Why wait until a midcycle refresh to address a car's less desirable parts? With new powertrains and new tech on offer, the 2021 Discovery makes a more compelling case for itself with its blend of luxury and capability.
One visual change for the 2021 model year is the addition of the midlevel R-Dynamic trim. This getup, which is likely going to be Land Rover's volume trim, zhushes up the Disco's body with some gloss black accents alongside black 20-inch alloy wheels and an available two-tone interior. My tester looks pretty sweet with those dark bits contrasting well against the Lantau Bronze paint ($700). There are some other mild tweaks to all Discovery variants, too, like a lower rear badge and more attractive headlights and taillights, and as from many automakers, expensive options abound. These 21-inch wheels are an extra $2,000, while upgraded LED headlights with auto high-beams and a signature running light add $650. The black contrast roof will set you back another grand, too.
The interior doesn't change too much, with some light nips and tucks here and there. There's a new shift toggle, which feels pretty nice in its action. The 18-way heated electric front seats ($1,850) are pretty cushy, and the second row is now more comfortable thanks to some thicker seat padding. There's plenty of room in the middle row, as well. The rear seats, however, remain pretty cramped for adults, and when they're not stowed, there's only about 9 cubic feet of cargo volume, which isn't much at all. Keep the way-backs tucked away, though, and you get a solid 45 cubic feet of stuff storage -- enough for between six and 10 bags of mulch, depending on whether you need to use the rearview mirror.
What I like the most about the Discovery's interior is the variety of interesting materials. The door panel uppers have a clever diamond embossing with plenty of cushioning. The finely mottled dash topper is pretty fabulous, too, as is the real aluminum trim that's chilly to the touch. There are plenty of places to stow your pocket junk, including a hidden cubby behind the climate controls and a two-tier storage compartment under the center armrest. Large bottles fit easily in the cup holders, which is a nice change of pace from most of the Discovery's Teutonic competition.
Land Rover fans will probably be most excited about the new tech inside the 2021 Discovery. Namely, the new Pivi Pro infotainment system, which lives on an 11.4-inch touchscreen and comes standard on every Discovery trim. Standard kit includes a Wi-Fi hotspot with a 4G LTE modem, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and up to nine USB-A and USB-C ports scattered about. Wireless charging will run you an extra $350.
Land Rover clearly took its owners' criticisms to heart, because the new system boots up nearly instantly after starting the Discovery, although the embedded navigation does still take some time to initialize. However, once it does, the map is snappy and easy to manipulate, and a single search bar handles addresses and business names with ease. You can get the turn-by-turn directions on the 12.3-inch gauge screen or the full-color head-up display, both of which are also standard. Bouncing around screens happens quickly, thanks to a quick-access dock on the left side of the touchscreen. It is one hell of an improvement. As always, the upgraded Meridian surround-sound system ($1,250) sounds great, too.
As far as safety tech is concerned, you get automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitoring and a heavy-handed lane-keep assist standard, but adaptive cruise control commands an extra $1,325.
New powertrains are along for the ride in the 2021 Discovery. My tester carries the upmarket engine, a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that puts out 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. For a little extra efficiency, that six-pot hooks up to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, as well as an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case. There's a whole lot going on under the body, but I don't really notice that; all I experience is smooth, sufficient acceleration and a stop-start system that can stay powered down for a while, only to restart with barely a shudder.
Ride quality for something that can ford nearly 3 feet of water and tackle 45-degree slopes is impressive. The 2021 Discovery is decently soft on-road, although sharp highway expansion joints can make it feel a little truckish. There's a bit of steering slop on center, so expect to make more than a few microcorrections to stay in the same lane position. But on the whole, the Discovery is mighty comfortable. If your travels take you off the beaten path more often than not, I'd recommend springing for the $1,100 active-locking rear differential and the $1,150 towing package that adds automatic terrain modes and a low-speed crawl system. The latter also includes a tow hitch to take advantage of the Disco's 8,200-pound tow rating.
Of course, something this large with permanent four-wheel drive isn't going to be the thriftiest ute on the block. The 2021 Discovery is rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, numbers that aren't too hard for me to achieve. It's not mind-blowing, but it beats the outgoing supercharged 3.0-liter, which was rated at 16 city and 21 highway.
The 2021 Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic S is priced at $63,250 (including destination) to start, which isn't bad for everything that comes standard, but if you want to keep the price as low as possible, a base Discovery will set you back $55,250. Once you start tacking on options, though, my tester balloons to $72,285, which is a little hefty, and there are plenty of competitors out there. If you would rather place a high priority on luxury and on-road demeanor, the Audi Q7, Genesis GV80 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class lean more in that direction, all of which are also available with a third row. The Audi Q8 and Porsche Cayenne are two-row affairs but they're decidedly more exciting to drive, although they do cost a big more. There's also a call coming from inside the house -- the Land Rover Defender looks cooler and is more capable off-road, but its less expensive variants don't feel as nice as the Disco.
That puts the 2021 Land Rover Discovery in a nice little sweet spot, riding the line between posh mall-crawler and potent rock-crawler, and a host of updates for 2021 make this three-row SUV even more compelling.