► 2020 Discovery Landmark driven
► SUV gains new flashy trim
► From £47k, SD6 Landmark is £60k
With all the excitement over the new Land Rover Defender, it’s worth reminding oneself about that other mid-range vehicle (in the Land/Range Rover pecking order at least), the Discovery 5.
The previous iterations of Discovery were clear in their identity: a massive box sitting on top of four-wheel drive, which was comfortable – luxurious even in some cases – but still happy to be treated very roughly. The latest generation’s position in the world has been less distinct. Or it was, until the Defender came along.
Surely the Defender makes this look like vacuous…
It has certainly lost some of its utilitarianism: can you envisage this generation ending up as cheap farmyard or building site fodder, orange flashing light atop, like the last one? Thought not.
Instead, you can tell the sort of person who buys a new Land Rover Discovery by fact one half term I counted 25 of these SUVs in Polzeath’s car park. I should probably get a life.
Rather like surfing - or more likely bodyboarding - at Polzeath, the Discovery is ideal for somebody with quite a lot of money, who likes to push themselves a little bit but only when it suits, and as long as it’s in a relatively safe environment within their comfort zone.
So the Discovery we have here is perfect for such a person. Big and trimmed in black detailing, this £60,000 Landmark model shoulders its way through traffic, its Navy SEAL chic dominant in a world of White Company.
I’m a fan of the Discovery’s slightly obtuse, softer styling and the roof line that stubbornly goes up when it should go down. But I can see why others might be less impressed, especially if square boxes, and number plates in the middle of boot lids, are their thing.
Better to drive and more luxurious though, I imagine…
I think the Discovery is an underrated car in this regard. Yes, some hard, cheap-looking plastics used on the dash leave something to be desired, but other parts such as the lovely brushed aluminium and soft leather seats give a Range Rover a run for its money. It’s an oddly inconsistent treatment, but it’s a very spacious, classy cabin, especially with the standard panoramic roof in the Landmark version.
But an area that has improved beyond all measure with the fifth generation is the way it drives. The 302bhp 3.0 V6 is classy: insistent yet unobtrusive and as sharp to react on a cramped lane as on a motorway at high speed. There’s much less body roll and it rides sumptuously even on 21-inch alloys.
With the height you sit at giving a massive field of vision, in those perfectly comfortable chairs, driving is rarely less taxing than this, and it covers ground surprisingly quickly for such a big car.
There are some niggles, though. The spindly, massive steering wheel has more stuff hanging off it than Pat Butchers’ ears, and until I found a way to deactivate them, I kept clipping the pointless gearshift paddles and ragging it in manual by accident.
And of course, the JLR infotainment is still a mystery, what with it often requiring a few stabs on various parts of the screen to get you where you want to go.
Not as practical as a Defender though, is it?
It might not be a car these days to hose out after carrying pigs to market, but the Discovery is still a very useful vehicle. The great thing about it is that it really is all things: the boot is huge, if not quite as usefully cuboid in volume and shape as the previous car.
But crucially, the neat little dog flap which powers down when not trying to hold hounds in place doesn’t get the way like the vast bottom section of the boot used to, which made the far reaches of the boot about as accessible as the far side of the moon. Then there are the sixth and seventh seats, which are tucked away nearly when not in use and useful when they are, and more storage spaces than an Ikea showroom.
Land Rover Discovery: verdict
It seems that with the advent of the new, posher Defender, the Discovery makes more sense. While that doesn’t necessarily mean Land Rover will sell any more, I still think it deserves more attention because it is an excellent all-round proposition.
It is more useful and cheaper than a Range Rover but not much less smart, and far plusher than the Defender, while not much less practical. Finally, perhaps, it has found its place in the world.