of the vehicle's life, to convince fence-sitters. In its last years on the U.S. market, the Discovery had seen improved third-row seats, too, though its back chairs always were a seating position of last resort.