REVIEW | 2021 Land Rover Discovery seems neither here nor there
We were lucky enough to report on the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2019. Among the highlights was the reveal of Land Rover’s reinvented Defender. It was a crazy spectacle, with acrobats, parkour practitioners, belly dancers and wild animals.
OK, maybe the last bits are an embellishment of memory. Forgive me. A great deal has happened in the world since that last time we boarded a plane at the international departures terminal.
People in attendance jostled to get up, close and personal with the British star, cooing affectionately over fully-kitted display units, bending over backwards to scoop those perfect angles for the ‘gram. The fever of excitement was perhaps similarly high when Land Rover debuted its first Discovery in Frankfurt back in 1989. But with more cumbersome photographic equipment.
It was an important model, opening up horizons for those who felt the Defender was too basic, but couldn’t quite stretch to Range Rover ownership. In 2021 the Land Rover and Range Rover spread is pretty diverse. And the Discovery is still part of the show, though it has evolved considerably over the decades, taking on a more luxurious, mature character and ditching the boxy template that once defined it.
Now there’s a new one, an updated version of the fifth-generation vehicle first launched locally in 2017. You’ll notice visual enhancements in the form of restyled headlamps, shapelier bumpers and the adoption of those increasingly popular sweeping indicators. Also new is the option of an R-Dynamic package, which dials in some interesting distinctions between it and the standard offerings. Such as specific exterior accents, a more sophisticated lighting set-up and two-tone interior elements.
Occupants at the front will see a dashboard with fewer buttons. The centre console has been redesigned, accommodating a touchscreen that’s a full 48% larger than before, now at 11.4-inches and with a high-definition display. Pretty much all functions are operated through this Pivi Pro system, even the suspension settings. Land Rover’s software-over-the-air patches are included and the vehicle will inform owners when downloads and updates need to be initiated. According to them, the connection allows for the updating of as many as 44 electronic modules, without having to visit a dealer.
Those sitting in the second row benefit from seats with improved support, with thicker cushions. The rear ventilation slots were moved to the centre console, from the B-pillars. With the third row of seats up, luggage capacity is a meagre 258l, but that increases to a substantial 1,137l when folded. The driver gets a redesigned steering wheel (same style as the Defender’s), plus a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with a customisable display.
Now let’s talk about some of the mechanical aspects of the Discovery. Air suspension is standard across the range and it delivers a truly fantastic, cosseting ride. The clever adaptive damping system is said to measure vehicle movements up to 500 times a second, making adjustments to keep the vehicle flat and stable. The Discovery is rarely, if ever, caught out by road imperfections. It’s a treat on all surfaces and treads along smoothly, in a creamy fashion. The off-road ability of the Discovery is a given, with the Terrain Response 2 system on-hand for all challenges one might encounter on an average day in the outdoors.
Then there’s the engine. In the case of our D300 HSE R-Dynamic tester, a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged-diesel unit good for 221kW and 650Nm. The way it gets off the line is astounding, considering that it weighs a bit more than a first floor apartment. A 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds makes freeway merging a confident affair. And just for some perspective, the new Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI has a claimed acceleration of 6.4 seconds.
The new Discovery is fantastic all-round, but its role in the family is not as defined as it might have been before. You see, it costs upwards of R1,452,700 and tops out at R1,710,900. If you wanted extreme off-road capability and the option of two extra seats in the boot, the Defender 110 comes in from R1,159,100. And it’s not radically different on tarmac, since it rides on the same basic architecture of the Discovery. Or if you wanted a more road-biased package, the Range Rover Velar and Sport now kick off at R1,290,100 and R1,414,500.
With that in mind, the Discovery does seem to get a bit lost in the Land Rover family portrait.