The Land Rover Discovery has some serious off-road chops, but not at the expense of on-road suburban street civility.
The Land Rover Discovery got a complete redesign for 2017 -- big enough to warrant adding one to the Roadshow long-term garage. For 2018, however, the Disco gets a bit more tech and its 3.0-liter diesel V6 is available across all trims. Happily, the Discovery is just as easy to love as before.
If you don't go diesel, your Discovery will come with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 like the one in my test car. This engine produces a stout 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. Land Rover says this powertrain will get your 4,800-pound Discovery to 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds, though if you want to achieve the EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 16 miles per gallon city, 21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, you'll have to be more conservative with your right foot.
Land Rovers tend to be fashion accessories for the Beverly Hills set these days, but make no mistake, they still have serious off-road cred. This fully loaded HSE Luxury tester comes standard with a two-speed transfer case, but select the $1,275 Capability Plus Package, and you get Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 system, as well as an active locking rear differential. Terrain Response 2 offers different modes for various types of off-roading: Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl.
An available air suspension can raise the Disco for a maximum of 11 inches of ground clearance, giving the SUV approach, departure and breakover angles of 29.5, 28.0 and 25.5 degrees, respectively. For even more hardcore off-roading, Land Rover offers optional All-Terrain Progress Control, which is sort of like low-speed cruise control for dirt, as well as hill-descent control.
That said, I cannot stress enough the importance of proper off-road tires should you actually want to hit some tough trails. Climbing the notoriously tricky Truck Hill at California's Hollister Hills off-road park, the Discovery seems like it'll handle the grade without issue. But when the all-season tires start slipping in shallow ruts, making it so I can't make it to the top, I'm reminded that beefier shoes are highly recommended.
Of course, most Disco owners will largely stick to paved roads, and there, it's wonderful. Sport mode offers more chutzpah, with quicker throttle response and revised shift mapping, but most of the time, you're better off leaving the car in its default Auto setting.
When it comes to tackling the back roads, the Discovery handles the twisties better than expected, especially considering its size and weight. Sure, you'll experience some body roll, but it's far from a ponderous elephant. Instead, think brown bear. Mostly it's happy to just cruise along the trail.
Adaptive cruise control is included in the Drive Pro Package and it works great in the Discovery, bringing me to a complete stop behind a lead car in heavy traffic and pausing before taking off again. I like the traffic sign recognition in the head up display, but find that the forward collision warning alert was way too sensitive. Unfortunately, it can't be reconfigured, so I just found it best to turn it off completely.
The Discovery has a ton of space inside, and not just for people. There are two glove boxes, a hidden cubby in the center stack and a center armrest storage compartment that can accommodate laptops or tablets. If it's cargo space you seek, the Disco can accommodate 9.1 cubic feet of goodies behind its third row of seats, which expands to 43.5 cubic feet with the way-back stowed, or as much as 88.3 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. One trick feature: You can fold the seats right from the InControl home screen, or from switches in the cargo bay compartment.
The second-row seats can be moved forward and aft over a range of 6.3 inches. And with the Disco's upright shape offering a wealth of headroom, video producer Marc Ganley -- Roadshow's 6-foot, 6-inch giant -- has no trouble sitting back there.
Up in front, passengers are pampered in this HSE Luxury trim, including heated, cooling and massaging seats. And while the massage function can be directed to work on individual areas, I have to say, these are some of the loudest in-seat motors I've ever heard.
Midrange HSE and fully loaded HSE Luxury trims get a 10-inch display running Land Rover's InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. The HSE also adds a 12.3-inch driver-configurable digital gauge cluster, which isn't as slick as the Virtual Cockpit found in Audi models, but still allows me to put navigation or other important information front and center.
Unfortunately, it's mostly downhill from there. InControl Touch Pro is super slow to respond to inputs, and sometimes doesn't respond to touch altogether. Fellow Roadshow staffers have experienced this with other Jaguar Land Rover products, and it really just feels like a faster processor is in order. If you'd rather use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto , well, too bad. The Discovery doesn't support either.
It's not all bad news, however. A Wi-Fi hotspot can support up to eight devices and while my tester only comes with four USB ports, two each for the first and second rows, the Discovery can be configured with six 12-volt sockets and nine USB ports across all three rows.
While a base Discovery SE starts at $52,090, my fully loaded tester stickers for a much more expensive $82,694, including the $995 destination charge.
I'd definitely be getting my Disco dirty, so I'll surely spend less money than that. To be honest, I'd likely stick with the base SE, and order the sweet diesel engine. Adding the Capability Package gets me the two-speed transfer case, air suspension and Terrain Response 2. Finally, I'd take the aforementioned Drive Pro Package to get some adaptive driving systems, and spend $665 on a tow hitch in order to take advantage of the diesel Disco's 8,200-pound tow rating. Oh, and give me the cooled center storage compartment so I can keep my Diet Dr. Pepper cans cold. All in, I won't get as much in the way of luxury, but I'll only spend just over $60,000. Plenty of money left over for some rugged tires.
Looking at the competition, you really have to decide what you want out of an SUV. Those interested in better on-road performance will likely prefer the high-tech, super comfy Audi Q7 or nicely balanced BMW X5. If off-road performance is your jam, however, you're looking at the old-as-bones Lexus GX or significantly more expensive Mercedes G-Class.
With its rugged aura, great style and useful and luxurious interior, there's plenty to like about Land Rover's latest Discovery. Its infotainment system may be a big disappointment, but in every other regard, the 2018 Disco is as enjoyable as it ever was.