To those who may lament Land Rover’s move away from its traditional body-on-frame architecture to a more modern design, we say take a spin in a 2019 Land Rover Discovery. Unlike similarly sized and priced luxury SUVs from Audi, Lexus and Cadillac, the Discovery is still a very capable off-road SUV. A lightweight aluminum body and all the traditional gear take this 3-row, 7-passenger vehicle just about anywhere the larger Range Rover can go. The design improves performance both on- and off- road, yet towing remains a respectable 8,200 pounds (7,716 with the diesel engine). Offered with a choice of diesel or gasoline engines, the Discovery can attract a range of new buyers, although there’s no hybrid version yet.
The Discovery’s styling isn’t as brash or defining as that of the larger Range Rover or the Range Rover Sport, but it works in this case, creating a sleek, modern luxury SUV that stacks up well against competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS, the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the Land Rover Discovery SE gains LED headlights, a power inner lift gate, lane-keep assist, auto high beams, rear cross-traffic alert and a monitoring system to detect when the driver becomes drowsy. A new Wade Sensing system that measures water depth relative to the vehicle’s max wading depth is now available on HSE and HSE Luxury models, and the new multi-function steering wheel features touch-capacitive controls.
What We Like
Lightweight design; powerful gasoline engine; excellent off-road ability; roomy interior; lots of luxury features; competitively priced
What We Don’t
Lower tow rating with diesel engine; infotainment interface can be confusing at times; bottom seat cushions could use more support and length; poor fuel economy on gasoline models
The 2019 Discovery offers a choice of two engines. First up is the standard supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine good for 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is standard, as is a 4-wheel-drive system offered with a choice of two different transfer cases. Fuel economy figures are a rather dismal 16 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
Optional on the Discovery is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 good for a slightly lower 254 hp, but significantly greater 443 lb-ft of torque. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy figures for this engine are a respectable 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. Oddly, though it has more torque, the diesel engine’s tow rating is about 500 pounds fewer than what the gasoline engine can tow.
Standard Features & Options
The Land Rover Discovery for 2019 is offered in three trims: SE, HSE and HSE Luxury.
The Discovery SE ($53,295) includes the 3.0-liter supercharged V6, an 8-speed automatic transmission, 4WD with a single-speed transfer case, automatic LED headlights, auto high beams, Hill Descent Control, start/stop technology, an acoustic laminated windshield, slide and recline second-row seats, a 10-inch InControl Touch Pro navigation system, a 10-speaker 250-watt sound system, 4G Wi-Fi, 19-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic detection, a powered inner tailgate, a rear backup camera and leather seating with 12-way power front seats.
The Discovery HSE ($60,185) adds power-folding heated side mirrors, 3-zone climate control, a 10-in touchscreen, a power sunroof, InControl Pro navigation, 20-in alloy wheels, a 10-speaker 380-watt Meridian sound system, keyless entry, a power adjustable steering column and memory for the power driver’s seat.
The Discovery HSE Luxury ($67,495) is a more advanced 4WD system with a 2-speed transfer case, electronic air suspension, a panoramic electric sunroof, Windsor leather seating, 16-way power front seats, heated front and rear seats, a power third-row seat with an intelligent seat-fold feature, a 14-speaker 825-watt Meridian sound system, a heated steering wheel and configurable ambient lighting.
The diesel engine adds $2,000 to the price. Options vary by trim and include the Driver Assist Package (adaptive cruise control and a surround camera system), the Cold Climate Package (heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and heated washer nozzles) and the Remote Intelligent Seat Fold package. Other optional package features include Terrain Response 2, electronic air suspension with 11 inches of possible ground clearance, Wade Sensing, a heated third-row seat, a head-up display and a rear-seat entertainment system.
As one would expect, the Land Rover Discovery comes equipped with standard safety features, including ABS, electronic traction and stability control, emergency braking with pedestrian detection and a full set of airbags including front-side impact and side-curtain airbags. It also has a blind spot monitor, lane-keep assist and departure warning, a driver monitor, a speed limiter, park assist and an available surround-view monitor.
To date, neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2019 Land Rover Discovery.
Behind the Wheel
We drove hundreds of miles across southern Utah and northern Arizona in the Discovery, touring stunning Zion National Park and nearing the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Weather varied from dry and warm to cold and foggy, and our altitude changed by thousands of feet during the trek — we thoroughly wrung out the crossover.
A double-wishbone suspension in the front is supplemented by an advanced multilink suspension design in the rear. These work as a cohesive team to deliver an impressively smooth ride. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional air springs, which further enhance the ride quality. (They also allow the chassis to be raised and lowered to suit the terrain.)
Aerodynamics play an important role at highway speeds, both in fuel efficiency and passenger comfort — vehicles that don’t cheat the wind are loud and can be buffeted by crosswinds. The shape of the Discovery Series 5 blows its predecessors out of the water in terms of sleekness. Whereas the previous-gen Series 4 had a terrible coefficient of drag (its Cd was about .40), the current model boasts a Cd of .33 — that’s sedan territory. Occupants will notice smoothness in heavy winds and a near absence of wind noise.
Luxurious on-road performance usually means compromised off-road capabilities, but not this time. In fact, we’d argue that the new crossover is even better off road than on — that’s a distinguished accolade. In addition to impressive ground clearance (11.1 inches) and approach, departure and breakover angles (34, 30 and 27.5 degrees, respectively), the Discovery will wade through water nearly 3 feet deep — which even humans have difficulty doing.
Terrain Response 2, a Land Rover technology accessed via a dial on the center console, configures the vehicle’s systems for a variety of surfaces (grass, gravel, snow, mud, ruts, sand and rock crawl) with the twist of a wrist. And the automaker’s All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) will automatically crawl over each obstacle, which allows the driver to focus on the path ahead.
We drove the Land Rover Discovery over rocks so large that we shook our head in disbelief; we climbed over sand dunes that were several stories tall without slowing; and we traversed long, dusty roads while pampered inside its luxurious cabin. The Land Rover never bottomed out, never got stuck and never allowed any natural impediment to stop its forward progress — and, most impressively, it accomplished every task on stock all-season tires.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Volvo XC90 — The XC90 isn’t as expensive as the Discovery, and it has a more dynamic appearance. The Volvo also offers more luxury features, like the second-row captain’s chair seating with a center-console refrigerator. While the performance with the turbocharged 4-cylinder isn’t as robust as the Discovery’s V6, you can get a plug-in hybrid model that’s both quick and efficient.
2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS — The Mercedes-Benz GLS is a bit roomier and offers more in engine options and performance, including a high-output AMG model. But the GLS can’t tackle the same tough off-road obstacles as the Discovery, and it costs a lot more.
2019 Audi Q7 — The Q7 3.0T costs a bit more than the Discovery, but what it lacks in off-road ability it makes up for with a decidedly more comfortable ride. The Q7 also affords you a more luxurious interior and excellent crash-test scores.
Used Land Rover Range Rover Sport — A 2012-2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport has more power and luxury features with the traditional look and build that many Land Rover owners expect from this legendary British make.
For the money, we’d go with the HSE or HSE Luxury trims. Both trims come well-equipped and have the diesel engine option. Plus, they allow you to pick and choose additional equipment. If you plan on doing serious off-roading, however, go with the optional Terrain Response 2 and electronic air suspension, both part of the Capability Plus Package.