Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender

Published:18 March 2021

2021 Land Rover Discovery front tracking
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; Cotswoldian, Peugeot enthusiast, SsangYong Turismo apologist

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; Cotswoldian, Peugeot enthusiast, SsangYong Turismo apologist

► Facelifted Discovery gets new engines, new interior
► Comfortable on-road and capable off it
► Still worth consideration?

The (understandable) buzz around Land Rover’s reborn Defender has led some to question about whether there’s a future for the dear old Discovery.

Land Rover’s responded by facelifting it.

This is the 2021 Discovery, then – updated with a new range of mild-hybrid engines, a desperately-needed interior tech upgrade and a wealth of smaller changes throughout aimed at tweaking what was already a damn good package.

2021 Land Rover Discovery front three quarter

Land Rover Defender review

Land Rover invited us out to its Experience Centre at Eastnor Castle to drive it, and after swabbing our tonsils for a Covid test we were let loose on and off road.

What’s changed for 2021?

Externally, tweaks are minimal. There are new headlights, now available with scrolling indicators and matrix LED technology, as well as a mildly updated grille. New wheels and colours debut, while round the back there’s a full-width black trim element tying the new LED tail lights together.

Sadly no change for the uncomfortably offset rear number plate, though after a few years of gawping at BMW grilles it doesn’t seem too heinous any more.

2021 Land Rover Discovery rear three quarter

If faux-sporty trim levels are your thing, then you can now opt for an R-Dynamic variant that gets a different bodykit and tail lights plus a load of extra black detailing. It’s not as classy as the standard car, which looks at its best with silver wheels and trim.

What about inside?

The facelift’s far more obvious on the inside, and starts with the all-new 11.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Land Rover’s new Pivi Pro operating system. It’s clear, bright and responsive – everything the previous system wasn’t.

2021 Land Rover Discovery interior

The centre console sees a new gearshifter replace the old rotary dial, and the whole thing’s clothed in soft-touch plastic.

Is it any good off-road?

When other brands' drive events include an off-road section, the tension in the air is usually palpable, and the drives themselves tightly controlled to make sure you don’t stray into something the car can’t manage.

2021 Land Rover Discovery off-road

That’s not the case on Land Rover events, where the press team tends to send you on your way with a smug grin, knowing full well that even with a ham-fisted journalist at the wheel there’s almost no way the car’s going to come unstuck.

The Discovery tackled Eastnor’s off-road trails as if they were tarmac – even on 22-inch wheels and road tyres.

There’s a wealth of off-road tech helping make this possible, of course. Terrain Response is present, selected by a small dial behind the gearlever. There’s a low-range gearbox and hill-descent control, which we used throughout the drive, and optionally available is All-Terrain Progress Control, which is the closest you’ll come to autonomous off-roading.

2021 Land Rover Discovery off-road

This sort of capability is nothing more than we’ve come to expect from any Land Rover – but it’s always nice to be reminded just how good these cars are at tackling the rough stuff. Versus the Defender, it’s a little lower, with slightly poorer approach and departure angles – but is capable of wading the same 900mm of water.

What about on the road?

We drove both petrol P360 and diesel D300 variants – both straight-six mild-hybrid affairs.

Despite the lick of electrical assistance neither is what you’d call a fuel-sipper – fuel consumption is as high as 26.7mpg combined for the petrol and neither even comes close to dipping below 200g/km of CO2. There’s no tax-busting plug-in hybrid variant like you get with the Defender, either.

Despite that, there’s plenty to like. The petrol’s particularly impressive, with more than enough power to get this big lump moving at a fair rate of knots – 0-62mph takes just 6.5 seconds. The straight-six soundtrack’s also rather endearing, and it's usefully cheaper than its oil-burning counterpart to buy.

2021 Land Rover Discovery cornering

The diesel makes far more sense, though, with that useful slug of low-end torque and a more relaxed demeanour at town speeds. Both engines are paired to the same eight-speed auto that does a nice job of slurring changes together, and keeps the revs to a minimum at motorway speeds – it’s only really wind noise you’ll need to contend with at a cruise.

Handling is tidy, albeit not quite as agile as the Defender, but it’s comfort where this car excels. It’s pillowy soft without wallowing, and just irons out imperfections as if they weren’t there – even on the massive alloys of our test car. Highly impressive.

Okay – so why wouldn’t I just buy a Defender?

You might, and you’d be well within your rights to. We gave the Defender 5 stars in our review, after all.

The Discovery does feel different, though – more luxurious, with its fully-trimmed interior, and subtler in style. Where previous Discovery generations felt like a comfortable box on wheels, that role’s filled pretty well by the Defender now, leaving this car more free to brush shoulders with the Range Rover on luxury.

2021 Land Rover Discovery rear seats

You’ll also want a Disco if you plan on regularly using the third row – Land Rover proudly touts it as ‘the only SUV with seven adult-sized seats’. It’s certainly more spacious than the Defender back there, and five Isofix points ought to keep even the most prolific breeders satisfied.

Verdict

It’s a business-class cabin on wheels, with room for the whole family to go wherever takes their fancy – whether that be on the road or miles off it.

Though the more characterful Defender would still be our choice, there’s still a place for the Discovery in the Land Rover line-up – and this facelift’s addressed most of the moans we had with the previous model.

Specs

Price when new: £56,440
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2996cc turbocharged mild-hybrid straight-six diesel, 296bhp @ 4,000rpm, 479lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 6.8 sec, 130mph, 33.9mpg, 218g/km
Weight / material: 2,362kg/steel and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4,956/2,220/1888mm

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery rear three quarter
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery front tracking
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery side profile
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery front cornering
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery interior
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery off-roading
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery off-roading
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery off-roading
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery interior
  • 2021 Land Rover Discovery rear seats
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender
  • Land Rover Discovery (2021) review: Defender contender

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; Cotswoldian, Peugeot enthusiast, SsangYong Turismo apologist

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