Land Rover brought the Discovery name back to the United States for the vehicle’s latest generation to replace the LR4 last year, and with it came several major changes that had enthusiasts worried. In pursuit of greater efficiency and popularity, the latest Disco has moved away from the tall, boxy, utilitarian shape that defined previous generations in favor of a sleeker, modern look that can better push the air out of the way. Additionally, unlike other off-road vehicles, the new Discovery is built on a unibody chassis like most standard crossovers instead of a body-on-frame chassis that normally allows for torsional flexing and higher ground clearance. Lastly, the new Discovery gets a choice of either a gas-powered turbocharged V6 or a V6 turbodiesel instead of the big, uncomplicated V8 that was used in older models. At the face of it, it seems like the latest Land Rover Discovery seems to have forsaken its former off-road glory to meet the appeals of a broader market.
However, that assessment is flat-out wrong.
The new Discovery still has what it takes to be a fantastic off-roader while fulfilling its role as a comfortable family hauler. With the exception of perhaps the famed Rubicon Trail, the Discovery will likely be able to keep up with other four-door off-road SUVs like the Wrangler Unlimited on most established off-road trails, and in some cases will be able to go where the Wrangler Unlimited cannot. The optional air-suspension gives the Discovery a full 11 inches of ground clearance, allowing an approach angle of 34-degrees, a 27.5-degree break-over angle, and a 30-degree departure angle. While the Wrangler Unlimited has the Disco beat on the approach and departure angles, the Wrangler Unlimited only has a 21.5-degree break-over angle and just 10 inches of ground clearance. Additionally, the Discovery’s engine air intake is well designed and heavily engineered, allowing it to ford 35 inches of water, compared to the Wrangler’s shallower 30-inch capability.
As once noted by car journalist and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson during the Top Gear Arctic Special, where he and his co-host became the first people to drive to the North Pole, we’ve pretty much explored every hard-to-get-to spot on the planet, be it the Arctic, mountain peaks, and other regions of inaccessibility across the globe. Now, Clarkson supposes, it’s time to see how easily we can get to those places. To get to the North Pole, they proved you didn’t need to use a specially trained dog team and constant exposure to the elements. Instead, they used several Toyota pickup trucks with climate control and a variety of luxuries to conquer the frozen unknown. That’s essentially the joy of the Discovery.
Instead of merely going there, the Discovery encourages you to see how easily you can do it. While most off-road vehicles feature no-nonsense interiors you wouldn’t necessarily mind getting muddy, the Discovery will do it as the driver sits on 16-way adjustable heated and cooled fine leather seats with a massaging feature in a climate-controlled cabin while listening to music on a premium Meridian 15-speaker audio system. Meanwhile, your passengers in the back have their own seat heaters, and are probably not bothered at all by the terrain due to the Discovery’s adjustable air suspension.
Furthermore, instead of requiring off-road experience and know-how to tackle the toughest trails, the Discovery offers All-Terrain Progress Control, which has been described as “off-road cruise control.” This allows the driver to essentially point the wheel, and the Discovery will apply appropriate throttle to figure out the safest way up and down steep angles. While this may be seen as cheating by hardcore off-road enthusiasts, it allows those with limited experience to explore beyond the pavement while making overland expeditions much less stressful. While the Wrangler has all the guts to let you go anywhere, it offers nothing to protect newbies to make costly mistakes, or maybe worse, choose to avoid the fun all together.
Most importantly, the Discovery is a joy to drive in everyday life as well. While the newest Wrangler models feature some aerodynamic improvements for on-road vehicle handling, it’s still shaped like a brick and is pretty spartan on the inside. The Disco is comfortable, and while a large vehicle, drives very well with accurate steering feel and a comfortable ride that soaks up poorly maintained roads. The interior is quiet and relaxing, and the diesel engine is powerful enough to tow up to 7,700 pounds.
What makes this even more impressive is the price tag of the Discovery, which starts at $53,295. Adding all the off-road goodies only raises the price to just over $55,000. Believe it or not, if you want to equip a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with every comfort available, you’re looking at a $50,000 Jeep, at a minimum. While the Disco may still have a $3,000 premium over the Wrangler, you also get seating for an extra two people, far more standard luxury items, and docile on-road manners that make it easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
So if you’re looking for an off-road luxury SUV that can also handle your everyday needs, be sure to give the Discovery a try. It’s incredibly nice, wildly practical, and capable of carrying an entire family around town, on long road trips, and beyond the pavement with ease.