First Drive: Is the 2021 Land Rover Discovery the ultimate do-everything family SUV?

Darren Cassey, PA Motoring Reporter
·5-min read

What is it?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

While the Defender has been grabbing headlines for Land Rover over the past year or so, the British firm hasn’t forgotten about one of its staple models. New for 2021 is an updated Discovery, with the seven-seat SUV getting a little nip and tuck and some mild hybrid technology.

The Discovery hopes to set itself apart from rivals such as the Volvo XC90 – and the rest of the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) range – by providing a premium cabin, improved on-road performance and the fantastic off-road abilities we’ve become used to.

What’s new?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

There’s nothing particularly wild about the changes to the new Discovery, but there have been numerous small changes that all add up to a fairly comprehensive refresh. The styling has been tweaked with new LED headlights and taillights fitted, while inside there’s been a big update with the new Pivi Pro infotainment system, a revised look and a new air filtration system.

It’s also been given JLR’s latest straight-six petrol and diesel engines, most of which have mild hybrid electrification to improve emissions and fuel economy.

What’s under the bonnet?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

There are four engines available, with 296bhp and 355bhp petrols (badged P300 and P360 respectively) and 246bhp and 296bhp diesels (badged D250 and D300). The P300 is the only one without mild hybrid technology.

We tested the P360 and D300 models, and while the petrol was a pleasant engine, it’s really aimed at markets where fuel is cheaper so won’t sell well here.

The diesel, on the other hand, should be pretty popular with buyers, despite the fact many UK consumers are turning their backs on the black pump. It will do about 34mpg on the combined cycle which is respectable for an SUV of this size, while its 650Nm torque figure means it’s fantastically responsive, making motorway overtakes and off-road mud plugging equally easy.

What’s it like to drive?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

Land Rover has good form recently in making its off-roaders’ on-road sensibilities mighty impressive, and the updated Discovery is no different. Cruising around the British countryside in serene comfort is incredibly relaxing, with the soft suspension soaking up imperfections effortlessly.

This is a high car with soft suspension, so it does require you to reign in any hint of enthusiasm on a fun road, but the biggest compliment you can pay the Discovery is that it doesn’t roll all over the place like you feel it probably should. That being said, it feels massive from behind the wheel, which could put some buyers off.

Take it off road, though, and it’s almost too capable to be fun. The off-road course we tested on was so far within its capabilities that even when wading through chalky gloop or pointing the nose up a steep, muddy incline slick with fresh rain, the Discovery never even hesitated.

How does it look?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Yes, it does still have the off-centred number plate at the back, and no, it doesn’t look any better with time. Fortunately, the rest of the car makes up for it, being a big but handsome SUV, if hardly changed from before.

Aside from that plate, the rear looks sleek with the narrow tail light design, while up front the new headlights have a sleek look with a cool LED daytime running light signature within. There’s also a new R-Dynamic body style that brings some sporty styling touches, gloss black parts and two-tone leather upholstery. All together it really elevates the premium look of the new Discovery.

What’s it like inside?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

Having driven much of JLR’s updated range this year, we’re at risk of repeating ourselves over and over again, but the cabin has traditionally let the firm down a little. However, the 2021 models have been really improved with the use of new materials, subtly updated designs and a new infotainment system.

It’s the same story in the Discovery, which has a real air of sophistication. It manages to integrate the new 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment touchscreen seamlessly, looking equal parts classic and modern. That system is great, by the way, with well-designed menus, excellent responsiveness and impressive functionality.

What’s the spec like?

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

The Discovery is available in regular (£53,090), R-Dynamic (£55,400) and Commercial (£54,850) body styles. Standard features include LED lights all round, leather seats, two-zone climate control, 20-inch alloy wheels and the new Pivi Pro system. Upgrade to R-Dynamic to add some new exterior flourishes and black accents, while Commercial gets bigger alloy wheels and the Meridian sound system.

Once you’ve selected your body style, you can then pick a specification pack, with S, SE and HSE available depending on your body/engine combination of choice. These specification packages change everything from the exterior styling to interior materials, as well as how much driver assistance is on offer.

Verdict

Land Rover Discovery
(Land Rover)

The brief verdict is that this is a fantastic family SUV. It’s handsome, spacious, great to drive, and has the added bonus of more off-road ability than you’d need this side of Armageddon. The cabin quality is better than ever and the new infotainment system is a big step-change.

The complication? It’s intimidatingly big to drive and feels OTT for UK roads. There are rivals that are similarly practical without feeling like overkill. Then there’s the off-road ability – if you really need that, Defenders can be specified with seven seats.

As an overall package the Discovery is fantastic. Its place in the line-up might be confusing but if you need a premium family SUV with go-anywhere ability the Discovery will serve you well.

  • Model as tested: Land Rover Discovery S D300

  • Price as tested: £56,440

  • Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol

  • Power: 296bhp

  • Torque: 650Nm

  • Max speed: 130mph

  • 0-60mph: 6.5 seconds

  • MPG: 33.9

  • Emissions: 218g/km CO2