Land Rover Discovery Landmark tested: Does it still have a place in the family?
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JOHANNESBURG - I must admit that until the new Land Rover Defender came along, I struggled to understand the softer styling direction that was taken by the latest-generation Discovery when it was introduced three years ago. But now it all makes sense because the new Defender is, as far as I’m concerned, as much a spiritual successor to the earlier Discoveries as it is to its own iconic namesake.
But where does this leave the latest Discovery?
I pondered this question while spending a week with the recently-launched Landmark Edition, and I must admit that I’m still not entirely sure where it’s meant to fit in anymore. Sure, it’s quiet, refined and luxurious, and all the materials and surfaces inside are of a high quality. But it doesn’t feel as premium or as modern inside as, say, a Range Rover Velar, which doesn’t actually cost much more.
The Discovery, for instance, only has a single infotainment screen and analogue instruments, whereas a Range Rover Velar can be had with the fancy Duo Pro dual-screen interface and digital instrumentation.
Then again, if you like to keep things simple and a technological bombardment is not your thing, you might actually prefer the Discovery’s simpler set-up.
It’s certainly not barren inside the Discovery. The Landmark model that we had on test fits into the middle of the range, being based on the SE but adding a few extras. Standard creature comforts include premium Windsor leather seats, available in three colours with contrast micropiping, while dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, a 380W Meridian Sound System and Navigation Pro are also part of the deal.
But is it practical?
One advantage that the Discovery does have over the aforementioned Rangie Velar is the option of a seven-seat layout, and this is not one of those third rows that you can only fit small kids into. Teen and adults will fit into the two back seats quite comfortably, although they might not be happy campers after a lengthy road trip of more than a few hundred kays.
In outright size terms, the Discovery is a bit bigger than the Range Rover Velar, and slightly smaller than the new Defender. But the Discovery does make very good use of its space, and it’s a really good family vehicle. However, keep in mind that when the third row is in place, boot space is limited to 258 litres, which admittedly is still bigger than some compact hatchbacks offer and enough for the shopping or a few small togbags. Fold the third row flat into the floor, however, and you have a truly massive 1231 litre space to load your junk.
How does it perform?
The Discovery Landmark Edition comes standard with a 3-litre turbodiesel engine that produces 190kW at 3750rpm and 600Nm between 1750 and 2250 revs. It is paired with the familiar eight-speed automatic gearbox. Although the engine is hardly a spring chicken, inevitably set to be replaced by Land Rover’s new straight-six oil burner soon, I was impressed by the smooth and punchy performance that it offered. You’re really not wanting for power in this vehicle and the rest of the driving experience is as comfortable as you could expect from a premium SUV. The ride is cushy too, thanks to the air suspension system.
And if you’re heading off the beaten track, the Discovery has all the attributes and features that you’re going to want, including a ground clearance of up to 283mm (with the air suspension in its highest setting) as well as Terrain Response 2 with its many modes for various terrain types and All Terrain Progress Control, which allows the vehicle to maintain a steady speed in challenging conditions. The Discovery also boasts a braked towing capacity of 3500kg and a 900mm wading depth.
But what sets the Landmark Edition apart?
As mentioned, it’s based on the SE but adds a few embellishments, such as a Dynamic Pack that includes a unique front bumper design and mesh grille, with the latter finished in Narvik Black, along with the fender vents, and the Discovery badging on the bonnet and tailgate. 20-inch Gloss Black wheels are also part of the deal here, as is privacy glass, a fixed panoramic roof and signature taillights.
Now looks are a subjective thing, but I really don’t think the Discovery is the most resolved design in Land Rover’s stable. They’ve essentially up-scaled the Discovery Sport’s basic design language, but somehow the larger proportions just don’t seem to suit it. And don’t get me started on that asymmetrical rear number plate, because following tradition doesn’t work in all instances.
With everyone going gaga over the new Defender, you could excuse the Discovery for feeling a little lost next to its charming new sibling. But if you’re looking for a capable and practical family vehicle that’s not as showy as the Defender or as flashy as the Range Rovers, then the Discovery might still be up your alley. That said, if I was shopping at this end of the market, I would almost certainly fall for the new Defender’s charms, and I’m sure most of you would too.