By Derek Price
If a Jeep isn’t quite posh enough for you, the Land Rover Discovery offers go-anywhere capability in a more upscale package.
This current-generation Disco is a driving contradiction in the best possible way. It’s designed for serious off-road adventures — including a Wade Mode to help when fording water — but also carries the look and feel of a polished, poised, luxurious SUV.
Its lustrous side is especially nice on long road trips, where it seems to waft over bumps in near silence while coddling up to seven people in its leather- and feature-filled cabin. The fact that it can wade through muck and climb steep, rocky trails seems hard to believe given its comfy road manners.
Land Rover buyers have a new choice, though, now that the more brash and rugged Defender is available at roughly the same price point. Personally, after driving both, I prefer the boxy, throwback styling of the Defender and the smoother, quieter ride of the Discovery. They both have their place.
During my week behind the wheel of a Discovery, I was surprised at the number of compliments it got. This doesn’t strike me as an ostentatious SUV, especially with my tester’s beige paint color, but it still seemed to turn lots of heads.
Land Rover gave the Discovery a minor facelift for 2021 with fresh LED headlights and taillights along with revised bumpers in front and back. Overall, it was a minor visual update that keeps the Disco looking contemporary, including its quirky, asymmetrical license plate location on the rear tailgate.
My tester was outfitted in the new R-Dynamic trim level, a mid-range package that seems to give this SUV a more sporty, assertive look. Black accents outside and two-tone leather in the cabin give the R-Dynamic trim a custom look without costing as much as the top-line HSE.
Two turbocharged engines are available, neither of which is a slouch.
The base engine displaces 2.0 liters yet, thanks to forced induction, makes a meaty 296 horsepower.
If you want even more prodigious power, a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is available as an upgrade for $5,500. Its 355-horsepower made my tester feel sprightly in city driving, despite its mammoth size and heft.
Still, there’s no mistaking this is an off-road SUV from the driver’s seat. A high, upright seating position provides good visibility, but not all drivers will like it. Fortunately, the thick padding, supple leather and nearly limitless adjustability of 18-way power front seats — another optional upgrade on my tester — make it easy to get comfortable in the Discovery.
Technology was a major focus for this SUV’s 2021 refresh, and most of it is centered in one beautiful place: the high-resolution, 11.4-inch touchscreen at the center of a redesigned console. It features a new interface, called Pivi Pro, that is as simple and intuitive as any on the market.
As new features become available, software is automatically installed via over-the-air updates.
Overall, I loved driving the Discovery because of the balance it delivers. It’s got serious off-road chops for the times you need it, yet it doesn’t punish you for that capability like many off-roaders do.
It’s as capable and rugged as it is sumptuous, a mixture Land Rover has perfected over many decades.
Pricing starts at $53,900 for the S trim, while the R-Dynamic grade starts at $56,400. With the more powerful engine, the pricing is $61,900 for R-Dynamic or $68,900 for the HSE.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2021 Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic S ($61,900). Options: Cold climate pack ($600), 21-inch wheels ($2,000), 18-way heated front seats ($1,850), Meridian sound system ($1,250), black contrast roof ($1,000), head-up display ($970), premium paint ($710), tow hitch receiver ($675), signature LED headlights ($400), electric third-row seats ($300), auto high-beam assist ($250). Price as tested (including $1,350 destination charge): $73,255
Wheelbase: 115.1 in.
Length: 195.1 in.
Width: 87.4 in.
Height: 74.3 in.
Engine: 3.0-liter six cylinder (355 hp, 369 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 24 highway
Why buy it?
The latest Discovery perfectly blends off-road capability and on-road refinement. Upgraded technology and a new R-Dynamic trim package keep it sharp and contemporary.