2020 Land Rover Discovery review: Comfy and capable, but troublesome tech
The Land Rover Discovery is good at a lot of things, but its onboard tech falls short.
The Land Rover Discovery was originally built to take adventurous families into the wild on Sunday and then to work and school on Monday. Nearly three decades later, the Discovery has traded its boxy look for something a bit more sleek and modern, but its core mission remains the same.
The Land Rover Discovery slots in between the Discovery Sport and the larger Range Rover . It comes standard with room for five, but a third row can be added. There are four trims: SE, a new Landmark Edition, HSE and HSE Luxury. The Discovery can be had with a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline engine, but my tester has something special: a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. Regardless of engine choice, an eight-speed automatic transmission puts the power down to all four wheels.
Smooth diesel power
The diesel engine makes 254 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, which is enjoyable both on- and off-road. It supposedly boasts fuel economy improvements over the supercharged V6, too: 21 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, compared with 16 mpg, 21 mpg and 18 mpg respectively. That said, after a week of testing I'm only seeing 21.7 mpg, but of course, your mileage may vary. Do note, the diesel engine also costs $2,000 more than the V6, as well.
While the Discovery can tackle some pretty serious dirt, most folks will use this SUV for on-road trips. Here, they won't be disappointed. For a vehicle that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds, it doesn't feel too heavy while cruising along winding roads, and all that low-end torque means it's easy to get up to speed for highway merging. A Sport mode brings out the best in the diesel, with revised throttle mapping and more aggressive shift pattern for livelier acceleration. My tester also has the air suspension, which means the ride is nice and smooth, with no discomfort over pesky sections of broken pavement.
Still, the Discovery isn't what I would call fun to drive on paved roads. The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and Porsche Cayenne are definitely better tuned for on-road dynamics, but the Discovery has more available off-road prowess than its competitors. A two-speed transfer case and locking rear differential are both optional, as is the Terrain Response 2 off-road system. I love that I can shift from 4WD High to 4WD Low at speeds up to 37 mph. Most vehicles require a near full stop to make the transition, and oftentimes that loss of momentum is a deal-breaker off the beaten path.
The Discovery has 26 degrees of approach angle, 21.2 degrees of breakover angle and 24.8 degrees of departure angle in its standard ride height. Put the air suspension in off-road height and those numbers increase to 29, 27.5 and 28, respectively. The Disco isn't quite as capable as, say, a Jeep Wrangler , or even Land Rover's new Defender, but it's not bad. Terrain Response 2 has options for grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand and rocks. The Discovery can automatically choose a mode on its own or the driver can override it. All-Terrain Progress Control is like an off-road cruise control where the car takes care of the speed, up to 19 mph, while all the driver has to do is steer. The water-fording system knows how close you are to the max 35.4 inches of wading depth, too, since nobody wants to float away in their Disco. All in all, this system is really robust.
While I wasn't able to test this specific tester off-road, I've driven the Discovery in the dirt in the past. Capable as it is, if you're planning to off-road it, I'd definitely opt for the smaller 19-inch wheels and get some more aggressive tires.
I can't talk about a Land Rover product without dinging it for the infotainment system. Yes, the company has made some advancements in reliability and usability recently, but the InControl Touch Pro is still as persnickety as ever.
Housed on a 10-inch touchscreen, the multimedia tech certainly looks good, with clear graphics and a sophisticated design. However, the system is far from intuitive. For example, let's talk about setting a favorite radio preset. In other vehicles you just tap and hold the icon and boom, favorite stored. Here, it's a confusing, multistep process involving a separate Favorites page. It's too much.
The whole InControl system is like this. Menus aren't arranged logically, and the response times to inputs are still way too slow. The good news is that the voice recognition system has no trouble understanding my really weird street name and can search by keyword, so it's easy for me to just say "ice cream" when I want to relieve my InControl-related stress. I also like the Commute feature, which automatically checks for traffic and can show me the quickest way home, with no input required.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, thankfully, and an optional Wi-Fi hotspot can keep up to eight devices connected to the internet. Charging options are plentiful, with up to nine USB-C charging points across all three rows of seats, and up to six 12-volt sockets, including one in the cargo area.
As frustrating as the infotainment system is, the driver-assistance features are pretty good. Every Discovery comes standard with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition with adaptive speed limiter, clear-exit assist (so you don't take out a cyclist with your door) and blind-spot assist. The two most expensive trims add adaptive cruise control and high-speed emergency braking. Steering assist is optional.
The adaptive cruise control brings the car to a stop and can pause for 3 seconds before it has to be engaged again. When conditions are right for steering assist, a green steering-wheel icon appears in the digital gauge cluster. On the highway, the system works pretty well, though it seems to err on the side of unwinding from a turn just a bit too late for my tastes. Of course, since this is a hands-on-the-wheel system, it's easy to override. Still, I like the steering assist in the Mercedes-Benz GLE better. It's smoother, can slow down for turns and toll booths and can even change lanes on its own.
I like that the Discovery allows you to dial in the different driver-assistance features in the gauge cluster. I can adjust the collision-avoidance system and turn the forward-collision alert on and off, as well as change the sensitivity. The blind-spot assist can be set to include steering assist, be just an alert or be turned off completely. The cross-traffic alert, meanwhile, can be set for forward or reverse sensing. I like having options.
Supple and spacious
The interior has plenty of leather, shiny black trim and some very nice open-pore wood. The leather on the doors, center console and steering wheel is textured just a bit, which adds some visual flair. None of the diesel engine's clatter makes its way into the cabin, either, and hardly any road noise can be heard. It's just me and my tunes, man.
There are plenty of little storage cubbies, including one behind the touchscreen, and I appreciate the grippy cupholders and cooled center console. Nothing like a cold soda on a long road trip, am I right?
Below the InControl system you'll find the climate settings. The big control knobs default to interior temperature, but press on the outer ring and that same knob is used to control the heated and cooled seats. My only quibble is that the knob shows the cooling function even though my tester only has heated seats, a reminder of the option box you didn't check.
Behind the third-row seats you'll find 6.1 cubic feet of space and a nifty inner tailgate that can be folded out for seating and can support 661 pounds. Fold the third row and cargo capacity increases to 34.8 cubic feet, while folding the second row down results in 73 cubic feet. The seats can be folded electronically from the cargo area, the C-pillar or the front touchscreen. The third row takes 12 seconds to fold, the second row takes 15. That might seem quick, but when you're just holding a button, it can feel like an eternity.
Rugged and refined
Though my HSE trim tester works out to $75,835, including $1,025 for destination, my dream Discovery would cost quite a bit less. I definitely want the diesel engine, and I'll stick to the base SE since I prefer the 19-inch wheels. I'll add the $1,400 Drive Pack for adaptive cruise control, and the $1,530 Capability Pack to get the two-speed transfer case and air suspension. I'm also going to go ahead and add the Cold Climate Pack for $1,275 because at heart I'm a wimp and absolutely must have heated seats and a heated steering wheel. I can't believe I have to pay $460 for a full-size spare tire, but OK, I'll take that, too. My final touches are a tow hitch receiver and the cooled center console, putting my final price at $61,015, including destination.
There's a lot to like about the Land Rover Discovery. It has plenty of room for families and their gear, the feature set is robust and it's a fairly decent off-roader. From a tech standpoint, though, both the infotainment and driver-assistance features can't compete with what you get in the Land Rover's German competitors. The Discovery succeeds at its core mission, but if bad tech's a dealbreaker for you, you'll want to look elsewhere.